Government to overturn latest 'bedroom tax' exemption
Published by 24publishing for 24dash.com in Housing
Government to overturn 'bedroom tax' exemption for vulnerable
The Government is seeking to once again overturn a House of Lords amendment to the so-called 'spare bedroom tax' which will cut the housing benefit of social housing tenants with spare rooms.
Last night peers voted by 236 to 226 in favour of a motion tabled by crossbench peer Lord Best who said the penalty should not be imposed on vulnerable groups where they have one spare room and where there is nowhere "suitable" for them to move to.
The groups include disabled people, people not required to work, foster carers and war widows.
Last week, MPs rejected a similar amendment - to exempt those with one spare room where no suitable accommodation is found - from the Lords and then imposed financial privilege. This prevents peers from overruling MPs on matters of spending.
The latest amendment is set to cost the government £100m in 2013-14.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesperson said: “The House of Commons has made its position clear on amendments which would result in additional spending, and the Government will seek to overturn the size criteria amendment when the Bill returns for further consideration by the Commons.
“The majority of the public agree with the Government's welfare reforms and we look forward to delivering on these radical proposals that will make our welfare system better and fairer."
Under the Government's plans, 670,000 working age social tenants - two-thirds containing a disabled family member - face losing an average of £14 per week from April 2013 because they are deemed to have one or more additional bedrooms.
Both the National Housing Federation (NHF) and the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) are urging the Government to adopt last night's amendment.
The CIH said that if last night’s amendment is accepted by government many households will still be exposed to an "unfair penalty" and significant problems will emerge over time, but the concessions for the most vulnerable in society will be helpful.
Grainia Long, CIH interim chief executive, said: “The arguments made by the Lords last night are based on a solid understanding of good housing management: we do not want to see the new benefits system undermine the efforts of professionals to make the lives of individuals and communities as stable as possible.
“The Lords have twice backed amendments to reform this wrong-headed measure; there is explicit support for a different approach from more than 70 organisations; and we have heard emotional illustrations of the likely unavoidable impact of these reforms on low income households up and down the country.
“We need government to sit down again with housing professionals to take on board the reality on the ground in the design of the legislation. Only by drawing on the experience of those who provide social housing, some of which informed the Lords debate last night, will government be able to deliver a system of help with housing costs that actually works.”
NHF chief David Orr said: "Yesterday's result is a victory for common sense and fairness. We are delighted that peers have stood firm and yet again voted to lessen the impact of the bedroom tax.
"Peers and MPs of all parties have voted to amend these proposals. They have been supported by tenants, social landlords and nearly 80 organisations concerned with housing, family issues and disability.
"Together, we have shown that it is simply unfair to penalise some of the most vulnerable families for under-occupying their homes when they have nowhere else to move.
"Given the level of opposition in the Commons and the Lords to these proposals, it was totally wrong for the Government to shut down discussion by claiming financial privilege.
"We urge the Government to listen to the clear message sent by peers by allowing this compromise to stand when the Bill returns to the commons.
"For disabled people, war widows and foster carers, with nowhere else to go to, this could mean the difference between making ends meet and living in poverty."
The Federation said it will campaign to ensure the amendment is allowed to stand when the Bill returns again to the Commons next week.