CAMPAIGNERS have vowed to step up their fight against the “bedroom tax” after a top Tory told Bolton’s social housing tenants to pay up — or get out.
Iain Duncan Smith, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said he believed people should “find more hours at work” if they have been hit by the under-occupancy charge.
Under the charge, people with a spare room in their council or social housing association property, have their benefit cut.
Dubbed the “bedroom tax”, it has sparked outrage both nationally and in Bolton, with a campaign group set up in the town.
Mr Duncan Smith, on a visit to missile firm MBDA in Lostock on Friday, argued there is a desperate need to address the quarter of a million overcrowded homes left by the previous government, as well as the million people on waiting lists for social housing.
Meanwhile, he added the government has enabled 150,000 more houses to be built to meet demand.
Mr Duncan Smith said: “We’re doing this because you have to make sure that those in the most need get the housing available.
“And nobody ever hears from the families locked into overcrowded homes, whose lives are quite miserable because they can’t get the right house.”
He added: “Taxpayers on marginal or low incomes pay a lot of money to housing benefit, for people to live in homes they themselves can’t afford to live in.
“So I’m simply saying, let’s get a bit of fairness in this and say that if you want to live in a home like that, then we think you should pay a little bit more if that’s your choice and to that end go and find more hours of work – it isn’t that many more hours.
“This is a balance — you need to take choices. Those who are suffering through overcrowding, we need to find a better way in for them into homes that are currently overblocked because people are living in them who don’t use all the rooms.”
But Bolton’s anti-bedroom tax campaigners have hit back at his comments.
Linda Charnock, chairman of campaigning group Bolton Against Bedroom Tax, said: “It’s not as simple as just getting a few more hours’ work — we have someone supporting our campaign who works two jobs to pay the charge.
“If you work extra hours, then your housing benefit decreases, meaning the bedroom tax then goes up.
“And when you go to the job centre many of the jobs are for zero-hour contracts, so the hours aren’t assured.
“We’re not going to stop fighting and campaigning against this issue.”
Last year Bolton at Home became the first housing association in the country to introduce a “no homelessness” policy to help those affected by the charge.
The “bedroom tax” was introduced in April last year.
Having one spare bedroom means housing benefit could be reduced by £14 a week.