NOT WHAT IT SAYS ON THE TIN

21 July 2014

What all the wise men promised would happen has not happened and what all the damned fools said would happen has come to pass (Lord Melbourne)

The other day the Department for work and pensions (DWP) quietly published a report on the first five months (April-August 2013) of the working of the bedroom tax. There are problems with the report (as discussed excellently by Joe Halewood here) but it found a minimal number of social rent tenants had downsized in the social rent sector, extremely few had moved into the private rented sector, a fifth of tenants had paid not a penny of the shortfall in rent caused for them by the bedroom tax benefit cut, and those tenants who had paid all or some were cutting back on some essentials.

It wasn’t supposed to be like that. No wonder the DWP put out the report as the Cabinet reshuffle filled the news.

What was it supposed to be like?

First, let me remind you that Tories and Libdems (with very few Libdem exceptions) backed the introduction of the bedroom tax to the hilt and in the face of clear monitory advice that the ill-effects that have indeed come to pass would do so. The Tory Libdem government were obdurate about the tax, including the difficulties it would cause to adult disabled people, while shouting it was fair, that fuzziness so loved by Libdems.

The Huffington Post has a scarring record of Nick Clegg’s support for the tax on eight occasions.

The Tories and Libdems said the tax would persuade social rent tenants living in a house deemed too large for their needs would move into a smaller house. Opponents pointed out there were not enough smaller houses; this policy would not happen; it hasn’t, it turns out that there are not enough smaller houses.

Opponents pointed out the difficulties that would be caused to adult disabled tenants; the Tories and Libdems ploughed on; and the difficulties have indeed happened.

Opponents warned of serious financial difficulties with an impact on their everyday lives would be caused to tenants already poor; the Tory Libdems persisted while crying fairness; the adverse impacts have happened.

The numbers affected by the tax are problematic and the promised savings have not come about.

Libdems and the bedroom tax

The Libdem party has said the tax should be radically changed. This is hardly a response to surprise evidence: the DWP report covers only the first five months of the tax and the adverse impacts were well rehearsed before it came into force. No, this is more a Westminster than a Damascus conversion: Libdem policy is now influenced by 6 May 2015, the next general election. Having spent four years up to their elbows in reactionary Tory policies, Libdems now wish us to believe they are not Tories: the Land Registry will not be privatised, nor tuition fee loans, the wisdom of 6 May.

The damaging reorganisation and privatisation of the NHS, free schools, tuition fees, abolition of the farmworkers pay board, hit-the-poor welfare changes … Libdems voted for all these. The Libdems were also at the heart of the sell off of part of Royal Mail for what amounts to a £1 billion loss to the taxpayer.

Cornwall MPs and the bedroom tax

The record is brutal. Andrew George (Libdem St Ives) has consistently opposed the tax and he has a private member’s bill that will repeal it. (He has also opposed several of the other toxic Tory Libdem policies.)

For how Stephen Gilbert and Dan Rogerson (Libdem, St Austell and Newquay; North Cornwall) have voted on the bedroom tax see my post Cornwall Libdem MPs support-oppose-who-knows bedroom tax (14 February 2014). The three Tory MPs have backed it.

I just watch

Well, I think it’s going to be fun reading what the Libdem party says now the election draws close. As Will Rogers very nearly said: I don’t make jokes. I just watch the Liberal Democrats and report the facts.

Notes
Lord Melbourne (William Lamb): 1779-1848, Whig/Liberal prime minister

Will Rogers: 1879-1935, USA political comedian etc


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