Ipswich: Thousands of households face benefit blows

Protesters gathered on the Ipswich Cornhill to protest about bedroom tax.

Protesters gathered on the Ipswich Cornhill to protest about bedroom tax. - Credit: Archant

Thousands of households across the town are facing new bills next month as changes to council tax benefit are brought in.

About 8,500 households across the town who have had their council tax paid in full until now will have to make a contribution of 8.5% to the bills.

And 1,600 council or housing association tenants will see their housing benefit cut if they live in a home larger than the government believes is necessary for them – the so-called “bedroom tax.”

Some tenants will face a double-whammy of being caught by both changes.

The Labour leader of Ipswich Council, David Ellesmere, said that those living in Band B homes – the most numerous in the town – and who had had all their council tax bills paid until now would face having to pay about £100 each.

Those who were living in homes with more bedrooms than the government feels is necessary face losing £12 a week if they have one extra bedroom and £22 a week if they have two extra.

Some tenants will be hit by both the changes to council tax benefit and the “bedroom tax.”

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Mr Ellesmere said: “These changes will affect some of the poorest people in society, and they will have a devastating effect on people’s lives.

“It is all very well to say people who live in home with too many bedrooms that they should move somewhere smaller – but there isn’t a great supply of one and two-bedroomed flats for social housing.”

The changes would take about £2 million out of the local economy – and Mr Ellesmere was particularly angered by the timing of the change.

He said: “This is coming in on the same day that the government is cutting tax for the wealthiest people – the 8,000 highest earners in this country will be paying £100,000 less in income tax.”

However Conservative MP Ben Gummer defended the changes. He said: “The government is right to insist that local councils sort our benefits for local council taxes.

“Suffolk County Council has taken the opportunity to improve the benefits it provides; I am only sad that – once again – the Borough has chosen to be political rather than imaginative about what it does.

“Other councils – including Labour ones – elsewhere in the country are coming up with better solutions to helping vulnerable people.

“And on spare bedrooms – most people just do not understand why Housing Benefit is being paid for empty rooms which are desperately needed by families across Ipswich.”