Council leaders have pledged to support any residents hit by the “bedroom tax” after it was discovered a large number of people may have been wrongly asked to pay it.
The tax is part of a raft of welfare reforms introduced by the Government last year. The “Bedroom Tax” sees benefit reductions of up to 25 per cent for working age social housing tenants who the Government deem to have more bedrooms than they need.
This tax affects thousands of people across the city, but Sheffield City Council has already identified a number of Council tenants who have had to pay it, but may not have needed to pay it. They are now seeking recompense for these tenants and are advising those who think they may be affected by this to contact their landlord. By contacting social landlords directly, the Council can then co-ordinate with these landlords to capture all cases as efficiently as possible.
City leaders will take further action to identify more people who may also have been wrongly hit by this new tax.
Councillor Harry Harpham, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods for Sheffield City Council said:
“We always said this tax was always going to hit those who could least afford it; those on the breadline who were struggling to make ends meet. With the cost of living sky-high we need to do all we can to assist those who most need their help.
In our view it is an ill-thought out tax. We are taking action to deal with it and standing up for local people, who shouldn’t have to pay this tax.
Now the Government say they are looking at the legislation again after admitting they made a mistake. But in our view this is too little too late.”
Council steps include identifying those who have had their housing benefit reduced when it should not have been due to Government errors.
And non-council social landlords have also been asked to identify their tenants who they believe meet the criteria that would allow housing benefit to be reinstated.
The Council move comes after the Department of Work and Pensions announced an error when drafting the legislation. This means that tenants are exempt from the penalty if they have been continuously entitled to housing benefit at the same property since 1 January 1996 (except for any period where a fire, flood, explosion or natural catastrophe made the property uninhabitable). Breaks in Housing Benefit of up to a total of four weeks, and rent free weeks, are ignored.
The Government is now working to change the legislation. The exemptions are not expected to apply to the majority of tenants in Sheffield.