Tim Farron says Liberal Democrats are likely to oppose “Bedroom Tax” in 2015

Tim Farron has said that he expects that Liberal Democrats will oppose the so-called “Bedroom Tax” in 2015. In an interview with Inside Housing, he has said that in its current form it was causing hardship and depriving housing associations of the money to build much needed new homes. While he praised the Liberal Democrats who had secured more money for discretionary housing payments to mitigate its effects, he acknowledged that reforms were needed.

He said:

I would be disappointed if we did support it in its current form.

I do not expect our party to support this policy unreformed, we must take time to fix it, learn some lessons and make sure that it doesn’t hurt the most vulnerable in our communities.

It’s creating more hardship, it’s wrong and unnecessary… It’s impacting on people and the most vulnerable. It’s also having an impact on housing associations – it means they have less to invest in social housing.

I worry about distorting the building market. Currently we are building lots of one-bedroom properties which is reacting to a policy and it’s not in the long-term interest of the country.

Liberal Democrat Conference last Autumn overwhelmingly opposed the measure in its current form, calling for a review and for it not to be imposed unless someone had turned down a reasonable offer of a smaller property.  53% of respondents to a Liberal Democrat Voice survey also opposed the measure. It would certainly be difficult to persuade candidates and activists to support the retention of a policy which has caused so much hardship, especially as it’s now been effectively mitigated in Scotland with Liberal Democrat support.

 

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44 Comments

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Feb '14 - 3:13pm

    I wouldn’t be surprised if the Tories agreed to repeal it quite readily too.

    on the assumption that after five years in operation much of the misallocated housing stock had by this point been freed up.

    they could say; “it was a divisive and disruptive policy, so now that we have returned 200,000 extra rooms into the social letting scene we feel we can safely ditch the policy”

    safe in the knowledge that traumatic recent experience would dissuade people from future temptation to super-size their social housing at the expense of others.

  • The words ‘too little, too late’ spring to mind. The time for the Liberals to have opposed this cruel, unnecessary and divisive policy has long since passed.

  • A Social Liberal 28th Feb '14 - 4:12pm

    JBX

    the housing stock may well have been freed up – but the bedroom tax is now the cause of huge amounts of HAs being unable to rent out multi bedroom housing, to the extent that some HAs are talking about demolishing much of their stock.

    Many of those who have been forced out of their homes have not started renting smaller houses from HAs, but have gone to private landlords because of the lack of smaller stock in HA hands. Instead they have had to go to private landlords, thus costing local authorities quite a lot more.

    Well done Tim Farron for speaking out against this idiotic tax.

  • Sad that the report parrots right-wing tactic of calling it ‘so-called’ and using speech marks to lessen how pernicious the policy truly is. It might be called something else in official terms, but put semantics aside. It’s a cruel and divisive measure which has hit the disabled in particular, just to pander to Middle England and the manufactured aspirational voter.

  • …also pandering to the apparent sentiments of, who Tories like to call, ‘hard working families’ all the time which is just an underhand way of making anyone else in society seem like parasites and pariahs.

  • Neil 28th Feb ’14 – 4:46pm
    …also pandering to the apparent sentiments of, who Tories like to call, ‘hard working families’ all the time which is just an underhand way of making anyone else in society seem like parasites and pariahs.

    Yes indeed. Punishing the poor whilst letting the bankers off the hook. Those ‘hard working families’ of bankers whose million pound bonuses must be preserved or they will take their spare bedrooms elsewhere.

  • They could have opposed it the other day by voting with Labour. They didn’t. Why?

  • @Jedi
    “safe in the knowledge that traumatic recent experience would dissuade people from future temptation to super-size their social housing at the expense of others.”

    If only that was the case. What about those who were allocated those houses, I suppose you feel it is right they are punished too, or those that would willingly move if a suitable alternative was offered? I doubt there are more than a handful of tenants who have deliberately “super sized” their houses, but if you have any evidence to support this please share…

  • Mr T.Trowbridge 28th Feb '14 - 6:50pm

    To be part of the policy to agree the fiasco of the disgraceful Badger cull with wildlife killers in the ConservatiVe party is a total sick policy. It has now been shown that over 5% of the Badgers. killed took over 5 minutes to die. Your party should be ashamed to be a part of this cruelty to these animals.

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Feb '14 - 7:10pm

    @ Steve – ” I doubt there are more than a handful of tenants who have deliberately “super sized” their houses, but if you have any evidence to support this please share…”

    Regardless of how they got their super-sized accommodation, do we choose to forget those in need who languish on waiting lists for months and years because there are no suitably sized houses available for them to use?

    I suppose we could go all victorian on them and move them into a 2-up 2-down regardless, on the principle that something is better than nothing…

  • jbx is right to remind people that there are invisible losers, families on waiting lists, unsatisfactorily accommodated, with some in the direst circumstances. However cack handed the policy has been in practice, we should not forget that its rationale was an attempt to provide for families in the greatest need.

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Feb '14 - 7:47pm

    i have to confess that i could have phrased it differently, in order to make it seem nicer.

    something along the lines of:

    “isn’t it also tragic that disadvantaged families find the state is unable to assist them in their time of tragic need, for not enough social housing was built during the evil years of the thatcher reign?”

    i did not, deliberately so, because it is important that the fragile petals here are habituated to the ugly mass known as ‘real voters’.

    you will note that the content has not changed, regardless of how i choose to present it.

  • Yes but where do the people in larger houses go to?
    I would have no problem with this policy if it only affected those who had been given the option of a suitable alternative.

    You wish to make those suffer who have no alternative…..

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Feb '14 - 9:02pm

    “Yes but where do the people in larger houses go to?”

    … Smaller houses?

  • There are no smaller houses available in many areas…

  • Nick Collins 28th Feb '14 - 9:31pm

    I’d have more (well maybe at least a little, currently I have none) respect for the LibDem parliamentary party if they had opposed this pernicious policy in the first place.

    “Smaller houses?” Where are they?

  • This policy is absurd and was poorly thought through.

    At the end of the day there are not enough 1 bed & 2 bedroom properties for people to move into.

    Successive governments over the years wanted more 3,4 Bedroom properties built as this was seen as a better long term resource.

    We also have a situation where councils make it policy not to house people with children in high rise flats.
    There have been a lot of single people affected who where placed and lived in 2 bedroom high rise flats who are now subjected to the bedroom tax. These people are now forced out of these flats and more often than not, pushed into renting in the private sector with inflated rents that end up lining the pockets of the property landlords and at an extra added expense to the taxpayers.
    Since families with children will not be housed in these properties they often now either sit empty as nobody will bid on them, whilst they sit empty it s lost revenue for the local authority. or the even more perverse thing is that these properties are now being let instead to “single” people who are in work and not reliant on housing benefit so they are not subjected the bedroom tax. How is that fair? the person living in social housing but not claiming benefits is still in effect being subsidized by cheaper rents . It makes no logical sense whatsoever.

    I agree with Steve Way “I would have no problem with this policy if it only affected those who had been given the option of a suitable alternative.”

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Feb '14 - 9:48pm

    “There are no smaller houses available in many areas…”

    Ah, in that case, rather than leave tens of thousands of unused rooms whilst there are families in need, i’ll click my fingers and magic into existence 10,000 new social micro-flats .

    “Think of the children” is so twentieth century.

  • Let them eat cake eh Jedi? How very caring….

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Feb '14 - 10:06pm

    “Let them eat cake eh Jedi? How very caring….”

    and yet… i missed your call for a penny on income tax in order that a new generation of homes for heroes can be built!

    please, don’t make this in to a thing, i did start by saying only that having freed x number of thousand rooms for NEW social lets ANY party might be tempted to repeal a divisive and disruptive policy such as this.

  • Michael Clements 28th Feb '14 - 10:39pm

    Tim Farron won’t be the only Liberal Democrat to be disaoointed if we continue to support it (the bedroom tax) in its current form

  • Bedroom tax supporters assume that even if the means may be unpleasant the end result is a a more efficient allocation of social housing. But there is no reason why this should be the case. It may well be that the numbers of people you end evicting from properties for which there is no demand is larger than the number you manage to evict from properties in demand. The bedroom tax is peculiarly malign not only in causing untold misery but in the fact that depending on given patterns of supply and demand it may well end up leading to a less efficient utilisation of social housing. Really it is an example of just the sort of central planning by the state that the right usually derides but then of course the right is always ideologically flexible if it sees a means of making life worse for those it sees as its natural enemies.

  • Cllr Nick Cotter 28th Feb '14 - 11:06pm

    Fine Tim,

    But why ON EARTH did the Lib Dem Commons Parliamentarians vote through this wretched Dickensian Bill in the First Place ??

    I am Proud to say that my Dad – an UN-ELECTED Lib Dem Parliamentarian voted AGAINST this dreadful dreadful piece of Legislation !!! The next time I hear a Lib Dem MP moaning on about the unelected Peers I Might have to contain my Annoyance !!!!!!

    Cllr Nick Cotter.

  • @Jedi
    Actually if you search back on threads where taxation is referred to you will see I support higher rates of tax and started to vote Lib Dem when they openly advocated the extra 1p.

    Also when you “started” you made the misrepresentation that people succumbed to the temptation to supersize their housing at the expense of others. Social housing is allocated, far too many of those affected by this made no choice to have an extra room, or find themselves stuck in a larger house with no alternatives available. It is entirely unfair to punish those with no options.

  • jedibeeftrix 28th Feb '14 - 11:15pm

    good for you, steve, it’s an honest enough ambition.

    i look forward to seeing it in the lib-dem manifesto.

  • This might be deeply unpopular with our activists but what does it say about us as a political party, if at the end of the Parliament we seek to distance ourselves from the things we’ve done in a coalition?

    Hansard will show how all of our MPs voted and very few of them have voted against the government. And that’s not just for the ‘Bedroom Tax’ but for wider welfare reform, the ‘gagging bill’, tuition fees, the energy bill (carbon targets) and lots more things besides. It will sound pathetic if in a year’s time all our MPs are declaring their votes over the last five years as a mistake “from which we’ve now learned an important lesson” and promise to do better next time.

    On the doorstep, our people are unhappy about the policies we’ve supported in Government but – down here in the South – the floating con-lib voters have enjoyed coalition. They won’t appreciate us turning our backs on what we’ve done as it will make us look inconsistent, petty and untrustworthy.

    The strategists will need to earn their money by finding a way to stand behind our record in Government, win back our core support and (down here in the South, at least) reassure people that coalition with David Cameron is more likely than falling in with Miliband and Balls.

    We’re walking a tightrope but the answer cannot be to just jump off and turn our backs on what we’ve done in Government. Say it quietly, but with the population as a whole, welfare reform has been extraordinarily popular.

  • AndrewR puts his finger on the important issues with ” it is an example of just the sort of central planning by the state that the right usually derides” and when he points to the mismatch between available housing stock and those who are being encouraged/pushed to downsize. We have seen examples on these pages provided by Councillors who are closely in touch with local provision where they can show that the homes with fewer rooms simply do not exist.

    Clearly the policy has all sorts of problems. If it were more straight forward it would have applied to pensioners too, who probably account for the greater proportion of ‘over-occupancy’. In any case, a felicific calculus always seems to go wrong in practice. Although theoretically those who stand to gain ought to be considered to have much more reduced misery than the unhappiness for those who lose out, the latter group will be more vocal and there will be endless anecdotes of particularly difficult cases. And that is even before taking the housing stock mismatches into account.

    AndreR and others need to be careful when making assumptions about right wing prescriptions over this issue. We need to recognise that the right wing solution would actually be to privatise the housing stock completely with the consequence that people in anything considered as ‘over-occupancy’ would be routinely forced out. If we consider how the profile of social housing has changed in the last 40 years, we have to recognise that there has been a movement in this direction, which has exacerbated the problem.

  • Whatever the rights and wrongs it’s not a tax and politicians make themselves look daft when they try to claim that it is. A bit like when they mix up, often for political purposes, ‘debt’ and ‘deficit’. There is a chronic mismatch between the evolving housing needs of the population and the nation’s housing stock both private and public. It’s time a political party came up with a long term housing development and management policy to deal with it.

  • Andrew Noblet 1st Mar '14 - 12:39pm

    I hope that means the Lib Dems WILL oppose the bedroom tax!

  • No I guess it isn’t a tax, how about a denial of benefits?

  • Oli87 1st Mar ’14 – 9:07am. Asks. —
    ” …. …. what does it say about us as a political party, if at the end of the Parliament we seek to distance ourselves from the things we’ve done in a coalition?”

    Well, it might be a humble acknowlegement that we were wrong to be conned by those who pretended that punishing the poor had any connection with fixing the economy.

    It might say to the voters that we have finally come to our senses.

    It might say to the voters that we will no longer be shackled to policies born out of extreme rightwing Tory prejudice.

  • Robert, saying that the “BEDROOM TAX” as it is known by virtually everyone who is forced to pay it, is not a tax may be technically true but where does it get you? It makes you look as if you are trying to defend this dreadfully mean spirited and unpleasant action.

    If you want to do something about the housing shortage, why not build houses?
    Or alternatively provide jobs in those places where there are plenty of houses but no jobs?

  • JohnTilley 1st Mar ’14 – 3:41pm

    Robert, saying that the “BEDROOM TAX” as it is known by virtually everyone who is forced to pay it, is not a tax may be technically true but…………..

    I suspect the creation of the term ‘bedroom tax’ was a cynical act by those opposed to benefit changes to manipulate public opinion. If one asks people if they support a ‘tax’ on spare bedrooms then generally they won’t as most people quite naturally don’t like taxes.

    However if you ask if they support the removal of tax payer funded benefits for spare bedrooms, as in the private sector, then generally they do. This change in benefit payments is often referred to as the ‘hated’ bedroom tax. I have to say that apart from those who might be directly affected by the changes nobody else has referred to it to me in those terms.

    If you want to understand why housing starts are proving slow to recover then spend some time in the real world looking at the past annual accounts of the publically quoted national house builders. Those that survived the financial crash were very, very lucky indeed to do so and are taking time to gear up to the recovery.

  • @Robert
    But it isn’t “as in the private sector” where it only affected new claims. This measure affects those with no choice as to where they live and having been given no reasonable alternative to move to.

  • Robert,

    First, I do not live in rented accommodation. So when you say – about the hated bedroom tax that – “… apart from those who might be directly affected by the changes nobody else has referred to it to me in those terms” you are wrong because I have frequently referred to it in such terms. It is referred to as “the hated bedroom tax” by those of us whose concerns stretch beyond our own front door. Watching the debate (on TV) at the last Liberal Democrat Conference plenty of people used the term and some went further than describing it as “hated”. I doubt if many of them were being forced to pay the bedroom tax themselves, but most of them who are councillors and campaigners had direct knowledge of people who were being punished by this change through no fault of their own.
    Second, your declaration that –
    “…. If you want to understand why housing starts are proving slow to recover then spend some time in the real world looking at the past annual accounts of the publically quoted national house builders”. says something about where you are coming from. I am not sure that it signifies any great knowledge of house building or what influences housing starts.
    My knowledge does not come from reading “past annual accounts” of private companies who build for profit. My knowledge comes from some years on a local council housing committee and before that some years living and working in a charitable housing organisation. You might think that studying accounts is “the real world”. I happen to think that whilst I would not claim to be any sort of an expert, my experience is a lot more “real world” than planet accountant or wherever it is in the universe that you have your “des res”.

  • John Tilley,

    And it might say that we’d prefer to be in coalition with Labour which would be disaterous given the (un) popularity of Miliband amongst the floating voters we need to keep in places like Somerset, Devon and Cornwall.

    I worry sometimes that we seem to hanker after a return to opposition.

  • Oli87

    Please avoid saying “floating voters we need to keep in places like Somerset ” just at the moment. People in Somerset might take it the wrong way.

    But this discussion is not about floating voters, or Ed Mliband, or hankering after opposition – it is about getting rid of the bedroom tax. Our MSPs have already voted along with other parties to get rid of the appalling bedroom tax north of the border. I would guess that our MSPs opposed the iniquitous bedroom tax did so because it was the right thing to do.

    I would also guess that to say so in England would improve our standing with the core Liberal Democrat voters ( the 8% that Clegg has not yet alienated) as well as floating voters and reasonable minded people of all parties who think a tax to punish people who live in social housing is an example of a policy derived from the worst sort of saloon bar Tory prejudice.

  • I haven’t suggested I support the changes which have resulted in pressure on some residents of social housing. John Tilley isn’t the only person to have served on a council and I am quite proud of my 17 years as a councillor and the social housing that exists, against local plan policy, because I made it my business to get it built.

    What I am after in all this is some honest politics which is not what we’re getting when we try to convince people they are paying a ‘tax’ when they ain’t!

  • The floating voters of Somerset may be a bit annoyed with the party of ‘in’ when the unfortunate links between the Environment agency, the EU, and the lack of dredging quote ‘to make space for water’ are more widely recognised. They might hang us out to dry, if only they could find a dry spot! Somerset is not as firm as it once was.

  • Kay Kirkham 2nd Mar '14 - 12:55pm

    The problem wasn’t the policy but the fact that it was applied retrospectively in a situation where many tenants could not comply. Apply the policy to new tenancies only and to tenants who have unreasonably refused a new, smalerl home.

  • A Social Liberal 2nd Mar '14 - 2:10pm

    Jedibeeftrix said

    ” “Yes but where do the people in larger houses go to?”

    … Smaller houses?”

    Indeed, but as I said before, smaller houses rented out by private landlords, probably costing more in housing benefits and probably on a 6 month short let tenancy.

  • The Under-occupation cap, helps to free up bigger properties, this enables people with families and in actual need of bigger accommodation to get them.

    I don’t understand why so many people feel that it is acceptable, for a single person to occupy a four bedroom property and the tax payer subsidise it.

  • David Evans 3rd Mar '14 - 8:37am

    SS – Because that isn’t the issue. If you don’t understand the almost total irrelevance of your comment, you haven’t been paying attention.

  • I find impossible to reconcile the bedroom tax with fairness and I do not believe that anyone will believe the liberal democrats when they change there mind in 2015. They had an opportunity only recently to amend the policy. I have voted liberal democrat in the past 2 elections but cannot see myself ever voting for them again. I have also seen the terrible effects of Ian Duncan Smiths drive to cut disability benefits first hand another unjust policy which I never believed liberal democrats would ever support. I worry the liberal democrats will be wiped out as they have been in Newcastle upon Tyne undoing years of hard work building a core vote. The party leadership needs to wake up changing your mind on everything a few months before an election will not wash with voters.

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