An open letter to Cllr Mike Hayward, Leader of the Labour Group on Swale Borough Council.
The last Labour Government reduced housing benefit for tenants in the private housing sector who rented homes with more bedrooms than they needed, a measure that I note you now refer to as the “bedroom tax”.
I supported the rationale behind this policy, which is to encourage tenants with too many bedrooms to find smaller accommodation, thus freeing up housing stock for families in need of a larger home.
However, I was concerned about the practicalities of implementing the policy, for instance in areas in which a smaller house was not available for rent, which is why I voted against the Coalition Government when it decided to extend the Labour policy to the social housing sector.
I was particularly concerned for disabled people who need an additional bedroom for occasional carers and those who have had their home adapted for their special needs and for whom moving to a different, smaller home would be difficult and impracticable.
The Coalition sought to mitigate these concerns by providing local authorities with addition funds to allow them to offer discretionary help to those who faced the greatest hardship, something I do not recall the last Government doing when it introduced its so called “bedroom tax” for private tenants.
I was interested to read in this week’s local paper that the Labour Party has now pledged to scrap the “bedroom tax” should it form the next government. I would be very grateful if you would confirm that this will include both the social and private rented sector.
If it is your intention to scrap the “bedroom tax” for those renting in the private sector, could you explain why Labour introduced this measure in the first place?
If it is your intention scrap the policy only for those renting social housing, please could you explain to the large number of people living in private rented accommodation in Sittingbourne and Sheppey why you propose to perpetuate the unfairness put in place when Labour first introduced its “bedroom tax”?
GORDON HENDERSON MP