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FAMILIES are being offered £1,500 cash incentives to downsize.

In addition, their removal costs will be paid for and their new homes decorated free of charge.

The scheme has been launched by Basildon Council in a bid to cut the council house waiting list.

The deal is being offered to people living in homes with spare bedrooms, in order to free them up for bigger families.

Phil Turner, the council’s deputy leader, said: “This is all about offering help to some of our most vulnerable residents.

“It is a sensible way to free up space on our housing register as there is a chronic lack of family homes within the borough.”

The new plan is geared towards the 896 Basildon tenants hit by the Government’s “bedroom tax” – which removes a percentage of housing benefit to people who are deemed to have spare rooms, leading to households falling into arrears.

The incentive was recently agreed by housing officials and the council has already had its first family sign up.

Mr Turner added: “The spare room subsidy is Government policy.

“Labour has said we shouldn’t evict anyone, but hopefully it doesn’t come to that. We need to collect the money – it’s law.”

There are thousands of people waiting for social housing in the borough, with the council looking at ways to ease demand – including only offering homes to residents who have a local connection of at least seven years.

An initial sum of £200,000 has been set aside for the downsizing scheme.

Basildon Council has issued almost 100 notices, seeking possession of properties occupied by tenants struggling to cope with the extra burden of the bedroom tax.

The authority will also offer help with removal costs to those who do not fit the criteria.

Reduced payments of £1,000 will be made for homeowners looking to downsize on a smaller scale – from two-bed to one-bedroom properties.

However, the deal is not available to any tenant in arrears.

Chris Miller, 32, of Butneys, Basildon, is desperate to downsize, but say the council will not help him. He said: “I would love to move, but the council won’t let me because of my rent arrears.”