Lib Dems secure £35 million extra funds to help those affected by Bedroom Tax

The arguments over the so-called Bedroom Tax have been rehearsed on this site on many occasions and it’s been in the news today, with the judgement that it does not discriminate against disabled people.

The Department of Work and Pensions has separately announced extra money to help those worst affected. This will be given to Councils to give to those most in need. I understand that ministers did consider further exemptions but felt that it was fairer to allow councils to make the decisions because they were dealing directly with the tenants concerned and knew more about their circumstances.

The extra money, as the DWP announcement shows, is split 3 ways:

  • £10 million transitional payments to all councils
  • £5 million to fund Discretionary Housing payments in rural areas where there is likely to be no chance of a move to a smaller property
  • A new £20 million Discretionary Housing Payment fund

The fact that this announcement has been made at all is largely down to the efforts of Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie and Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore in persuading Nick Clegg that these measures were badly needed. Willie in particular has worked so hard on this as he promised to do in February when he said:

I am in constant dialogue (with the UK Government) because I’ve gathered evidence myself, I’ve seen people who are going to be affected by this. I’ll be working to make sure people are not hurt.

He welcomed the news of the extra funding today, saying it was a sensible and responsive move which will help those who have faced  unintended consequences of this policy:

After months of research, listening and detailed discussions about the implementation of housing benefit reform this is a sensible and responsive move that will assist many people.

A key objective of the policy is to incentive people to move to the right sized houses for their needs and to make work pay.  However, with any big change there are unintended consequences.

I know of people who should not be facing additional housing costs as a result of the reforms and I have been determined that changes should be made to the policy to address this issue.

I am grateful for the support of Scottish Secretary Michael Moore, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and MP John Thurso in achieving a doubling of the support fund.

This is significant progress and would not have happened without the intervention of these Liberal Democrats who have built an evidence based case and secured the extra help.

Update: Duncan Stott pointed out on Facebook that Liberal Democrats in Stockport Council have found a very fair way of dealing with this, outlined here on ALDC’s blog. Cllr Stuart Bodsworth explains:

Our under-occupancy policy means that as soon as a Stockport Homes resident says they want to downsize, any arrears that are accrued due to their under-occupancy will be isolated. Once they move to smaller accommodation those arrears will be paid off by the hardship fund not by the resident.  Those arrears are not the fault of the resident, they didn’t cause them, they didn’t ask for them and they shouldn’t have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s actions. That’s a basic principle of natural justice, isn’t it?

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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24 Comments

  • Kevin White 30th Jul '13 - 3:04pm

    Peanuts. Will have little effect. Scrap this vicious measure which is causing so much misery in so many ways.

  • Simon McGrath 30th Jul '13 - 3:15pm

    Excellent news. Both the judicial view that this is not discriminatory and the extra money. Right thing as well to devolve the judgments to local authorities.

    Shows the value of LD’s in Coaliton – not only a Stronger Economy but a Fairer Society.

  • Defenestrate Clegg 30th Jul '13 - 3:37pm

    A splash in the ocean and of little help for disabled people who will be made to jump through even more hoops to get what should be given to them with without too adding to their burden.

    If making life more and more difficult for people with disabilities is what’s classed as ‘fairness’ then maybe the definition of fair is not the same in Lib Dem land as it is in the real world.

  • why do the Lib Dems think this money will be needed if their bedroom tax policy is fair?

  • @dean

    Its easy really -agree with a Tory policy even though three years ago the party wouldn’t have gone near the idea with a bargepole- then claim victory for amending policy under cover of supporting localism. ‘Shows the value of LD’s in Coalition– not only a Stronger Economy but a Fairer Society’. don’t you know…..

  • It is contemptable that the LibDems support this.

    So it is “fair” that only those on benefits are being targetted? “Fair” that they are being penalised with benefit cuts – not given positive encouragement to move? “Fair” that if you aren’t on benefits you can stay in your social housing and keep however many bedrooms? “Fair” that if you’re rich enough to be able to buy your social housing you are given a subsidy of up to £75,000 of public money – however many ‘spare’ bedroom?

    “Fair” that people who are buying their own private home are now being given state support – again however many spare bedrooms? “Fair” that millionaires with mansions are implementing this? Where’s their example?

    Meanwhile people who’ve lived in their homes for 25/30 years are being forced out. At least one has committed suicide. Another has just slit his own throat in a benefits office. This is a betrayal of the Liberal roots of the party. A discusting attack on people on benefits and the last remnants of social housing.

  • Peter Hayes 30th Jul '13 - 6:10pm

    Yet again why does Nick not go on holiday as the same time as Dave so a Tory has to defend the indefensible? When we are going to stop being the Tory defensive shield?

  • Tony Greaves 30th Jul '13 - 6:22pm

    My top of the head maths says it’s an average of about £100,000 per Council. Every little helps and a bit more than peanuts but not much.

    Tony Greaves

  • Alex Harvey 30th Jul '13 - 7:07pm

    Yay.

  • It clearly couldn’t be illegal for a government to reduce a particular subsidy, and I doubt that the Left’s attempt to turn this into second poll tax will in the end cover over their own manifest failings. No doubt shortly Labour will announce that they will oppose the reduction in subsidy, but not reverse it if they should ever manage not to lose an election!

    And please stop calling this a tax when very clearly it is no such thing.

  • Malcolm Todd 31st Jul '13 - 12:37am

    “If he did, we’d have very little need for a DEPUTY PM.”

    Well, shucks, there’s a thought.

  • With all due respect, it’s not a “so called” bedroom tax. It IS one. Lib Dems should be under no illusion about this cruel measure.

  • I don’t understand how the so called Bedroon Tax (reduction in housing benefit for social housing) is fair

    Perhaps it would be fairer if it was a tax. All people who live in a house with a spare bedroom would have to pay say an extra 14% of their Council Tax to Central Government (25% for two spare bedrooms) and the money could be used for housing benefit so those on benefits would get enough money to pay the rent on houses with spare bedrooms in the private and social sector. This is likely to encourage those not on benefit to down size their houses not the poor. I image this would be very unpopular ( a new Poll Tax).

    Perhaps a fairer scheme would be to pay all rent (private and social) for those on housing benefit on the Local Housing Allowance rate (my preferred option).

  • Least we forget – the Bedroom Tax was introduced by Labour for the private housing sector (LHA) and that IDS has extended ‘Labour’s Bedroom Tax’ to the council housing sector with the Spare Room Subsidy.

  • My last comment was moderated out on this subject I guess due to a word that described this TAX /CUT as a opposite of good /angelic or possibly that it stated the actual figure that the bottom end of society are paying due to contribution to housing and council tax due to a government you belong too. Dear Censor get real

  • jEREMY HAS IT ABSOLUTELY RIGHT
    “So it is “fair” that only those on benefits are being targetted? “Fair” that they are being penalised with benefit cuts – not given positive encouragement to move? “Fair” that if you aren’t on benefits you can stay in your social housing and keep however many bedrooms? “Fair” that if you’re rich enough to be able to buy your social housing you are given a subsidy of up to £75,000 of public money – however many ‘spare’ bedroom?

    “Fair” that people who are buying their own private home are now being given state support – again however many spare bedrooms? “Fair” that millionaires with mansions are implementing this? Where’s their example?

    Meanwhile people who’ve lived in their homes for 25/30 years are being forced out. At least one has committed suicide. Another has just slit his own throat in a benefits office. This is a betrayal of the Liberal roots of the party. A discusting attack on people on benefits and the last remnants of social housing.”

  • Robert Brown 31st Jul '13 - 11:50am

    Caron is right that Willie Rennie and other Liberal Democrat colleagues have pushed this – it is modestly helpful but a drop in the ocean. The “bedroom tax” policy should be scrapped and a more sensible reform put in to replace it.

    1. There is no reason why the public purse should support people underoccupying by 2 rooms or more but that is less than 10% of those currently affected.
    2. The Stockport scheme has some potential but is not the full answer.
    3. There are all sorts of good reasons why families may need and want a spare room – child access, carer responsibilities, disablement, etc. The policy is already beginning to distort house building policy.
    4. Why not put in a modified and practical scheme to replace the bedroom tax and pay for the shortfall in revenue by reinstaing the 50p tax rate?

  • A Social Liberal 31st Jul '13 - 1:18pm

    Belloc said

    “Least we forget – the Bedroom Tax was introduced by Labour for the private housing sector (LHA) and that IDS has extended ‘Labour’s Bedroom Tax’ to the council housing sector with the Spare Room Subsidy.”

    How does this mitigate what we Lib Dems have done. If you agree that it doesn’t, why mention it, since it deflects from what is happening now. A Tory and Orange Booker trick.

  • Belloc said
    “Least we forget – the Bedroom Tax was introduced by Labour for the private housing sector (LHA) and that IDS has extended ‘Labour’s Bedroom Tax’ to the council housing sector with the Spare Room Subsidy.”

    This is just not true – and frankly when people argue this line they are indulging in wild post-facto justification. I don’t recall people calling for it to be extended to social housing back in 2008?

    A major difference between LHA and bedroom tax is that LHA didn’t have effect on pre-existing tenancies – it was only if you moved or made a fresh HB application that the provisions came into effect.

    And in any case it was as crude a measure as just calculated on bedrooms – LHA set a rent level but you weren’t penalised if you rented a property with more bedrooms than your assessed need.

  • Helen Dudden 2nd Aug '13 - 4:37pm

    The bedroom tax is as bad, as the new Family Law being rolled out next year.

    Blame game in politics, that is the name of the game.

  • Helen Dudden 2nd Aug '13 - 10:18pm

    One more thing, High Court Judge Laws, made one comment on the subject of the “bedroom tax” he stated that “it could not continue.”

    It was not simply a victory over the above subject, if you read the article on “inside housing” web page it is very informative.

  • Helen Dudden 2nd Aug '13 - 10:23pm

    Don Foster MP, is also writing on the subject of restricting the use of B & B. It won’t work in Bath, we simply don’t have the have the housing stock, several empty buildings, but then that is a different matter.

    There is also other comments, by the way we have a sit in, in a toilet in the city, the Lib Dems want to close toilets. So far there has been a protest, on the weir about the empty buildings, now this.

    In the Bath Chronicle it states the peasants are revolting.

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