Deputy prime minister’s comments come as 1,000th backer joins campaign
Clegg: benefit cuts are hard to justify
Nick Clegg has waded into the row over housing benefit reform by suggesting proposed cuts make it difficult to justify replacing the Trident nuclear weapon.
The deputy prime minister spoke out as Inside Housing’s What’s the Benefit? campaign for fair reform of housing benefit gained its 1,000th
signature of support.
On Monday, at a question and answer session with the public in central London, Mr Clegg said replacing the Trident nuclear deterrent would be hard to explain to vulnerable tenants: ‘It will be difficult for someone who is going to receive less housing benefit because of the changes we are introducing to understand why at the same time we should spend huge, huge sums of money in a hurry on replacing Trident in full.’
Mr Clegg added that access to affordable housing is ‘one of the biggest long-term problems we face as a country’.
Following a report published by the Chartered Institute of Housing this weekend, which said the ‘golden age of homeownership’ was over,
Mr Clegg said he found it ‘heartbreaking’ to see young families in his constituency unable to afford a home of their own. He added that the government was due to make a number of announcements on homeownership and affordable housing.
‘One thing we are doing is dramatically decentralising power, making it easier for local communities to decide for themselves where they want new homes,’ he said. He also attacked the current council housing finance system for preventing councils from building new affordable housing.
Inside Housing’s What’s the Benefit? campaign for reforms to housing benefit has now gained support from 1,036 people in the two months since its launch.
Leslie Morphy, chief executive of homelessness charity Crisis, said: ‘It is vital that as wide a coalition as possible highlights the consequences of the cuts and calls on the government to rethink them. Inside Housing’s campaign is a very welcome sign of the strength of feeling.’
The Building and Social Housing Foundation joined the debate this week with its submission to the 2010 spending review. It said that if the government wants to restrict housing benefit claimants to the lower end of the private rented sector it could set a percentile cap ‘differentially according to the claimant rate in a given area’.
It added: ‘Capping the local housing allowance at the 30th percentile of rents in an area where 35 or 40 per cent of private renters are claiming housing benefit will inevitably result in a proportion of claimants being unable to find accommodation within their benefit entitlement.’
Mr Clegg’s comments came as chancellor George Osborne played down reports of a row with Work and Pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith over the cost of his plans for welfare reform.
What the Budget planned for housing benefit
- Limits of £250 per week for a one-bed property and £400 per week for four or more bedrooms.
- Local housing allowance rates set using the bottom 30 per cent of rents rather than the median from October 2011. LHA linked to the consumer price index, rather than the retail price index.
- Cutting housing benefit by 10 per cent for claimants on jobseekers allowance for more than a year.