Fighting the ‘Bedroom Tax’

My colleague Cllr Pat Moloney was so appalled at the dismal performance of Minister Esther McVey on the Today programme that he has tabled the attached resolution to the next meeting of the City Council.

Lib Dems know that major changes need to be made to Benefits and in principle we support the introduction of Universal Credit which will, in time, simplify the system and make it easier to seek employment. However most of us massively regret the reduction in benefit for under occupation. There are a number of reasons for this but particularly we oppose this because it is so damned unfair.
Firstly who decides what is under occupation. If one or both of a married couple snore don’t they NEED two bedrooms? If they often act as carers or just look after their grandchildren as good family members should don’t they NEED spare space? Or do families only matter when money is not involved.

Secondly, the poor are being made to pay for the incompetence of successive governments both local and national. The FACT is that we did not build cohesive communities. We built what we thought people wanted and in the short term those decisions were probabaly correct. Throughout the Country estates were built consisting solely of 3 bed semis. Many of the elderly and other people who live in them would like to live in smaller, cheaper accommodation BUT there isn’t any available on that estate where their friends and contacts are.

In fact in many cases such accommodation will not become available for years in some areas or indeed towns. So the Government have a principle which is unassailable, “why should the tax-payer pay for surplus accommodation” but have introduced changes in such a cack handed way by not understanding what surplus really means or understanding that for many people there simply is nowhere else to go.

So I believe that the Lib Dems should clearly say that after the next General Election we will review this wretched policy. The Tories are happy to wallow in their flint hearted, anti-poor sentiments and the Labour Party? Well they are in a bit of a bind.

Firstly they introduced the policy in the first place for the 30% of people on housing benefit in the private sector. Whilst in office they made no attempt to check what had happened as a result of their policy and whether it pushed up costs elsewhere by damaging communities and social contacts. Frankly Cllr Jake Morrison is right when he used the failure of the Labour opposition to say that they will chop this measure if becoming a Government as one of his reasons for quitting Labour.

Secondly, If they cannot even amend something that I regard as deeply evil what changes will they make if they become the Government in 2015?
Here’s the Motion for Council from Pat.

‘Bedroom Tax’

Council notes that it is now three months since the introduction of the reduction in subsidy for under occupied buildings commonly known as the Council Tax.

It therefore requests the Fairness Commission to:

1. Survey all out housing associations, Citizens Advice Bureaux and similar organisations working in Liverpool to find out:

The amount of rent arrears built up in the first quarter
The increase in administrative costs associated with the change
The increase in staff costs diverted to dealing with arrears
The changes in occupation rates as people try and divert to smaller properties

2. Survey all relevant organisations including LDL and CABs etc with a view to understanding the changes in the market, occupation evils and housing benefit paid out since the last over meet introduced its own bedroom tax for the private sector tenants in 2007.

3. Publish a report on both these issues in such a way as to support a general campaign by this council to seek support from willing MPS and Peers in all main Parties to get both these iniquitous benefits changes scrapped.

Cllr Pat Moloney

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. UK representative on UCLG Finance Committee, Executive Bureau and World Council. Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperon on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and three grandchildren.
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