It’s Cameron and Clegg who should be under-occupied.

From April next year the 660,000 working age tenants of Council and Housing Association deemed to be “under-occupying” will have their housing benefit cut. 14% for one “extra” bedroom; 25% for two. Of course no-one is even bothering to count the excess bedrooms funded by the state in the royal palaces, or the London homes funded from MP expenses. Political expediency also means that we quietly ignore the under-occupation of elderly single people continuing to live in alone in the house where they raised their family. Clearly having the vote means they matter slightly more than “every child”.

Think it through, whether you believe the parents are culpable or not it won’t be the adults that suffer. It’ll be the children from a previous relationship who used to visit at the weekend until “under-occupation” meant there was no longer a spare bedroom for them; or the children who have to change school when the “under-occupying” family is forced to move to somewhere smaller ; or the children of 11 and 12, of different sexes, sharing a room because their parent had to wait until they became old enough before they could afford to go on the transfer list; or the infants at risk of abuse because the family followed Government advice and, in a re-run of the Baby P case, rented their spare room to a lodger with an unknown past; or the family moved into a tower block because the Council in its desperation to free up smaller properties for down-sizers, has had to abandon its policy of not housing children at height; or the family struggling to cope with the tragic death of a child who are staggered to find out that far from being sympathetic the Council is landing them with a bill for becoming under-occupied.

And just in case they tell you that it’s the same as private tenancies, the truth is, that it’s a great deal worse. Private tenants can at least shop around for the best deal. Where I live it is possible for a family whose housing allowance covers a two bed property to find a three bed property for the same rent. For Council and Housing Association tenants it won’t matter how low their rent is, if they are under-occupying their benefit will be cut. It’ll be exactly the same reduction in areas of low housing demands as it will in areas of high demand.

With a record number of children already coming into care and the new starts for social housing down by 97% this policy is the last thing our communities, and their children, need.

Cllr Duncan Kerr (Green)

Bolsover District Council

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