Thousands of people are expected at more than 40 demonstrations across the country today against the so-called Bedroom Tax. These include events in Exeter, Plymouth and Truro.
The "Bedroom Tax" is part of a new set of rules, being introduced nationally in April this year, which limits the number of bedrooms for which housing benefit can be paid. For social housing tenants who have more bedrooms than are needed, the rule change will mean a reduction in housing benefit.
The result of this is that any shortfall - the difference between the previous amount paid and the new amount - will have to be paid by the tenant. The changes would affect around 30,000 people in Devon and Cornwall and mean losing an average of £15 a week for each home.
The change will affect all people of working age but will not affect pensioners. Certain other exceptions have been announced so far, for families with severely disabled children.
The charity Shelter is urging tenants to continue to pay their rent as usual but provides a number of suggestions on its website for people affected by the changes.
Grant Shapps, the Conservative Party chairman, said in interview in February "What we can't continue to do, and we can't afford to do, is pay for a million empty rooms whilst we've got a waiting list that doubled under the previous administration and with so many people in desperate need of a house at all."
Labour MP, Frank Field, has suggested taking dramatic action including knocking down walls or bricking up windows. He said "I hope landlords will brick up the doors to spare bedrooms and, where appropriate, knock down the walls, so that the properties can safely fit the tenants. I have never before asked for direct action. I do so now because I feel the measures are grossly unfair."
Two weeks ago, more than 50 demonstrations were held across the country, calling for the proposed changes to not be implemented.
Council Tax Changes in Cornwall
In addition to the "Bedroom Tax" changes, 1 April is the beginning of new rules for Council Tax in Cornwall. These controversial changes mean the end of the 100% Council Tax Benefit, so that everyone on Council Tax Benefit must now contribute 25% towards their Council Tax from their own pocket.
Whilst many people across the country will be hit by the Bedroom Tax and changes in Council Tax, the Chancellor has decided that 1 April is also the time to reduce the top rate of income tax from 50% to 45%. This reduction will give each millionaire an average tax cut of some £100,000 per year.
Bedroom Tax Demonstrations
Demonstrations in the Devon and Cornwall area are on 30 March at these times:
- Plymouth - The Sundial, Armada Way - 1pm
- Exeter - Bedford Square - 1pm
- Truro - Lemon Quay - 12 midday