Central Government, particularly IDS et al at the DWP has consistently stated that the bedroom tax is fair and necessary. They have steadfast stuck to their guns and whilst they may get 10/10 in terms of effort and conviction. There has been scant little support for their claims. In particular a recent BBC report and the Works and Pensions Committee report on Welfare Reform have both cast significant doubts over the claims of the DWP. I will quickly run through some of the arguments put forward by Government and offer my thoughts.
Arguments put forward by the DWP in defence of the bedroom
1. It’s fair to those in the private sector
This argument has been rolled out by the Government over several of its more contentious policies (i.e. nearly all of them). In relation to the bedroom tax they cite changes to way in which housing benefit has been given to people renting in the private sector and the need to be fair to both sectors. They argue that the Local Housing Allowance (rules for the amount of housing benefit will be given in the private sector) don’t provide for a ‘spare room’ and that this should be replicated in social housing. True, apart from the fact that this argument is utter bollocks due to the circumstances under which the LHA was changed. Reforms to the LHA by David Cameron et al. and his hug a hoody Tories, applied to new claimants only. Alas not so avec the ‘spare room subsidy’. It has been applied to all current claimants of housing benefit in order to maximise potential savings to the government. It is very rare in life that you will go to sleep doing nothing wrong and wake up to find that you are. Well with the exception of getting married (when as a bloke you are always wrong). But this is what has happened with the bedroom tax. It is not fair, it is not similar, it is bollocks, like their argument.
2. It will help better manage the housing stock in the UK
Again, no. Whilst London and the South East will largely benefit from the bedroom tax due to the chronic
nimbyism lack of housing in that part of the world, overcrowding is a real issue in the South East, other parts of the country will struggle. As reported in my previous post the BBC has noted just 6% of those affected have moved, though many more would like to. Interestingly Joe Halewood in his Speye blog notes that this could just be standard movement within the sector. The BBC report itself is ambiguous over correlation between the bedroom tax and the numbers moved. Something to be mindful of. Regardless the House of Commons report into the reforms, available here highlights the lack of options for people very bluntly. The North-West and North-East don’t have enough smaller homes required for those affected by the bedroom tax to move into, neither does Wales. This has largely been due to the fact that Councils and social landlords had the dastardly inclination not to future-proof their developments against ill-thought through welfare policies and built to actual, rather than Government imposed housing need.Iain Duncan Smith must be furious. However, as this map of England according to Londoners neatly summarises, I don’t think Westminster cares that much. London is important, not the ‘North’ and its problems. Bedroom tax works in the South so sod it.
Another thing that needs to be mentioned is that a large number of those ‘under-occupying’ their home, technically aren’t. They have just fallen foul of the arbitrary rules brought in to support the bedroom tax. Take the following example. 1 family in a 3 bed house, mummy and daddy (or mummy and mummy or even daddy and daddy, I don’t care, this is a theoretical family) and little Timmy aged 8 and Emma aged 6. In most households this would be fine. Our straight/gay/transgender couple get one bedroom, Timmy gets a place for all his Pokemon cards and Emma can have her space for what the hell it is little girls have (I come from a family of 4 brothers, as such I don’t have lot of source material for this example). But this is a bedroom tax affected household, under the rules for the spare room subsidy (bedroom tax’s official name) this family is under-occupying. Any children under the age of 10 are expected to share a room regardless of their sex. Under 15s are expected to share if they are the same sex.This scenario is replicated across the country. What would
Jesus you do? Move to a property where your kids will have to share a room or stick it out so they can have at least some vestiges of dignity*.
3. It will save money
When I first came across the policy I did the equivalent of this adorable dog (see left). There are inherent contradictions in the reasons given for the bedroom tax being put forward by the Government. The notion of managing housing stock better is laudable. The ‘nudge’ via bedroom tax questionable. But the only way the tax acts as a cost saver is if more people stay put and fork out for the reduction in housing benefit. Thus perpetuating the ‘poor’ management of social housing stock. It is a perverse incentive to the Government and exposes the utterly fuctarded thinking around the policy. These two competing aims actively undermine each other.
Additionally, given the lack of smaller social housing for those affected to move into many are having to move into the private sector. Where rents are higher and where the taxpayer will actually be paying more for a smaller property. For an insightful, if slightly dated and hysterical example of this, visit the another Speye blog by Joe Halewood. Well worth a read.
A final point to make is that those most likely to be in a home unsuitable for their needs (according the rules set in place by the Government) are not included in the measures. This groups is of course the over 60s, particularly those not longer of working age (over 61 at the moment, soon to be 63 and then basically until your last breathe on this Earth if Gideon Osborne has his way). This bunch of largely Tory voting, space wasters (sorry Gran!) having deliberately been left out of the bedroom tax even though they are most likely to have more than 2 rooms spare. Why, ‘cos no-one wants to be seen as the party kicking out old ladies from their homes. Looks like the Tories learnt from the Poll Tax after all.
*Full disclosure, I shared a room with my brother until I was about 14, aside from his constant farting and habit of sleep talking/snoring like a whale it was OK. But the moment I had my own place was bossmense. Coming from a larger than average family I fully appreciate the need for space and some privacy.