Bedroom Tax: Judith Welcomes First Steps to Reform

Today – 5th September 2014 – the Liberal Democrats have taken the first step in reforming the bedroom tax by winning a critical vote in Parliament.

I have spoken to many people who are suffering from the bedroom tax in our area, and they are not pretty stories. People who are offered smaller places to move to, but in Tadley, when their life and their friends are in Newbury. People who’ve had extensive – and expensive – modifications made to their house for disabled children, who are told they have to pay up or leave, when a second sibling moves on. People who would like a spare room so that grandchildren can come and stay, but can’t afford it. Do we really want to be breaking up extended families?

The local Lib Dems have been concerned about the ‘spare room subsidy’ since it first came in, in May 2013. We invited Steve Webb MP down to bend his ear, soon after the bill was first passed. Steve is really the pensions guru – I will write separately about the great things he’s done on that front – but as the Lib Dem Minister in the Dept for Work and Pensions, he was our route to make our objections known to Ian Duncan Smith. And object we did.

Steve emphasised that one of the first things he’d done was to make sure additional funds had been made available for dialled people, via the Discretionary Housing Payments, but that has not been enough.

Today I am delighted to see that Lib Dem MP, Andrew George, has won a crucial vote in Parliament – the first step in the reform of the bedroom tax. As the Guardian puts it: Labour MPs join with Lib Dems to defeat Tories 306 to 231 in vote on private member’s bill sponsored by Andrew George” (see link, below). Under the proposals, which were passed today, existing tenants will not be penalised when they cannot move into smaller accommodation because this is none available or where there is a serious medical reason for an additional room.

The vote today means any financial penalty will go to the housing provider rather than the individual claimant. The new system will incentivise social landlords to reduce the number of tenants under-occupying their homes, freeing up bigger properties for larger families.

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