Friday, 27 November 2015

IDS's think tank calls for changes to bedroom tax

The boss of the think tank set up by work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has called for changes to the government’s controversial ‘bedroom tax’.

In a move that is likely to cause embarrassment to Mr Duncan Smith, the managing director of the Centre for Social Justice, Christian Guy, has said that he would like to see the government’s under-occupation penalty altered so that it is fairer.

Speaking at the National Housing Federation’s leadership forum last week Mr Guy told delegates from the housing sector he thought people should only have to pay the penalty if they had turned down a suitable downsizing offer.

He added that he thought it was ‘odd’ that pensioners are exempt from the policy.

He also conceded that there were ‘weaknesses’ in the policy and said that the CSJ recognised the extra social costs that the bedroom tax could cause.

Mr Duncan Smith set up the CSJ in 2004 after visiting deprived areas and being appalled by the level of benefits dependency in Britain. The right-leaning think tank has been very influential on the government’s thinking behind its welfare reforms.

One of the more controversial reforms has been the introduction of the social housing size criteria, commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’, under which social tenants of working age with a spare room will have their housing benefit cut from 1 April

Mr Guy’s comments were interpreted as the CSJ campaigning for change by cross bench peer Lord Best at the Chartered Institute of Housing south east conference yesterday. 

Lord Best told delegates: ‘Nobody has this available stock of smaller properties to which people can readily move. This is the problem.

‘The CSJ, which is Iain Duncan Smith’s own think tank, they have campaigned for a change to the bedroom tax so that where people have been made a reasonable offer of somewhere to move to and they refused to do that - they then pay the tax. Where there is no offer to move and there is no choice, then they don’t have to pay the tax.’

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