The Coalition

Opposing the bedroom tax

Today many are marching against the ‘bedroom tax’.  Here’s a reminder of what it entails: 

Under the changes, working-age people in social housing who are deemed to be “under-occupying” their home will have to move to a smaller property or see their housing benefit reduced; a 14 per cent cut for people seen to have one spare room and 25 per cent for those with two or more.

What is particularly important to note is that, although this explanation suggests that there is an element of choice, that people are being asked to decide whether to downsize or pay extra to have a bit more room, in practice there are often no suitable smaller properties for people to move into. 

Like Vicky Evans, Williams has found the added problem that there simply aren’t the one-bedroom properties available to meet the demand. “In London Borough of Greenwich, I’m told to date there are 15 vacant one-bedroom flats,” he says. “There are over 800 on the waiting list for them.”

One option is for people to move into a smaller property in the private rental sector.  However private accommodation is more expensive, and so the tax is in in fact incentivising moves which will drive the total housing benefit bill up rather than down. 

Patrick Butler offers some interesting further reflections on the legal tussles which have resulted in the government being forced to make a U turn, and concede that families with severely disabled children would, after all, be exempted from the tax:

Of the 660,000 people affected by the bedroom tax, around 100,000 live in homes specially adapted for disability, according to the National Housing Federation; it also estimates 230,000 people in receipt of disability living allowance will be hit by the tax. 

So far the government’s three concessions affect only a few thousand people. If much wider exemptions are won by disabled claimants, it has to be questionable whether the policy can survive. The stakes are high.

In response to this content-free sneer at Labour (calling the ‘bedroom tax’ something else won’t make it a fairer policy) the Spectator seemed to be invaded by uncharacteristic commenters, those anticipating anxiously the effects the tax would have on their own families, and others, not affected by the plans, but able to listen to the stories of others with an open mind, rather than join in the urge to demonise some of the most vulnerable in society.