Two of our demands are met as Lib Dem MPs rebel against housing benefit reforms
Double success for What’s the Benefit? campaign
MPs have backed one of the key demands of Inside Housing’s What’s the Benefit? campaign by agreeing to hold an inquiry into controversial housing benefit reforms.
The magazine’s call for a parliamentary inquiry into the changes was answered when the work and pensions select committee announced on Tuesday that it will scrutinise the implications of the changes, announced in last month’s emergency Budget.
Overwhelming support from landlords, tenants and charities has also seen 655 people sign a petition voicing concern about the plans - smashing a second campaign target to secure 500 signatures.
The double success came as the first major signs emerged of a Liberal Democrat rebellion over the proposals.
Liberal Democrat MP Bob Russell has set up four early day motions expressing concern. Two other Liberal Democrats - Adrian Sanders and Mike Hancock - have signed the motions.
Mr Hancock said he suspected many of his colleagues on the front bench were also deeply uncomfortable with the reforms. ‘I did not get elected to hurt the poor,’ he added. ‘I am less than happy with what is going on.’
Mr Russell added: ‘I wish to add my support to the [What’s the benefit?] campaign to protect low-income families and pensioners who, as things are currently proposed, will lose their homes and be forced to move from the communities where they live.’
The committee’s announcement and the EDMs follow last Friday’s publication of the Department for Work and Pensions’ impact assessment into the changes, which admits that 100 per cent of local housing allowance recipients will be hurt by the reforms.
The report also acknowledges that the government’s plans to abolish the £15 excess payable to Local Housing Allowance recipients who secure a lower deal on their rent will leave the majority of tenants £10 to £15 worse off each week.
Housing organisations and charities said the assessment confirmed their ‘worst fears’ and accused the government of dodging major issues in the report.
Liz Phelps, housing policy officer at Citizens Advice, said: ‘The four bedroom cap [the proposed limit of £400 a week in LHA for a four-bed home] will disproportionately hit black and minority ethnic families where larger, multi-generational households are more common.
‘Yet the impact assessment fails to assess the discriminatory impact of this.’
A DWP spokesperson said the assessment had acknowledged the potential impact on minority groups, but did not have sufficient data on the size of the impact.