'Bedroom tax will destroy rural communities'
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Communities, Housing
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The government's bedroom tax will lead to the break-up of rural communities, a pressure group has warned.
Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE) says the controversial under-occupation charge will force people to leave the villages where they grew up.
The charity claims a lack of one and two-bedroom homes in the countryside means tenants have no choice but to move into towns and cities if they cannot make up the rent shortfall.
ACRE has accused the coalition failing to ‘rural proof’ the penalty, and is backing the call by the Commons Committee for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to exclude settlements of fewer than 3,000 people from the charge.
The umbrella body for England’s 38 rural community councils, ACRE surveyed its members to assess the impact of the tax.
Janice Banks, ACRE's chief executive, said: “The Department for Work and Pensions forecast in its impact assessment that the policy could have a greater impact on rural areas because there are fewer appropriate size homes available locally.
“Yet it went ahead with a blanket approach which will inevitably force rural tenants out of villages where they have lived for years, taking them away from their extended families, schools and support networks. It will take key workers away from areas where they perform vital roles.
“The bedroom tax takes no account of the challenges rural tenants face. Those who stay put and try to make up the shortfall are likely to be already struggling with the high cost of living in rural areas. Research shows it costs £2,700 a year more to live in the countryside than it does in a city.
“Our fear is that the accumulated changes in benefits, including Universal Credit, cuts to council tax support and the bedroom tax, will make it even harder for poorer people to remain in rural areas.
“It is yet another example of the ‘rural penalty’ paid by countryside communities. The government needs to take heed of Networks such as ours who understand the unique challenges faced by rural communities.”