Labour’s manifesto pledge to cap Housing Benefit

Those listening to Labour’s outrage about the so-called “social cleansing” they believe would result in capping Housing Benefit to four hundred pounds a week might get he impression that Labour opposes the policy.

Odd, then, that it appears in the Labour Party manifesto for the 2010 General Election [pdf]:

Our goal is to make responsibility the cornerstone of our welfare state. Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford. And we will continue to crack down on those who try to cheat the benefit system.

Perhaps Labour genuinely believe that “ordinary working families” in London can afford to spend £20,000 a year on their rent or mortgage.

What about the Government’s plans to move people off Incapacity Benefit?

Here’s what the Labour manifesto has to say on that:

More people with disabilities and health conditions will be helped to move into work from Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support Allowance, as we extend the use of our tough-but-fair work capability test.

Doubtless the Labour leadership will be explaining all.

(Liberal England is also covering this story, and much as I’d like to credit a Twitter source I don’t know who spotted it first – not me).

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74 Comments

  • Those listening to Labour’s outrage about the so-called “social cleansing” they believe would result in capping Housing Benefit to four hundred pounds a week might get he impression that Labour opposes the policy.

    I really don’t understand Labours reaction to this. Of all the cuts to complain about, what on earth caused them to concentrate their attacks on this one?

    And how will they regain credibility over the deficit, when they say that a tax-free gift of £21, 000 per year is not generosity enough?

  • Congratulations on the textbook use of a Tu quoque fallacy. Now perhaps you could actually explain Lib Dem support for kicking the most vulnerable in society because ‘Labour were going to do it too’ REALLY doesn’t cut it.

  • Peter

    If you really believe that “the most vulnerable in society” are those chanelling these huge housing benefit figures to private landlords then I fear you are deluded.

  • @ Peter,
    I understand that 96 per cent of 642,200 claimants who’s HB will be reduced will face rent shortfalls of £20 a week or less, and 79 per cent of £10 or less. If my local landlords association is anything to go by, rather than have the hassle and cost of losing their tenants, the vast majority of private landlords intend to cover most or the entire shortfall by making a small reduction in their rents. Nevertheless, there does need to be more transitional relief in place IMBO.

  • Labour’s faux outrage on this is despicable. Labour said they wouldnt just oppose for opposition’s sake, but within weeks they are opposing even things they themselves supported when they were in power (reform of housing benefit; AV for the commons; Tuition fees; etc)

  • It’s already been pointed out that Labour supporters haven’t a leg to stand on grandstanding about the poor and vulnerable considering one of the first things Ed said to Cameron was to welcome his draconian Thatcherite benefit ‘reforms’ and to promise to work with him to help achieve them.

    So this comes as no surprise either as I didn ‘t see Labour rushing out to say they would unequivocally reverse the appalling housing ‘reforms’ Osborne has masterminded, which the sadly out of touch Liberal Democrat leadership has so foolishly and shamefully endorsed.

    Be in no doubt though, pretending that everyone who is disgusted at these attacks on the poor, vulnerable and disabled are all Labour supporters would be incredibly complacent and wrong.
    When Boris Johnson appears more concerned about the effect this has on poor families than Nick or Vince then it’s time for Nick and Vince to have a long hard look in the mirror and stop pandering and submitting to Cameron and Osborne’s far right Thatcherite agenda.

  • @LDV Bob – how would you reform HB?

  • At some point you need to take responsibility for your own actions. The cap of 21k is one narrow aspect of the reforms. It is not what people are outraged about. The reduction from median rents to the 30th percentile, raising the costs of social housing and the 10% cut to the HB of people who haven’t managed to get a job after a year are ill-thought out and spiteful.

    Yes, reform HB but not in the direction of landing the taxpayer with a huge bill to make people homeless. Simon Hughes is right to to be leading constructive opposition to these half-baked proposals.

  • Liberal Neil 31st Oct '10 - 12:36am

    @LDV Bob “When Boris Johnson appears more concerned about the effect this has on poor families ”

    Indeed, although one wonders what could lie behind the soon to face re-election Boris Johnson’s sudden conversion to compassion.

  • Ross Stalker 31st Oct '10 - 12:46am

    @Peter

    It would be a tu quoque fallacy if it were used as justification of the policy. But justification of the policy is not addressed in this article. The point is that it is clearly disingenous for Labour to use a term like “social cleansing” – Labour’s own words – when their own manifesto contained a similar policy.

    In other words the point is not “They’re no better”; it’s “They can’t seriously be sincere about what they’re saying”. So no, not tu quoque.

  • David

    It’s being reported on the BBC that landlords in London are already preparing to evict their tenants when the reductions come into force next year. I very much doubt that landlords in areas that have strong demand for housing (by and large the areas where there are jobs) will reduce rents.

  • Is this what it’scome to? seriously, there are very many Lib Dems who need to honestly ask themselves what would they have thought of this 12 months ago? A deplorable policy seems to be justified on the basis of ‘well Labour would have done the same’. Smacks of moral bankruptcy to me. How would you react if a naughty child’s response to criticism was ‘well little johnny was doing it too.’?

    Doesn’t make it right does it.

  • John Fraser 31st Oct '10 - 8:58am

    @Andrew r
    The reduction from median rents to the 30th percentile
    …………………………………
    Can you explain this Andrew I’ve missed this one.

    In general whilst this article is technically correct it appears ratehr sily and synichal. A part is ALLOWED to change its mind on a manifesto after losing an election. A part is NOT MORALLY JUSTIFIED to throw their manifesto in the bin as soon as they get into office. Think about it guys .

  • @Matt, “9.8 Billion Pensioners in the U.K” should that be million? I’m not opposed to some form of rent control; HB is making a lot of buy-to-let barrons very rich from the welfare budget.

    @AndrewR, can’t speak for London, is this landlords bluffing, I don’t know. All I know is that landlords in my area are prepared to loose a bit of rent, rather than go through the hassle and cost of eviction and finding new tenants where (as in 96% of claimants) the reduction is £20 or less. Some landlords are prepared to loose a larger amount if the HB paid direct to them, so they don’t have to chase tenants. Still I don’t think the govt got it right and the policy needs to be amended.

  • @ Ross Stalker

    The justification is implicit. It is Tu quoque.

  • What a comically weak defence of their hypocrisy by the Labour posters here. “Yeh my party was going to do something like this but I’m going to attack the Lib Dems for it anyway.”

  • AndrewR
    “It is not what people are outraged about. The reduction from median rents to the 30th percentile …”

    As it happens, Andrew, I have yet to read anyone justify the use of local median rents as the limit rather than the 30th percentile. Most voters will regard the use of the median as being as bonkers as having a system that allows some people to claim rents of £25,000 or £30,000 per year.

    How would you justify the median as a limit?

  • @John Fraser , has Labour changed its policy on HB? what is the new policy?

  • matt
    Now we all know how the private sector works, If Social Housing is raised to 80%, Private Landlords will not be content with charging 20% more than Social Housing. All This policy will do, is drive rents up even higher

    I don’t actually agree with you on that, but assuming you really believe what you write, can you tell me this:

    Surely having an overriding limit of £21,000 pa (and £17,700 pa for 3 bedrooms, etc), and reducing local limits from 50th %ile to 30th %ile will have the effect of driving rents down (at least for “mid-market” properties)?

  • Does the Lib Dems really understand housing benefits because Michael Moore seems not to

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-M7QRNrpL0

    andy edinburgh

  • matt
    People seem to think, that just because someone is a Labour supporter, they would support, all labour policies.

    1st of all, I don’t see labour actually gave a “figure” for Housing Benefit, or even the word Cap. They said “reform”

    I think that’s sophistry, matt, isn’t it?

    The full sentence in the Labour Manifesto is as follows:
    Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.

    Some analysis:
    1. “Housing Benefit will be reformed” You imply that the word “reform” is actually meaningless. That would suggest that the Labour Party manifesto is nothing more than empty words. Do you agree?

    2. “to ensure that we do not subsidise people” That’s not talking about the nasty landlords, it is talking about cutting the subsidy to tenants. Do you agree?

    3. “rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.” That must mean a cap. Do you agree?

  • The full sentence in the Labour Manifesto is as follows:
    Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.

    @matt
    We are all fairly clear what the Labour Party meant by that – which is something very close to what the Coalition Government is proposing.

    You appear to disagree, so why don’t you, as a “Labour supporter” explain exactly what you think they meant.

    We are not saying you agree with the Labour Manifesto, but you have previously claimed that the Labour Manifesto doesn’t mean what it clearly does, so please justify that.

  • Why does anyone expect Labour to behave sensibly over this? They have shown no sign of behaving sensibly over anything else since they lost the election. Or quite possibly, for some time before. In support of that statement I give you Jack Straw on civil liberties, John Reid and David Blunkett, and the election of their leader (method AND result).

  • @matt – `1st of all, I don’t see labour actually gave a “figure” for Housing Benefit, or even the word Cap. They said “reform”`

    That’s right – they don’t give a figure for anything

  • @matt
    John clearly shares my concern about your weasel-words on what the Labour Manifesto says. I will quote verbatim the first three paragraphs of your post at 8.29 am today:

    matt
    ”People seem to think, that just because someone is a Labour supporter, they would support, all labour policies.

    that’s just ignorant.

    1st of all, I don’t see labour actually gave a “figure” for Housing Benefit, or even the word Cap. They said “reform” “

    I’m sorry but you are very clearly saying there (in the third paragraph) that you think the Labour Manifesto means something completely different to what the Coalition Government proposes.

    We think you are mistaken.

    If you think it means something different, then, logically, you must have in mind what it does mean.

    So would you (or some other Labour apologist, by all means) please tell us what the Labour Manifesto meant when it said:
    Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.

  • David
    Survey carried out by National Landlords Association found vast majority of landlords do not intend to reduce their rents.

    Simon Shaw
    Limiting rents to the median is a perfectly fair and reasonable policy. Reducing it further will result in social segregation. We know that segregation will simply compound the problems of the poor and vulnerable. Forcing children out of schools, forcing people out of commuting distance of their jobs is going to cause social disruption that ultimately the taxpayer will have to pay for. We have seen before how welfare spending rockets under Tory governments as the taxpayer is forced to bear the costs of policy failure. I understand why you focus so much on the anomaly of high rents in certain areas on London. You make a superficially attractive argument on the basis of extreme examples and remain silent on the implications for the 3/4 of a million people who will be affected by these proposals. I’ve yet to see anyone defend the 10% cut to unemployed people. Do you defend it?

    Genuine Lib Dems should support Simon Hughes and Bob Russell as they subject these proposals to critical scrutiny.

  • Just seen Sadiq Khan on politics show” Labour would not cut 10% of hb for people who tried but could not find a job after 12 months”
    “would not cap hb so families would not have to move house ” these are what we Labour would have done ,REFORMED hb not attack the most needy as the LIB DEMS are doing, with a big smile on Danny the Axe Alexander face ,doing the Tories dirty work for them,breaking all promises THAT THEY STOOD ON .I am quite enjoying Nick Clegg making a fool of himself ,the more he digs himself in a hole the more he is making a fool of himself ,thats what Lib Dems are saying to me ,that they are embaressed and shamed to have voted for a TORY set of cuts that we did not vote for
    andy edinburgh

  • You are all like kittens in a sack. What is more important here; an examination of the policies or the machinations of the political scene? This is all so contradictory. Are you all claiming that parties have to stick to their manifestos? (VAT, tuition fees spring to mind mr black kettle) or are we claiming that doing something that feels wrong is ok because actually its what the others were proposing? Is there any room left for rational argument?

    Is this the new politics? no its the same old tribal ding-dong with politicos gazing at their own navels. Forget morality or being constructive let’s just descend into tit for tat – you said this, but you said that, no we didn’t, yes we did ……….. sadly this year just feels like a false dawn for those who hoped for something more dignified and positive.

    (before anyone comes on to prove my point about being tribal. I am neither a member of Labour or the Lib Dems, though I have always voted lib dem and even worked with the party for 4 years)

  • andrew
    ”Just seen Sadiq Khan on politics show” Labour would not cut 10% of hb for people who tried but could not find a job after 12 months”
    “would not cap hb so families would not have to move house ” these are what we Labour would have done ,REFORMED hb “

    @Andrew
    Rather than telling us what Labour’s spokesman said they wouldn’t do, can you advise if they said what they would do?

    Because most of us have difficulty in reconciling what a Labour front bencher said on TV today “we would not cap HB” with their Manifesto when it said:

    Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.

    How do you stop subsidising “people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford” without imposing a cap? Please could someone tell us?

  • @muxloe
    “What is more important here; an examination of the policies or the machinations of the political scene?”
    For your information, this thread is headed “Labour’s manifesto pledge to cap Housing Benefit”.

    If you want discussion about the substance of the Coalition Government’s proposals then there are other threads that cover examination of the policies.

    And, yes, based on a previous posting of yours, I think you might be inclined to be a bit “tribal” yourself.

  • @Simon Shaw
    What we would do is take more from the Bankers than from disabled ,that is what a liberal/con government is doing ,our cuts would have been slower, yes you the Lib Dems were fully on our side ,till Nick spoke to Mervin what an idiot, one example when a council job came up not fill it ,this would have took time ,but would mean not making puplic employers feel like rubbish putting their families through so much worry ,”just ask an disabled person in the street are you scared of the cuts “they are scared that is wrong

    Creating jobs would have helped the deficit but all we are getting from the libs is “Labour is to blame for everything ” so lets not create jobs ,can you justify not giving Sheffield Forgemasters a loan to create green jobs ,even if Labour did not have the money you should have found it ,we will now order these parts from the far east

    andy edinburgh

    Your own man MICKY MOORE DOES NOT KNOW WHAT HE IS TALKING ABOUT ,CAN YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN THIS VIDEO TO ME http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-M7QRNrpL0

    lets see if you stop kids getting locked up or detention orders stopped any time soon ,dont hold your breath as they will still be going on this time next year,i expected Nick Clegg would have kept the TORIES from being the nasty party but they have become just as bad

  • @George Kendall
    I dont want to go and get all the numbers but will if i need to,Labour had the borrowing lower than the Torries did in 97. Then came the bank crash all over the world that somehow Labour caused ,So if you don,t want a deficit we should have let the banks go bust is that what you are saying.
    andy edinburgh

  • John Fraser 31st Oct '10 - 3:30pm

    @ David
    It would seem that they have so david otherwise they will look pretty stupid if they kee[p slagging it off . When a party has to react to a government ..I always think it fair to give them a little time on each issue to workout the alternatives. If in time they do not clarify what they are for and what they are against then your point will ofcourse be valid.

  • John Fraser 31st Oct '10 - 3:32pm

    @ george
    I really dislike the 10% cut for the long-term unemployed. The only argument I’ve heard in its favour is that it tackles those who refuse to work. But IDS is already talking about sanctions on those who deliberately refuse to take up viable work. Governments .
    ………………….

    There have been sanctions on those who refuse reasonable jobs since the 1960s I believe.

  • John Fraser 31st Oct '10 - 3:34pm

    @Andrew.
    Just seen Sadiq Khan on politics show” Labour would not cut 10% of hb for people who tried but could not find a job after 12 months”
    “would not cap hb so families would not have to move house ”
    ……
    Good to see some clarification Andrew . Did sadiq add in which way any Labour reforms would go ?

  • John Fraser 31st Oct '10 - 3:40pm

    @ Gerige Kendall and AndrewR
    Posted 31st October 2010 at 1:12 pm | Permalink
    @AndrewR
    “Genuine Lib Dems should support Simon Hughes and Bob Russell as they subject these proposals to critical scrutiny.”

    I have a lot of respect for Simon Hughes, and I hope he makes headway in softening the impact of these policies
    ……………………………….

    Full agree Somon and especially Bob Russels efforts have been heroic in this. With so many other MPs however simply keeping their heads down on this issue of fundimental social fairness I PERSONALLY DECIDED THAT THIS WAS NOT A PARTY WHOSE LEADERSHIP I COULD CURRENTLY RESPECT AND SENT MY LETTER OF RESIGNATION IN TODAY.

    Good luck to all those with a social conciense who continue for now to fight from within .

  • Anthony Aloysius St 31st Oct '10 - 4:18pm

    “@Simon Shaw

    As a local councillor for Birkdale, how would you feel …”

    He’s a councillor? Ye Gods!

  • Anthony Aloysius St 31st Oct '10 - 4:52pm

    matt

    And now that this page contains the phrase “Simon Shaw” over and over again, and also the words “Lib Dem,” “councillor” and “Birkdale,” given how high LDV’s Google ranking is, it will also come quite high in the list of hits when someone searches for information on that local councillor, and they’ll see that – for example – he thought it was “bonkers” that the limit on housing benefit should be as high as the median rent for local properties of the same size. Interesting.

  • @matt
    @Anthony Aloysius St
    Very good to see you resist the temptation to indulge in personal abuse, particularly from an advantaged position of anonymity.

  • I’ve found the “supposed” explanation of Labour policy from Sadiq Khan on today’s Politics Show.

    Surprisingly it actually did nothing to clarify what the Labour Party mean in their stated Manifesto policy:
    “Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.”

    The key section can be found at 29’ 17” in on:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00vp0qc/The_Politics_Show_London_31_10_2010/

    29’ 17” Sadiq Khan: Would we have a cap of £400 for those receiving HB in 4 bedroom properties (who, it would mean would have to move out of inner cities – London, and other cities – and move to outer suburbs, with huge turmoil to those families) would we take away, the answer again is no.

    It seems to me there are only limited possibilities:
    1. Labour would have had a cap, but it would have been (say) £425 per week.
    2. Labour think that £21,000 to £25,000 pa is a rent that “other ordinary working families could afford.”
    3. Labour have a cunning plan which would “ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector” at rents which are excessive, but they are just not going to tell anyone.

    I’m not really sure that there are any alternatives.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 31st Oct '10 - 5:53pm

    Simon Shaw

    If you really think that someone quoting an opinion you have expressed amounts to “abuse,” I can only suggest that you shouldn’t have said it in the first place!

    But I suppose you expressed it in the expectation that no one would cotton on to the fact that you were the same Simon Shaw who is a Birkdale councillor, and so that the good electors of Birkdale would never get to hear about it.

  • @Anthony Aloysius St
    Oh, I’m sorry, Anthony. The posting in the name “Anthony Aloysius St” was obviously made by a completely different “Anthony Alysius St” to you.

    Anyway, clearly an understandable error on my part.

    Also, why on earth do you think I would want people to not know who I am? If I did, then I would surely have used a pseudonym – as you do.

  • matt
    “How have I indulged in personal abuse?

    Just like it was with Anthony, it must have been a completely different “matt” who accused people of being “ignorant” and “complete hypocrites”.

    Sorry that I (perhaps understandably) thought it was you.

  • What about the Government’s plans to move people off Incapacity Benefit?

    Here’s what the Labour manifesto has to say on that:

    More people with disabilities and health conditions will be helped to move into work from Incapacity Benefit and Employment Support Allowance, as we extend the use of our tough-but-fair work capability test.

    This part of the article is being largely ignored yet this is the policy that will have an incredibly destructive effect. ATOS is throwing the sick and disabled off benefits they need by using their flawed tick boxing medicals. It is highly unlikely that many will be able to find work, no employer is going to hire someone who is likely to be ill most of the time. ATOS has now an even greater financial incentive to declare people ‘fit for work’ as they are bidding to have the contract for the Work Focused Interviews. They do not care about the extraordinary amount of appeals (which are now so backlogged even before the migration of IB to ESA) as long as they get paid for the so called ‘medical’.
    Labour were wrong and the coalition is wrong to continue with this policy. It does not make it right because ‘Labour would have done it’. Danny Alexander before the election spoke against the ATOS medicals, he has u-turned on that one! This policy is idealogical, it will throw many many sick and disabled people into poverty.

  • Anthony Aloysius St 31st Oct '10 - 7:09pm

    “Also, why on earth do you think I would want people to not know who I am?”

    Because you’re embarrassed by your split infinitives, perhaps?

  • To clarify what Labour’s position before the election on Housing Benefit reform was, they were proposing a cap of £1100 per week on Local Housing Allowance, as compared to £400 per week that the Coalition are going to implement. [1] However, this cap would have been implemented from October 2011 rather than April 2011, giving families more time to sort out alternate accommodation, etc. which is one of the recommendations of Citizens’ Advice in their response to the consultation carried out by the Social Security Advisory Committee on the Housing Benefit changes. [2] [3]

    [1] http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/economics/budget/article7074953.ece (no paywall)
    [2] http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/press_20100910
    [3] http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/hb_budget_changes_submission_to_ssac.pdf

    This briefing paper from the House of Commons Library gives some interesting background info on Housing Benefit and Local Housing Allowance:

    http://www.parliament.uk/briefingpapers/commons/lib/research/briefings/snsp-04957.pdf

  • By the way, I really should highlight that the link I give in my previous comment, to Citizens’ Advice’s submission to the SSAC consultation on Housing Benefit reforms really is worth reading. After all, they are not a political party (like Labour) trying to make capital out of opposing Government policy, so what vested interest do they have in criticising the changes?

    On the other hand, what they do have is a lot of real-life experience advising and helping those receiving Housing Benefit who will be directly affected by these changes, so I believe their thoughts on the matter should be listened to closely:

    http://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/hb_budget_changes_submission_to_ssac.pdf

  • AndrewM
    “To clarify what Labour’s position before the election on Housing Benefit reform was, they were proposing a cap of £1100 per week on Local Housing Allowance, as compared to £400 per week that the Coalition are going to implement.”

    That’s very helpful, Andrew.

    It’s the first time, as far as I know, that anyone has attempted to provide an explanation for what the Labour Manifesto meant when it said: Housing Benefit will be reformed to ensure that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that other ordinary working families could not afford.

    The only difficulty that I, and others, have is that it was a Labour Government announcement in March (pre Manifesto) and is clearly only part of what Labour were intending.

    That is, unless Labour were really suggesting that £1100 pw = £57,200 pa is a “rent that other ordinary working families could afford”.

  • Mr Shaw

    I too have seen your condescending and aggressive responses to other posters who are in the so-called ‘pretend’ Lib Dems grouping.

    Liberal Democratic politics is supposed to rise above these type of insults and engage in debate – there are a number here who are Labour-leaning voters but who are still engaging in discussions on these boards in part to understand what the grass-roots thinks on these interesting matters. Some are trolls but if you think they aren’t don’t respond to them. Personally I don’t see many of the posters here being trolls

    If you don’t agree then set out why rather than being so aggressive. You do seem to fall into the ‘tribalism’ that you are happy to accuse others of.

    You are an elected representative of the party so should show some degree of maturity

  • @simon shaw

    tribal – no. disenchanted – heartily so. I am disenchanted with much of the political community and as my heart lies with the lib dems it is this party that is the brunt of my ire. It is possible to criticise from a position that isn’t dogmatic.

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