Lib Dems condemn government for tenants' distress

December 1, 2008 1:14 PM

A government decision which could force hundreds of Cambridge tenants to move out of the city has been condemned by the city's Liberal Democrats.

They claim the move, to set average rents for tenants living in privately-owned homes, has left many unable to pay and is causing "considerable distress".

Members will call on the city council to demand that the government reinstate the original position at their full council meeting on Thursday.

Cambridge MP David Howarth has already taken up the fight on the tenants' behalf and won the first round after the government agreed to review the rules. He is also fighting for compensation for those out of pocket.

The problems began in April when Labour replaced the Housing Benefit Scheme with the new Local Housing Allowance.

Until then, tenants living on benefits and renting from private landlords were entitled to have their rents paid in full by the city council.

But under the new rules many tenants have found that their rents are deemed to be too high to qualify for payment in full and tenants are unable to make up the shortfall.

Now the Lib Dems will urge members of Cambridge City Council to call on the Government to reinstate the original basis of calculating the average rent.

And they will urge all political parties to write to the Government requesting this change.

Rod Cantrill, executive councillor for customer services and resources, will put forward a motion to full council recognising the importance of helping Cambridge residents, in particular those on low incomes, during the current economic crisis.

He said: "It is totally unacceptable for the Government to be telling people on low incomes that they cannot live in Cambridge. If they are forced to move it could disrupt their family live and their children's schooling.

"The position adopted by the Government is totally unacceptable and is causing considerable distress to people living in the city."

Cllr Cantrill's motion will also ask executive councillors and officers to find ways of helping residents affected by the Local Housing Allowance rules in a bid to minimise their financial distress.

Mr Howarth said: "The fight is not over yet. We need to find out where the new boundaries will be. We have won the first round of this fight but we must not be complacent.

"This was an appalling situation which worried large numbers of people in the city and which should never have been allowed to happen."

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