Report on Housing Q&A – Judith Bunting and Lee Dillon

This report gives the gist of the discussion that took place in the recent Facebook Q&A on Housing. Thank you to everyone who took part!

At the sharp end, we had Lee Dillon, Councillor for Thatcham North and Leader of the Liberal Democrat Council Group, and Judith Bunting, Parliamentary Candidate for Newbury constituency.

Discussion kicked off with social housing:

SOCIAL HOUSING

We opened proceedings, with a question from Sue Farrant asking:

“How many affordable homes do West Berks Council say they have provided in, say, the last 5 years and how many have they actually provided?”

Lee Dillon replied that 101 affordable housing units have been built in West Berkshire so far this year [latest figure]. Last year West Berks saw 158 completions. The Council has set itself a target of developing 1000 affordable homes by 2020, but has admitted that is unlikely to hit that target and looks set to fall short by at least 150.

Tony Harris joined the debate, asking about the situation with the affordable flats in Parkway. Out of 111 housing units in the development, 37 are allocated to be social housing. Sadly, 4 years since the units were all finished, the affordable unit were still not being late. Tony was looking for an update:

Do you know if the situation with the affordable flats in Parkway has been resolved yet? We learned that due to another West Berks Council legal cockup the developers realised they could keep them vacant and still keep the council’s money.” He went on to ask, “Are the flats now occupied and have WB legal accepted responsibility?”

Judith Bunting answered with the latest news that, “The 37 affordable units have now been allocated to the social housing provider, One Housing Group. I understand, however, that only one flat is occupied. After all, it is just four years since Parkway was completed!” She went on to say, “West Berkshire Council accepted legal responsibility for this crazy situation some time ago, now. Sadly that did not speed up their quest to find in a housing provider.”

“This is a disgraceful situation”, commented Ian Hall. And so say all of us, Ian!

Lucie Thompson then asked: “How much social housing has been replenished, and why do we see less and less being built. The housing list bidding system, how many families are living in cramped conditions because there is a shortage of 3 and 4 bed houses.”

Judith Bunting picked up this question saying, Lucie, Afraid I cannot find precise information about the number of bedrooms. The latest figures from the National House Building Council show that in 2015 the UK built:

  • Detached Houses:         42,173                     27% of which was social housing
  • Semi Detached:              35,423                     23% social housing
  • Terraced:                          26,531                      17% social housing
  • Flats:                                 49,529                      31% social housing
  • Bungalows:                     2,484                          2% social housing.

Judith Bunting continued, “The problem is that not enough dwellings are being built altogether. The country needs a major programme of house building, increasing the rate of construction until we reach at least 300,000 houses a year and giving more freedom to social landlords, local authorities and local communities. Funnily enough, when we were in coalition, the Tories nixed the idea of any major investment in housing, although Nick Clegg’s proposals for a new garden city at Ebbsfleet, seem to be going ahead.”

  • Semi Detached: 35,423 – 23% social housing
  • Terraced: 26,531 – 17% social housing
  • Flats: 49,529 – 31% social housing
  • Bungalows: 2,484 – 2% social housing.

I’m afraid I cannot find precise information about the number of bedrooms. The problem, not enough dwellings are being built altogether!

Lucie Thompson“My point is that so many houses from the social sector were sold to families during the last 40 years that they are not replenishing those homes. This in turn leaves a huge gap for families living in a two bed flat, waiting for a house, then you have this crazy bidding for the house to even get it! Some families wait years!”

Rowena Lewis agreed: “I agree Lucie, it is a nightmare for any family on a single salary or person trying to restart after a change in personal circumstances.”

Lucie Thompson finished, saying, “I personally think there is a bigger need for social housing than affordable housing, currently, and that is nationally”.

COUNCIL HOUSING
Building on Lucie’s comments, Judith Bunting drew our attention to the graph below from the Local Government Association (LGA), posted by Judith, shows how the type of new homes being built has changed over the years:

Graph 1 - new homes, private and social sectors

“In 1981, you can clearly see the effect of Margaret Thatcher’s policies, in the dramatic drop off of council built homes [yellow line, Local Authority Housing]. Interestingly, the increase in social housing (grey line) comes in 1990, while John Major was PM. This is when social housing overtakes council housing for the first time. During the Blair years, 1997 – 2007, the rate of building of social housing drops off again. Gordon Brown oversaw a rise in the building of social housing, which then remained pretty steady during the coalition years. “

A presubmitted question asked specifically about Council Housing in West Berkshire:

“Other Councils still have Council Houses, why is it not the same in West Berkshire?”ow

Lee Dillon had no doubt about his answer: “West Berkshire Council could build Council Houses it if wanted to.”

Judith Bunting was also very clear: “There is no good reason why we do not have Council Houses in West Berkshire. The Conservative government of 1979 transferred the public housing stock to the private sector and created the right to buy. Today, though, it is a Council’s choice whether to build Council Housing again. Our Council has chosen not to do so, and shows no sign of changing their minds. It is worth noting,” she said, “that Reading Borough Council still builds Council Houses.”

Lee Dillon picked up with a comment on the cost of housing in West Berkshire, “One clear reason why we are in desperate need of affordable housing, from social rent, through to shared ownership is this …

Graph 2 - av house prices in WB
The average price of a home in West Berkshire has risen to a whopping £336k. Assuming a 10% deposit (£36k) you would still need a mortgage of £300k which requires a joint income of over £75k per year.”

Lucie Thompson joined in with the comment that“Sadly this also means the average earner and below will always be trapped in rented properties. It’s not just the North/South divide, it’s the rich poor divide and many middle class are being squeezed into poverty.”

Lee Dillon: “Spot on, Lucie.”

This brought Mel Macro of Hungerford into the debate. Mel made the point that the staggering size of the mortgage required to buy a house in West Berkshire had pushed her and her partner go with SO [Shared Ownership].

“I bought a shared ownership house as for us it was the only option to buy. Whilst happy that it enabled us to buy, to buy the rest of it we are limited – we are only allowed to buy up to 25 % at a time, which means 3 more lots of fees, solicitor charges etc. This effectively stops it being sensible/affordable to buy your own home outright. I don’t know if there is any talk so that all shared ownership homes have the same ‘rules ‘ or that they make it as easy to buy your SO home as they do your own council house.”

Mel Macro went on, “We bought the first one we were offered after losing out umpteen times, so there wasn’t a choice. With that and the fact that solicitor costs are almost double for shared ownership and you can only get a mortgage from a few banks it just seems like everything is against you!”

Lee Dillon: “Hi Melanie Macro, some Shared Ownership agreements allow people to staircase up in 5% blocks.”

Melanie Macro: “It doesn’t make any sense to buy 5% in my opinion, because it costs thousands in fees. You’re better off saving and waiting to buy a larger chunk, it’s the upper limits that upset me for that reason.”

Lee Dillon: “I think there should be a standard agreement that allows stair-casing without new legal fees at each point.”

Which sounds like a very good idea to us!

HOUSING WHITE PAPER

Judith Bunting drew our attention to the Government’s Housing White Paper, currently making its way through Parliament:

The full white paper can be read here, Fixing our broken housing market.

Judith Bunting said that although the paper shows that the Government recognises the scale of the housing problem, sadly, it still misses the main point. The paper omits any plans for new, genuinely affordable homes to rent.

Judith also drew our attention to the Joseph Rowntree Trust’s review of the paper, which makes the point that: “For many families in the UK, high rental costs make the difference between just about managing and not being able to manage at all: poverty in the private rented sector has doubled in the last decade, leaving millions trapped in insecure, expensive housing.”

A question from Sue Farrant highlighted the worst of the current problems.

Sue Farrant asked, “How many households are living in temporary accommodation at the moment? What’s the average length of stay?”

Lee Dillon answered, “Hi again Sue. Sorry I don’t have those figures to hand but what an absolutely on topic question – especially here in West Berks where have seen recently local companies stepping up to help out.

Only last week the Executive at WB considered the future of the Homelessness service going forward. They decided to cut the budget by £349k which will see a reduction in the amount of places where people can sleep from 108 units to 73 units.

So sadly those living in temporary accommodation with decrease but not because more is being done to get them into permanent homes but because there will be less provision or them going forwards.”

As in any discussion of housing in West Berkshire, the topic finally moved on to Sandleford:

Presubmitted Question: “It looks like the 500 house development in Sandleford is not going ahead. What does that mean for housing developments elsewhere in West Berkshire?”

Lee Dillon took this question: “Sandleford is expected to provide 2000 homes in the not too distance future, but a poorly chosen site has led to delay upon delay with the latest decision not now expected until the Autumn when we should have had a decision around about now.

“The impact of Sandleford not being built will be massive for communities across the District as it is designed to provide such a large percentage of our housing and what the Council have to provide in terms of a thing called 5 year land supply.
(which is where the Council have to show the government how it can always provide homes over a rolling 5 year period) the district as it is designed to provide such a large percentage of our housing, and what the Council has to provide in terms of a thing called 5 year land supply (which is where the council have to show the government how it will provide homes over a 5 year rolling period). The major riss is that the Council puts all their eggs in one basket with Sandleford. Now it is in trouble, we could see many more planning appeals ahead.

“This means developers will be free to put new sites up for approval and will have a higher chance of winning them [whether we like it or not] at Appeal as the Council wont be able to demonstrate to the inspector that we have a good supply of housing coming forward.”

Judith Bunting picked up: “Part of the problem is that Councils need to start insisting that developers to buy into the community focussed district plan. I understand that developers need to make a commercial profit, but we need to challenge ‘requirements’ for super-profitability. Developing large sites such as Sandleford and the London Road/Faraday Road trading estate is a privilege. Where such huge sites are concerned, developers should expect and be expected to accept community needs.

“In West Berkshire, the Conservative Council should have started planning to develop London Road/Faraday Road years ago, when they first took power. By now we could have a shiny new headquarters for Bayer at the Robin Hood Roundabout, as well as many flats across the site, mixed in with light industry. At a meeting of the businesses on the site in 2015, almost all agreed that the area needs to be developed. Most people said would be happy to move temporarily while building work went on. 2 years later, though, no development has started. Largely because the Council is insisting that a single develop takes control of the whole site AND that they expect the plans to be as profitable as possible. Here, there is no doubt that money is being put ahead of community needs.

“The Council should be also working with Newbury Football Club to make the most of the ground on Faraday Road. With cooperation, the Council could help the club create a modern site with artificial pitch, which the main team could share with women and the 350 youngsters that play with AFC Newbury each week. If development has started soon enough, the Council could have incorporated the recent Travelodge development as well.”

And finally, here is a graph that shows how the number of private renters, across the population, is increasing (palest blue). It’s not something people asked about, but it is a distinct trend and a dead good graph.

For comparison, below it we have posted a pie chart showing home ownership vs rental housing in Germany.

Graph 3 - Share of private renters is getting biggerGraph 4 - pie chart, Germany cf UK private renters

What is your opinion? Do you think it is healthier for society if more people rent their homes, or should be encouraging everyone to buy their own?

 

Reasons to vote Liberal Democrat


While in government the Lib Dem team has put through some of the most common sense, socially democratic policies this country has seen for a generation. 

If I am elected to Westminster, whether we are in Coalition with Labour or Tories or no one, I will work with our team to do more of the same. 

My Manifesto priorities are below. If you would like to browse the whole document, pls click here:

***

A World Class Education:  Education is the top priority for Liberal Democrats.  In government, we will guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class.

The only way we will achieve greater equality in the country is to make sure everyone has the chance to make the most of what they were born with, whether you’re a high achiever or work with special educational needs.

Prosperity: We want to balance the budget fairly. To do this we will cut some, but no where near as much as the Tories, who are planning £12bn out of welfare (compared to our £3.5bn of cuts). We will raise the additional funds by extending Council Tax bands – let’s have the same rule for all.

Once we’ve caught up with the deficit, we look forward to investing to build a high-skill, low-carbon economy.

Quality health care: We have a clear plan to allow us to invest £8 billion in the NHS by 2020. We are already investing large sums and have a plan for £3.5bn for mental health treatments in the next year. We will continue our campaign to guarantee equal care for mental health.

Fair taxes: Raising the Personal Allowance from £6,800 to £10,600 has been a huge change that only happened because Lib Dems were in the coalition. Isn’t it great that all the other parties have taken the policy on board? A fundamental change to British society that’s benefitting 45,600 people in West Berkshire. 

In the next parliament we would continue the plan  £12,500, cutting your taxes by an additional £400.

Science: A Liberal Democrat government would introduce a package of measures supporting innovation in UK businesses. The manifesto also includes ringfencing of the science research budget and introducing a green innovation arm to the British Business Bank.

Environment protected: We will continue protecting nature and fight climate change with five green laws. In the past 5 years we fought day by day to protect the green agenda. We have doubled investment in renewable energy and almost tripled renewable energy generation. 15% of all UK power now comes from renewables.

Climate change is critical and we will continue this focus, with the target of having 60% UK energy coming from renewables by 2030.

Housing: Locally and nationally Lib Dems will work to bring empty properties into use, speed up housebuilding and introduce new Help to Rent and Rent to Own schemes for youngsters in work without the means to afford deposits for rental or home purchase.

We would pursue a plan of building Garden Cities in parts of the UK where they are welcomed. We would double council tax on second homes to discourage the buy to let market. This is a very tempting investment while bank interest rates are so low, but it’s helped accelerate the boost in house prices and in rents.

Lib Dem Manifesto 2015 – in full

key_complete-manifesto

Today we published the Liberal Democrat Manifesto for 2015.

Our five top priorities are: 

  • A World Class Education for all: Guarantee education funding from nursery to 19 and qualified teachers in every class.
  • Prosperity for all: Balance the budget fairly and invest to build a high-skill, low-carbon economy
  • Quality health care for all: Invest £8 billion to improve our NHS and guarantee equal care for mental health.
  • Fair taxes: Raise the Personal Allowance to £12,500, cutting your taxes by an additional £400.
  • Our environment protected: Protect nature and fight climate change with five green laws.

The full manifesto also gives details on our policies on housing, policing, security, foreign policy and equal rights.

Read the full manifesto, herehttp://bit.ly/1IKxqKZ.

The Importance of the Rural Bus

East Ilsley and Compton (bus shelter + water table full) 010413 010gd

I recently visited Ivy in Ashmore Green. A woman in her eighties, Ivy is still bright and lively. When I met her, she had recently given up driving and was still reeling from discovering that her local busservice, the 76, that connects Ashmore Green to the rest of the world, runs once a week.

Now, all credit to Jacs Minicoaches for running this service, but abus that runs just once a week is not something around which you can build a life. A thriving community depends on more than just driving-age adults.

* How are youngsters supposed to get to school or take part in after-school sports clubs, revision sessions, dance, drama and music, if buses are cut?

* How are young people who can’t afford driving lessons or insurance supposed to get to work?

* How are our older residents, no longer confident with driving but still keen to visit friends, do their shopping and generally get involved in our local communities supposed to manage without buses?

A National Survey about bus services by Passenger Focus highlighted the how those living in countryside villages like East Ilsley and Inkpen as well as towns like Hungerford and Thatcham, regard better public transport as lifeline. If busservices were not available around half the people who responded to the survey say they would have been unable to make their journey. One third of respondents said the option to drive or get a lift was either impossible or very inconvenient. Not everyone has a Mum or Dad, or son or daughter standing by with a car to hand.

Rural pubs and shops benefit from good local bus services, but protecting rural transport is about more than economics. Keeping people connected builds community, and community builds health and happiness.

The government has introduced a scheme where Local Authorities can apply to become Better Bus Areas, which come with funding attached. These BBA grants are designed to provide an effective way of growing local bus markets, and so ensuring the survival of bus services. The deadline for our Council to apply for West Berks to become a Better BusArea is 21st June 2013.

How are people in our rural towns and villages meant to manage without public transport? Let’s cherish the services we have and help them extend and expand.

To keep up to date with Judith’s Views and activities around West Berks go to:http://www.facebook.com/JudithBuntingforNewbury

To follow her on Twitter, go to: https://twitter.com/JudithBuntingLD

Hustings update

20150326_192739

LOCAL NEWS:

Last week saw parliamentary candidates in our constituency taking part in the Hungerford Question Time, always an important staging post in election campaigning.

The usual suspects were on the panel, with Paul from the Green Party replacing UKIP Katherine who was indisposed. Proceedings were well chaired by Greg Furr.

Questions ranged from rail electrification (supported by all parties) , to business rates (Lib Dems launched wide ranging review last week), to plans for the NHS (lots of vague promises, Lib Dems only party with a costed plan to provide £8bn a year extra funding for NHS by 2020).

There will be further opportunities to quiz your representatives on:

  • Sun 19th April – 19:00             Streatley Hustings
    The Morrell Room, Church Lane, RG8 9HT
  • Weds 22nd April – 17:45         Newbury Political Debate, hosted by Buzz Magazine
    St Bart’s School, Andover Rd, RG14 6JP
  • Thurs 23rd April – 07:45         Economy, Taxation & Business hosted by Grant Thornton
    I will be debating with Ed Vaizey, Minister for Culture, Communications and the Creative Industries, at a Thames Valley hustings  in Reading
    Madejski Stadium, Junction 11, M4, Reading RG2 0FL

If you are able to come along to any of these debates, I look forward to meeting you. Do come and say hello at the end of the event.

Equality Matters

IMG_2134

EQUALITY MATTERS:

The inequality we are seeing now began, in our country, in the eighties with Big Bang. The Greed is Good and the Loadsamoney mentality permeated the Thatcher years. The same attitude continued in certain circles through the Banker Worship of the Blair era and lies behind the crippling costs of social welfare in our country at the moment. I never got with that programme.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to penalise those who do well. The Liberal Democrats are the party of success and achievement. When the richest one percent of Britons own the same amount of wealth as 54 percent of the population, however, something has to change.(1)  

Economist, Thomas Piketty, warns that if inequality in the West continues to grow at the current rate, society as we know it will collapse. At present, the state is being required to make up in benefits for the poor salaries some companies pay to their lowest paid employees. We cannot afford to continue to do this. (2) . 

Let me offer you an example: Over the two years between 2011 and 2013 the CEO of SSE a received a 79% pay rise. His actual remuneration increased from £1.45m to £2.6m. Meanwhile, average wages did not rise at all and 10.6 million individuals in the UK were living in absolute poverty. (3) Funnily enough, trickle-down does not seem to be working.

Of course, many smaller companies have simply not been able to increases wages over the past five years. Understand that. Other larger companies, though, the kind who have been increasing shareholder dividends and executive pay, seem to have forgotten that if you increase the wages of your lowest earners, you will be rewarded with more loyalty and better work. Paying a decent wage takes away your staff’s need to worry on your time about when/whether they will receive their housing benefit, problems they may have with heating their homes, paying food bills or how they are to afford the school uniform. It’s that basic. Take those worries away and you get more focus, better attention to detail and a more efficient and effective job done. The political Philosopher Elder Shafir talks movingly on how just a little extra security helps increase people’s ‘mental bandwidth‘, which makes for a better life, better work and a better society.

From the point of view of the UK, as a whole, paying people a living wage releases low paid individuals from the bonds of in-work benefits, which releases pressure on the welfare system and so releases funds to pay for the schools, NHS, police, roads, army etc etc, essential services, shared by us all – including the people who run successful large businesses in the UK.

In government, the Liberal Democrats have smuggled through some of the most socially democratic policies for a generation and softened the blow of austerity a little, but there is still far more do to.

…..

Picture: Judith Bunting with Nicola Padfield, Master of Fitzwilliam College.

In 1869, Fitzwilliam opened its doors as a rooming society for students who could not afford Cambridge College fees. There after it continued to encourage students from modest backgrounds and support them through a Cambridge education. In the seventies, the College became one of the first in Cambridge to offer A level entry to students of state schools. In 1979 they opened their doors to women (including Judith Bunting). In 2014 the College welcomed its first female master, Prof Nicola Padfield. Equality Matters – Shout about it!

1    Oxfam – the The Relentless Rise of Food Poverty in Britain, June 2014

2    Capital in the 21st Century

3    Absolutely poverty is defined as earning 60% or less than median income ie: £13,728 pa at that time.

Lib Dem Policies – Delivered

I thought I would share my personal list of policies that were included in our 2010 Manifesto and have been delivered by the Lib Dems in Government:

It’s a wonderful list, including some of the most socially democratic policies this country has seen for a generation.

Not bad for 57 MPs.

  • Investing nearly £1 billion to crack down on tax avoidance, raising an extra £9 billion per year by 2015
  • Increase Capital Gains Tax to 28% for higher rate taxpayers whilst keeping it at 18% for basic rate taxpayers
  • Providing £400 million to give respite breaks to carers who work over 50 hours a week
  • Delivered on the key Lib Dem pledge of a £2.5bn Pupil Premium to bring extra funding to disadvantaged students. Its rate has now been increased further and is £1,300 per eligible pupil in primary schools and £935 per eligible pupil in secondary schools in 2014-15
  • Taking 3.2 million low earners out of income tax altogether through the key Lib Dem policy of raising the basic income tax threshold
  • Introduced a banking levy so the banks pay a their fair share of tax
  • Created a Green Investment Bank, triggering an extra £15 billion of investment in green infrastructure by 2014-15
  • Scrapped the expensive and impractical ID cards programme
  • Increased funding for dementia research by 150%, reaching £66.3 million by 2014-15 (England & Wales)
  • Investing around £400 million to make psychological therapies available for those who need them, including for the first time children and adolescents (England)
  • Introduced waiting times for mental health treatment
  • Introduced targets to ensure mental health treatments on a parity with physical health
  • Ensured the Government maintained the commitment to end child poverty by 2020
  • Phased out the compulsory retirement age
  • Creating a new, simple single state pension – a Citizen’s Pension – set above the basic means test level
  • Banned private sector wheel-clamping to put an end to rogue clampers (England & Wales)
  • Secured a judicial inquiry into Britain’s role in torture and rendition
  • Mapped out the Government’s path to renewable energy to 2050, including massive investment in low carbon electricity
  • Banned new coal-fired power stations that don’t have Carbon Capture and Storage technology
  • Ensured the overseas aid budget was protected from cuts – and hit the international 0.7% of GDP target from 2013
  • Scrapped burdensome Home Information Packs and improved energy performance certificates to make them more user-friendly (England & Wales)
  • End the routine detention of children for immigration purposes
  • Introduced the Green Deal, letting people pay for energy efficient home improvements with the savings on their energy bills
  • Improved our libel laws, including making it harder for companies to silence their critics and improving freedom for academics to publish their research (England & Wales)
  • Strengthened freedom of speech by removing the offence for using ‘insulting’ language from Section 5 of the Public Order Act
  • Switched off the controversial ContactPoint database for school children (England)
  • Removed innocent people’s DNA from the police database (England & Wales)
  • Vetoed the Snooper’s Charter plans to monitor everyone’s online activity
  • Ensured there is no replacement of the costly Trident nuclear weapons system this Parliament
  • Delivering an £800 tax cut to 25.4 million people by raising the income tax threshold to £10,500 in 2015, with 3.2 million low paid people being taken out of having to pay income tax at all
  • Restored the link between pensions and earnings, which had been scrapped by Margaret Thatcher
  • Ended the rule forcing people to buy a pension annuity at 75
  • Established the Equitable Life Payment Scheme and begun payments to people who lost their money, ending years of stalling under Labour
  • Agreed to the Vickers Report recommendation to separate retail and investment banking

(The original publication from the campaign team includes page references. Presentation is a little cheesy, though, so brace yourself:  http://whatthehellhavethelibdemsdone.com)

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.

Read more here: http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/sep/05/bedroom-tax-bill-splits-coalition-second-reading

And here: http://www.westernmorningnews.co.uk/Government-embarrassed-Cornwall-MP-s-bedroom-tax/story-22882954-detail/story.html