The “Bedroom” tax

Almost as daft as the Council Tax Benefit plans are the proposals to cut Housing Benefit from households (aka the “Bedroom Tax”)

The purpose of this sounds good namely that if you have unnecessary bedrooms for your property then you should pay for them. So if you need one bedroom but have two then you lose 14% of your housing benefit or 25% if you have 3 or more. All sounds reasonable at this point doesn’t it..

But unfortunately this is yet another example of a poorly considered idea which fails to recognise the impact of the decision on the household or indeed the general taxpayer.

So what is happening now is that affected residents are now being contacted by their local councils and told that they have 3 options. These are:-

1) Stay in their property and pay the extra 14% or 25% themselves.
2) Take in a lodger to pay the difference (this option will impact on their other benefits for example Council Tax single person discount) so not really an option to most.
3) Move property and downsize say from a 3 bed to a 2 bed property.

Now unfortunately as Channel 4 News brilliantly exposed tonight, these options in fact cost more to the public purse than the supposed benefit savings.

So here is the Channel 4 example which is quite typical bearing in mind that 2/3rds of the people affected are disabled.

A single male was living in a 2 bedroom property. He suffers from leukaemia and does not have long to live. He has lived in his home for over 40 yrs as it was the family home. He therefore is deemed to have an extra bedroom and therefore will have to pay 14% of his rent which he can’t afford. However, the 2nd bedroom may be used occasionally for a carer or to store equipment relating to his health needs.

He is not able to pay this so will now have to downsize to a 1 bed property. However, he currently lives in Council housing and the only spare 1 bedroom properties are in the private housing sector.

Therefore, instead of the £75 a week that the Council currently pay for his 2 bedroom property in social housing, he will now leave and the Council will now pay £82 a week for his private sector 1 bed flat!!

What a brilliant idea that is… making a dying man move from his longstanding family home and then paying more as a result.

There are a number of other appalling examples that are now coming out into the public domain.

In Monday’s edition of I, Owen Jones highlights numerous examples such as parents of serving soldiers, those with broken marriages who have their children staying for holidays, the recently bereaved, disabled people with specially adapted rooms..the list goes on and on.

It seems that even David Cameron struggled to realise the impact of bedroom tax today during PMQs. No wonder – I am sure he thought it would bring down the public costs but it now appears will do the exact opposite as well as leaving a massive social impact.

End result will be more people getting evicted for rent arrears and then coming back to the Council claiming homelessness…again at public expense.


2 thoughts on “The “Bedroom” tax

  1. Camberley Jim

    They may pay more for him, but then a 2 bedroom place will become available to others that will save money and ease the housing situation.

    I don’t think you can judge a policy based on the affect on 1 person.

  2. rodneybates Post author

    We are talking about many, many cases sadly – I only wish it was one example or that was an extreme case – it’s not.

    You are right that it would free up a 2 bed however it won’t save money. The reason is that most 2 beds are needed by couples with young children currently using a 1 bedroom property so in fact they will now get benefit for a 2 bed rather than the 1 bed at present. There aren’t many households who would downsize from 3 to 2 as families grow and then adults leave home.

    Where I do agree is that we need to ease the housing situation – the biggest problem is where elderly people are living in large family homes and ideally would downsize to 1 bedroom rather than the 3 or 4 that they currently have. However, most will just stay put. If the Govt genuinely want to ease the housing situation and long waiting lists for housing, they should have more affordable housing and more attractive sheltered accommodation instead.


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