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
> So far its only individuals who are reaching the point of no return. How long before whole sectors of society blow up ?
A father of four children threatened to ‘blow up’ his own home yesterday (4 June 2014) as he faced eviction due to the government’s controversial ‘bedroom tax’ housing policy.
52 year-old Michael Hilton from Church, East Lancashire, had been living in his social home for 30 years before being ‘hounded’ by his social landlord, Hyndburn Homes, to cover the shortfall in his rent since September 2013.
Mr Hilton was told that he would have to contribute toward the cost of his rent because a spare bedroom in his home was not being used, even though his children sometimes occupied the bedroom when they came to visit.
Bailiffs reported the incident to the police who arrived at the property with six cars, two police vans, police dogs, a riot van and two fire engines.
Mr Hilton’s distressed wife and son, Johnny, looked from behind police barriers as Michael barricaded himself in the property and refused to leave.
Onlookers soon gathered at the scene with one witness saying: “It’s the government this is. They are putting these taxes on vulnerable and poor people and look what happens.”
Another onlooker told the Lancashire Telegraph: “It’s been his home for 30 years. It’s a bit extreme but no-one would want to be thrown out like that”.
A police negotiator was sent to the house to try to convince Mr Hilton to leave the property voluntarily. However, police say that a decision was eventually reached to force entry into the house and detain Mr Hilton.
Mr Hilton’s 29 year-old son Johnny, said: “I knew something like this was going to happen. He has been hounded to pay bedroom tax since September last year.
“My dad has four children altogether and, sometimes, they stay here with him.
“In the eyes of the council, he has a spare room but, from his point of view, that’s a bedroom for his kids.
“I have even tried to speak to the council myself and try to sort it out. I called them last week and told them that my dad has mental health problems. He thinks he’s being persecuted.”
“He has been driven to this and I think that he feels like he is making a stand for everyone that has been faced with the unfair bedroom tax. I am very worried about him.”
Nigel Fenton, managing director of Hyndburn Homes, said:
“Any repossession of a tenant’s home is always an absolute last resort and would only happen after we have repeatedly attempted to resolve the issues and help them.
“We always try to support our tenants and assist them in any way that we can. We would always urge our tenants to discuss problems with us so that we can provide our support.
“Staff from Hyndburn Homes were at the scene and worked with the emergency services to ensure the safety of residents in the area.
“We have been made aware of gas cylinders at the rear of the property and we have been working with officers from the council to resolve this matter.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Police said:
“We were very concerned as there was a suggestion that there was petrol inside the property and we had also heard reports that he had a large number of gas canisters with him.
“We sent a negotiator in to reason with him but eventually, a decision was taken to enter the house and detain the man.”
Source – Welfare News Service, 05 June 2014
A Commons inquiry has backed warnings from Newcastle City Council that cuts to housing benefit are causing hardship for families with children and disabled people – while failing to free up housing stock.
MPs are warning that cuts in benefits paid to social housing tenants who are considered to have a spare bedroom has caused “severe financial hardship and distress to vulnerable groups”.
The policy, known by critics as the “bedroom tax”, was designed to free up larger properties for families who need them most by encouraging council or housing association tenants with spare rooms to downsize.
But the Commons Work and Pensions Committee – which has Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem members – highlighted warnings from Newcastle City Council that there simply aren’t enough smaller properties for people to move into.
The Committee published its findings after hearing evidence from a range of witnesses including Coun Joyce McCarty, Newcastle Council’s deputy leader.
The Government has published figures showing that the cost of paying housing benefit in the North East had fallen by £25m as a result of the reforms.
Housing benefit rules introduced last year allow tenants to have one bedroom for a single adult or couple, for any two children under 15 of the same gender and for any two children under nine of either gender.
Housing benefit is cut by 14% of the property’s assessed rent if they have one room deemed to be a spare bedroom and 25% if they have two.
In the North East, 50,000 households had their benefit cut, or 440 households for every 10,000 in the region – a higher proportion than any other part of the country.
MPs highlighted evidence from Newcastle, which told the inquiry that 3,233 of its tenants were on the waiting list for a one-bedroom property but only around 800 one-bedroom properties were becoming available each year, including bedsits.
Referring to the policy as the social sector size criteria (SSSC), the MPs said: “Newcastle City Council questioned whether the SSSC policy was likely to succeed in encouraging better use of social housing stock. It pointed out that in Newcastle overcrowding was not a significant issue”
“Coun McCarty made the point that the SSSC had actually led to very few overcrowded families being rehoused.”
They warned: “We understand the Government’s wish to use social housing stock more efficiently and to reduce overcrowding. However, the SSSC so far seems to be a blunt instrument for achieving this. In many areas there is insufficient smaller social housing stock to which affected tenants can move, meaning that they remain in housing deemed to be too large and pay the SSSC.”
But ministers said housing benefit reforms and the welfare cap – which means no household can receive more than £26,000 in benefits – were needed to manage soaring welfare spending, which grew by 50% in Britain in just 10 years and saw the housing benefit bill exceed £1bn in the North East alone.
Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith said: “It was absolutely necessary that we fixed the broken system which just a year ago allowed the taxpayer to cover the £1m daily cost of spare rooms in social housing.
“We have taken action to help the hundreds of thousands of people living in cramped, overcrowded accommodation and to control the spiralling housing benefit bill, as part of the Government’s long-term economic plan.”
> “And all the stress, debt, homelessness and suicide resulting from this policy is actually good for them, they thrive on it. I’ve got figures to prove it”, he might have added…
Source – Newcastle Journal, 02 April 2014