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Conservative MP calls for rural communities to be freed from bedroom tax

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Conservative MP calls for rural communities to be freed from bedroom tax

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government

Conservative MP calls for rural communities to be freed from bedroom tax Conservative MP calls for rural communities to be freed from bedroom tax

A Conservative MP has called on the government to make small rural communities exempt from the bedroom tax.

Anne McIntosh, MP for Thirsk and Malton and chair of the House of Commons environment, food and rural affairs select committee, said a "chronic shortage" of one and two-bedroom homes in her north east constituency made it difficult for people to downsize.

Referring to a recent report published by the committee, Miss McIntosh said: "We recommended that small rural communities should be exempt from the bedroom tax.

"In my area, there is a chronic shortage of one and two-bedroom homes. Until such a time as we can rehouse those who wish to downsize, allowing larger families to move into larger properties, housing will remain a problem.

"Sadly, the government rejected that recommendation. In their response, they suggested that those affected by the bedroom tax should simply work more hours to make up the shortfall or should move into the private sector.

"When I visited the food bank in my area, run by the local church, volunteers and the Trussell Trust, I found the story of one lady who volunteers there very affecting: she wants to work more hours for her employer, but the work is simply not there."

Miss McIntosh also referred to the affordable housing crisis facing the countryside.

She said: "Let me turn now to housing, another key part of the report. Parts of rural England are among the most unaffordable places to live in the country.

"Ryedale, in my area, stands out as the people working there earn less on average than those working in urban areas or in other parts of Thirsk, Malton and Filey. Rural homes are more expensive than urban ones.

"The average house price in the countryside is equivalent to 6.3 times gross annual average earnings, compared with 4.9 in urban areas.

"Potential first-time buyers are particularly hard hit by high property prices and are increasingly frozen out of rural areas.

"If we do not address those problems, the consequences for rural communities will be grave. If young people are priced out of rural areas, we lose the pool of labour for the local economy and the service sector, and demand for services, schools, shops and pubs will also decrease, making their existence less viable. Rather than addressing the problems on the demand side, we urge the Government to do much more to increase the supply of housing in rural areas."

Miss McIntosh said planning was "the elephant in the room", particularly when it came to the provision of social housing.

She explained: "Whenever a planning authority in a nice area makes a proposal for social housing or smaller units, people always write to their MP —I do not think I am an exception in this regard—to say, “I know just the place for that development: at the other end of the village from where I live.

"Until we can get over that barrier, we will have a smaller stock of social homes. The bedroom tax means that tenants are expected to move greater distances, away from friends, family and schools. We must have a policy that allows key workers to live in the areas where they perform a vital role."

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