Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg has revealed the Coalition has instructed “independent” research into the impact of the bedroom tax (single room subsidy).
It is believed the research has been initiated due to rising concern among senior Liberal Democrat figures about the policy’s implementation and the deep seated resentment this is creating.
Apparently some delegates at its recent Glasgow conference were very critical of the Lib Dem leadership’s handling of the affair. Comments attributed to one senior Lib Dem source made clear that:
“while the increasing welfare bill had to be cut, the way the policy was being implemented was building up a great deal of public and political resentment……………………….He suggested that a better way would have been to have a more thoughtful policy with greater explanation, more financial help and a longer transition period……………………………..These are people’s homes after all, which some have lived in for 10, 20, 30 years…………………..Once people start to get evicted, then the political situation will change,” he warned.
In the Commons, Nick Clegg explained how the study was needed to find out whether tenants could opt to take a smaller house or flat to avoid a reduction in their benefits.
Harriet Harman, Labour’s deputy leader, who branded the tax “cruel and unfair”, urged the Deputy Prime Minister to scrap it, saying: “What you don’t want to admit, obviously, is that for 96% of tenants there isn’t a smaller home to go to and so it is no wonder that the councils are saying that the discretionary housing fund on that basis is completely inadequate to help all the families who can’t move and are falling into arrears.”
Mr Clegg, pointing out how he suspected the problem “varied enormously” across the UK, explained how research was now under way to determine the impact of what the Government calls the single room subsidy.
“Of course, I accept that there will be cases where for some households this change from one system to another creates real dilemmas which need to be addressed through the money we are making available to local authorities,” said the Deputy Prime Minister, stressing how the Coalition was now providing “hard cash for hard cases”.
He was obviously referring to the Discretionary Housing Payments budget which I often refer to as the “loaves & fishes” fund. Taking £2 Billion out of the HB scheme and expecting £150M to compensate surely beggars belief. As I travel the country doing welfare reform mitigation sessions I’m hearing from delegates that English & Welsh councils are only half way through the year and already struggling to meet demand with some very deserving cases losing out due to budgetary pressure.
In contrast, the Scottish Parliament has relieved the pressure on Scottish councils by just recently injecting £20M into this year’s DHP budget, to top up the original £15M allocated by the DWP. This will undoubtedly greatly assist the many thousands of social landlord tenants currently struggling to meet their rental liabilities. It also creates an obvious anomaly when you consider what’s happening south of Hadrian’s Wall.
Clearly, Bedroom Tax policy is destined to become one of the most debated issues in the run up to the next general election in May 2015. RSL management will be well aware its policy and structure is also a critical feature of Universal Credit as the size criteria is being used to determine the “housing costs element”.
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