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Westminster confirms number of bedroom tax households owed refunds due to '1996' exemption

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Westminster confirms number of bedroom tax households owed refunds due to '1996' exemption

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

Westminster confirms number of bedroom tax households owed refunds due to '1996' exemption Westminster confirms number of bedroom tax households owed refunds due to '1996' exemption

More than 120 families in Westminster can expect refunds of over £700 each after it was revealed that they should have been exempt from paying the bedroom tax.

The Department for Work and Pensions is currently in the process of changing regulations to amend an oversight in the controversial policy that means people who have been in continuous receipt of housing benefit since January 1 1996 should not be paying.

Westminster Council has confirmed there are 124 households in the borough who qualify for the "1996" exemption.

In a note to councillors, officers said: “In January 2014, the DWP (Department of Work and Pensions) announced that tenants whose tenancy commenced before 1st January 1996 and have received HB continuously should not be affected by the under occupation cap.

"Analysis confirms that there are 124 under occupation cap cases that qualify for the “1996” exemption. The benefits team are now organising their re-assessment.”

Since 1st April 2013, families hit by the bedroom tax have had their housing benefit reduced by 14% of their rent if they have one spare room and 25% of their rent if they have two or more spare rooms. A family with one spare room has lost £18 a week since 1st April – over £700.

There are currently 382 families in council flats who are hit by the bedroom tax and the council has moved just 48 families to smaller flat in the nine months from April – December 2013 – a rate of less than six families a month.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, leader of the Labour Group, said: “This huge government bungle has cost 124 of the most vulnerable families in Westminster over £700 each, some of whom are now in rent arrears or have had to cut down on essentials in order to pay the new tax.

"The bedroom tax has caused nothing but misery and the sooner it is scrapped the better."

The Department for Work and Pensions said nationally they estimate fewer than 5,000 people will be affected. However, housing benefit experts have questioned the Department's calculations estimating the figure to be closer to 40,000.

In the past week alone, Wirral Council has reported 600 residents are affected; Sheffield 'about 500' and both Liverpool and Birmingham councils have estimated significant numbers.

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