More than one third of the people in Crawley who have had their housing benefit reduced under the ‘bedroom tax’ are from only two neighbourhoods.
Tenants in Broadfield and Bewbush make up 36 per cent of those affected by the changes to the benefits rules, the removal of the spare room subsidy.
On Thursday (September 19), Crawley Borough Council’s Financial Deprivation Scrutiny Panel met for the first time in almost a year to discuss the progress of the recent benefit changes.
Following questions from Cllr Geraint Thomas (Lab, Northgate), the meeting was told that, as of August 1, 728 council tenants and 138 housing association tenants had been affected by the subsidy change.
Of these, only 133 had applied for the available Discretionary Housing Payments.
The payments are available to people in receipt of housing benefit who may need further help with rent costs or with rent in advance or a deposit.
Cllr Thomas raised concern that applicants had to go through a “demeaning” interview to apply for the money they needed.
But Cllr Brenda Burgess (Con, Three Bridges) said she had found the process to be “very sympathetic”.
It was reported that, since April, 59 households had voluntarily downsized to a smaller home – though not necessarily due to the ‘bedroom tax’.
Other changes centred on the replacement of council tax benefit with the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, which was introduced when the Government stopped paying the full cost of support with council tax bills.
The council is currently in public consultation over a number of proposed tweaks to the system.
The meeting was told that the change had raised “virtually no issues” with only two households complaining about the changes to their bill.
Panel chairman Cllr Liam Marshall-Ascough (Con, Southgate) said: “The council has done a fantastic job at trying to help people through this difficult transition period.”
He added: “The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform to return fairness to housing benefit.
“Even after the reform, we pay over 80 per cent of most claimants’ housing benefit (nationally) - but the taxpayer can no longer afford to pay for people to live in properties larger than they need. It is right that people contribute to these costs, just as private renters do.”
If you think you are eligible for a Discretionary Housing Payment, contact the council on 01293 438611.
To have your say about the proposed changes to the Council Tax Reduction Scheme, log on to www.crawley.gov.uk