The Tories hated ‘bedroom tax’ has costed thousands of the poorest families an average of £1,265 since it was introduced in April 2013, say Labour.
Labour is highlighting the plight of ‘bedroom tax’ victims ahead of today’s (17 December) crucial debate and vote on abolishing the government’s “cruel and unfair” housing policy.
Government figures show around 500,000 social housing tenants have been affected by the ‘bedroom tax’, or under-occupation penalty, paying an average of £14 a week toward their rent.
330,000 are disabled people and 60,000 are family carers, say Labour.
Social housing tenants under-occupying their home are required to down-size to a smaller property or contribute toward their rent through a deduction in Housing Benefit entitlement.
For those with one ‘spare’ bedroom the reduction in Housing Benefit is 14%, rising to 25% for two or more spare rooms.
A nationwide shortage of smaller social homes means the majority of affected households are unable to downsize, forcing them to shut up and pay up.
The Liberal Democrats backed their coalition partners in introducing the ‘bedroom tax’ as part of widespread changes to Britain’s welfare system. But leader Nick Clegg has since said the policy should only be applied against people who refuse an offer of a smaller property.
The party has also suggested that at least some disabled people should be made exempt from paying ‘bedroom tax’.
According to a report in the Daily Mirror, Liberal Democrat MPs will pass up the opportunity to scrap the ‘bedroom tax’ and side with their coalition allies in opposing Labour.
Affected households struggling to cope with a reduction in Housing Benefit can apply for Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs) to help pay their rent.
However, funding handed down to local authorities from central government is not ring-fenced, qualifying criteria may differ around the country and payments may be limited or on a short-term basis. Each council decides how DHPs will be allocated and there isn’t a clear set of allocation rules.
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves MP said:
“The Bedroom Tax is costing low-income families over £1,200, deepening the cost-of-living crisis for people who are struggling to make ends meet.
“The Government’s own independent report into the Bedroom Tax found fewer than five per cent of people had moved to another home in the social rented sector and 60 per cent of people had fallen behind with their rent. The Bedroom Tax has failed – it’s yet another example of Tory Welfare Waste.
”I urge MPs from all parties to do the right thing and vote with Labour to scrap the Bedroom Tax in Parliament today. Thousands of people who are struggling to survive can’t afford to spend another Christmas paying this cruel and unfair tax on bedrooms.”
The debate and vote are scheduled to take place in the House of Commons from around 3pm today (17 December 2014), but this time may change depending upon other proceedings.
MPs voted against Labour’s motion 298 to 266.