Axe looming over Crawley housing benefits claims
HUNDREDS of social housing residents in Crawley have received letters saying their benefits are due to be slashed because of unoccupied bedrooms in their homes.
Tenants with one spare room could see their housing benefits cut by 14 per cent, and those with two spare rooms could see them go down by 25 per cent.
It is a Government reform designed to encourage people to downsize so larger homes can be freed up for larger families.
About 900 residents have received letters informing them the changes will be made by May.
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Broadfield North councillor Brian Quinn said: "It is a stealth tax for people who have already been hit hard and I think it could potentially tear apart a family.
"Rather than make a sweeping change like this, I think time needs to be taken to access an individual's circumstances."
Crawley Borough Council leader Bob Lanzer understands residents' concerns. He said: "This is a national Government policy but there are weaknesses in it. There is a shortage of housing and this is an earnest attempt to get the most out of the housing stock."
There are currently 9,308 people in Crawley receiving housing benefits, more than half of whom are council tenants. Of this figure, about 900 have unoccupied bedrooms. The number of private tenants with unoccupied rooms is expected to be similar.
Robin Burnham, from Bewbush, is calling on residents to kick up a fuss. He said: "It is a way of getting money out of people. There is no justification for this.
"We gave £1.3 trillion to the banks, that is why the Government is doing this, and all the while rich people in their big houses get away without cuts."
Sharon Okpaire, from Broadfield, is among those affected. She said: "I don't believe you should be forced to pay more money for empty rooms, there should be more houses instead. This is a great deal of money."
Anyone not of working age, or in sheltered or supported housing, is unlikely to be affected.