Bedroom tax: How it affects Comet country
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A WOMAN who moved to the area to be with her ill father has criticised Government plans to introduce a bedroom tax, claiming it will “hit her hard”.
Angela Suttey, from Stevenage, is among hundreds of others in Comet country who will be affected by the Government initiative, which cuts the amount of benefits council and housing association tenants are entitled to if they have spare rooms.
The mother-of-six lives with two of her children in a four-bedroom house in Great Ashby, owned by the housing association, the Guinness Trust.
Under Government rules, which come into effect in April, she would have to pay tax on two of her rooms, because her daughters, both under 16, are expected to share a room.
Ms Suttey, 49, who moved to Stevenage in 2011, told the Comet: “There’s no room for a bunk bed in the rooms, because they’re so small.
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“We’re already struggling. We don’t have the heating on, but will sit on the sofa with blankets, and when the girls go upstairs I always remind them about the lights.
“I lost my dad in August, and my mum often comes to stay, and I look after my brother’s two children, because childcare is so much.
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“It will hit us hard.”
Nearly 400 people in Stevenage will be affected, while in North Herts, more than 1,000 will miss out financially.
On average, tenants will lose £14 a week for one spare bedroom, and £25 a week for two.
Leader of Stevenage Borough Council, Sharon Taylor, labelled the Government plans “cruel”.
“It doesn’t make any sense financially,” she said. “Housing is so scarce. If someone has to move and there isn’t a property to put them in, then they’ll be put in private rented accommodation, which is about 100 per cent more expensive.
“They are treating people as if housing is some sort of commodity, I’d like to think of housing as being people’s homes.”
Under the rules, two children under 16 of the same gender and those under 10 regardless of gender, are expected to share.
Families with disabled children and foster children are also among those affected.
David Billing, leader of the North Herts Labour Group, said: “One of the cases we have had is a father who has children but is separated. He has an access arrangement, and clearly needs a house bigger than one bedroom for those weekends and other times when they are there.
“He’s got a three-bedroom house, which he doesn’t need, and he worked out he could cope with a two bedroom house and would like to downsize to avoid tax, but the system does not allow him to do that.
“The bedroom tax will not achieve the freeing up of properties.”
Meanwhile, citizens advice bureaus across the area are preparing for the change.
They are offering advice to those who will be affected.
Kate Farquhar, from the Stevenage branch, said: “It’s going to obviously impact people, but there are things they can do to reduce its impact.
“The important thing is people think ahead.
“People can contact CAB to work out their finances and see what can be done.”