ONE of the region’s Conservative MPs yesterday (Thursday, January 9) joined the revolt against the ‘bedroom tax’ – calling for an exemption for rural areas.

Anne McIntosh, the Thirsk and Malton, warned of a “chronic shortage” of smaller homes for people required to move, or be docked housing benefit.

And she criticised her own Government for arguing that people affected should work harder, or move to rented homes in the private sector instead.

Loading article content

Miss McIntosh, chairwoman of the Commons environment select committee, said its investigation found the need for an exemption for villages.

During a Commons debate, she told ministers: “In my area, there is a chronic shortage of one and two-bedroom homes.

“Until such a time as we can rehouse those who wish to downsize - allowing larger families to move into larger properties - housing will remain a problem. Sadly, the Government rejected that recommendation.”

She added: “The bedroom tax means that tenants are expected to move greater distances, away from friends, family and schools.”

The Thirsk and Malton MP is believed to be the first Conservative to openly criticise the bedroom tax, which Labour has vowed to axe if it wins power.

Indeed, even the phrase is banned in Tory circles, the party’s MPs having been ordered to call it the removal of a “spare room subsidy”.

During the debate, on rural communities, Miss McIntosh was criticised by Tory colleague, Sir Edward Leigh, for calling it the bedroom tax.

The controversial policy - designed to save £500m and free up larger homes for families in cramped properties - was introduced last April.

It has penalised social housing tenants with spare rooms, cutting housing benefit by 14 per cent for an extra bedroom and 25 per cent where there are two.

But critics have long warned there are too few smaller homes for 95,000 affected families across England, with the North-East the hardest-hit area.

Her comments came as a red-faced department for work and pensions (DWP) revealed some people hit by the bedroom tax will receive a rebate.

It admitted people who have been claiming housing benefit continuously since 1996, for the same property, are not covered. Around 5,000 are affected.

Meanwhile, during the debate, Miss McIntosh also criticised people in rural areas who adopt a ‘not in my back yard’ approach.

She said: “Every time, in a nice area, when there is a proposal by the planning authority for social housing or smaller units, people always write to their MP and say, 'I know just the place for that development - at the other end of the village to where I live'.

“Until we can get over that barrier then we are going to have a smaller housing stock of social homes.”