'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 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 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 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 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 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


Comments 5 of 39



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