A group of local Lib Dems have written in calling for the Bedroom Tax to be scrapped (August 21).
These are the very same Lib Dems that were amongst Calderdale’s biggest proponents of the policy when it was brought in less than 18 months ago. In April last year both Coun Battye and Coun Baker joined the Tories in opposing a Labour Party motion which clearly spelt out Calderdale Council’s formal opposition to the policy.
In their letter they claim that the Bedroom Tax is “similar to what Labour introduced for privately renting tenants.” Their argument is that Labour brought in the Bedroom Tax for private tenants and it is only fair that people under-occupying in social housing should face the same penalties. This comparison is completely misleading and flawed for several reasons.
Firstly, the private sector policy – called the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) – was phased in and only applied to new tenants, not cruelly imposed on all existing tenants like the coalition’s Bedroom Tax.
Secondly, because the LHA policy was only introduced for new tenancy agreements it did not affect a single disabled person on day one of its implementation. By contrast, nearly two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax are disabled. In March 2013, before the policy was implemented, it was estimated that 230,000 disabled people would lose an average of £728 each, yet the Lib Dems and the Tories pushed ahead with it anyway. Approximately 100,000 disabled households in the UK had been adapted at an average cost per property of £6,000, meaning those that did choose to downsize incurred further adaptation costs to their local authorities.
Thirdly, it was always known before the policy was implemented that there were nowhere near enough small properties for those in the social housing sector to move to, even if they wanted to. It was perfectly clear before the policy was adopted that this was going to be the case. There is not the same shortage of small properties in the private sector and the fact that the LHA policy only applied to new tenants meant that existing tenants were not forced to search for smaller properties anyway.
Finally, the cost of housing benefit for tenants in the private sector is much higher because landlords set their rent prices according to market conditions. Social housing rents, and the corresponding Housing Benefit claims, are lower because the rent prices are held artificially low by local authorities and housing associations. The intended effect of moving people from under-occupancy in social housing to private housing therefore incurs an additional cost to the public purse, again making the Bedroom Tax an ill-conceived policy.
It seems the Lib Dems are intent on misleading people in order to try and justify their poor judgement. I am glad they have finally realised that they were wrong to support the policy, but this does not help the thousands of Bedroom Tax victims struggling to make ends meet. The only way to get rid of the Bedroom Tax is to elect a Labour Government.
Coun Dave Young
Labour, Calder Ward