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Council leader Marie Rimmer
Council leader Marie Rimmer
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COUNCIL leader Marie Rimmer has warned that parts of the borough’s housing could become “transient camps” if the Government goes ahead with proposed housing benefit reforms.

Coun Rimmer, the leader of the local Labour Group, submitted a motion calling on the coalition Government to reconsider “any attempt to force people out of their family homes”.

Under current Welfare Reform Bill proposals, from April 2013 residents deemed to be living in homes which are “under occupied” could lose up to £20 a week in benefits.

In an impassioned speech at this month’s full council meeting, Coun Rimmer argued that this cash could be the difference between St Helens people being able to stay put or not being able to enjoy a permanent home.

According to Coun Rimmer, about 3,300 local people could stand to lose between £11 and £20.

“A house is much more than a roof over your head,” she said. “It’s about being close to support groups, family, friends and being part of the local community.”

The motion received all party support.

The council’s chief executive has now been asked to write to the Government to express the authority’s “deep concern” over the profound impact that housing benefit reforms could have on communities.