Posted by: Carl Brown23/12/2011
The dust is settling on the government’s defeat over its plans for a bedroom tax for underoccupying social tenants.
The focus is now moving on to what the impact of the Lords amendment might be and what the government will seek to do next.
During the debate, welfare reform minister Lord David Freud said the proposal by Lord Richard Best to exempt households with a spare room from the tax would cost the government around £300 million in savings.
The eventual amendment passed watered down Lord Best’s amendment so that only those with a spare room who are not able to find ‘suitable alternative accommodation’ will be exempt.
This would, you imagine, substantially reduce the amount of savings lost. But the Department for Work and Pensions is still sticking to the ‘around £300 million’ claim.
This could mean one of two things.
1) The government is effectively admitting that there will be little or no alternative accommodation for tenants to move in to – in which case the claims of Baroness Patricia Hollis and others that tenants would be effectively punished for something that is not their fault carries weight.
2) The government is overstating the amount by which the amendment will cost the taxpayer. While not exactly an exaggeration to rank alongside the late Kim Jong-Il’s boast about his debut golf attempt (11 hole-in-ones, 38 under par), it nevertheless seems to be over-egging things somewhat.
The bottom line is that we will not know for sure the amount of savings to be lost as a result of Lord Best’s amendment until ‘suitable alternative accommodation’ is defined.
The debate over the bedroom tax is likely to increase over the next few months and it will be fascinating to whether the government will seek to overturn the amendment, and if so, whether it will compromise elsewhere to get the Lords on side.
From Housing matters
Tenants are the real losers in the Odu-Dua dispute