Concerns raised at debate over over ‘damaging’ bedroom tax

The panel at the Crawley Debate

The panel at the Crawley Debate

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The ‘bedroom tax’ was described as ‘damaging‘ by a leading councillor during the Crawley Debate.

The Crawley Debate - formerly the State of the Borough debate - was attended by more than 130 people at the Civic Hall, on Wednesday (February 6).

Residents at the Crawley Debate

Residents at the Crawley Debate

Members of the public were given the chance to question a panel of councillors and community leaders on issues relating to Crawley - particularly housing and the future of Gatwick Airport.

While discussing the topic of ‘Housing Future Generations’, some tenants described how they felt ‘victimised’ by welfare reforms which would force them to down-size their homes or lose some benefits.

Cllr Peter Lamb, leader of the Crawley Labour Group, said he did not agree with the reform, which has been called the ‘bedroom tax’.

He said: “I think people have still got to get their heads around how damaging this is going to be.

“They are saying this is going to remove the housing problem. The number of rooms freed up won’t be huge but people affected won’t have anywhere to go.”

One woman told the meeting she had agreed to downsize but was worried there were no smaller council houses available.

She said: “The problem is if they don’t find us a house in time we are going to be in debt and when we are in debt we will be homeless. The best answer is to freeze the rent for the time when we are waiting to be re-homed.”

However, Cllr Bob Lanzer, leader of Crawley Borough Council, said the council could not afford to freeze rents and it would be against the law to do so.

He added: “We are trying to increase housing supply, we are trying to make it easier to downsize and we have grants to make it easier to move.”

Cary Buckham, of the Crawley Homes Tenants and Leaseholders Panel, agreed adding: “You can’t expect CBC to just say ‘no we are not going to implement this’ because there aren’t enough funds.”

Cllr Lanzer added the council hoped to secure 40 per cent of the planned North East Sector development as affordable homes.