Bedroom tax: amended amended amendment will be overturned by Coalition

Despite enormous pressure, yesterday the House of Lords defied the Government on one last amendment to the housing proposals in the Welfare Reform Bill – on the ‘bedroom tax’ for underoccupying social tenants.  It was an amended and watered down version of the amendment that the Lords has supported a couple of weeks ago.  Unfortunately the Government immediately signaled that it would again reverse the Lords’ decision when the issue returns to the House of Commons.

The Lords decision was achieved due to a handful of LIb Dem peers voting against the Government.  Of course, a similar stand by Lib Dem MPs would make it impossible for the Government to get its way in the Commons.  But if form is anything to go by, Lib Dem MPs seem capable of failing to support even their most cherished long term policies.

The ‘bedroom tax’ proposal was hardly noticed when the Welfare Reform Bill was first introduced – although Red Brick covered it here and here and here – but has become an iconic symbol of the meanness of the Bill and the Government’s desire to inflict punishment on social tenants for existing.  It will inflict benefit cuts of £14/week on tenants deemed to be ‘underoccupying’ their homes by a single bedroom.  Even the Government admits that the vast majority, indeed nearly all, of the tenants affected will not be able to move home because smaller units are not available for them to move to.

Lord Richard Best moved a new amendment to the proposal which would ameliorate the impact on vulnerable groups, including disabled people, those not required to work, war widows and foster carers.

Richard argued: ‘Even though this amended, amended amendment is now providing much less relief than I feel the situation requires, it nevertheless draws a line by mitigating at least some of the hardship for at least some of those on the lowest incomes, and now exclusively for those who are not in a position to go out to work because they act as carers or are disabled themselves.’

Minister Lord Freud accepted that most of the 670,000 affected people would not be able to move, but said they had options available to ‘make up the shortfall’ and stay in their home.  Presumably he had in mind freezing or starving among his options.

Over 70 housing and disability organisations wrote to MPs calling on them to support the previous, more wide-ranging amendment, citing examples of families that would be affected, including Grandparents who share the care of their grandchildren; families in which two same-sex teenage children have their own bedroom for privacy and study; disabled tenants who need an adapted room to live a dignified, independent life.  Additional bedrooms in such circumstances would be taken for granted and regarded as entirely reasonable by the vast majority of people.

Following yesterday’s vote, David Orr of the National Housing Federation, which has campaigned tirelessly on this issue, said this result ‘is a victory for common sense and fairness. We are delighted that peers have stood firm and yet again voted to lessen the impact of the bedroom tax. ‘Peers and MPs of all parties have voted to amend these proposals. They have been supported by tenants, social landlords and nearly 80 organisations concerned with housing, family issues and disability. ‘Together, we have shown that it is simply unfair to penalise some of the most vulnerable families for under-occupying their homes when they have nowhere else to move.  For disabled people, war widows and foster carers, with nowhere else to go to, this could mean the difference between making ends meet and living in poverty.’ 

The campaign can be followed on the NHF website at http://www.housing.org.uk/

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3 Responses to Bedroom tax: amended amended amendment will be overturned by Coalition

  1. danfilson says:

    Our problem is that we obsess about creating higher rates of income tax, not being content with a marginal rate of 40%, whilst shying away from taxes on wealth! It’s a curious position – we cannot make taxes (IHT) on death and lifetime transfers stick by combatting the abound acne devices; we get gulled by “asset rich, cash poor” arguments against imposing a mansions tax affecting just 0.5% of the nation’s homes; we baulk at extending capital gains tax to the one major wealth asset that cannot walk away unnoticed, the owner-occupied home; and we cannot devise an extension of Council Tax bands beyond the existing ones and breaking the multiple relationship to the Band D rate, thus meaning that any new Band K or whatever will still be a drop in the ocean to a Sultan or oligarch.

    Until we grasp that the cause of inequality is inherited wealth rather than high income we won’t tackle inequality effectively. Frankly I thing taking two-fifths of every extra pound you earn is a reasonable limit, but wealth is something I would attack with gusto.

    I can make a mansions tax work but the speed with which some London MPs and CLPs have rubbished even the concept makes introducing it harder still. For these people to row back from their very quotable positions will prove, for them, very tricky. We won’t win the next General Election on the back of the votes of Georgian villa owners in NW5 or luxury flat owners for that matter. But we will if we show ourselves serious about addressing wealth inequality. The problem is showing those aspiring to wealth that in reality very few people reach great wealth without inheritance and that the cash poor occupants of £2+million pound mansions have a different concept of income poverty from those living on benefits, low wages or even modest salaries.

  2. rosemarie rivers says:

    The bedroom tax will only make more rent arrears and is aimed at people on low income. I have lived in my house for seventeen years brought up a family of five done the house and garden up why because I am now disabled and my husband is my carer should we be false to move because this ls what will happen. This is not a house it is our HOME! We can not afford to move and now it looks like we will not be able to stay.

  3. efgd says:

    The LibDems under the leadership of NC are basically an irrelevance or a lap dog at best to the Tory Blues.

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