August 13, 2013 - Bill Esterson's Westminster Diary

Bill Esterson



Up to 96 per cent of those affected by the bedroom tax have no where to move. 

The Tory-Lib Dem government introduced the tax which it says was to end what it calls the spare-room subsidy. This is when a tenant in council or housing association home has a room, which the government says is unoccupied. 

But the government says the bedroom tax applies to disabled people, to many people older people whose children have grown up and to many foster carers who are waiting to be approved or who foster more than one child. 

It also applies to many families with younger children who are going to need the extra room within a matter of years.

The policy means that tenants have their housing benefit reduced by 14 per cent if they have one spare bedroom, and 25 per cent if they have two or more spare bedrooms.

Yet more than 19 out of 20 families hit by the bedroom tax are trapped in their larger homes because there is nowhere smaller within the local social housing stock to take them. This is shown by figures provided by councils in response to Freedom of Information requests by the Labour Party.

For the 38 councils that provided full data, 99,079 families are expected to be affected by the bedroom tax, but only 3,803 one and two-bedroom social housing properties are available – just 3.8 per cent of the homes required to rehouse the families who are hit.

The bedroom tax was also supposed to save money by moving families to smaller homes and freeing up larger homes for those who are currently overcrowded. But the reality is that tenants are falling into arrears as they can no longer afford their rent and have nowhere to move. 

Meanwhile, those being evicted have to be housed in expensive private sector rented housing or in bed and breakfast accommodation, which costs far more than they were having to pay in rent to begin with and which has to be paid by councils who are legally responsible for housing people made homeless including those evicted. 

And the people who are living in overcrowded conditions rarely live in the same area as those with spare rooms, so government plans to get families to swap so both have the housing they really need have proved fanciful.

In Sefton more than 3,600 people were competing for 18 available one and two-bedroom properties at the time of the Freedom of Information Request. One Vision Housing had 8,360 people on the waiting list. Of these, 4,859 wanted one-bedroom homes and there were just six available.

As Kevin Appleton from One Vision Housing says about the bedroom tax: "It’s making life very hard for people whose lives were hard anyway." 

The reality is that the bedroom tax is just the latest example of how the poorest in our society are under attack from the Conservative government, which remember, has the full support of the Liberal Democrats.