Danny Alexander’s father criticises the Bedroom Tax

From the Independent:

The father of Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, has launched a scathing attack on the “bedroom tax” in the annual report of a Scottish housing association.

Di Alexander is the chair of the Lochaber Housing Association and in its annual report, he has this to say about the Bedroom Tax and other aspects of welfare reform:

The Association has also been facing up to the considerable challenges presented by Welfare Reform changes. The first of these to be implemented – the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ – is particularly unfair in that it penalises both our tenants and ourselves for not being able to magic up a supply of smaller properties, particularly those with only one bedroom, when we have been funded by Government since our inception to build nothing smaller than two bedroomed flats and houses, precisely because all parties hitherto agreed that this was the most versatile form of rural housing to meet the needs of all the types of household that are likely to live in the property during its long lifetime. We have been devoting a great deal of extra resource to advising and assisting those tenants who are affected and will continue to do so as other welfare changes kick in.
It is hardly surprising that the Chair of a housing association in rural Scotland has something to say about the Bedroom Tax. In any event,  there should be no expectation that being related to a Cabinet Minister demands total public agreement with their views in a personal or professional capacity.
Di Alexander’s views are, however, very similar to those expressed by Liberal Democrats whenever they have debated this measure. Both Federal and Scottish conferences have overwhelmingly voted against it.

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43 Comments

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Nov '13 - 1:32pm

    One can see the POINT of the so-called “bedroom tax”, which is really a refusal to subsidise through Housing Benefit rent for more bedrooms than the tenant needs. As I keep saying, we hear from those hit by it, and all the arguments they give as to why they need those extra rooms. What we don’t hear is from all those people who not only don’t have extra rooms, they don’t even have the rooms they need as the basic minimum. When I was a councillor, one of the most common pieces of casework I had to deal with was a family with three or more children living in a two-bedroom house and being told they would have to stay their permanently as there was little chance they would ever get an allocation of a three-bedroomed council property. The very few such properties that come up for re-let have to be given to those who are legally homeless and therefore get priority. If you have a roof over your head, you don’t qualify. It’s not a nice job as a housing officer to have to tell people living in overcrowded accommodation “No, you will never qualify for the housing you need” and if you add “because all the three-bedroomed properties that come available go to …”, well, the fact was that people with roofs over their heads were more likely to be white and those qualifying as homeless more likely to be of an ethnic minority and often recent immigrant background raised additional issues. So the housing officers got rid of these people from their office by saying “go and see your councillor”, knowing full well there was absolutely nothing the councillor could do except repeat the message and be met by the tears, the pleading, and the threat to vote BNP next time.

    What is happening here is the INEVITABLE consequences of Margaret Thatcher’s “right-to-buy”, alongside sky-high housing benefit payments, paid by the taxpayer straight into the pockets of private landlords. Yet still this policy is put forward as some sort of triumph. As soon as it was put through, canny people realised it was madness (or at least extreme philanthropy) ever to hand a council house back to the council for re-letting. If you had an aging relative in one, you paid for that relative to buy it at a discount, waited for the inevitable, and shared in the inheritance dollop of cash. I was told of this happening in the early days when right-to-buy had just come in, and I was standing in local elections for the first time. Anyone moving out found a way to fiddle right-to-buy rather than hand the tenancy and the big cash-for-free that came from right-to-buy. There were companies who would lend you the money to do it, and share the profits.

    We the taxpayers are paying for this now, big time, not just in direct financial costs of paying huge sums to private landlords, but also in the indirect costs of the social misery caused by overcrowding. In this context, those people lucky enough to have carried on in council tenancies with more bedrooms than their need are fairly minor issue.

  • Geoffrey Payne 11th Nov '13 - 1:42pm

    Not one person Fromm the leadership of the Parliamentary party defended the bedroom tax when we debated the issue at our conference. They must know it is a rotten policy that we should never have agreed to.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Nov '13 - 1:54pm

    OK, now having said one can see the point of the so-called “bedroom tax”, it is clear that it has been appallingly badly implemented. However much one can justify it in abstract terms of fairness, forcing people to leave the homes they have been living in is nasty and should not be done readily. The Tories are happy enough to make a big thing about this when it’s little old ladies living in big houses and they’re arguing against Land Value Taxation, or even the smallest amount of property tax, such as the “mansion tax”, even though little old ladies could pay for it in equity withdrawal – which to be fair to then would need to be guaranteed to make clear no-one will be FORCEd from their home.

    So it should have been with the withdrawal of subsidy of spare bedrooms. It should have been handled carefully and with compassion, rather than just taking it away and leaving those affected to cope with it, or not. As a first step, the subsidy should have been still paid if there was no equivalent smaller property for tenants to move to available. In fact, given the nastiness of forcing someone from their home, effort should have been made to ensure they were offered very nice smaller properties as a compensation.

    I cannot help think this was not done because the people at the top of our government are all clueless and out-of-touch. They have no experience of life at the bottom, they have not lived that way themselves, they know no-one who has, they have not even been councillors for areas where life is like that. So they just could not foresee the consequences of this policy, it just seemed very logical to them in their ivory towers. I imagine they just supposed those affected would very easily move out to smaller properties.

    That is why the social and economic background of those who lead us IS an issue. It DOES matter when we have so many people at the top from very wealthy and privileged background, it IS an issue we should consider when choosing leaders, it is NOT just “prejudice” (as I was accused of) to suggest that Mr Clegg’s background was a point that might be used to argue against him being the “best person to lead the party” as almost all the press said at the time of our leadership election. I’ve no problem with a few people like him being at the top, but when everyone at the top is like him, that’s a big issue. We are seeing mistake after mistake after mistake being made because of that. Our party is being wrecked because too many at its top just don’t have a clue about what life is like lower down. We go on and on about wanting more women and people from ethnic minority background at the top, so why nothing on the lack of people from lower social class backgrounds? Putting in more posh women and more posh ethnic minority people will NOT solve this problem.

  • Matthew Huntbach mentions Thatchers Right-to-Buy as being largely responsible for the shortage of council homes.

    I agree & was appalled that now the RTB discount has been increased to £75,000 under the coalition government !

    The bedroom tax was never about fairness – if it was, they would not have excluded pensioners who are the most likely to be in a typical 3-bed council house.

  • Steve Griffiths 11th Nov '13 - 2:30pm

    Matthew Huntbach

    ” Our party is being wrecked because too many at its top just don’t have a clue about what life is like lower down.”

    Quite agree Matthew and also find myself, for once, in close agreement with John Major with his reported remarks today about a public school elite; “”In every single sphere of British influence, the upper echelons of power in 2013 are held overwhelmingly by the privately educated or the affluent middle class,” I have already remarked about how the Lib Dem party has become detached from the poor in another recent thread on LDV regarding energy policy here:

    https://www.libdemvoice.org/opinion-we-need-to-grab-our-current-luck-and-champion-the-lib-dems-37029.html

    As the left of the party has evaporated there are now who (like me) were raised in social housing, who know the fear of homelessness and know how it is to live on low incomes.It is interesting Shirley Williams is quoted as saying that ” in the end you can’t hit people with big families and not much income.” in respect of green taxes, on a different LDV thread started yesterday. The party needs to reconnect with the poor and those in social housing, because it’s decision making processes are flawed unless it speaks to those who know.

  • jenny barnes 11th Nov '13 - 2:58pm

    We need more social housing. Councils can build it – by buying agricultural land at 10k per acre, giving themselves residential housing planning permission, selling some of it back to private developers at £1M per acre (or more) and use the proceeds to build the houses. After (say) 25 years the dwellings become available for sale to the tenant, at a suitable discount, and that money could also be used for building more new houses. How many – as many as are needed in the local area. Then they can build single bedroom (and studio) flats as part of the housing mix.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Nov '13 - 3:59pm

    jenny barnes

    We need more social housing. Councils can build it – by buying agricultural land at 10k per acre, giving themselves residential housing planning permission,

    Er, there isn’t much agricultural land where I live, in London. Plus I think you will find that if you propose building houses over green fields in most of the rest of the country, there will be a lot of local opposition to it. People like looking out of their windows and seeing agricultural land, it’s nicer than seeing just more houses.

    I’m not saying what you suggest should never be done, just pointing out that “build more houses” is not necessarily the easy-peasy everyone wins solution that those who out it forward often seem to think.

  • Matthew Huntbach 11th Nov '13 - 4:07pm

    Geoffrey Payne

    Not one person Fromm the leadership of the Parliamentary party defended the bedroom tax when we debated the issue at our conference. They must know it is a rotten policy that we should never have agreed to.

    Sure, but the MAIN message that seems to be coming out from the leadership, and has done since the coalition was formed, is “It’s wonderful to be in government, it’s the fulfilment of our dreams”. This is read by most of the population firstly as “All we really wanted was comfy government jobs, we’re so happy with them and the pay that goes with them” and secondly “We agree with all this government is doing”.

    If we didn’t want to be misread as thinking this way, and attacked for it, we should have had a completely different sort of presentation from the start. It is too late now – the mistakes made in presentation from the Rose Garden love-in onwards have set in, and nothing we can do gets us out from that. It ought to have been obvious this is how it would be. I myself warned against it from day 1 of the coalition. The problem again comes down to incompetency in our party leadership, and it being out-of-touch so it does not realise how badly what it is doing is going down amongst people who aren’t in the elevated ranks of society.

  • Jenny Barnes
    “After (say) 25 years the dwellings become available for sale to the tenant, at a suitable discount”

    Why? No the tenant rents it.

    But then, I never really got the logic of a tenant’s right to buy their council house – yes the tenant got a great good deal, but it meant one less social house available in the future. As for the 25 year idea, I suggest if the typical council house has 3 bedrooms then the tenant will generally get the right to buy it when they no longer have need for the additional bedrooms, whereas if it remains a council house the tenant can be encouraged to move into accommodation more suited to their time of life…

  • It’s a shocking policy that could have been so much improved by including a clause that the individual must have been offered an appropriate alternative property before losing the benefit.

  • So let me get this straight.

    We have loads of people living in flats that want houses.

    Loads of people living in 3 bedroom houses, that can only afford flats.

    Clearly this is all thatchers fault, clearly we must build more houses.

    Groan.

  • Helen Dudden 11th Nov '13 - 7:07pm

    Some of us are living in housing, that should not even be let. Housing, that does not come up to standards except-able, that are damp and cold.

    In Bath where I live ,in the Chronicle this week a man with chest problems lives with mould, making the situation worse.

    My home is the same, as I have said for so long. Mould floor to ceiling in the kitchen due to lack of cavity wall and insulation, the property is around 300 years old, needs a lot spent on it. Worth much, but not in the social housing sector.

    The smell of the damp does make you feel unwell. So what is to happen next? The decent properties were sold, quite a lot were sold into the private sector.

    I find this a disgusting situation, no one cares, I would thought that as pensioners we should be looking after ourselves. Due to Government changes, the option to rent privately is no longer there.

    We could add, if there is a three bed property to rent to a family, should it remain empty rather than let it, because of the bedroom tax?

  • A Social Liberal 11th Nov '13 - 8:47pm

    Mathew Huntbach said

    “As I keep saying, we hear from those hit by it, and all the arguments they give as to why they need those extra rooms. What we don’t hear is from all those people who not only don’t have extra rooms, they don’t even have the rooms they need as the basic minimum.”

    Then why did we Lib Dems allow the coaltion to
    *Drastically reduce the grant to Housing Associations.
    *Force HAs to base their building plans on raising the rent to 80% of market average.

    Further, if larger housing stock is just not available, why are HAs contemplating knocking down 3 bedroom houses they are unable to rent?

  • Matthew Huntbach

    – the bedroom penalty is NOT designed to get people on the waiting list into housing. There is a planned saving of £500 million pounds which can ONLY be made if people stay put which they know most are going to. Its a cynical plan to cut people’s benefits – not reallocate housing. There aren’t even the properties to downsize to.

    This ” fairly minor issue.” affects about 1.2 million people, many of whom will be shivering this winter because they’ve had this benefit cut. Like Stephanie Botril who had no heating last winter because she knew the measure was coming and tried to save money before walking in front of a lorry because of it. Only the first suicide.

    Its an appalling policy. People who’ve lived in their social housing as long as 50 years are being penalised for living in it – despite having payed enough in rent over the years to build a whole new social house (or two) for someone else..

    Meanwhile a £75,000 subsidy is being given to anyone rich enough to buy their social house – no questions asked about bedrooms. Those not on benefits are allowed as many “spare rooms” as they have. The elderly who are sitting on the most “spare rooms” are unaffected – because its not really about reallocating housing. And big new subsidies have been brought in for new buying in the private sector – again no questions asked about bedrooms.

  • These “spare rooms” are frequently anything but. And the premise that someone who is disabled for example should not have a “spare room” like others in society – is a discusting piece of discrimination. Let alone that they often need them because of their condition.

    And that the state should centrally dictate that children under 10 of opposite sexes should share a room – in benefit families but not in other families of course. And regardless of the individual children concerned is worthy of Stalin. This is the most discusting policy I’ve ever heard of.

  • Richard Dean 12th Nov '13 - 6:05am

    I wonder if the bedroom tax might actually be illegal?

    It seems to be a general principle of law that a person is only responsible for consequences of his or her own choices, not for the choices of others. If I choose to be so inebriated that I drive into the car in front, it is my fault. But if the car in front reverses into me, it is not.

    On this principle, if a family has no realistic option but to accept a council’s allocation of a house with a spare bedroom, the family has not made the choice, and so should not be liable for the negative financial consequence of the bedroom tax. It was the council who chose not to have houses available with the right number of rooms, so the council should pay the tax.

    In the case of Lochaber Housing Association, if it is true that “we have been funded by Government since our inception to build nothing smaller than two bedroomed flats and houses, precisely because all parties hitherto agreed …”, then the choice was clearly made in an agreement with the government, so it is the parties to the agreement who should be the ones paying that tax.

  • Helen Dudden 12th Nov '13 - 8:39am

    The above is happening, housing with an extra bedroom is being let to those who need a home and will pay the bedroom tax. Desperate situations call for desperate actions.

    How dreadful this law is, just one side of the problems with housing. The other, as I stated, is the quality of some of the homes ,that could do with either being demolished or having a good renovation job done on them.

    It should be illegal to let homes that are below a certain standard. Also, illegal to let homes without a certain amount of insulation.

  • Richard Dean 12th Nov '13 - 8:47am

    @Helen Dudden

    If “housing with an extra bedroom is being let to those who need a home and will pay the bedroom tax”, does that not imply coercion? Which would also be illegal.

    Are there no quality standards that council houses must meet?

  • jenny barnes 12th Nov '13 - 9:29am

    “There isn’t much agricultural land in London.”
    True. However, if you look at Google satellite view , you’ll see lots of low rise light industrial and retail sheds. Why not a supermarket with 5 floors of flats over it? Why not build flats over railway stations?
    “People like looking out of their windows and seeing agricultural land, it’s nicer than seeing just more houses.”
    Isn’t that lovely. I’m alright Jack. All the votes are from people who already live in an area – those that need housing can just do without so we can have our lovely view.

    ““After (say) 25 years the dwellings become available for sale to the tenant, at a suitable discount”Why? ”
    You’re right, I should have put some reasoning there. Many people aren’t actually very good at looking after housing, and after 25 years the house will probably need some major rework – new kitchen/bathroom/ heating system/ double glazing etc. By selling it, the council can spend that refurbishment money, plus whatever they get from selling it, on more housing, increasing the housing stock, rather than doing up the existing.

  • Helen Dudden 12th Nov '13 - 10:07am

    The situation on the “bedroom tax” is a mess. You have to understand, that we are in a situation that is dire. I still have a roof over my head. There are not enough homes to satisfy the demand, so things are not going to be perfect.

    We should look into the housing stock we have, stop letting the best be sold, and the property that is not worth selling gets left on the shelf.

    I agree, there should be housing that is not sold, it remains just that social housing.

    The situation on the “bedroom tax” is one that should be thought of differently, could the same have been achieved by different methods? As stated there are quite a few over 60’s in three bed homes. I suggest, we rethink the attitude towards the older person. Rather than sheltered housing, how about housing that is suitable for those who are disabled and older.

    Much needs to change, public attitude, the way forward on housing, and an older population.

  • People require homes but the difficulty if you are spending public money is how do you arrange limited resources to encourage that. As a Council Leader in the 80s ,I could see that we had single people rattling around large houses and families doing the best they could in both small and environmentally sub standard accomodation. As Thatcher had already reduced our housing stock and in those days we were only allowed to spend 25%of capital receipts what could we do. We did two things we offered those living in larger houses a payment to move to smaller accomodation and we also offered a portable discount for anyone who would leave social housing and purchase property in the private sector.We also tightened up a scandal that some families used their social housing as a passage to others to obtain council accommodation by allowing them to move in and then claiming overcrowding , jumping the queue
    I would agree with Matthew that the principle is right but its operation is scandalous our party has no right or mandate to support it in its present form and any future manifesto should preclude such offensive action.

  • Chris Randall 12th Nov '13 - 11:00am

    Well I will put on here what I published on various Lib Dem sites yesterday,

    Can I make a suggestion to our 57 MP’s you have a decision from your party from the conference about the Spare Room Subsidy (Bedroom Tax), use your vote wisely and don’t wait to get rid. When I heard Nick Clegg had ordered a report into this evil thing I rejoiced, then I found out it was to try and kick it into the long grass by not reporting till late 2015, how could he and you, all allow the party of freedom be tarred with this brush and through inaction cause all this unnecessary suffering.

  • ‘To each according to his need’ is a fine socialist principle and up to the point that it does not compromise civil and social liberties a good Liberal principal. That local authorities should have the means to try to match their housing stock with demand can surely not be contested. Presumably this is the aim of the spare bedroom welfare penalty.

    Di Alexander is pointing out that this principal is necessarily unfair if the required housing stock does not exist. In such cases it is manifestly unfair to penalise people for not being able to move to non-existent accommodation.

    A sound Liberal Democrat position would surely give local authorities the power to administer housing welfare according to the local situation. If the housing does not exist, local authorities should have the power to overturn the penalty. In doing so they should be required to make sure that priority is given to building up the housing stock that is required.

  • @Jenny Barnes
    re: “There isn’t much agricultural land in London.”
    Your point raises rather awkward, but important, questions about our wasteful attitude to land usage, particularly in our major cities.

    One of the notable differences between Tokyo in the early 90’s and London was the fact that above and/or below most of the major railway stations were department stores and shopping mails. Even now with the scarcity and price of land in London, schemes such as HS2 are designed on the idea that it is better to increase the land footprint/usage of stations such as Euston rather than take advantage of the differing track levels and build up or tunnel under like Crossrail.

    “after 25 years the house will probably need some major rework … By selling it, the council can spend that refurbishment money, plus whatever they get from selling it, on more housing, increasing the housing stock”

    It is unlikely that a property in need of major refurbishment will generate sufficient monies from it’s “as is” condition (plus estimated refurbishment costs) to finance the building of an equivalent replacement property on a new site. Generally the cost of refurbishment (even allowing for VAT) is significantly less and quicker to complete than new build on a site purchased at current market valuations.
    I suggest the reason for rented council/social housing accommodation falling into such a state of disrepair is a sign that tenant and/or landlord have failed to deliver on their obligations.

  • David Allen 12th Nov '13 - 1:49pm

    We’re supposed to have achieved great things by stopping the Tories doing a string of dreadful things. Trouble is, most of the dreadful things we “stopped” look either trivial, or technical, or things the Tories were about to abandon anyway.

    Now we have a dreadful thing which everybody knows is not trivial. It matters. Our Conference voted against it. What are we going to do about it?

    Steve Way’s posting shows us a way forward which has the merit of avoiding outright rejection of a flagship Tory policy. That is, to insist on “including a clause that the individual must have been offered an appropriate alternative property before losing the benefit”.

    Now, that isn’t the perfect answer. It will mean arguments about what is an appropriate alternative. It will cause some forced moves into less suitable accommodation. There will be hard cases. But crucially, it will also rescue a lot of people from serious harm. And equally crucially, it will let the Tories claim that their flagship policy is still in place and has merely been fine-tuned. That’s crucial, because it means that Cameron is not forced to send us away with a flea.

    If we can’t stand firm on this, and show that we have real clout in coalition – Then we can’t defend our role in coalition, and our “Clegg Says No” posture will be proven a sham.

  • David Allen
    The perfect answer is to abolish this and let local councils and associations allocate housing on need as they have done in the past. “avoiding outright rejection of a flagship Tory policy” – its a discusting coalition-not-Tory policy that deserves an about face now we’ve seen how it works in practice. We’ve seen appalling consequences and enough misery through it already. Are LibDem MPs in politics to put themselves and their position in government in front of everything else?

  • David Allen and Steve Way are right about insisting on a clause requiring the offer of “appropriate alternative property before losing the benefit”.

    What I would like to know what has happened to all the hundreds of new one/two bedroom apartments build in city centre’s such as Leeds which were empty and not attracting buyers back in 2007/08…

  • David Allen 12th Nov '13 - 4:06pm

    Jeremy, I’d say Lib Dem MPs should be in politics to achieve change for the better that can actually be achieved, which may be better than seeking an ideal solution that will not be achievable. However, at the moment we are sadly failing to pursue either of those courses.

  • Leekliberal 12th Nov '13 - 6:05pm

    @Helen Dudden – As a LABOUR PARTY member who sees the whole idea of the under- occupancy charge as fundamentally wicked would you care to explain why the Labour Government imposed the same regine on all those tenants in the private sector?

  • The private rented sector measure is based on rental amounts. If you can get someone to rent you a place with ‘spare rooms’ under the allowed rental amounts that’s fine. You also don’t get people decorating their private rents even investing thousands in it. When I had a council property some kids smashed one of the windows (mine and several other peoples) and the council even expected me to pay for that.

    Only 2 LibDem MPs represented their party, huh.

  • Nigel Jones 12th Nov '13 - 9:52pm

    I simply want to draw your attention to the West Midlands regional conference a couple of weeks ago; they passed nem-con a motion condemning the ‘bedroom tax’ . It must surely follow that the next manifesto makes a commitment to repeal it.

  • I put a shower in, tiled the bathroom. You don’t do that in private rented places – its a different type of rental arangement.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Nov '13 - 12:17am

    Richard Dean

    On this principle, if a family has no realistic option but to accept a council’s allocation of a house with a spare bedroom, the family has not made the choice, and so should not be liable for the negative financial consequence of the bedroom tax

    Er, how many times does this happen? Look, I was a councillor for twelve years dealing day-in day-out with people desperate for council housing. There were almost NO three bedroomed properties becoming available to re-let. As I said, families with three or more children living in two-bedroom properties were told they would NEVER get a three-bedroom property because they would NEVER be in a high enough priority to be offered one. So this idea that the council has so many three-bedroomed properties to let that it is allocating them to people who don’t really need them is daft. If there are parts of the country where it happens, they are certainly far removed from where I live.

    What we are actually talking about, I think, is people living in such properties for historical reasons. Could be they have had children that grew up and left home. Could be they are the children and stayed on as tenants after mum and dad died and brothers and sisters moved away. Now THAT is something I saw plenty of.

    Jeremy replied to me as if I thought this “bedroom tax” was a good thing. I thought I had made it clear I do not think that, certainly not in the way it has been implemented. I do, however, think people living in property too large for their immediate need should be encouraged to move out. Sorry, but that is the only way we are going to have a fair share of property. As I said, it’s easy to think only of those losing their spare bedrooms and forget those who have a desperate need for them. I’m NOT saying, however, just force them out with a financial penalty and don’t even consider whether there’s alternative housing they should move to.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Nov '13 - 12:30am

    jenny barnes

    Isn’t that lovely. I’m alright Jack. All the votes are from people who already live in an area – those that need housing can just do without so we can have our lovely view.

    All I’m saying is that there are plenty of people like this. I’m saying this because again and again and again in this sort of debate “build more houses” is put forward as if it’s a solution that is problem-free, one which will make everyone happy, one that everyone will agree with. It isn’t. You may well condemn those who don’t want to give up their green views in order that others may have roofs over their heads. Fine, I agree – such people are selfish. But there’s many other policies I’d like to see put in place that I know would get huge opposition because they are hurting some to benefit others. For example, I’d like to see much higher inheritance tax, the money could be used for so many socially worthwhile things and we could cut other taxes if we raised more government income that way. However, if I were to propose it as an obvious solution to everything, as if no-one would ever oppose it, or anyone who did was just a selfish ‘I’m alright Jack’ person who would meet the disdain of most others, I know I would be wrong.I know that from experience because I’ve had the howls of opposition, the “how dare you?”s thrown at me when I’ve proposed it in the past. I do think people who stand to get dollops of cash in the thousands or million just from choosing the right parents are selfish ‘I’m alright Jack’ types who ought to be willing to give up some of this privilege to help others. But, like those with the lovely green views, they won’t, will they? At least not without a big fight. All I’m saying is let’s recognise this reality rather than just put forward airy-fairy “build more houses” slogans as if that would all be easy-peasy.

  • jenny barnes 13th Nov '13 - 9:08am

    @ Matthew. I agree, that there would be opposition. Politics, as I understand it, is about reconciling the irreconcilable : not by violence. My belief is that country wide more people would want houses built then not. But ofc I could be wrong. Whether we do or don’t, someone gets hurt. If it’s not those with the nice views picking up the large inheritances, it’ll be the people with no inheritance and nowhere to live. I don’t think it would be easy to change the situation we’re in, I’m sure those who benefit from the lack of housing would fight hard to keep things as they are. That doesn’t make it right.

  • daft ha'p'orth 13th Nov '13 - 9:56am

    @Matthew Huntbach
    “This idea that the council has so many three-bedroomed properties to let that it is allocating them to people who don’t really need them is daft. If there are parts of the country where it happens, they are certainly far removed from where I live.”

    I suspect that London/South East might be a special case, given that the pressure on housing in London is sufficiently extreme that people consider a converted single garage to be a comfy living space for a couple.

    According to this, one consequence of the bedroom tax in the North has been a large increase in the number of three-bedroom properties are now standing empty. Some housing associations are considering demolition of these properties. Same is true in Scotland. And this shouldn’t really surprise anybody. Why would one even think to build London-style pigeonhole flats for council property when land costs aren’t at a premium? At least if a flat is two-bedroom there is some flexibility in its use. Of course if developers had known that some wide-eyed chappies in Westminster were about to insist that no matter the local context it would just plain be unethical to give people more than the absolute minimum of space, they would presumably have built in the beloved rabbit-hutch style instead, but they would be doing it to please a politician rather than because it is in any real sense more economical or appropriate for the region.

  • Helen Dudden 13th Nov '13 - 10:20am

    I repeat again, the situation is a total mess on housing.

    Housing that needs works done to remedy unsatisfactory conditions, but no place to put those who have to tolerate the problems.

    Remove the “bedroom tax” and let those responsible sort the mess made by Government. Build more homes, regenerate inner city areas, bring those up to a standard that makes them good to live in. Don’t produce a posh district, produce an area that can be used wisely and help with the crisis on homes. Stop “land banking” and revoke those who have planning permission and sit on it.

    I would say to those Lib Dem MP’s who voted against the tax on the bedrooms, have some compassion and stop and think.

    My own MP Don Foster, seems to have changed into someone I no know.

  • Helen Dudden 13th Nov '13 - 10:20am

    It should have read:

    Into someone I no longer know.

  • Selling council houses to tenants seems mad when there is a shortage of social housing but many of those who live in them do not need social housing. Instead of selling them their house why not lend them some money to buy a house of their own when there is a sufficient supply available ?

    It is very easy to criticise those who have to deal with situations as they are but sometimes it seems to involve the hard working tax payer handing over their money to those who are not making much effort or do not need help as they already have enough. I realise it is not always easy to target help where it is genuinely needed but so much seems to be a box ticking exercise. I remember being horrified at the way the courts seem to deal with defendants whose whole life could be ruined by their casual attitude.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Nov '13 - 4:54pm

    jenny barnes

    My belief is that country wide more people would want houses built then not.

    Yes, of course. Just not anywhere near where they live.

    That’s the problem with politics, it has to deal with reality. If you don’t have to make real policy that balances competing concerns, it’s very easy to put out the simplistic slogans and say politicians are bad people because they do not make policy that meets these slogans. One week it’s “build more houses”. The next week it’s “protect our green environment”. If you’re Russell Brand, the Daily Mail or something like that, you can pump out the slogans, and make yourself seem good for it, and bad-mouth democracy because democracy doesn’t seem to be delivering it all. If you’re an actual politician you do have to deal with the fact that if you do something one person likes, another won’t like it.

    Having spent twelve years as a councillor on a planning committee, what I experienced is that EVERY large scale housing development, and most small-scale housing developments hit mass opposition from the people living where the developments were proposed, who were convinced that their local environment was precious and couldn’t possibly be spoilt by building more houses there, and politicians who couldn’t see that were rotten so-and-sos who only said what they said because they were “in it for themselves” and most probably “bribed by the developers” to agree to planning consent.

    See what I mean? It’s easy to push out the slogans if you’re not the one who takes responsibility for the consequences.

    The reality, by the way, was that in most cases planning law did not permit us to ban the development. We had to say “yes” and then hide from the screams and insults thrown at us by local objectors who could not understand we had no choice. The idea that councillors can arbitrarily ban any housing development they want, and this is the biggest factor stopping building of new housing, and councillors are all bad people for doing that, is false, however much the free market extremists pump it out, along with the Daily Mail when it’s not pumping out the politicians are evil for wanting to build over our green land message.

  • Matthew Huntbach 13th Nov '13 - 5:00pm

    nvelope2003

    It is very easy to criticise those who have to deal with situations as they are but sometimes it seems to involve the hard working tax payer handing over their money to those who are not making much effort or do not need help as they already have enough.

    What, you mean like the private landlords making huge profit from renting out housing at three times the rent of council housing (which is cost only), paid for by the taxpayer through Housing Benefit? The tenants they do it through would have been living in council housing had it not been sold off. We are paying now for the political bribes the Tories offered to get the votes of council tenants a decade ago.

  • Helen Dudden 14th Nov '13 - 7:21am

    It should have been, buy in the private sector. Quite a few of those homes sold, have since been money making concerns in the private sector. The better homes were sold, leaving the less acceptable for social housing.

    It was politics that created the situation, so it should be politics that addresses the issues.

    The “bedroom tax” is one of the most unfair taxes that has come into being. I am told, but I have not looked up the figures, that 8 million is collected in this way.

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