Hundreds count the cost of ‘bedroom tax’

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Hundreds of families in Cherwell district are having to find up to £1,000 a year to make up for the introduction of the ‘bedroom tax’ or face moving home.

Almost 200 households across Bicester and surrounding villages are having housing benefit allowances cut because they have been ‘under occupying’ their social housing homes which have a bedroom they do not need.

That includes families in which children of the same sex under 16 or mixed gender children under 10 are not sharing bedrooms.

Statistics have been released showing how many social homes in Cherwell are subject to benefit cuts as part of new Government rules.

Bicester has the second greatest number of families affected, only beaten by Banbury. The most families affected in Bicester are in the West Ward (47 homes) followed by East Ward (41) and Town Ward (34).

Outside of the town Kirtlington is the highest with 11 homes affected.

The majority will lose 14 per cent of their benefit for having one surplus bedroom, but 14 homes believed to have two or more rooms spare will lose 25 per cent.

Some who are faced with making up the shortfall include those who have grandchildren to stay and those with school or family ties.

On the Government’s recommendation Cherwell is working with housing associations and residents to re-balance housing, moving single residents to smaller homes and families to larger homes, which can cancel out the tax.

Statistics for the number of homes having housing benefit deducted because of under occupancy, or the ‘bedroom tax’, in Cherwell is 721 – with an average benefit loss of £950.03 a year.

Debbie Pickford, Cherwell’s lead member for housing, said it is only families who are already facing serious financial problems who are unable to meet the tax and the worst hit families can apply for special allowances.

She said the council is working closely with Sanctuary housing to re-house residents in appropriately sized homes in the local area to help them avoid the tax and is working to get people into jobs to avoid the need to claim housing benefit at all.

However, it is acknowledged housing associations do not have enough housing stock of the right size to accommodate all those who might need to move to a smaller property.