On Wednesday 26 February during a Commons debate on closing the loophole on Housing Benefit regulations, West Lancashire MP Rosie Cooper called on Work and Pensions Ministers to scrap the Bedroom Tax completely.
In early January this year, the Department for Work and Pensions issued a notice announcing a ‘technical error’ in the legislation, in which tenants had been incorrectly forced to pay the Bedroom Tax. The error only applied to those in receipt of Housing Benefit from before 1996. Now local authorities are reviewing cases to identify those people that have been affected during which time their Bedroom Tax payments have been suspended.
MP Rosie has previously voted for the Bedroom Tax to be repealed. It is an unfair and unworkable policy which is now pushing families to the financial edge.
According to the Government this policy is intended to reduce the amount spent on housing benefit, encourage people within the social rented sector to move homes, strengthen work incentives and make better use of social housing.
As MP Rosie highlighted, figures from West Lancashire show how this policy doesn’t actually deliver on any of these measures. Speaking after the debate MP Rosie said:
“There is no question that we have to control welfare spending. The Bedroom Tax is not the way to do it though.
“If we look carefully at the Bedroom Tax, what we see is an abject failure of a policy that is actually costing taxpayers more and more not less.
“Here in West Lancashire only 33 working age households have transferred to smaller properties. Yet there are still 1046 tenants with the under-occupying indicator. Why, because there are not enough smaller properties for them to move to. This forces them to pay the Bedroom Tax because they have no other option.
“The effect of the Bedroom Tax is within six months, between in April and September 2013, 401 tenants with nil balances or in credit are now in arrears out of 625 in total. In 81 cases the council has issued Notice Seeking Possession.
“The speed with which people are going from being in credit to being put out of their home is frightening.
“The idea the Bedroom Tax saves money is nonsense. West Lancashire Borough Council is going to increase its rents by 4.6%, which will cost an extra £630,000 per year in Housing Benefit payments. You have got housing associations employing extra staff to collect rent arrears and to provide budgeting advice services.
“Rents are increasing faster than wages which is forcing more and more hardworking families into having to claim Housing Benefit again pushing up the cost.
“Discretionary Housing Payments are being used to prop-up the failing system, and they cost millions.
“The Conservative-led Government may talk tough on welfare but it is failing to deliver. Turns out in their case though talk is not so cheap.”