Middleton Meeting Debates How To Fight The Bedroom Tax

Councillor Paul Truswell told a meeting in Middleton on Friday that Leeds City Council is looking at re-designating properties to help tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax.

Hands Off Our Homes campaigners petitioning in Middleton
Hands Off Our Homes campaigners petitioning in Middleton

From April households who are deemed to have too many bedrooms will face a reduction in their Housing Benefit of 14% – 25%. Those affected by the so-called Bedroom Tax will have to make up their rent from other benefits or go into rent arrears.

Councillor Truswell was responding to a suggestion that Leeds follow Knowsley Housing Trust’s example. KHT have re-designated 2 bedroom properties as one bedroom properties and reduced the rent accordingly. Cllr Truswell suggested that box rooms could be re-designated as offices.

Twenty five people met at St Cross Church for Middleton’s second meeting to discuss how to tackle the Bedroom Tax. Some called on the City Council to commit to not evicting any tenants who get into rent arrears as a result of the deduction, but Councillor Truswell said:

“You can’t ask people to go into arrears. It will mean they have a debt for years and the Council will have less money to do repairs.”

Instead he suggested the campaign target the Government who are bringing in these changes. It was suggested writing to the Prime Minister, lobbying local Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and holding a demonstration in the city centre were more appropriate actions.

John Davies from the Hands Off Our Homes campaign said that people affected by the Bedroom Tax are in an impossible position. They can’t move to a smaller property because there aren’t enough council houses and many people are already choosing between buying food and having the heating on. So where are they going to find the extra money to pay the rent?

Father Andy Myers, Vicar at St Cross said: “It is important that people in Middleton stand together and look after each other. I’ll be there to support anyone getting evicted and I hope others will.”

Councillor Kim Groves urged tenants to get advice about their position and suggested people attend the drop in advice session at Westwood Primary School on Thursday 14th March from 5:30 – 8:30pm.

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9 Replies to “Middleton Meeting Debates How To Fight The Bedroom Tax”

  1. Councillor Truswell should be ashamed of himself for saying that the we should follow the immoral example given. So now these tenants would have an office, something I would dream of having, but can’t afford despite working full time and from home after work.

  2. John, I’m not quite clear why what Cllr Truswell was saying is ‘immoral’. It’s certainly not illegal. The government has determined that the relevant social landlord should determine how many bedrooms a property should have. The tenants you refer to already have ‘an office’ – they are not gaining anything.

    If the City Council decides to reclassify some properties then it will reduce its rent receivable but not necessarily the income it receives and it may well be financially more cost effective to do this. In terms of whether it’s immoral I am interested that the Archbishop of Canterbury and 43 bishops have criticised the government’s benefit changes and refer (in the bishops’ letter) to the reductions in housing benefit…

  3. Because something is not illegal doesn’t mean it can’t be immoral. My understanding of the word immoral may be different to yours as morality is subjective. Corrupt may have been a better term to use. Perhaps corrupt would’ve been a better term? This ‘solution’ comes back to the main issue, why should they have a spare bedroom, study etc without having to pay for it when others don’t.

  4. Hmmmm, sorry John but I think your reaction a little over the top. Immoral and corrupt? Get over yourself!

    Who’s the ‘they’ you refer to in your second comment by the way?

  5. ‘They’ is quite simply those in social housing who will be affected by this reduction in their benefits. I stand by my comments Leonard and believe your ‘get over yourself’ comments are unnecessary. I care passionately about the provision of social housing for those who deserve it, but I don’t believe in over and unnecessary subsidisation.

    Best wishes,


  6. John, I agree that something can be immoral but not illegal.

    In my view what is immoral in relation to benefit reductions, of which the change to housing benefits are examples, is reducing the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45% at the same time. In times of economic hardship, as the bishops argue, then the poorest and weakest in society should be protected.

  7. 2 wrongs and all that Steve. On the question of reducing the top rate I’m undecided, if it genuinely brings in more then it would be churlish not to go for it. The poorest and weakest should be protected, the level and cost of protection is what I’m concerned with. “In defending everything we defend nothing.”

  8. John

    As far as I can see the only reasons why the top rate of tax would brink in less money are (a) creative tax avoidance strategies and (b) top rate tax payers leaving the country. The first should be stamped on and the second can leave with our good wishes… In my view the failures to tax higher incomes appropriately and to maintain and develop effective property taxation are major flaws in the present system and lead me to conclude that it is immoral.

    I menat to write before but got trigger happy, that I can’t see how what Cllr Truswell was proposing was ‘corrupt’ in any way – this would suggest he was advocating a course of action in which he had a personal vested interest. I think he was openly advocating a legal course of action which protected some of his most disadvantaged constituents.

    I would agree that the cost of housing benefit is much too high in terms of social housing this is because of changes in the 1980s – prohibitions on Councils building hoeing and the Housing Act 1988 when the the government started a long term reduction in the value of capital subsidy to housing associations to a revenue subsidy (housing benefit) to tenants and encouraging rents to increase rapidly.

    The other problem is the dramatic increase in private rented accommodation at rents generally much higher than rents in the social housing sector. This means we now get the situation where some people move from 2 bedoomed social housing to avoid the bedroom tax to 1 bedroomed private housing at higher rent levels which costs the tax payer more because their housing benefit increases!

    1. I wouldn’t want them to leave, with the impact that would have on our nation. Cllr Truswell does have a personnel interested, he’s a councillor in a ward where saying what he did may secure a large number of votes. He’s advocating a legal course of action not dissimilar to the creative tax avoidance strategies you mention. To avoid them having to move, simply move someone of the waiting list in with them. I, and many others, have had to live with random people, why shouldn’t they?

      P.S. see previous comments about they.

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