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Tory councillor attacks NHF's 'false representation' of bedroom tax

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Tory councillor attacks NHF's 'false representation' of bedroom tax

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Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government, Regulation

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A Tory councillor has accused the National Housing Federation and "socialist politicians" of ignoring the ‘successes’ of the government's controversial bedroom tax.

Harry Phibbs, cabinet member for community engagement at Hammersmith & Fulham Council, has claimed that people such as NHF chief David Orr are "always happy to tour TV and radio studios to repeat the message" that tenants affected by the bedroom tax are unable to downsize due to the lengthy waiting list for smaller properties to become available.

Phibbs claims that the view is "seldom challenged" by BBC interviewers.

Writing on the Conservative Home website, the councillor says that the view is "entirely false" and "ignores the point that one and two bedroom social housing properties do not need to be empty".

He adds: "There are a huge number available despite being (over) occupied. That is because those living in them would be delighted to swap."

Phibbs cites recent figures from the HomeSwapper website that show the amount of social housing tenants downsizing their homes by exchanging properties with others has increased by a quarter.

Phibbs claims that most tenants hit by the bedroom tax have not moved to smaller properties for the “simple reason that they don’t want to downsize".

Claiming that it's "hard to imagine that the NHF is unaware of this", the councillor says that it suits the federation's, and the Labour Party's, political agenda to ignore it.

According to Phibbs, the money housing associations pay in affiliation fees to the NHF "could fund a couple of hundred new homes each year". He also takes issue with CEO David Orr taking home a salary of £158,000 - "more than the prime minister".

Summarising, Phibbs claims that rather than being used to provide new homes, the NHF uses it members' money to "spread falsehoods" about the bedroom tax, and that the "sooner spending transparency rules are applied to housing associations the better".

In a statement, Ruth Davison, the NHF's director of policy, said: "When the Federation started campaigning against the bedroom tax three years ago none of the political parties were highlighting the dreadful impact it would have on people living in social housing. This is a measure which affects only social housing tenants and our members house the majority of those in England so of course we took up the issue. It is through our high profile lobbying that the Labour party have now committed to repeal it if they win the next election and the Lib Dems are minded to amend the policy.

"It is true that people can swap homes and housing associations are actively helping thousands of families to do so. But that isn’t the whole picture. By adopting a national 'one size fits all' approach to tackle overcrowding, the bedroom tax is targeting those parts of the country least affected by the problem. In the North of England families with a spare room outnumber overcrowded families by three to one, so thousands are hit by the bedroom tax despite there being no local need for them to move. The mismatch between people living in overcrowded homes with those who have a spare room only works on paper. In reality, to make it work you would have to move thousands of families hundreds of miles, which breaks down local communities and support for people looking for work."

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