Thousands of people across the North were already waiting to downsize before the bedroom tax came into force.
Almost 40,000 households across the North of England were on the waiting list for one-bedroom social homes just as the so-called Bedroom Tax came into force – half the total number of households on the list.
It compares with just 22% of households on the waiting list who were hoping for a social home with more than four bedrooms.
The controversial tax, which has reduced housing benefit available to families deemed to have extra bedrooms, was brought in by the coalition in April 2013.
Opponents warned at the time that people had ‘spare’ bedrooms only because of a lack of available smaller properties following years of councils selling off their social housing stock.
Now, figures reveal a chronic shortage of smaller homes in the North of England leaving thousands of households unable to move out of larger homes.
Meanwhile, they continue to be hit with cuts to their housing benefits despite major opposition to the policy.
Labour MPs across the North have reacted with fury at the figures, which they say highlight their concerns that thousands have been unfairly hit with the “pernicious” and “ideological” bedroom tax thanks to government failure to build enough homes.
Among them, Wansbeck MP Ian Lavery slammed the bedroom tax which he claimed was making the most vulnerable pay for the shortage of housing across the region.
“It’s a complete and utter bottleneck where families can not move because the homes are not available. They are then subject to this pernicious tax while they are struggling to make ends meet at this moment in time anyway.
“The government knew the consequences of this. They did understand and they still pushed ahead with this. The election can not come quick enough for these people.”
And Blaydon MP Dave Anderson said the figures dispel a myth about people who are being hit by the bedroom tax.
He said: “This blows the myth out of the water and Labour will be rid of it. It was a pretence and a myth right down the lines about people having too many bedrooms.
“There simply aren’t enough one-bedroom properties for people to move into. It’s nonsense. These are people, human beings in houses they have been living in 40 years. We’re talking about them as if they’re subhumans. It’s a disgrace.”
And Hartlepool MP Iain Wright, who was housing and planning minister from 2007 to 2009, said that housing supply had failed to keep up with a changing society that was seeing an aging population with more people moving to one-bedroom properties as partners passed away and children left home.
But he denied that Labour had been part of the problem or that they too had failed to ensure enough homes were built.
He said: “I would strongly disagree with that. We knew in full terms about the changing society. That’s why we needed to build more homes because we understand people are living longer and more people are living in one-person households.
“This government will have been aware of that too, and yet they still impose this grossly unfair tax. They know they don’t have the properties, they knew all along the difficulties this would” cause.”
And he added: “Where are the priorities with this government? It is not with people in the North who are suffering with housing problems. It’s about indifference – they don’t care about communities in Hartlepool.”
But a government spokesperson said the government was committed to building new homes across England and claimed ending the spare room subsidy had been a “necessary” move.
She added: “Nearly 217,000 affordable homes have been delivered in England since April 2010. Our affordable homes programme is on track to deliver 170,000 new affordable homes between 2011 and 2015, with £19.5 billion of public and private funding.
“We have also given the North East of England £13.8m since 2013 to support vulnerable people affected by welfare reforms and there has been a 12% fall in the number of people in the North East affected by the policy, as tenants take action.
“Ending the spare room subsidy was absolutely necessary to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control, return fairness to the system and make better use of social housing stock.
“Every day the policy saves taxpayers over £1m.”
The North MPs were joined in their criticism by Helen Goodman, MP for Bishop Auckland, and Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland. All five reiterated Labour’s pledge to abolish the bedroom tax if they win this year’s election.
The party became one step closer to delivering the promise in September 2014, when Labour and the Liberal Democrats came together to voted in favour of a bill brought in by Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George.
If passed, it will mean the bedroom tax will not apply unless a tenant has been offered a different property and has refused to move.
> Hmmm…call me a cynic, but might that not just be circumvented by offering absolute shitholes that no-one wants to live in, then penalizing people for not wanting to live in them.
But prime minister David Cameron has shown no sign of revoking the policy, while a government spokesperson said it was saving the taxpayer £1m every day.
Tory MPs have been accused of a timewasting plot to save the bedroom tax– and threatened with an all-night sitting to defeat them.
The Bill that would scrap the measure for most people affected has begun its committee stage, with its supporters hopeful of success before next May’s general election.
It would ease the pain for thousands of households in the North-East, who have lost housing benefit after being deemed to have spare bedrooms – but who are unable to ‘downsize’.
But Conservative MPs on the committee are guilty of “snide tactics” to get it bogged down in irrelevant debate, said the Bill’s Liberal Democrat sponsor.
Meanwhile, No.10 is trying to slam on the brakes by refusing to grant the “money resolution” required by any backbench Bill, Andrew George said.
Now Mr George has vowed to defeat the timewasting when the committee sits again next Wednesday, to ensure the bedroom tax moves closer to the axe before Christmas.
He told The Northern Echo: “The Tories are trying every snide tactic in the book to stop my Bill – points of order to delay the start and amendments to get the committee meeting on a different day.
“But we will sit through the night next week if we have to and show we have more stamina than they have. They can bring their sleeping bags.
A money resolution is normally granted “within days”, Mr George said, but had still not been granted – yet the Bill cleared its first stage way back on September 5.
The Affordable Homes Bill would end the removal of the so-called ‘spare room subsidy’ from disabled tenants and those who cannot be found a smaller home – the vast majority.
Earlier this year, it was revealed that just two per cent of County Durham tenants affected had moved to a smaller home – just 21 of 1,009 households.
At that point, in April, 417 of the remaining tenants had been plunged into arrears after losing up to 25 per cent of their housing benefit, an apparent insight into the hardship caused, And North-East town halls have shelled out almost £6.5m in emergency help after being hit by the ‘bedroom tax’, running out of Government funds.
Mr George named Jacob Rees-Mogg (North East Somerset) and David Nuttall (Bury North) as the Conservative MPs carrying out the filibustering.
The Northern Echo attempted to speak with the pair, but no-one answered the telephone in Mr Nuttall’s office.
Mr Rees-Mogg denied he was timewasting, insisting it was not possible to debate the Bill before the money resolution came forward – something which was out of his control.
The MP said: “The committee is being held too early. It is a waste of parliamentary time until the money resolution is available. It is procedurally impossible.”
Source – Northern Echo, 24 Oct 2014
The ‘bedroom tax’ came one step closer to complete abolition today (5 September 2014), after the Tories were defeated in a House Of Commons vote.
Liberal Democrat and Labour MP’s joined forces to deal David Cameron one of his most humiliating defeats so far, by 306 votes to 231.
Under changes introduced by the government in 2013, social housing tenants are required to contribute toward their rent, if they are ‘under-occupying’ their home, through a deduction in the amount of Housing Benefit they can receive. The exact deduction is dependent upon the number of ‘spare bedrooms’ in the property: 14% for one spare bedroom or a 25% deduction in Housing Benefit for two or more.
It’s only the second time the coalition partners have voted against each other and prompted calls for the pact to be broken up immediately. Tory MP accused the Liberal Democrats of being “devious and untrustworthy”, after the party initially voted in favour of the ‘bedroom tax’ when it was first introduced. He angrily declared that the coalition had “officially come to an end”.
Bringing forward the bill, Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George said:
“We have had long enough to tell how these regulations have had an impact. It is quite clear that if we are to ensure that…the vulnerable are properly protected, the rules should be changed so that existing tenants are not penalised when they cannot move into smaller accommodation because this is not available in their locality.”
Virtually every Labour MP was present for today’s crucial vote, said the Shadow Defence Minister Vernon Coaker, and the victory will now path the way for the bill to move to the next stage. The BBC’s parliamentary correspondent Mark D’Arcy said that there was a “fighting chance” the ‘bedroom tax’ could now be completely abolished, before the next general election.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, has reiterated Labour’s pledge to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’, if the party wins an outright majority in next years general election.
“The Government should scrap the hated Bedroom Tax following the overwhelming vote by MPs against the cruel tax on bedrooms today”, she said.
“David Cameron and Nick Clegg’s cruel and unfair Bedroom Tax has hit hundreds of thousands of people across the country causing misery, hardship and forcing families to rely on food banks. If the government won’t ditch the Bedroom Tax, then the next Labour government will.”
> Great that its happened… just a shame that the Lib Dems and Labour only find they had consciences when there’s a general election in the offing. Earlier action might have saved a lot of heartache for many people.
Source – Welfare News Service, 05 Sept 2014