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Union calls for a vote to end 'bedroom tax'

The trade union Unite has organised a protest in Knightsbridge to coincide with the first anniversary of the introduction of the "bedroom tax". Unite wants a vote to end the policy, which was meant to encourage council tenants to move into smaller properties if they were in houses with a spare room.

Opponents say it has left many tenants forced in to paying more for their current houses as there aren't enough smaller properties available for them to move into. The government has said the scheme is not a tax and instead refers to it as "the spare room subsidy".

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Resident in one bed block gets huge 'Bedroom Tax' bill

A resident in Maida Vale, living in a one bedroom sheltered housing block, has been sent a £1,200 'Bedroom Tax' bill by Westminster Council by mistake. The resident, who has not been named said:

I received a letter from Westminster benefits office stating that I am under occupying my 1 bedroom flat! I live in sheltered accommodation, and as far as I am aware I am exempt from the bedroom tax, I believe this applies to all sheltered accommodation in the country.

I receive pension credit and I was born before the 7th of October 1951. I have been informed that I have been overpaid £1,233.28. Will Westminster City Council take me to court? Will the council evict me and all the other sheltered accommodation residents who cannot pay?

Westminster City Council said:

We apologise. This was a computer error and we rectified the problem as soon as it was reported to us. We are also in the process of making sure this type of error does not occur again.

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Resident's bedroom tax victory

When is a bedroom, not a bedroom? Well according to the law, when it is being used for storage.

Why does it matter? Well it matters to anyone hit by the government's so-called Bedroom Tax.

In the first case of its kind in England, Londoner Surinder Lall's lawyers argued his spare bedroom was actually being used to store vital equipment to help with his disabilty, arguing his full housing benefit should be reinstated. He won.

Our Political Correspondent Simon Harris reports.

Bedroom 'is a misnomer'

Surinder Lall appealed against Westminster Council's reduction of his Housing Benefit, saying he relies on the equipment in his bedroom to lead a normal life. As the sole occupant of his housing association flat in Maida Vale, he was about to have his Housing Benefit cut by £12 a week.

He says:

"It enables me to function independently...."It's a misnomer to call it a bedroom, it's a room that is used for my equipment."

Number of bedrooms 'up to landlords'

Westminster Council has emphasised responsibility lies with a landlord to specify how many bedrooms a property has, not the council.

“Westminster Council reduced Mr Lall’s housing benefit on the grounds his landlord described the property as having two bedrooms - under national regulations, it is up to the landlord to list the number of bedrooms in a property, not the government or the local authority.

“The housing association changed its assessment shortly before the tribunal case which supported Mr Lall’s argument that the additional room was not a bedroom, but a space to store equipment needed by a disabled person.

– Westminster City Council

Westminster Council spokesperson went on to say representatives have been working to find a solution:

“The council had previously invited Mr Lall to apply for a discretionary housing payment to make up the shortfall from the loss of housing benefit stemming from a second bedroom, but he turned this down.

” Westminster Council has a number of measures in place to help those who may be affected by welfare reform, including specialist advisors.”

– Westminster City Council
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