Speaking at prime minister’s questions on 30 January 2013, David Cameron said “we are now spending as a country £23bn on housing benefit and we have to get that budget under control.” What I disagree with is his chosen solution to this problem.
The Government says the under-occupation penalty – aka the bedroom tax – will help contain expenditure on housing benefit, make better use of current social housing stock and encourage benefit claimants to find work and free up more social housing properties.
If we delve deeper into this immoral poll tax, it is apparent that the “solution” targets the vulnerable. It is driven by an ideological scrounger mentality and tars all housing benefit claimants in social housing with the same brush, implying it will resolve the housing benefit crisis overnight.
Around 660,000 will be subject to the penalty, which represents around 20% of social housing tenants. In parts of the north of England as many as 40% of social housing tenants will be affected.
Each of the following will be assumed to need no more than one bedroom:
- An adult couple
- Other adults aged 16 or over
- Two children of the same sex aged under 16
- Two children aged under 10 regardless of gender
- Any other child under sixteen
- A non-resident carer who occasionally stays the night
One spare room will result in a 14% reduction in your benefit. Two or more spare rooms will see a 25% cent reduction in your benefit. In Camden, where I am a local councillor, that equates to £15 and £27 per week on average respectively.
According to the Government’s own figures the best case scenario is that this will bring the housing benefit bill down from £23bn to somewhere between £22.48bn and £22.12bn. This is pitiful, especially if one takes into consideration the misery it will cause to hundreds of thousands of people.
The truth is that the giant portion of housing benefit ends up lining the pockets of landlords with huge buy-to-let portfolios. The latest census data shows that private rentals in inner London have grown close to 400,000.
If private landlords in inner London alone were persuaded to reduce their rents by the same average percentage of say 20%, the housing benefit bill would be reduced to £21.14bn which is a cool extra billion in savings on housing benefit every year. This saving would increase to £1.9bn if all private landlords in Greater London participated, and £4.9bn if this was extended to landlords in England and Wales.
Instead this Tory led Government chooses to reduce housing benefit paid to foster parents even if their spare bedroom is occupied by their foster children. That’s in preference of not rocking the boat for private landlords. Once again, same old Tories.