UNRAVELLING BEDROOM TAX
6 August 2013
When they were justifying the bedroom tax the Tories and Libdems said that it was not fair that some people lived in a social-rented house with rooms – bedrooms – they did not need and they should and could downsize a bedroom or even two to free up the house for people on the waiting list. As an incentive and penalty they would lose some of their housing benefit if they did not downsize. The country would save £1 billion over the first two years of the policy.
The Libdems and Tories did not listen to those who said there were not enough smaller houses and that the bedroom tax was inherently flawed and unfair because of that lack even if one accepted the rightness and sense of downsizing in many instances. Additionally, making people downsize into the private sector because of that lack in social-rented housing would probably meant higher rents to be paid and consequently higher housing benefit to be paid and more cost to the country.
Now there is evidence that the policy is unravelling. The Independent has published figures gathered by the Labour party that suggest that 96 percent of people affected by the bedroom tax cannot move because there are not enough smaller homes for them.
In Cornwall, it suggests, 3300 households are affected by the bedroom tax but there are only 65 one and two bedroom homes available for them.
It is difficult to avoid the tax if there not enough homes to downsize to. The bedroom tax turns out to be not a spare room or unoccupation subsidy, as the Tory Libdem government called it, but just a tax on poorer people. Someone helpfully asked Cornwall Council about the likely loss in benefit. In Cornwall people underoccupying by one bedroom are expected to lose an average of £11.52 a week and those underoccupying by two or more bedrooms an average of £21.38 a week (FOI 101000 335837 February 2013).
The House of Commons voted on the Housing Benefit (Amendment) Regulations 2012 on 24 October 2012. These effected the bedroom tax from 1 April 2013. The three Libdem MPs from Cornwall split: Stephen Gilbert voted for the regulations, Andrew George against, and no vote is recorded for Dan Rogerson. The three Tory MPs from Cornwall voted for. (Hansard 24 October 2012 , division 84, column 1047).