Fens based charity calls for ‘bedroom tax’ reforms claiming it takes no account of challenges faced by rural tenants

PUBLISHED: 10:28 18 July 2014 | UPDATED: 11:00 18 July 2014

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Fears that the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ is hitting some of the most vulnerable people in rural communities are borne out by a new report, according to rural network Cambridgeshire ACRE.

Cambridgeshire ACRE – based in Littleport - is repeating its call for the Government to scrap the charge in settlements of fewer than 3,000 people as a minimum.

The charity spoke out in the wake of a report by Ipsos MORI and the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, which presents early findings from the evaluation of the removal of the spare room subsidy.

The under-occupation charge or ‘bedroom tax’, which cuts the benefits of tenants of working age in homes deemed to have spare rooms, came into force in April last year.

ACRE, the national voice for England’s network of rural community councils, warned at the time that the penalty would force people to leave the villages where they grew up.

The charity maintains that a shortage of one and two-bedroom homes in the countryside means rural tenants have no choice but to move into towns and cities or fall into debt if they cannot make up the rent shortfall. The report said that 47pc of landlords said they had seen an increase in rent arrears since the introduction of the charge.

Kirsten Bennett, chief executive of Cambridgeshire ACRE, said: “These findings were inevitable. The ‘bedroom tax’ takes no account of the challenges rural tenants face. Those who stayed put and tried to make up the shortfall were already at a disadvantage.

“Research shows it costs £2,800 a year more to live in the countryside than it does in a city and this tax has impacted on those already struggling with the high cost of living in rural areas.

“The under-occupation charge is not a sustainable policy. We are backing the call to the Government to exclude settlements of fewer than 3,000 people as a minimum from this unfair tax on some of the most vulnerable people in rural communities.”

The report, commissioned by the Department for Work & Pensions, said that many claimants were strongly attached to their local areas for a variety of reasons, such as work, schools and local services, plus a support network of family and friends living very close by.

In some close-knit rural areas, the majority of claimants interviewed could not imagine moving out of the area.

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