BASILDON is one of the towns worst-hit by the bedroom tax in the east of England, it has been revealed.

Since April 2013, Basildon Council has handed out 620 notices to tenants seeking repossession due to rent arrears.

It admits 82 of those cases are down to the bedroom tax.

The tenants will have to fight their cases in court.

The Tory administration has refused to guarantee not to evict people, despite the pleas of the opposition Labour party.

Research from campaign group the Housing Federation shows 1,630 households in Basildon have been affected since the tax began, in April 2013 – the second highest figure in the whole Eastern region. It shows tenants are £830 per year worse off on average.

The Government brought in the controversial tax as part of a package of welfare reforms.

Benefits are cut to tenants who are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home.

Dave Murray, the chairman and founder of the Basildon Residents Against Bedroom Tax group, said: “I think it is incredibly callous and a deliberate policy to punish the poor for the failings of the rich.

“Most households who are affected are those who are disabled and they are paying for the failures of speculators and bankers.

“We will continue to fight this process of making it a crime to be poor.”

Last year, up to December, 10,530 residents were given a court summons because of council tax arrears – a rise of 2,412 compared to 2012.

Of the 1,630 households affected by the bedroom tax in Basildon, just 124 have been able to move to smaller accommodation, due to a shortage of housing.

The opposition Labour party has called for a guarantee no residents will be evicted due to rent arrears, but the Tory administration has refused to give it.

Labour claims the tax hurts people who need to have a second room for reasons such as medical equipment, and people who are disabled and need a carer.

Labour group deputy leader Byron Taylor said: “People are being pushed out simply because they are either poor or disabled.

“We are the only party that will abolish the bedroom tax.”

The Tories have hit back at the claims and accused the Labour group of making an argument based on emotion rather than looking at facts.

Council deputy leader Phil Turner said: “There are no facts and figures here. It is is all to play on the emotions instead, based on sentimentality.”