'Bedroom tax's' impact on northern families


BBC Inside Out looks at how the bedroom tax will impact on a community in Spennymoor in County Durham

Officially it's called the 'under-occupancy charge' but critics have dubbed it the 'bedroom tax'.

The government's aim is to cut the welfare bill.

Housing benefit costs the UK taxpayer £23 billion a year.

Ministers don't think it is unreasonable to ask why the state is paying benefit to people who are renting properties bigger than they need.

From April tenants with 'spare' rooms will lose some of their benefit - around £13 week on average for one extra room.

The alternative is to move into somewhere smaller.

Impact on communities

As with all universal laws, the principle becomes tested when applied to the myriad of personal circumstances.

In anticipation of this, pensioners are exempt.

It would have been politically difficult to ask the elderly to move out of their homes as they enter their twilight years.

Sue Brannigan however isn't.

She and her husband brought up their four children in their council home in Spennymoor, County Durham.

They never claimed benefits.

Sue Brannigan Sue Brannigan is worried about the future of her council home in Spennymoor

But when her husband Peter died just over a year ago, Sue had to sign on.

As a claimant she faces losing £100 a month unless she moves. Losing her partner ultimately means losing her home.

Sue wants to downsize and agrees that a four bed home is too big for someone on her own.

What she resents is being told to do so and when.

Her children live nearby on the same Tudhoe Estate. However, there is nowhere small enough in the area for her to move in to.

She faces leaving the community, friends and family she has lived with for decades.

The local housing association estimates it has 1,400 homes that are under occupied, yet it only has four one-bedroom flats available.

'Spare' rooms

Across the North East other housing associations report similar concerns.

'Bedroom' tax - spare room rules

Model bedroom with children
  • One person or couple - one bedroom only
  • Two same-sex children - share one bedroom until aged 16
  • Two opposite-sex children - share until aged 10
  • Pensioners - exempt
  • Bereaved - exempt for 12 months

This is not what the Jacques family want to hear.

They also live on the Tudhoe estate but with a sixth child on the way, they need somewhere larger than their three-bedroomed house.

Tonight's programme also looks at the grey area of just what constitutes a spare room.

One example is of a couple who have split up and the father has his teenage son stay over on occasions.

Should the state be deciding whether or not he needs a second bedroom?

The government is adamant the changes are fair.

It insists the benefits bill is out of control and must be addressed.

But critics fear the nanny state is quite literally crossing a threshold and should be shown the door.

As always your thoughts and comments are most welcome...

Inside Out North East & Cumbria is broadcast on Monday, 11 February at 19:30 GMT. It is also available nationwide for seven days thereafter on iPlayer.

Chris Jackson Article written by Chris Jackson Chris Jackson Presenter, Inside Out, North East & Cumbria

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  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    It's just amazing these days how so many people believe that someone else is responsible for paying for the care of their children, their house, their council tax, their dentist, their glasses and their healthcare. The list is endless. Three of the people who featured in your programme tonight lived in a house on their own. Crazy!!!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    That's maybe something to do with wreckless spending under the previous goverment?? A significant number of people willing to play and abuse the system and not take responsibility for their own lifes may add to the problem?? Would always agree that those in genuiune need should be helped though.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    I work on a Scrutiny Panel in a voluntary capacity for social landlord in Cumbria and know that there are virtually no single bedroom properties available as they were virtually unable to let them so they were converted in to family dwellings, now Cameron comes along with this 'Bedroom Tax' which seems to be at odds with the 'Big Society' funny how money is outweighing their social conscience.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    I am willing to downsize from my 3 bedroom house to a 2 bedroom house, I want to move to a different council from where I am currently living because all my family live in the "other" council area. I have been placed into Band D (low housing need) by this council. How are we expected to downsize when we aren't being helped by the councils to do so. Not asking for the moon, only a 2 bedroom house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Cameron says we are all in this together. Cuts to benefits, NHS, Policing, local government funding and almost everything else. Funny how the MP's vote to charge those most in need with a bedroom tax whilst all them claim from the taxpayer for full properties for family members who they claim work for them, as well as second homes for themselves. In it together? I DON'T THINK SO

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    People in society who need help from the taxpayer cannot honestly think they can continue to live in houses way to big for them when there are other people that need larger house,s ,it still shows that there are people in our council property,s that believe the hard working tax payer OWE,S them something.Perhaps people who want to live off the state shouldnt look a gift horse in the mouth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    We the British people have to change our attitude towards life. We need to understand that receiving benefits is parasitic to the society as a whole except if you are genuinely disabled in any shape or form. It boils my blood to see people abuse this system, scroungers talking smart, and people living fake lifestyles which they cannot afford. We need to go back to our unique honourable values.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.


    I fully support the down sizing of housing when it is being paid for by benefits. But... There is no justification for making people pay bedroom tax if they have not been offered suitable accommodation to move to.

    Should people be forced to pay the tax and move into private accommodation, it will cost the government far more than they are already paying.

    This has to be wrong!

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    It's about time this government and the Muppet in charge stopped persecuting poor people. I have worked all my adult life in the Telecoms Industry, twice I have been made redundant, I have not worked for a year, it's not for the lack of trying to find work. My Daughter started Uni .... she is classed as not being here ... It's her home too !!! What are you supposed to do, let her room out ????

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    That was the most one sided piece of what pretends to be journalism. About 5 seconds of it was on the other side of the argument. I think the government's plans are too generous. People hto move all over the planet to find somewhere to live; why should these people be shielded from decisions taxpayers have to make? My wife and I work full time and we can only just afford our house.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    It is worth knowing that if you get Child Benefit for a child you have a 2 bedroom room requirement. If you have more than one child your former partner may be prepared to share the family allowance by both of you claiming individually for each child. Child benefit can be transferred if couples are happy to do this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Sue Brannigan was doing a search on the internet and there were properties available, but she was being fussy!.
    Do what other people do, my parents wanted to down size and stay in the same town, but couldn't find the right property so moved to another town. The house was their own, so didn't have to move but did.
    If you are receiving housing benefit and have spare rooms, pay up or move on.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    this is disgusting are they theives (government) going to pay for removal vans and pay for new carpets/flooring and paint the house we are being forced into ??? unlikely so we struggle more to decorate a new house we didnt want also they say pensioners are extempt -what about disabled?? the government have already deemed my husband fit to work when he cant taking £90 a fortnight off us

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    I wanted a 3 bedroom house, so I moved location (North to South) followed the work where my earning potential was the greatest. I saved and bought that house. People on benefits have had it far too easy for too long. If you don't like the charge, move out. If you want more room. pay for it like I've had to. Benefits are meant to be a safety net, not a way of life. Sympathy = none.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    when this tax comes out it will hurt the poor there will be more unrest theirs not many 1 bedroom houses to downsize too will the mp's downsize their homes ? i think not

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Everything this government does is based on one size fits all! Unfortunately this is not the case & there will be many people out there who's circumstances will not fit in nicely with the governments norm & will be caused unnecessary hardship as a result of this tax on those that can least afford it. P.S who will pay for the move to any replacement property should one actually exist?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Its not about costs. A tenant unable to find a smaller social home will go to a private landlord who will charge much more in rent.
    Also; the loss of council housing helped fuel a housing bubble that cost the country 1.3 trillion pounds to bailout sub prime mortgages. And taking running costs from sales&rents receipts, gnmts have stolen 68billion pounds between 1979-2009 from co. house revenues.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    the government are asking people with spare rooms to downsize, but to where? there are not enough smaller houses,yet the government are too ignorant to even see this. every single person in the Uk are individuals, yet we are treated as if everyone is the same by the government. well, were not, and its about time this is realised.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    One person or couple - one bedroom only
    Two same-sex children - share one bedroom until aged 16
    Two opposite-sex children - share until aged 10
    Pensioners - exempt
    Bereaved - exempt for 12 months

    Past census records show the type of overcrowding in slums that ordinary folk endured. A hundred years later nother 'Liberal' (albeit with the Nasty party) Government and we are going back in time?


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