A move to exempt disabled people and those with nowhere else to move to from the Coalition’s Bedroom Tax has won support in Lancaster and Fleetwood.
Cat Smith, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Lancaster and Fleetwood, welcomed the news that the Affordable Homes Bill had cleared an important hurdle in the House of Commons on Friday as the latest figures showed that 437 people in the constituency were paying the tax.
Figures for May 2014, showed the tax was costing people in Lancaster and Fleetwood an average of £771.68 each year.
The tax reduces housing benefit for people in council or housing association homes if they have spare rooms.
But many people are unable to move to avoid the tax because there are not enough smaller homes available. The Conservative-led Coalition’s own independent report on the impact of the tax revealed that only 4.5 per cent of tenants affected had been able to move.
The bill, which passed its second reading on a 306-231 vote after support from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, exempts people who have not had a “reasonable offer of alternative accommodation” from the tax.
It also exempts both those for whom sharing rooms is not possible and those whose homes have been adapted because someone has a disability
Two-thirds of households hit by the Bedroom Tax so far have included someone who is disabled, and 60,000 carers are also been affected.
Labour has pledged to scrap the tax if it wins the 2015 General Election, but backed the new private members bill in the hope of minimising the impact on struggling families in the meantime.
Ms Smith said: “This cruel tax is hitting vulnerable people hard at a time when many are already struggling to make ends meet and some are having to resort to food banks.
“The Conservative-led Coalition is hammering some of our poorest families while giving tax cuts to millionaires.
“Some of these people may have lived in their home for years, but even if they were happy to move they cannot because of the shortage of smaller homes - and the Coalition Government has cut the budget for affordable homes by 60 per cent.
“If this bill succeeds it will exempt some struggling families from the Bedroom Tax - but only a Labour Government will abolish this unfair tax.”
The bill – which will now be considered further at ‘committee stage’ - was proposed by Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George.
But Ms Smith said the Lib Dems had previously supported the Conservatives in introducing the tax and resisting attempts by Labour to minimise the impact of the levy.