1 Jul 2013

Time for St Albans to Axe the Tax


Now that the Bedroom Tax is up and running, and our local MPs have refused to back the Council's request to lobby against it, I will be formally asking St Albans Council next week (July 10) to bolster its opposition to the Bedroom Tax.

The Council announced its united opposition to the controversial benefit cut, known as the Bedroom Tax, in February. Councillors voted overwhelmingly to ask the Government to suspend the tax, and also asked local MPs to lobby against it. Five months later, the tax is still in effect, and making life harder for hundreds of households throughout the district.

Both our local MPs support the tax. So it's time to strengthen local opposition to it.

The motion I've tabled calls for the Council to do everything it can not to evict any council tenant who has got behind in their rent payments purely because of the extra burden of the bedroom tax. The tenant would have to show that they are making every effort to pay what they owe, but simply can't afford to. I've been advised that refusing point blank to evict someone in this position would leave the Council open to legal challenge, so I've toned down what would be my preferred position!

The motion also calls on the Council to help housing associations do the same, and to consider all other actions available to cushion the impact of the tax.

The motion will be debated by Full Council on July 10th.


TEXT OF THE MOTION:

This Council notes that, since Council’s decision in February to take steps to oppose the bedroom tax:
1. The Government has declined Council’s urgent request to suspend the bedroom tax
2. The Government has declined Council’s request to make additional resources available for Discretionary Housing Payments
3. Our local MPs have declined Council’s request to lobby for either 1. or 2. above
4. Several other local authorities have decided on principle not to evict tenants who are in arrears purely because of the bedroom tax

This Council further notes that hundreds of households across our district are already adversely affected by the bedroom tax, and that increasing numbers are likely to face financial difficulties as other benefit changes take effect. 


This Council therefore resolves: 

(i) To explore all possible options to avoid evicting a tenant who has fallen into arrears just because of the bedroom tax, as long as the tenant is doing all they reasonably can to pay what they owe. Options to explore include:


a. measures taken by other councils, such as disregarding bedroom tax arrears when considering eviction


b. not evicting tenants in arrears when they are unable to downsize through no fault of their own


c. allowing tenants to move or transfer even though they have bedroom tax arrears.

(ii) To encourage and help housing associations in St Albans City and District to do the same.

(iii) To consider all other actions open to this Council to cushion the impact of housing and other benefit changes upon the people of the district.

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