A DISTRAUGHT couple say they will be unable to pay the bills when the Bedroom Tax comes into force – but there are no smaller homes for them to move into.
Ed and Mandy Lunt have bid on 10 council homes since November without success, even looking outside the borough.
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The couple moved to their five-bed Birkrig home in Digmoor in 2011 with their two sons and grandson, having failed to find a four-bed to suit their needs. But their eldest son has since left home, and the family now face being hit with charges on the two spare rooms when the Bedroom Tax comes in in April. The tax is part of Government welfare reforms that will cut the amount of benefit that people can get if they are considered to have a spare bedroom. Tenants will lose around £13 a week on average for one extra room.
Ed, who receives Employment and Support Allowance due to a heart condition and Income Support, said that he will be left £130 short a month – and unable to cover costs. The couple applied to West Lancs council to change their banding to Band A from Band D to make it easier to downsize and were moved to Band B on appeal – but they say it has not helped in their quest for a new home.
Ed, 50, said: “We don’t want to leave Skelmersdale but we’ve had to start looking anywhere – Ainsdale, Bootle, Liverpool – and still we’ve had no success. We were in first place on a house in Rufford earlier this week, which would have been ideal for our grandson Brandon, who is disabled. But we have lost out again. It’s not just us, there’s loads of people affected. The worry is seriously affecting the health of our family. I just don’t know what else we can do, they are just going to have to take me to court when I can’t pay the bills.”
A spokesman for West Lancs council said staff had individually contacted tenants affected to discuss the options available, while discretionary grants were available to the most vulnerable.
The spokesman said: “The council obviously only have a certain number of properties and we need to handle each person’s needs on a case by case basis.
“The couple are in a good position on the waiting list and are not far from getting a property. Not all the bids they have made have been submitted while they were in Band B. Since their banding has been changed the Lunts have bid and been shortlisted for three properties with their highest queue position being third. To increase their prospects of moving they should continue to bid on all suitable vacancies.”
MP Rosie Cooper said: “This tax will force some people to choose between food, heating or paying the rent. [It] is nothing more than a crude and naked attempt to place an even greater burden on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.”
Skelmersdale North Cllr Neil Furey has organised a demonstration against Bedroom Tax outside Nye Bevan Pool on Monday February 18 at 9.30am.