Liberal Democrats to abandon support for bedroom tax
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Central Government
Nick Clegg delivers major speech on electoral reform
The Liberal Democrats have pledged to axe the controversial bedroom tax, claiming new research by the DWP was the reason for their disastrously late change of mind.
Labour called the move “hypocritical” and purely aimed at winning votes in next year’s general election.
The Daily Mirror says Nick Clegg is backing the change in party policy with the 2015 manifesto to call for the abolition of the tax if the party cannot persuade the Conservatives to change their mind before then. Under the new policy, the bedroom tax would only apply to people who decline to take up a genuine offer of smaller accommodation.
Writing in today’s Daily Mirror, Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the treasury, says: “Overwhelmingly, our benefit reforms are working, resulting in many more people gaining the independence and self respect of re-entering work. However with only one in 20 of affected claimants having successfully downsized, it’s clearly time to take stock and change our approach in this particular area.
“Those already in the social rented sector would only see a reduction in their housing benefit if they are offered a suitable smaller home and, crucially, turn it down. Disabled adults should be treated in the same way as disabled children, by permanently exempting them.”
The Mirror also quotes National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr as welcoming the shift.
“This is recognition from the Lib Dems that the policy is not working,” Orr said. “I’m not going to move away from my stand that it should be abolished completely but any recognition it’s a bad policy that needs changing is a welcome step.”
The Mirror says the change of heart by the Lib Dems followed an official report into the early months of the bedroom tax. Published earlier this week, the report revealed the disastrous impact on social housing landlords and their tenants.
Published by the Department for Work and Pensions on the day of a Cabinet reshuffle, the 'Evaluation of Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy Interim report' shows that despite the best efforts of housing providers the bedroom tax led to a dramatic rise in rent arrears but very few people downsizing - one of the policy's key objectives.
Gavin Smart, director of policy and practice at the Chartered Institute of Housing, said: “It’s been clear for some time that the bedroom tax is causing hardship and suffering for thousands of people across Great Britain.
"The government’s own report on the policy this week has provided more evidence, so any recognition from the Liberal Democrats that the bedroom tax is not working is welcome – although long overdue. It is clearly a policy in urgent need of reform if not repeal. We think the government should take the latter option – the bedroom tax is not fair, it doesn’t work and we believe it should be scrapped.”
Maureen Watson, head of policy at the Scottish Federation of Housing Associations, said: “As we advised MPs of all parties from the start, the ‘bedroom tax’ is an ill-conceived policy. The financial consequences for both tenants and social landlords are now widely recognised. The policy has failed and it must be abolished – Now!”