Opinion: The “Bedroom Tax”: a great socialist policy?

Bedroom tax demo , all the photos taken with a iphone 5One thing escapes most political commentators when critiquing the merits of the Bedroom Tax. It is, of course, a great socialist policy.

Of course most commentators accept New Labour introduced the Bedroom Tax through the Local Housing Allowance policy from 2003 to 2008. The mistake commentators make is that they believe LHA to be an ideologically compassionate conservative policy, instead of democratic socialist one.

The argument has two parts. The first is relatively straight forward. For a socialist common ownership (of which Social Housing is the product) means you have no unilateral rights to the property you live in. So the social housing home you’ve lived in for 40 years (according to the socialist) has never unilaterally been yours, it is owned by the society of which you are a part. Therefore you have a fundamental right to any social home, as society has a fundamental right to yours. The state mediates this ‘right’ on the basis of need. Therefore if individuals are under occupying then as socialists they happily give up their home to support the collective good.

Where the policy has got into trouble is in its application.

The policy on its own does not make the vulnerable suffer as they do, Councils are making that choice. Of course the conservative tendency or dialectical nature of the British political system demands partisan politics. In Glasgow, the City Council has been so ruthless as to agree to their housing associations raising the age at which children should cohabit to age 9 meaning some families are paying the bedroom tax even with all the rooms filled.

I’m proud to say though that this is not true of Councils led by groups with a conscience. Stockport Liberal Democrats have created a hardship fund paid for through its Housing Revenue Account giving people flexibility in a time of housing crisis, multiple opportunities to choose another ‘needs appropriate’ property and they have refused to allow anyone to pay the difference if there is nowhere for them to go.

Stockport Liberal Democrats have said NO to forcing people to pay when there is nowhere else to go, NO to partisan politics and YES to its fundamental belief in fairness, choice and equality for all in society.

As someone who was homeless on numerous occasions and who lived in overcrowded accommodation as a child I look at this issue very differently from most political commentators. My ultimate concern is those families that are suffering because of a shortage in housing supply. As an inherent collectivist I would not hesitated giving up my social home for vulnerable women and their children escaping domestic violence or even just trying to live a normal life as so many before them have enjoyed. My mammy raised me that way and I’ll never change. This is why the Democratic Socialist (#onenation) Labour Party’s position and that of its supporters is, on this issue, totally against their own ideology and as a result totally untenable and they should be challenged on this at every opportunity.

* Patrick McAuley is a councillor in Stockport

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39 Comments

  • Foregone Conclusion 11th May '14 - 3:16pm

    So, wait, are we all socialists now? I’m confused. So very confused.

  • Chris Manners 11th May '14 - 3:29pm

    “For a socialist common ownership (of which Social Housing is the product) means you have no unilateral rights to the property you live in.”

    How about you look at actual social housing leases or something?

    ” Councils are making that choice.”

    Oh man.

    How on earth did this chap get another column?

  • “As an inherent collectivist I would not hesitated giving up my social home for vulnerable women and their children escaping domestic violence or even just trying to live a normal life as so many before them have enjoyed.”

    Of course, one of the most unfair aspects of the council tax is that people are being penalised even when alternative accommodation is unavailable.

    On the other hand, I realise that anything’s possible in today’s Lib Dems, and that you may actually be suggesting people should be willing to make themselves homeless to help the vulnerable.

  • Patrick McAuley 11th May '14 - 4:54pm

    Hi Helen

    New Labour were centralisers, big on public sector regulation, planning and ringfancing and enervated democratic accountability within much of the public sector (and increased public spending as a proposition of GDP during their time in office http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn92.pdf)….. sounds like a socialist leaning government to me?

  • The local Housing Allowance was not retrospective and not based on the number of spare rooms. It was based on the amount paid in rent. It also did not only apply to non working benefit claimants. What is being called the bedroom tax is in fact a retrospective benefit sanction/cut applied to the unemployed and disabled.

  • Mr McAuley, I don’t get why you are throwing around all these ideological labels. It’s a perfectly coherent argument to say that housing should be treated as a communal resource and therefore distributed according to social need. That’s a simple point which is a virtue you should embrace. You do not make yourself or your argument sound more sophisticated by talking about things being “ideologically compassionate conservative” or “democratic socialist.” This just makes you sound like you’re waffling.

    You clearly have an interesting perspective on and quite a bit of knowledge about this subject. So I hope you will write about it further in future. However, I would urge you to write with greater clarity if you wish to be taken seriously. Perhaps, check out George Orwell’s guide to writing about politics: https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/orwell46.htm

  • Patrick McAuley 11th May '14 - 5:41pm

    Hi Mark

    Appreciate the feedback, I do tend to waffle at times. 🙂 However the article is addressing the issue of Party values. Labour attack this policy as something that is against their values when in my view there behaviour in government and there whole value system suggests otherwise. Voters care deeply about values and many vote Labour because they are supposed to be the “party of the people” I know when i was a member this is what i was led to believe. The article aims to challenge this myth.

  • Passing through 11th May '14 - 6:07pm

    The difference being when NuLabour introduced the policy it was only applied to people moving into new residences effectively saying “if you want to live in a house bigger than your needs then you’ll have to pay something for it”, people who have lived in the same place for 40 years weren’t effected.

    What makes the new policy so despicable is it is retroactive, so those tenants of 40 years ARE now being forced out of their homes, and it is that policy change which the LDs in Westminister voted through and support. That some of the LDs in local government have chosen to slap an elastoplast over the damage caused by this dreadful policy is very cold comfort.

    Trying to paint this as it being forced on us by all those mean nasty “socialists” in the Coalition isn’t going to convince anyone that the LDs had nothing to do with it and just looks a bit desperate.

    Either defend the policy or denounce it but don’t try and shift the blame onto a political ideology that has had no real power in the UK for at least 35 years.

  • Moral Dustbin Land 11th May '14 - 6:49pm

    Mr. McAuley – in relation to your comment above Labour’s socialism being defined by public spending-how do you account for the fact that there was a Government Surplus during the Blair years!

    In any case try reading some Modern Money theory which will teach you to get beyond the deficit-bad, surplus-good nonsense that is used so much these days.

  • Labour’s LHA is NOT the same as the bedroom tax!!! As has already been stated, LHA was brought in for NEW tenants, not existing ones. Bedroom tax affects people who’ve lived in their homes for 30…. 40 years!
    The bedroom tax is a tax on the poor. Working and non working poor.

    http://notpaying.tumblr.com/post/55537295011/how-the-bedroom-tax-differs-from-the-local-housing

  • Little Jackie Paper 11th May '14 - 8:57pm

    ‘I know when i was a member this is what i was led to believe.’

    There are none so zealous as the converted…..And none so blind as those that will not see.

    I personally would vote for any party that would make the destruction of the current model of buy-to-let its main goal of public policy.

  • “Voters care deeply about values”

    Yes we do! That’s why LibDems are on 8-10% .

  • Patrick McAuley 11th May '14 - 11:38pm

    Geoffrey

    The Public Spending figures I refer to are pre-crash figures 1997-2007 and nothing to do with the Financial Crisis. True centralizing power is not unique to Socialism but is a central tenet of Socialist Governments generally, this is not true of conservative or liberal democratic governments, generally.

  • John Broggio 12th May '14 - 12:01am

    @Patrick McAuley

    So you had a problem with Blair & Brown being “socialist” because they increased the proportion of GDP being spent by the state and yet you stood as a Labour candidate in 2011 under a party leader tagged in some quarters as “Red Ed”?

  • Hidden in this article is an interesting idea, however the policy as set out by central government is not what this article is really about. If I have grasped the idea correctly then Patrick McAuley is saying that the bedroom tax if it only applied where people could downsize would be a collective socialist policy, because collective socialism believes in common ownership and people should only benefit from this ownership according to their needs. However democrat socialism does not believe in wholesale common ownership of everything and so the argument is weaker in reality.

    It is also weak when applied to collective socialism as well. It could be argued that the bedroom tax would never be paid under collective socialism because there would be no need. If someone had spare space within their rented house then the state would either allocate someone to live in the empty room or force the people to downsize into an available suitable property. What you would not get would be anyone being allowed to stay in their council house with unoccupied bedrooms if a suitable small home was available and them having their benefit reduced because of the unoccupied bedroom.

    @ Patrick McAuley – “The Public Spending figures I refer to are pre-crash figures 1997-2007 and nothing to do with the Financial Crisis. True centralizing power is not unique to Socialism but is a central tenet of Socialist Governments generally, this is not true of conservative or liberal democratic governments, generally.”

    The amount spent by government does not need to have any relationship to how much centralisation there is. I am sure that the last Liberal Government 1906-15 increased public spending and I am sure there were Conservative governments that also increased public spending in the past. Patrick you should try to remember that Liberals are not really bothered by how much public spending there is, they are interested in what that spending achieves. It is Libertarians who are bothered by the size of government.

  • I think Patrick McAuley mixes two things here. Amalric is correct when (s)he says that democratic socialism wouldn’t necessarily take a “wholesale common ownership line”. However, certain elements of nuLab policy smack of a sort of neo-Stalinism, in their adherence to detail targets etc. So, despite nuLab not really being a party of the left, it is easier for those coming from another place to tar them with a leftist brush. Lib Dems have suffered agonisingly from applying this kind of rhetoric, in recent years, in particular since the formation of the coalition.

  • Patrick McAuley 12th May '14 - 8:18am

    Hi All the issue with public spending is not the amount in itself but the extent to which the public sector dominated the economy during the New Labour Period.

  • Have spoken a little to Patrick about this on twitter, but I wanted to elaborate slightly on some of the points he’s made that are incorrect.

    I understand that, as Amalric has mentioned above, there’s the seed of an idea about bedroom tax being ‘socialist’ because of the nebulous idea that a theoretical socialist state would freely re-allocate property based on perceived ‘need’. The problem with mixing theoretical models and the bedroom tax is that the policy doesn’t take individual needs into account. Even Patrick’s heartwarming tale of how Stockport residents don’t have to pay bedroom tax if there is nowhere to downsize to only really raises the question of why a local Liberal Democrat-run council has had to spend so much time, effort, and money from it’s Rent Account to combat a policy introduced by the Liberal Democrats at a national level? We’ll put aside how this is ‘fair’ on people not lucky enough to live in Stockport, or whether money from the Rent Accounts might not be better spent on housing.

    Chris Manners, above, makes a very valid point about the difference between socialism and social housing, too. Patrick casually mixes up these two concepts, but somehow ignores the entire history and purpose of social housing in doing so. More research might benefit him, here.

    But it’s not some none-existent model of “socialism” I really want to address here, it’s how wrong Patrick is about all his ‘facts’. I did ask Patrick through Twitter if he’d take the article down, to perhaps have a chance to address some of these issue, and If I’m honest I’m a bit disappointed in libdemvoice for allowing such inaccuracy to be published here – I appreciate that there are political points to be made I suppose, but this piece is problematic in many ways.

    “Of course most commentators accept New Labour introduced the Bedroom Tax through the Local Housing Allowance policy from 2003 to 2008. The mistake commentators make is that they believe LHA to be an ideologically compassionate conservative policy, instead of democratic socialist one.”

    – Patrick is making the common mistake of conflating the 2008 Local Housing Allowance with bedroom tax. This was made legislation in 2008, but the element that came to pass in 2008 wasn’t the restriction on a number of rooms that tenants were entitled to. Those restrictions have been in place since the 1989 Conservative Government. Here is the legislation pertaining to them: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1989/590/schedule/3/made

    The Local Housing Allowance in 2008 actually tied these restrictions to the values of local average rents in an attempt to stop private landlords from abusing the Housing Benefit system by raising rents unchecked, knowing HB would pick up the tab. Framed in this way, the 2008 policy rather spectacularly failed. I go into some depth about other differences in the policies here: http://notpaying.tumblr.com/post/55537295011/how-the-bedroom-tax-differs-from-the-local-housing

    “Where the policy has got into trouble is in its application.”

    – This is disingenuous at best. The reason that the application of the policy is troublesome isn’t because of the application, it’s because of the constraints and stipulations of the policy. Patrick is very much putting the cart before the horse here, to draw out his rather laboured point about local discretion. It is broadly accepted by the providers of social housing – be they Local Authorities or Housing Associations, that the bedroom tax is an unworkable policy. Repeated statements from the National Housing Federation, the Chartered Institute of Housing and other bodies make this clear. Charities connected to housing – Shelter in particular, are unequivocal that the policy should go. A Cross-Party Work and Pensions committee found the same thing – that it isn’t the “application” or “implementation” that is causing all the problems, it is the policy itself: http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/work-and-pensions-committee/news/support-for-housing-costs/

    “The policy on its own does not make the vulnerable suffer as they do, Councils are making that choice.” – This would take too long to explain here why this statement is wrong. The Work and Pensions Committee report, above, is a good place to start – they collated evidence, in a public committee from lots of different sources that suggest it is the policy making vulnerable people suffer. Patrick is again getting the issues the wrong way round. Councils have a choice, from that default position of the policy affecting disabled people, carers, disabled children who need carers, domestic violence victims and people who have nowhere to move to. Local Councils only have discretion, which itself should adhere to guidance laid down by the Department for Work and Pensions, here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/discretionary-housing-payments-guidance-manual

    The notion that vulnerable people are not affected by bedroom tax is clearly untrue, given that even the DWP Impact Assessment has detailed analysis of how they will be, and that the policy finds itself continuously in First Tier Tribunals, Judicial Reviews and in the various courts of the UK, where vulnerable people have no other recourse than to be dragged through the legal system for the opportunity to protect their dignity and fundamental rights.

    “In Glasgow, the City Council has been so ruthless as to agree to their housing associations raising the age at which children should cohabit to age 9 meaning some families are paying the bedroom tax even with all the rooms filled.”

    – Patrick is wrong again here – the Policy itself dictates that two children of either gender must share up until the age of 10. There are no exceptions for a family that has children of 8 and 9, who might be forced to downsize now, and then be eligible for the house they’ve been moved out from a year later.

    I won’t dwell again on the idiocy of Lib Dem Stockport council devising a strategy to negate a policy from Westminster where the approach that Stockport has taken was specifically voted against by Lib Dem MPs. It makes you look very silly.

    The only thing Patrick is correct about is in his last paragraph, when he talks about housing supply. The problem here is a lack of housing, and the bedroom tax does nothing to help that. There simply aren’t enough available houses, and it is this issue that should be at the forefront, not the bedroom tax – a policy that hits the poorest in society, makes no allowances for individual circumstances, and in the case of homelessness, which Patrick touches upon, is actually making the situation worse as pressure from people being forced to downsize by bedroom tax is making properties available for homeless people, and those living in expensive temporary accommodation, even harder to find.

    The Joseph Rowntree Foundation had a guest blog here in Lib Dem Voice, with links to their evidenced findings on the outcomes and implications of the bedroom tax policy. Patrick would do well to read that, before launching onto any future attempts at political grandstanding. The challenge in that guest post was whether the Lib Dems were prepared to stand up and combat the unfairness of the policy. On the evidence of this column by Patrick, it seems as if the answer is a resounding No.

    I remain, until you can sort this policy out at a national level, very much a former Lib Dem voter.

    Rob.

  • Patrick McAuley 12th May '14 - 1:52pm

    Rob

    There are a number of problems, inaccuracies and contradictions with your ‘evidence’ and your employment of some concepts.

    “Even Patrick’s heartwarming tale of how Stockport residents don’t have to pay bedroom tax if there is nowhere to downsize to only really raises the question of why a local Liberal Democrat-run council has had to spend so much time, effort, and money from it’s Rent Account to combat a policy introduced by the Liberal Democrats at a national level?We’ll put aside how this is ‘fair’ on people not lucky enough to live in Stockport, or whether money from the Rent Accounts might not be better spent on housing.”

    Firstly, Housing Revenue Accounts are by design a pot of money that helps manage and administer a Local Authority’s SH services, but only for existing tenant’s. It is not a capital funding grant so could never be used for building houses to get new tenants. Equally, if you spent our hardship fund, that helps hundreds of families to pay the Bedroom Tax, you would build a maximum of 4 affordable family homes.

    This is nonsense economics!

    Second, to suggest it is unfair that Stockport Council has made the choice to help its tenants is true, we agree on that. However you don’t resolve this by punishing Stockport residents. You put pressure on the other councils that have not adopted the policy to implement it!

    you then go on to say

    “I won’t dwell again on the idiocy of Lib Dem Stockport council devising a strategy to negate a policy from Westminster where the approach that Stockport has taken was specifically voted against by Lib Dem MPs. ”

    This is just factually wrong and you provide the evidence to show what Lib Dem MPs voted for with the Guidance annual you provide link for:

    Section 2:
    Support for claimants affected by removal of the spare room
    subsidy

    2.3 We would encourage all LAs to continue their work of engaging with
    affected claimants and working out effective ways of mitigating the effects
    of any reduction in entitlement.

    On LHA

    “Patrick is making the common mistake of conflating the 2008 Local Housing Allowance with bedroom tax. This was made legislation in 2008”

    This is what Labour Minister Malcom Wicks said in 2004 on LHA:

    http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200304/cmhansrd/vo040119/text/40119w42.htm

    “We hope to implement a flat rate housing benefit system in the social sector, similar to that anticipated in the private rented sector to enable people in that sector to benefit from the choice and flexibility that the reforms can provide. We aim to extend our reforms to the social rented sector as soon as rent restructuring and increased choice have created an improved market.”

    The premise of your argument is that LHA and the Bedroom Tax are functionally different , But the “Bedroom Tax” is a political concept not a functional one. The motivation, the historical links and the principle behind the LHA and the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’ are identical. So I’m afraid you are factually incorrect again.

    We can agree on two things:

    First you are correct about the GCC story, I checked my source and it is incorrect. The issue with Glasgow City Council is as I explained on tweeter that they did not consider ADHD to be sufficient reason to require separate rooms for children under 10. Again the policy is open to COUNCILS DISCRETION, as is mentioned in the guidance below:

    2.18 In cases where a child is not entitled to DLA care at either the middle or
    highest rate but the claimant advises that their child is unable to share,
    consider whether awarding DHP is appropriate. You may wish to consider
    cases where a claim has been made for DLA but has not yet been
    assessed or where the child’s disability makes sharing a room difficult, for
    example when it impacts on the long-term sleep patterns of another child.

    Second:

    “The problem with mixing theoretical models and the bedroom tax is that the policy doesn’t take individual needs into account.”

    I quite agree with this statement, but the concerns of the individual are of course important for liberals not socialists. I never said it was a great Liberal measure. My view is this is more paradoxical for Liberals and could be argued either way.

    Again the premise of the article is to challenge the myth that the bedroom tax is somehow a punitive policy concocted by nasty Tories and Liberals.

    As I said in the article Labours whole value system for government is based on policies like the Bedroom Tax, which is why their opposition is untenable.

  • “My view is this is more paradoxical for Liberals and could be argued either way.”

    I’m still waiting to hear an argument in favour of penalising people for whom no alternative accommodation is available.

  • @Rob G

    Very well said indeed. Take a bow !

  • @ Rob – Thank you for your comprehensive response to Patrick McAuley’s article. The Liberal Democrats need members like you so one day we can defeat those members who have taken the party in the wrong direction. There are still lots of members who agree with you.

    @ Patrick McAuley – “Hi All the issue with public spending is not the amount in itself but the extent to which the public sector dominated the economy during the New Labour Period.” This still sounds like a Libertarian argument. However it is also a Tory lie. The percentages of Government spending to GNP were – 1971 – 42.03%, 1982 – 45.56%, 1996 – 38.93%, 2000 – 34.91%, 2007 – 39.08% (http://www.ukpublicspending.co.uk/spending_chart_1940_2016UKp_13s1li011mcn_F0t). The difference between the last full year of the Major government and the year before the economic crash I don’t think are significant (0.15%).

  • Patrick McAuley 12th May '14 - 2:29pm

    Chris

    Stockport does not allow people to pay the bedroom tax if there is nowhere to go.

  • Patrick McAuley 12th May '14 - 2:37pm

    Amalric

    From the IFS

    ‘Most industrial countries have increased public spending as a share of national income since
    1997. But between 1997 and 2007 – prior to the financial crisis – the UK had the 2nd largest
    increase in spending as a share of national income out of 28 industrial countries for which we
    have comparable data. Over the period from 1997 to 2010 – including the crisis – the UK had
    the largest increase. This moved the UK from having the 22nd largest proportion of national
    income spent publically in 1997 to having the 6th largest proportion spent publically in 2010.’

    http://www.ifs.org.uk/bns/bn92.pdf

  • Thanks for your response Patrick, but we’re going to have to examine some of your responses in more detail;

    I’ll accept that for now, Housing Revenue Accounts aren’t intended for, and may not be used for the provision of housing. However, as grants for social housing have now been cut completely from the Affordable Housing Programme 2015 – 2018, and the discounts for Right To Buy have been increased under the coalition government, I know that one of the ways campaigns like SHOUT for social housing (@4socialhousing) are considering accessing capital, amongst others, are to lift borrowing caps on HRA accounts, or raise them significantly to allow more building from LAs.

    “Second, to suggest it is unfair that Stockport Council has made the choice to help its tenants is true, we agree on that. However you don’t resolve this by punishing Stockport residents. You put pressure on the other councils that have not adopted the policy to implement it!”

    I’m sorry Patrick, but your logic is flawed here. The only reason that the Stockport approach is necessary to prevent as you put it the “punishing of Stockport residents”, let’s be clear about this, is as a result of the inflexibility and inherent unfairness of the bedroom tax policy itself. In theory, rolling out a measure to combat bedroom tax to other councils sounds like a great idea, but it would be much easier to just not have the policy punishing those least able to fight back in the first place.

    “This is just factually wrong and you provide the evidence to show what Lib Dem MPs voted for with the Guidance annual you provide link for:”

    Again you’re wrong about what the Lib Dems have voted for in Parliament. The Hansard records are clear on this. Before the policy was implemented, there were amendments suggested in the House of Lords and in the Commons to exempt disabled people, those with nowhere to ‘downsize’ to, and a host of other particular groups. On each occasion, the Liberal Democrats voted specifically not to allow any vulnerable groups any leeway. All the votes, with only occasional and ineffectual Lib Dem rebellions, can be found here: http://www.publicwhip.org.uk/policy.php?id=6672

    The government line is that Discretionary Housing Payments mean that LAs can have more control over who gets provision, but this has also proven to be inaccurate. Not only are there serious implications with the amount of funding given to different LAs (read this excellent blog, from today, by Jules Birch on the subject: http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/home/blogs/discretion-and-discrimination/7003679.blog)

    It’s not even fair to say that DHPs are sufficient to cover the most vulnerable groups – disabled people – as in research carried out by the Papworth Trust, there is clear evidence that the DHPs are not being awarded to 1 in 3 disabled applicants, and those statistics don’t include overall figures about how many disabled people affected have not applied for a DHP – see here: http://www.papworthtrust.org.uk/downloads/discretionaryhousingpaymentsneedtoworkfordisabledpeoplereport_140210190325.pdf

    “This is what Labour Minister Malcom Wicks said in 2004 on LHA:”

    – I’m sure you’ll be familiar with the notion that things that people say in Parliament do not always make their way into reality. I’ve seen a lot of discussion about Malcolm Wicks and the “2001 Bedroom Tax Pilot”, but the simple truth is that no pilot ever took place in the social rented sector. You won’t find any evidence of it, because it didn’t happen, and the only other reference the Labour Party make to introducing such a policy is a comment made by Alastair Darling about them realising it was unworkable in the sector, so they shelved it. Again, I understand there’s political capital in trying to conflate LHA and bedroom tax.

    “The motivation, the historical links and the principle behind the LHA and the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’ are identical. So I’m afraid you are factually incorrect again”

    No, I’m right here, and you’re wrong. The motivation for the two policies was not the same, unless you look at it purely as both policies being about saving money, which is the nearest you get to being correct about it. The principle of LHA was to try and prevent uncontrolled rises in Housing Benefit as a result of unregulated pricing of Private Rental Sector rents set by landlords. This practice continues uncontrolled to this day, and that is the real reason that HB is rising – Social Rents are low, sustainable, and stable, and it’s a fact that if LHA rates were carried across to the bedroom tax, not a single person in social housing would have to pay any contribution towards their rent on a similar sized property, over or under-occupying or not., such is the increasing difference between social and private rents.

    The only ‘historical links’ that the policies share are those I mentioned previously to the 1989 Rent Officers Size Criteria. These tenuous similarities in the policies are never used to say that “The Conservative Introduced the Bedroom Tax”, although perhaps that might be a more valid argument than that Labour did. If I’m honest, I think the politics are secondary here to the outcomes for tenants, and a little irrelevant now that the policy has been disastrously in operation for a year.

    The principle of the two policies is also not the same. You could argue there are similarities if you look only at the basic Size Criteria, but the difference in the profile of tenants who are placed in SH and PRS means that you can’t apply a vaguely similar policy and expect the principles to be the same, when those affected in Social Housing are so much more likely to be in extra need than those in the Private Rented Sector. Perhaps we’re coming back to your non-existent socialist ideal again, but Social Housing isn’t, as you initially posited, the “result” of socialism – I see what you’re trying to say about a socialist utopia involving the free movement of tenants between “houses” as an ideal, but this approach makes the same mistake as that inherent in bedroom tax – we’re not talking about “houses”, we’re talking about people’s homes. Undermining the security of homes might be a side effect of your constructed socialism, but it’s clearly not something that the Labour Party are given to undertake, given their pledge to repeal the policy. How it could be considered Liberal or liberal to undermine the security of people’s homes, I’m also not sure. Again, I have to wonder why you’re focusing on these theoretical ideological positions when the outcomes of the policy, and the public positions of the parties you’re talking about are so clear. Labour are right about this, and the Libdems are wrong, and theorising about socialism and liberalism won’t change that.

    Amalric – your comments are very kind, but I’m afraid that this policy, the bedroom tax policy, has alienated me from the party. I can’t bring myself to vote for them again while at a national level they support it. I won’t go into detail about how the policy is standing on a foundation of rhetoric about scroungers, shirkers and other distinctly Tory messages emanating from the DWP, but I can’t separate the implementation of the policy from the Lib Dems – from its initial introduction last year, to the votes before and after that where LDs voted not to help the vulnerable groups I’ve previously mentioned. I cannot equate anything about this policy with my own moral code, and I’m not just saying that because I’m a full-time carer for my disabled wife, in a modest, specially adapted two-bedroomed bungalow, who under the inflexible policy aims is expected to pay for our not-spare, spare bedroom. Don’t worry, I’ve secured an exemption because our care hours to include regular overnight care, but those care hours used to be flexible as part of a personalised budget, and now I’m forced to use them for regular overnight care because the financial strain of the bedroom tax if we paid it would mean hardship and potentially compromising the level of care I can provide for my wife.

  • Sorry, I meant to pick up on this, too:

    “This is just factually wrong and you provide the evidence to show what Lib Dem MPs voted for with the Guidance annual you provide link for:”

    That 2014 DWP Guidance has no basis in legislation or regulation – it’s just a set of advice guidelines for how councils *should* act, published by a government department, so it’s wrong to suggest that is what anyone “voted for”. The thing the LD MPs voted for is the policy itself, which I linked to on publicwhip earlier with details of how they voted. Not only does the Guidance have no legal authority, it has also been subject to a number of revisions since the policy was introduced, and will surely continue to do so as the discriminatory nature of the bedroom tax continues to be contested in tribunals and in the courts.

  • Patrick McAuley 12th May '14 - 9:11pm

    Rob

    ‘It’s not even fair to say that DHPs are sufficient to cover the most vulnerable groups – disabled people – as in research carried out by the Papworth Trust, there is clear evidence that the DHPs are not being awarded to 1 in 3 disabled applicants.

    Again all the result of calus councils taking a brutal approach to the policy. How can you criticise Stockport for taking the right approach then obsolve other councils of responsibility, there is a double standard here Rob.

    ‘the only other reference the Labour Party make to introducing such a policy is a comment made by Alastair Darling about them realising it was unworkable in the sector, so they shelved it.’

    Call me a cynic but the only reason Labour did not introduce LHA in social housing was because it would devastate their core vote, for no other reason to suggest otherwise is naive at best.

    ‘ The motivation for the two policies was not the same, unless you look at it purely as both policies being about saving money, which is the nearest you get to being correct about it.’

    Both policies are fundamentally about bringing down the housing benefit bill. But as I’ve said this does nothing to elucidate the ideological roots of the Bedroom Tax.

    You can’t turn the article into something it’s not, it is not fundamentally about the rights and wrongs of the policy, the article is about political ideology in action through the creation of the creation of the Bedroom Tax. It is about Labours hypocrisy, ruthlessness and lack of a soul in their councils implementing the policy. I admire the stand you take on this issue because as you your self have written Labour Council are bevhaving aborently in implementing it. I’m pleased you won’t be voting Labour because given the passionate stance you have on this issue I fear you will only be let down when it comes to the crunch.

  • “Again all the result of calus councils taking a brutal approach to the policy. How can you criticise Stockport for taking the right approach then obsolve other councils of responsibility, there is a double standard here Rob.”

    This is nothing to do with callous councils taking a brutal approach to the policy. Go back again to the Work and Pensions Committee report on the policy. The policy itself is callous and brutal. This is what the cross-party committee found. I’m not generalising an opinion here, this is what that committee, and all the research done by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Housing Associations, Local Authorities, the Trussell Trust, and Shelter and a long, long list of evidence-based policy has found. It’s not what I think, it is what is happening as a result of the fundamental values of the policy. You just have this completely the wrong way round. Your singular opinion about the policy being the responsibility of local authorities simply isn’t backed up by facts.

    I’m sure you haven’t read all the links I’ve provided, but just the DHP allocations difference explained by Jules Birch in Inside Housing should make you realise that it’s impossible for all local authorities to act as Stockport has. I’m certainly not trying to absolve anyone of any responsibility at a local level for their actions, as you point out I’ve been critical of Labour local authorities, but that’s because their national message is about repeal, and they need to do more to help tenants at a local level within the advisory DHP guidelines.

    “Call me a cynic but the only reason Labour did not introduce LHA in social housing was because it would devastate their core vote, for no other reason to suggest otherwise is naive at best.”

    This is just politicised conjecture. What happened, happened. The reality is that they didn’t introduce it. It might make you feel comfortable to believe it’s a Labour creation, but it isn’t. This particular policy – the shape it has taken, and the vulnerable people it has targeted, is a coalition creation. Again, this isn’t something to debate an opinion over, it is what all the evidence from reviews of the outcomes have found – just read the W&P Committee recommendations for the policy, if nothing else.

    “Both policies are fundamentally about bringing down the housing benefit bill. But as I’ve said this does nothing to elucidate the ideological roots of the Bedroom Tax.”

    Ok, one more link. The bedroom tax only came to pass because the sensible exceptions that you’ve implemented in Stockport were disallowed by Liberal Democrat MPs when the Welfare Reform act was voted on in parliament. The government argued that the savings it alleged the policy would bring should overrule all other considerations. Making allowances for vulnerable groups, considerations of ‘better use’ of housing or ‘overcrowding’ were all put aside as the bill was forced through using Parliamentary Financial Privilege. You can see the money being the only reason the bill passed here: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201212/ldhansrd/text/120229-0002.htm#12022980000074

    The bedroom tax can only be about reducing the housing benefit bill. Every other excuse put forward by the coalition- to make ‘better use of social housing’ , which has proven impossible because the supply isn’t there, isn’t a valid argument. “To help overcrowding” isn’t an argument – overcrowding calculations are based on standard bedroom sizes set by the 1985 housing act, which the bedroom tax legislation specifically ignores – so you aren’t even comparing the same rooms by attempting to skew the argument in that direction – even in terms of it being a ‘socialist policy’ as you argue, it can’t exist in isolation of what is happening in reality. “Encouraging people into employment” or to somehow change their behaviour isn’t an argument, and is frankly distasteful taken in the context of the majority of people who are affected by it being disabled.

    “You can’t turn the article into something it’s not, it is not fundamentally about the rights and wrongs of the policy, the article is about political ideology in action through the creation of the creation of the Bedroom Tax”

    I’m not changing the scope of the article, I’m pointing out that everything you’ve written about the policy is wrong. I’ve provided evidence from government committees, housing professionals, Hansard and the policy documentation itself. You can’t argue that the bedroom tax is a socialist policy when you have no clear understanding of what the policy is or does. I don’t deny your right to write about it in the isolated, meaningless bubble of political doctrine that you’ve chosen as your medium,

    You’ve also misunderstood my voting intentions. I’ve been a Liberal Democrat voter all my life, but the pernicious nature of this policy – created and implemented by the coalition, and nobody else, means that I can’t in good conscience vote for a party that has repeatedly chosen to victimise those people who are too poor to benefit from the raise in the threshold at which people pay income tax. Bedroom Tax is part of a plethora of welfare reforms that have undermined the security of disabled people and people who need help, not punitive financial policies. At a time when we should be assisting our communities to thrive, we should not be taking everything from our poorest and most vulnerable.

    It is the policy that is at fault, any reading of the situation must enable you to see this. It’s your policy.

    So the fundamental basis of your article is incorrect, and I would ask you one final time to take it down.

  • Yes well all this just makes me think ‘a plague on all your houses’ !

  • @Patrick McAuley – “between 1997 and 2007 … the UK had the 2nd largest increase in spending as a share of national income”
    The figures are 1997 37.6% – 2007 – 39.08% an increase of only 1.48%. This is comparing the first year of the Labour of government with 2007, while I compared the last full year of the Conservative government to get 0.15%

    The IFS 2010 election briefing also states that the planned Labour expenditure for 2010 would be “the highest level of public spending as a share of national income since 1982−83”, which supports my argument that under the Conservatives public spending was higher than under Labour. This is outside of your time period which you stated earlier was “1997-2007” before the economic crash. However the IFS also states that public spending “fell to 36.3% in 1999−2000, the lowest level since 1957−58.” Even when using the IFS figure the increase is from 40.6% (1997) to 44.1% (2007) an increase of only 3.5%. Please note that the IFS are not consistent with their figures.

    But let us return to your original post – “the public sector dominated the economy during the New Labour Period”. This is clearly not true on so many levels. How can something dominate when during the whole period it never reached half of the total? How can it dominate for the whole period when it was close to the all-time low of 36.3% (IFS figure) or 34.91% (British Historical Statistics)? This is why I call it a Tory lie.

    @ Rob G – “a party (the Liberal Democrats) that has repeatedly chosen to victimise those people who are too poor to benefit from the raise in the threshold at which people pay income tax. Bedroom Tax is part of a plethora of welfare reforms that have undermined the security of disabled people and people who need help, not punitive financial policies. At a time when we should be assisting our communities to thrive, we should not be taking everything from our poorest and most vulnerable.”

    I, along with lots of Liberal Democrat members, would agree with this. Also it isn’t because we had to do these things, we could have vetoed them. It is because after the general election the leadership accepted the Tory policy of reducing the deficit quickly and then accepted the Tory benefit cuts. This is why lots of Liberal Democrat members hope to have a new leadership that truly believes in the whole Liberal Democrat agenda as agreed by conference and doesn’t believe that the leader can disregard what has been agreed at conference.

  • Clarification – How can it dominate for the whole period when it was 36.3% (IFS figure) or 34.91% (British Historical Statistics) at its lowest during this time, which is close to the all-time low since the Second World War.

  • MICHAEL PROCTOR 13th May '14 - 6:50pm

    Mr Duncan-Smith’s policy of charging a penalty for the so called under-occupancy of social/council housing forgets the very essence of why this housing was built in the first place. After fighting in two world wars, the working class demanded better living conditions, including housing. Their housing needs had, for centuries, been at the mercy of rich unscrupulous landlords; who provided sub-standard accommodation that was tied to their tenants’ jobs. If the tenant couldn’t work for any reason, they and their families were thrown on to the streets or moved to the workhouse.

    At the time when council housing was built all over the country, the working man was able to earn a decent living wage at a rate that meant he could pay his council rent and provide for his family. For the first time in our history, the working class had security. If he fell ill, died or was disabled in any way, he and/or his family would still have somewhere to live. Even though the property would never be ‘his’, he was at least able to work hard to make the place decent; spending time, effort and what little money was spare to keep the property up together. This investment by many tenants has surely saved the social landlords a small fortune over time. We are now living in an age where successive governments have sold off our social housing, without building any more with the money raised – tantamount to treason in my opinion! We also live in an age where the working man or woman can no longer earn a decent living wage. Even if he/she has a job, it is likely to be low-paid, part-time, self-employed or on a zero-hours contract; meaning they have to rely on benefit top-ups to survive.

    This means the need for social housing is more vital than at the time it was first brought in!!!!!!!

    When people are allocated social housing, their ‘needs’ are carefully assessed beforehand. On taking up an assured tenancy, there is absolutely no understanding that the property must be given up as soon as that ‘need’ alters in any way. If that was the case, then many of the council homes sold off under the ‘right-to-buy’ scheme, may have been sold under false pretences. The tenants may have had one or more ‘spare’ rooms at the time the property was sold to them, and should therefore have been moved to an adequate sized property before buying.

    We all know why Mr Duncan-Smith and his colleagues in the Conservative party voted for this policy. As there are very few smaller social housing properties for tenants to downsize into, the tenants will be forced to take private rented accommodation instead. With the Conservatives also voting not to cap private rents (only rent benefit), this means more and more private landlords getting rich at the expense of the poor and our benefits system. It is extremely difficult for a poor family to get private rented accommodation, especially in a university town/city. Students or foreign workers can be charged more per room than a family. The landlord will also require a substantial deposit and rent up front which a poor family will be unable to pull out of a hat. Most private tenancies are also relatively short-term, which does not suit the needs of a family. A family needs to be secure and put down roots; establishing itself within a community. The insecure nature of short-term tenancies means that tenants have to move when the landlord decides he/she no longer wishes to rent out the property. It is often at relatively short notice. It may mean moving away from a whole support system. The tenants’ jobs may have been nearby, their children at a local school, they are registered with local doctors/dentists, etc. They may be unable to get accommodation in the same area, meaning the children are no longer in the school’s catchment area, they are no longer in the area covered by doctors/dentists and may have a far more expensive or time-consuming journey to and from work. Moving house is already one of the three most stressful things anyone does without it being forced upon someone simply because a child has grown up. A family may well be forced into these moves repeatedly as their circumstances change. The upheaval caused will undermine the mental health of many people, a fact that the government may well regret a few years down the line.

    I find it extremely difficult to understand how educated and supposedly intelligent people have come up with a policy that fails so completely in every aspect of its purpose.

     If the policy is supposed to save money, I would be interested to know how? With more people having to downsize into private rented accommodation where the rents are at least doubled, if not more; rent benefit will go up considerably. Also, if people fail to pay the penalty, they will be taken to court and evicted. A process, which I am sure, is both expensive and time-consuming.
     If the purpose is to stop overcrowding, again I fail to see how. The policy quite clearly tells people on benefits that if you wish to get a bigger social housing property, then have more children. Also, once you are in an adequate sized property, keep having more children when the older ones reach 18, so you can ‘keep’ the property and not be downsized yourself. The benefits system pays for all these extra children, once again increasing the pressure on itself. Many of these children will not be wanted in their own right, but purely as a way of getting/keeping a home. Isn’t this the very message that the government wanted to put a stop to?
     If the purpose is to stop people relying on benefits and to make working more attractive, yet again I fail to see how. In today’s economic climate there is a slim chance you may be able to get a job, earn a wage and pay your own rent – much easier to do if the rent is for social housing. If the rent is to a private landlord, even if you get a job, the wage is unlikely to cover your rent let alone living expenses. How does this encourage people to work?

    And finally, private landlords are often using the rent they receive for letting the property to pay the mortgage. If the tenants are in receipt of housing benefit, then the benefits system (and ipso facto, the tax payer) is funding their mortgage. Isn’t this against the rules? It is my understanding that if a person has a mortgage on the house they are living in and then loses their job, the benefits system is not allowed to fund their mortgage. So, the system allows benefits to fund a mortgage indirectly, but not directly. There appears to be a huge juxtaposition here. The taxpayer is happy to fund an increase in property ownership for multiple landlords, but is unhappy to fund the rent for a disabled person to have a spare room for equipment or a poor couple to keep a room for visiting grandchildren or taking in an elderly relative.

  • @ Michael Proctor “It is my understanding that if a person has a mortgage on the house they are living in and then loses their job, the benefits system is not allowed to fund their mortgage.”

    If a person is unemployed after a certain time period they receive benefit (income support) to pay the interest on the mortgage (currently this is paid directly to the mortgage holder). However this isn’t paid at the interest rate charged to the unemployed person but is paid at an average interest rate. This means that if an unemployed person can reduce their interest rate below the average interest rate then the difference will pay some of the outstanding loan off. I think the waiting period is thirteen weeks. Before the economic crash in 2008 I think the waiting period for some mortgages (depending on when it was taken out) was 26 weeks. If someone is in employed they cannot receive benefit payments to pay some of their mortgage like those in rented accommodation who can receive housing benefit.

  • @ jedibeeftrix – “are you mixing up taxation with spending?”
    No
    From the same page – “Viewed as percent of GDP, UK public spending shows a significant decrease in the late 1980s, declining from 41.7 percent in 1985 to 34 percent of GDP in 1989. Then an increase begins, reaching 38.9 percent of GDP by 1996. A decline in spending took place in the late 1990s, declining to 34.6 percent of GDP by 2000. A modest increase in public spending started in the early 2000s, reaching 39 percent of GDP in 2007. Then the financial crisis of 2008 took over and boosted public spending to 45.47 percent of GDP in 2010. Modest declines in public spending are estimated for the mid 2010s.”

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