WELFARE reform is going to make life harder for those already struggling financially.
That is the fear expressed by Oswestry town councillors ahead of the implementation of the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ which will force social housing tenants to downsize or pay more rent.
The move is part of the Government’s welfare reforms due to be implemented in April which will result in a cut in housing benefit for working age tenants living with one or more spare bedrooms.
About 250 council house tenants will be affected in Oswestry alone with countless more living in privately-run social housing.
Councillors Heather Bickerton and Steve Haworth admitted they could appreciate the Government’s logic but expressed concerns about how the poorest people would cope.
Cllr Bickerton said: “I think it’s going to put an awful lot of pressure on some families that are already struggling.
“I understand the need for people to move to smaller premises because towns are becoming overpopulated and there aren’t enough new houses being built.
“But if you’ve got someone who is a widow or widower who have lived in their home for many years, they’re not going to want to move. It’s their home,” she added.
Cllr Howarth added: “What about those who have been through trauma and only have a spare room because they’ve been bereaved or their children have left home? How much time will they be given to move?
“This is going to be a major emotional upheaval for many and will put more pressure and stress on our most vulnerable people,” he predicted.
Under the new law, tenants with one spare bedroom will have to pay 14 per cent of the full rent and those with two or more will contribute 25 per cent, in addition to the contribution they already make.
One option for tenants who do not want to move but cannot afford the extra cost, is to take in a lodger.
But Cllr Bickerton added: “I don’t know that anyone will want to do that in this day and age.
“It could be seen as a gross intrusion, especially where there’s children, and you would hope there would be a strict screening process. I really do feel for those it affects,” she said.
A spokesman for Shropshire Council said the authority was working closely with tenants who wish to downsize and those who need help budgeting because they want to stay put.
Cllr Gwilym Butler, Cabinet member for community leadership and governance, added: “People can come and see us at any of our council offices to talk through any concerns and identify support that can be tailored to their needs.”