When is a bedroom not a bedroom? When it’s in a Leeds council house

Leeds is "redesignating" the names of rooms across its housing estate
Leeds is "redesignating" the names of rooms across its housing estate
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COUNCIL bosses in West Yorkshire have unveiled plans that will allow hundreds of people to sidestep the Government’s controversial “bedroom tax”.

Leeds City Council has confirmed it is pressing ahead with plans to reclassify bedrooms in hundreds of properties in its housing stock.

Reclassifying bedrooms as non-specific “rooms” can mean a property is no longer designated as being under-occupied. That in turn means its tenant will avoid the impact of the bedroom tax, effectively a reduction in benefit for people in social housing deemed to have spare bedrooms.

The council is pressing ahead with the reclassification of bedrooms in 837 of its homes across the city. It revealed nearly a third of the properties are classed as under-occupied, according to the system brought in by the Government on April 1. Others have been chosen for inclusion in the shake-up to ensure they offer what the council calls “the right lay-out and design” for modern living.

Tenants in the properties who have lost out on benefit over the last two months due to revised under-occupancy rules will have that money refunded. The council stressed it is not yet clear how much cash will have to be paid out.

The executive board member with responsibility for neighbourhoods, planning and support services, Coun Peter Gruen, said: “The move to look at this has been in part prompted by welfare changes and looking at ways to help all tenants across the city.”

Coun Barry Anderson, from the council’s opposition Tory group, said: “The decision is a poor one that appears to have been rushed through with no real thought other than to avoid spare room subsidy payments.”

Under the Government’s new regulations, council tenants with one spare bedroom have had a housing benefit cut of 14 per cent while those deemed to have two or more spare have had a reduction of 25 per cent.

Ministers say the overhaul has made the housing system fairer and could save the country as much as £500m a year.