Bolton Conservatives defy Prime Minister over 'bedroom tax'
BOLTON Conservatives have gone head to head with Prime Minister David Cameron — and have called for the government’s controversial bedroom tax to be scrapped.
The pledge followed a decision by the majority of the borough’s Tory group to back a Labour motion at a meeting of the full council calling for the under-occupancy charge — dubbed the bedroom tax — to be axed.
The policy has cost Bolton residents more than £500,000 in less than six months.
The Conservatives’ deputy leader Cllr Andy Morgan told The Bolton News: “The group have had detailed discussions with regards the policy and the implication of it on some of our residents in Bolton.
“The implications and anomalies thrown up by the current policy are unfair for the majority of us to support the policy as its stands.
“We as a group are not afraid of going against government policy if it is for the benefit of the people who elected us, and will continue to make representations to government to repeal the policy and start again.”
The motion was tabled by Labour’s Cllr Nick Peel who claimed the decision by the Tories to back the vote marked a U-turn — after most of the group voted against a similar motion in April.
Bedroom tax deducts housing benefit from people living in social housing if they are deemed to be in property too big for their needs.
At the meeting Cllr Kate Lewis, a board member at the borough’s biggest social landlord Bolton at Home, revealed that the 2,384 of its tenants hit by the charge had lost £502,000 in benefits since its introduction on April 1.
Calling a named vote at the meeting, the motion was backed unanimously by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and from the Conservative leader Cllr David Greenhalgh, deputy leader Cllr Andy Morgan, and Cllrs Bob Allen, Mudasir Dean; Hilary Fairclough, Stuart Haslam, Alan Walsh and Paul Wild.
Cllrs John Walsh, Phil Ashcroft, Alan Rushton, and Walter Hall abstained.
Speaking at the meeting, Cllr Peel said: “It doesn’t work, it makes no sense, it is morally wrong, it takes no account of individual personal circumstances.”
Cllr Morgan told the meeting: “I don’t understand why the Labour Party think they have a monopoly on fairness and compassion.
“I’m a single parent and have custody of my children half of the week.
“Why should I have the opportunity to parent my children but a parent in receipt of housing benefit can’t have the opportunity?
“It’s wrong, it’s not right, it needs to be sorted out.”
During the meeting Cllr Lewis revealed that the number of Bolton at Home tenants in arrears had fallen, from 83 per cent in June to 62 per cent.
And she added that 50 disabled residents had been spared the charge, after Bolton at Home reclassified their “spare” bedrooms as utility rooms instead.
On the arrears, she said: “Although these figures are slightly better than those I gave at the last meeting, the picture is still bleak and the amount of arrears being built up by partial non-payers are growing.”
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