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Tenants' only option is to pay bedroom tax

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Benefit claimants hit by the so-called bedroom tax have no option but to pay up – as there are not enough smaller homes available for them to move into.

Both Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin councils acknowledge the changes – which came in to force today – will not immediately do anything to solve the housing shortage but will hit tenants financially.

The change to housing benefit, which mean claimants lose up to 25 per cent of benefits if they have spare bedrooms, is part of the government's Welfare Reform Act.

Ministers claim it will encourage people to 'downsize' to avoid the benefit cut, freeing up larger houses for families on waiting lists.

But in both the Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin areas, council chiefs say there are not enough smaller properties available for people to move into, even if they wanted to.

The change will affect 2,130 tenants in the Shropshire Council are and 2,613 in Telford & Wrekin, who will see housing benefit cut by 14 to 25 per cent.

The lack of alternative property does not exempt people from the cut in benefit.

Councillor Keith Barrow, leader of Shropshire Council, said: "We don't have enough smaller properties to move people around, so I don't see how it's going to help."

And Councillor Bill McClements, cabinet member for resources at Telford & Wrekin Council, said: "We urge the Government to change their plans – their argument that tenants deemed to be under-occupying will be able to downsize to smaller properties simply doesn't stack up.

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"In the borough there aren't enough houses to do this. This will only cause further misery and hardship for many of the most vulnerable in our community."

Among those affected are Derek Evans and his wife Frances Bateman-Evans, who were told they would have to pay an extra £20 a week for their second bedroom.

The couple, who live in a two-bed property in Cedar Close, Overdale, in Telford, sleep in separate beds due to Mrs Bateman-Evans' arthritis and said they need the spare room.

There are exemptions for certain groups, such as those with children away serving in the armed forces.

Telford & Wrekin Council has also passed a motion condemning the changes.

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