Does Freud care about bedroom tax evictions? Welfare minister faces Lords quiz over under-occupancy policy
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Central Government and also in Housing, Regulation
Welfare reform minister Lord Freud has been asked if he knows or cares about how many social housing tenants have been evicted as a consequence of the controversial bedroom tax.
Questioned in the House of Lords, the minister repeatedly avoided answering if he knew how many tenants have been evicted because of the under-occupancy policy.
Labour peer Lord McAvoy first asked Freud if he knew or cared what the number was. The minister didn't answer so the question was picked up by Baroness Taylor of Bolton, who asked: "Will the minister answer the question posed by my noble friend about the number of evictions? Does he know the number, and does he care?"
Freud finally conceded that he was not sure of "the exact number" of evictions but that he thought that there weren't "very many at all, if any".
Labour's Baroness Sherlock then told Freud that 500,000 people had been affected by the bedroom tax, most of whom are disabled, adding "If the minister wants some figures, two-thirds of tenants hit by the bedroom tax are currently in arrears and, of those, 40% have been issued with a notice seeking possession".
The baroness said: "This is a serious crisis, and I think that the minister should acquaint himself with all the figures, including those on evictions."
Mysteriously, Freud answered that the "noble Baroness need not persuade me about the savings" before going on to say that the government would produce an interim report on the bedroom tax later in the year.
Earlier in the debate, Labour's Lord McAvoy told the house that, despite assurances from Freud, 47 councils had spent 90% of their discretionary housing payment budget by February 2014 - the fund the government has said should be used to help victims of the bedroom tax - and that a third of councils reported that a third of DHP applications were refused.
Freud replied that "the noble Lord used those figures as if they were his; I am sure that he would want to attribute them to another group called False Economy.
"They show that 85% of councils surveyed had spent less than 90% of their money with one month to go. However, in that particular report, which found that 11 councils had overspent, there were a lot of mistakes. The figures for four of them—Swindon, Haringey, Leeds and Middlesbrough—were simply wrong."