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A waste of money Matthew Warburton - 30/11/2012

disabled_woman_300ARCH members West Lancashire District Council estimate that one in six of their tenants affected by the bedroom tax have had adaptations carried out to their homes to help them cope with a disability.

If these 193 tenants moved to smaller accommodation, the council would need to spend over £700,000 adapting their new homes to meet their special requirements, compared with an annual saving in HB of around £130,000.

The irony here, of course, is that the benefit savings accrue to central government, while the cost of providing new adaptations impacts on the council.

Looking at the overall impact on the public purse, it makes little sense to restrict benefit and force tenants to move when doing so will trigger additional expenditure that will not be recouped for six years.

It makes even less sense if the affected tenants will reach retirement age - and escape the benefit restrictions - before the six years is up. This, one might think, is one of the scenarios Discretionary Housing Payments were intended to help avoid.

But it is by no means clear that DHP cash limits for next year will be enough to provide for the scale of this problem.


West Lancs have written to the Housing Minister pointing out that next year's DHP allowance will need to show a dramatic increase on the £53,200 allocated for this year for the council to have any hope of helping this group of tenants, not to mention all the other potential claims for DHP.

West Lancs are unlikely to be alone. Other councils which are well-advanced in identifying tenants affected by the welfare reform changes will also be comparing the cost of moving under-occupying tenants whose new homes will require expensive adaptations with the alternative of helping them to stay where they are.

ARCH would like to hear from councils which have done the sums and can evidence the financial dilemma they face. Councils may also want to follow West Lancashire's example and put their argument direct to Ministers.

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