63% of the 419 Westminster Council tenants subject to the hated Bedroom Tax are in receipt of a benefit with a disability element, according to figures unearthed by Labour Councillors. So far, because of the shortage of available one bed flats for letting, the Council has rehoused just 39 families in to smaller flats since April. Meanwhile rent arrears owed by those who now have to pay the Bedroom Tax has increased to £47,564, a 9% increase since March.
Following questions to Westminster Council, the Director of Housing has told Councillors that;
“There are 268 customers who are subject to the Social Occupancy cap and who are also in receipt of a benefit with a disability element”
In September, Surrender Lall from Maida Vale won a landmark legal victory against Westminster Council that means he will not have to pay the controversial bedroom tax. Mr Lall was facing a £12-a-week cut to his housing benefit because a room that houses vital equipment, allowing him to live an independent life, was seen as a “spare bedroom” by the council. But a judge ruled that the room could not be classed as a bedroom and he will now be entitled to full housing benefit. The judge said: “I have found that the room in question was never intended to be a bedroom, and has never been used as a bedroom. It contains equipment necessary for the appellant to try and overcome his disability.”
This follows last month’s Local Government Ombudsman report which investigated 40 separate complaints from families housed in inadequate B&B or hotel accommodation by Westminster Council for longer than the legal limit of six weeks.
The Ombudsman found that Council was guilty of ‘maladministration causing injustice’ and should pay at least £500 to every family kept in this kind of unsuitable accommodation, with another £500 added for every six-week period thereafter.
In February this year, the Council was housing over 150 families in unsuitable hotels or B&Bs for longer than the six-week legal limit, rising to a peak of 171 families over the summer.
And last week, Westminster Council’s Housing Cabinet member Jonathan Glanz compared long-term residents living in social housing in the West End with “the Made in Chelsea brigade, the young people portrayed in the ITV television series who spend their days dining out and sipping champagne on London’s King’s Road” because of “the benefits enjoyed by social housing tenants in some of country’s most expensive areas”.
As one West End resident told the local press, “it’s not just the poor he wants out of Westminster, it’s anyone who’s not rich. He appears to envisage the perfect West End as a gated community”.
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Leader of the Labour Group, said;
“How low can Westminster Conservatives sink in their quest to make the lives of the most disadvantaged families as hard as possible? Westminster is now in the grips of a very hard-faced right wing Conservative faction intent on making Westminster a ‘no-go’ area for anyone without money. This is taking the Council right back to the bad old days of Shirley Porter when Council Officers were instructed to be ‘mean and nasty’ to those in housing need.”