Friday, 06 March 2015

Lords hand government new 'bedroom tax' defeat

The government has suffered a fresh defeat over its plans for a ‘bedroom tax’ for underoccupying social housing tenants.

Peers this evening voted by 236 votes to 226 to accept an amendment by crossbench peer Lord Richard Best which would exempt certain vulnerable groups from the penalty if they have a spare room and there is no other suitable alternative accommodation available.

The amendment would mean disabled people, war widows or widowers, foster carers and those not subject to work-related requirements would not have to pay the penalty until they have been offered suitable accommodation and refused it.

The amendment was a further compromise by Lord Best after the Commons overruled an earlier proposal which would have exempted all tenants with a spare room and nowhere to move to. That move was rejected by the Commons after the government said it would lead to an estimated £300 million of the £490 million savings from the policy being lost. The government used financial privilege to prevent a further discussion today on that particular amendment.

Lord Freud said that the latest amendment would cost the government around £100 million.

Lord Best had earlier told peers that the cost implications of the his latest amendment ‘are not that frightening’.

He said social landlords were concerned about the underoccupation penalty which will hit around 670,000 households and said he was concerned they would effectively be the ‘tax collectors’ monitoring who is eligible for the penalty.

He said: ‘Social landlords have expressed grave concerns not only on behalf of their tenants but also because of the administrative and financial problems this will pose for them.’ Lord Freud however said the government would be relying on claimants to report their household circumstances to them.

Responding to the latest defeat, David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘Today’s 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.

‘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.’

Mr Orr said that given the opposition it was wrong for the government to use financial privilege in order to ‘shut down discussion.’

He said: ‘’We urge the government to listen to the clear message sent by peers by allowing this compromise to stand when the bill returns to the Commons.

‘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 government will now have to decide whether to try to overturn the amendment in the House of Commons.

Readers' comments (18)

  • is the Queen giving up some of her room's

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  • F451

    Colemankim14 - she doesn't have to, plus she owns yours too and you are ultimately her tenant!

    I think the position of giving up Buckingham Palace attributed to Charles would find a positive reception, especially after all the money that we spent doing up Windsor for his family to live in.

    It is not the richness of the Monarchy that is the drain on the taxpayer though, it is the wealth of the tax avoider that is - and they tend to be found closer to Tory Central Office, when no in the Lords or in their tax haven.

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  • Chris Wade

    Lord Freud comments about the cost of the amendment being somewhere in the region of £100 Million Has he considered the cost to vulnerable tenants being forced out of their homes. Who is going to foot the removal bill plus the cost of carpets redecoration etc ?
    As a RSL Tenant who would have been affected by this evil bill and also a Housing Association Board Member I don't have the not inconsiderable amount of money required and I know that the HA on whose board I serve doesn't either. Will the Social Fund pay it? I doubt it very much! moving home is expensive My late partner and I moved to the property I now live in on my own in 2007 and it cost well over £2K then. I doubt it has become less expensive in the intervening 5 years.
    I had to get into debt to pay for my late partners funeral as the amount of money I was allowed didn't cover the cost of the coffin never mind the other expenses . This Tory bill is ill considered, poorly thought out and shows a total lack of feeling or empathy. I would advise these incompetants to adopt the Duke of Wellingtons maxim and "Use Large Maps" They also dont take into acount that these are our homes just as much as if we owned them. How would they feel if they were told they had to move? The whole thing smacks of totalitarianism in an underhand form
    I pray that the Lords amendment is allowed to stand and I can pass my remaining years in a Home I love

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  • The tories are punishing 670,000 unsuspecting council tenants
    with a DOUBLE penalty based on their having xtra space in their
    homes , as they are penalising these tenants firstly by cutting
    housing benefit by £490million p.a , but they are also
    attacking these tenants a second time for the same
    reason of having xtra space in their homes by cutting
    council tax benefit by £500million p.a..............
    Meaning these tenants are faced with having to find a
    shortfall of £1billion p.a.
    Previously,local councils allocate homes based on an
    assessment of need and by using a points system
    and a waiting list.New tenants are then allocated homes
    according to their needs ,so that if a tenants family
    circumstances have changed many years later,its not
    their fault that their homes are now a different size.
    What do the tories want these people to do ?
    Parliament has suggested that local councils should
    offer them 670,000 1 bed homes................
    which are obviously not available.

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  • The humane thing to do would be to honour existing residents initial allocation, unless there is a disparity of more than 2 rooms, however this matter is one that overall they will view as being worth the "pain" of innumerous people having to move with it's emotional and financial cost.

    What I would say is I would be certain that it's not something that any labour govt would reverse once it's passed.

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  • I work 48 hours a week self employed and claim some housing benefit and working tax credit.

    Due to the buy to let trends and collapse of pensions i cannot afford a mortage and to buy a home.

    The council pays 60% of my rent on the grounds my rent is above what they decided was the average ( itself a dodgy figure as its based on housing association rents and not private averages,

    The net result is that i am already paying every penny i earn into rent arrears and bills.

    If they pass the bill i will no longer be able to work from home in my spare room.Its likely i will have to claim unemployment and move to 2 beds of which there is a shortage already.

    I just get the feeling the government i seeking to take us back to workhouses and poverty.

    Aand all the time i read how many billions companies make and how much the rich pay for this and that and i cant grasp quite whats going on here.

    The banks and rich bankrupt this nation , not the poor and low waged.

    The problem is not the benefit bill.


    I can see this bill is going to bring MAJOR civil problems.

    As long as the banks are still being bailed out what matters though.

    As long was keep up the illusion of national solvency.

    Why the hell dont they Cap private rents ? they are the big problem , that and second home owners leaving homes empty and people using housing for Greed.

    Oops i forgot , this is england and their is no such thing as Society.

    The uk is truely finished.

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  • Fugasi - may I take that you have an extra bedroom which you use as an office, and this is essentially being subsidised by Housing Benefit? If so - then I'm sorry but i do not believe that you are entitled to that benefit. Simple.

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  • F451

    @Tricky - do you not then believe in the government initiative for tenants to start businesses from home and use their entrepreneurial skills to improve the economy?

    Odd - I had you pegged as a true blue tory boy, almost with a vision of Harry Enfield in full Thatcher tribute. Perhaps I was wrong and you just against the poor trying to improve themselves. What is your position exactly?

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