Sheffield Council has offered a concession to people struggling to meet the ‘bedroom tax’ – saying it will not evict them providing they agree to a payment plan over a longer period.
Coun Bryan Lodge, the authority’s cabinet member for finance, said while people still had to cover the shortfall in rent from a cut in housing benefit if they have spare rooms, they will not be forced to cough up immediately.
He said: “We believe this is a fairer option to help people struggling to pay what is an unfair tax which affects the most vulnerable.
“However, we still need to recoup the money so we need people to sign up to make payments over a longer period.
“We will make no evictions for non-payment of the bedroom tax provided people sign up to a payment plan.”
Coun Lodge made the announcement at a full meeting of Sheffield Council where trade unionists and campaigners spoke again about the impact of the housing benefit cut on poor people.
They called on the council to follow examples of other authorities such as Leeds, which has ruled out evictions.
But Sheffield’s stance means people could still be evicted if they refuse to pay the ‘bedroom tax’ at all.
Around 6,000 people in Sheffield are believed to have been affected by the change in housing benefit and loss of what the Government calls the ‘spare room subsidy’.
During the full council meeting, Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore launched an attack on what she called an ‘evil vindictive policy of this Tory Government of millionaires’ – and promised that her Labour administration would ‘stand up for the working classes’.
Labour has also attacked the ‘bedroom tax’ nationally.
Liam Byrne, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “This hated tax is trapping thousands of families, forcing vulnerable people to turn to food banks and loan sharks, and there is now a serious danger it could end up costing Britain more than it saves as tenants are forced to go homeless or move into the expensive private rented sector.
“David Cameron’s bedroom tax is the worst possible combination of cruelty and incompetence.
“He should drop it now.”
But the Government insists its policy is a fair way of freeing up spare rooms to tackle a shortage in affordable housing, and will not reconsider the policy.