Wirral’s Labour Council and bedroom tax sophistry

The Labour run Wirral Council is patting itself on the back in the local newspaper the Liverpool Echo tonight for finding £75,000 to help the most deserving bedroom tax cases.

This is the same council who received £995,795 in discretionary housing payments (DHP) funding from central government and COULD have added £1,493,692 to this….yet it chose to add £75,000 or just 5% of what it could have added.  Of course they don’t tell you that in the article and the pliant local evening newspaper of course has to consider just how much advertising spend Wirral council has with the Echo so the journalist ever so conveniently fails to mention this too.

Both the Labour councillors and the local paper also omit to say that Wirral has 3,571 households affected by the bedroom tax with an average deduction of £14.01 per week meaning that the bedroom tax take from Wirral residents is some £2.61m per year.

This means the generous burghers running Wirral council has put in about 2.8% of the total taken from vulnerable households in Wirral or should that be their whopping £75,000 will not reach 97.1% of those vulnerable households hit?

While any council adding any level of money to help bedroom tax victims is welcome, to claim plaudits for this miserly amount is in local jargon severely taking the piss.

Finally the Echo claims in this sycophantic piece of pretend journalism that : -

“Next week the Wirral Campaign against the Bedroom Tax has organised a march against the spare room subsidy through Birkenhead.”

Yes I can see the BAN THE SPARE ROOM SUBSIDY banners now can’t you reader?  I wonder if the Echo will send along the same numpty of a reporter to cover this?

Maybe it will change to Spare Room Subsidy is IDS’s perfidy altogether now

Spare room sub – si – dee is ID -esses – per-fidy, Spare room sub – si – dee is ID -esses – per-fidy!

PS – Just noticed that the picture the Echo is using features a lady underneath the balloons (black top, red skirt) who won her bedroom appeal 2 weeks ago!  Now hows that for irony dear reader!!

 

Social Housing and branding – Never knowingly sold anyone?

A flurry of very good articles about social housing as a brand have appeared in the last day or so and not before time. Unlike the John Lewis Partnership strapline of Never Knowingly Undersold, social housing is merely never knowingly sold.

Colin Wiles who is always thought-provoking covers most of the contributors in a piece in Inside Housing and cites Tom Murtha – who I suggested (in jest) on Twitter last week has had more influence now he has retired than when he was a housing chief executive – who is a key player in the SHOUT campaign to give good press to social housing and what social housing is which I said two years ago here is all about its economic benefits yet it is and has never been sold that way!

Tom Murtha has and is beginning to sell housing and get the message out there.  However, Tom has retired and who currently working in housing is selling housing?  Should it not be every housing professionals job and backed up by a national body?  Of course it should but that national body is not there. So it is to Tom’s personal credit that he is getting the message out yet to the housing ‘sector’s’ eternal shame that it is not.  Every industry has a lobby for it yet social housing does not!

Social housing provides the best quality rented housing option over the PRS, the best quality service and the best price and is hugely in demand (waiting lists) YET bizarrely it is portrayed as the housing of last resort and vilified.  In no other industry would the best product and best service all at the best price have such a woeful reputation.

In no other industry would it be ALLOWED to happen…Yet that is what HAS happened to the social housing model – and regrettably the people who have allowed that to happen are the people who work within social housing and because they have never SOLD social housing. Social housing has NEVER BEEN SOLD let alone undersold.

There is also not one single body or agency to do this as CIH does not do this, NHF look after the 60% of social landlords who are HAs and a myriad of others lobby for parts of social housing; EROSH for sheltered housing, SITRA et al for supported housing and Shelter and Crisis and Homeless Link etc for homelessness.

Yet that does NOT exclude all the Chief Executives of the 1000+ housing associations and other social landlords – errantly referred to as the ‘sector’ when the absence of any unifying body exists – for their ineptitude over the last 30 years or so.

In 1981 social landlords had 3 in every 4 properties that were rented and now they have less than 1 in 2 and has recently been overtaken by the PRS.  Again I ask in what other industry or that misused term ‘sector’ would the model with the best product, best service and at the best price be ALLOWED to reduce so dramatically?

While the sector can rightly state this is largely the fault of Right To Buy it still, unfortunately, has an ambivalence and resistance to any criticism of its role in this fall – and business fail – of the social housing model.

Social housing is ONLY cheaper because it is subsidised goes the refrain, yet the £4.5bn over 4 years, the £1.125bn that social housing receives in capital subsidy from central government returns rent levels which save the taxpayer the best part of £5bn per year AND it is the ONLY place where the sick, the old and the disabled – the SODs can live.  That is what social housing gives in return for the ‘subsidy’ which correctly HAS to be viewed as a very efficient invest to save model.  YET when have you heard that no-brainer of an economic argument be stated by anyone in the housing ‘sector?’

Never knowingly sold!

The (naive?) optimist in me senses that the ephemeral ‘sector’ is beginning to change and the debate over branding social housing is evidence of that.  Yet the realist, not cynic, within me has to accept that the social housing ‘sector’ is as quick to accept criticism and as quick to change as an elephant on skis going down a giant slalom!

Why – with social housing being a hugely cost-effective invest to save initiative that saves the country and the individual taxpayer a fortune – is it that no political party advocates it and why Joe Public maintain it is the housing of last choice?

That is the question social housing professionals refuse to face and consider as mea culpa is not in its lexicon of thought.  It is long overdue that they should and even more overdue that social housing is knowingly sold else it will go under!

 

 

 

Prisoner entitled to 4 times the bedroom space than a social tenant!

A prisoner is entitled to a room four times the size that the DWP maintains is a bedroom for a social tenant.

I was alerted to a Ministry of Justice document called Certified Prisoner Accommodation which sets out the minimum sizes for prisoners and the relevant size issue is detailed below and is from ppage 45 of the MoJ document

prisoncellmimsize

Note it says minimum size for a single cell is 6.8msq or 73.31 square feet of floor space

Now skip to the DWP guidance issued in HB circular U6 of 2103 (Yes that’s the one they rushed out after the Fife room size bedroom tax wins aka the Capt Mainwaring guidance!)

Paragraph 5 of this says: -

In determining whether or not a room is a bedroom the landlord may consider a number of factors, but one of these must be whether or not a room is large enough to accommodate at least a single bed

To read that literally it says if a room can fit in a single bed (and nothing else) then its a bedroom. That is the view of the DWP.  You could have no space at top, bottom or any side of the single bed in such a room according to DWP ‘guidance.’  It could also mean literally a room is a bedroom if it can fit a single bed in it standing on its end about 3ft x 2ft or 6 square feet! Yet a single bed is typically 6 feet 6 inches in length and about 2ft 9 inches at the narrowest making 17.88 square feet which the DWP by definition say is big enough for a bedroom.

Hence a prisoner is entitled to 73.31 square feet or more than 4 times the floor space of the 17.88 square feet the DWP deem is big enough for a social tenant!

 

 

Dangerous mistruths from Lib Dem bedroom tax apologists

Today sees the NPI think tank release a report saying the Lib Dems are right on the bedroom tax -

This is a lot of hot air based on ignorance of fact and a totally false premise:

It says:

“The concern that we should make better use of the social rented sector is legitimate: 8% of social rented households are overcrowded while 40% are under-occupied.

What a load of very dangerous nonsense this is, the 40% of social housing is under-occupied when the actual figure is just 10% as the English Housing Survey 2013 says by contrast:

• Under-occupation remained much more common in the owner occupied sector: around half (49%) of owner occupiers were under-occupying their homes in 2012-1 3, compared with 15% of private renters and 10% of social renters.

However, there was a decrease in the proportion of overcrowded households in the social rented sector

• Between 2010-11 and 2012-1 3, the rate of overcrowding in the social sector declined from 7% to 6%; with 241,000 overcrowded households in the sector in 2012-13, compared with 278,000 in 2010-11.

Hence the fact and the premise for the above arguments and the resultant comment that the Lib Dems are right to take their ridiculous position on the bedroom tax is a case of garbage in garbage out.

Note under occupancy was reducing even before the bedroom tax was introduced too and that there is 50% MORE under occupancy in the private rented sector than in social housing!

How dangerous is it that a national think tank quadruples the actual number of under-occupied properties and provides some more myth that the Tories would gladly make use of and represent, as they invariably do, a case of tell a lie often enough and it becomes fact.

As a classic example of this we see the Tory Chairman Grant Shapps also attacking the Lib Dem bedroom tax position in an article in the Telegraph today.

The journalist says

“The policy cuts £500 million from the welfare bill.”

Then he quotes Grant Shapps:

Mr Shapps said: “People will come to their own conclusions when they see parties u-turn on policies they’ve stood up for in the past. I would have thought the Liberal Democrats with tuitions fees would have learnt that.” “Them voting for that, never in private or in public arguing against it, then suddenly u-turning on it, people will come to their own conclusions.”

Where are they going to get that half a billion pounds from?

So here we have Grant Shapps Tory Party Chairman and the Housing Minister when the bedroom tax was introduce saying the bedroom tax saves £500m or half a billion which of course is the same thing.

Yet the DWP official data reveals that 471,000 households are affected each having a £14.30pw cut in HB. Multiply that to get the absolute MAXIMUM saving and we see it becomes £353m or so per year and a long way short of £500m

Tell a lie often enough (even when it has to be a KNOWN and DELIBERATE lie from Grant Shapps) and people take it to be fact.

So NPI are you going to amend your scurrilous and inept report which says under-occupancy in social housing is 4 times greater than the fact?

Facts are pesky eh reader!!

Scooby Doo investigates the bedroom tax and IDS

We have stopped the burgeoning welfare benefit spend the country cant afford chirps IDS ad infinitum

dwpspend97to2013

 

We have cut Housing Benefit spend with the Bedroom tax and Benefit Cap (blah blah blah)

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

It is only workless scroungers who claim Housing Benefit (blah blah blah) Here’s a graph of those in work and claiming HB!

%ofworkign tenants on HB

Oh by the way dear reader all the above simple graphs come form figures produced by …Yes you’ve guessed it IDS’s own Department of Work & Pensions.  Would you like a few more?  Oh ok then!

What about we can’t afford the burgeoning welfare state argument (blah blah blah) How much do we in the UK spend as a percentage of our GDP compared to other European (boo hiss!) countries.  The Economist tells us:

_71423324_social_security_expenditure_464gr(3)

 

Yes those well known welfare benefit spendthrifts the Germans can manage to afford to send 12% more than the UK on their welfare state.

Surely then the Germans must be taxed more to afford this largesse on welfare benefits. Lets’s see what the Economist says on that:

effective tax rates on £100pa

As you can see the Germans pay the same effective tax rates but receive more in employee social security

You care for some more lies IDS’s DWP says about welfare benefit spend?  Here is what they said this week after they released the allegedly independent report into the bedroom tax

dwpliesover interim report

 

And here again in a form so simple even DWP can not misunderstand is the official DWP figures for the Housing Benefit spend

coalition hb bill

Can you spot the hidden £6bn HB savings the DWP claim? No neither can I!!

What about the head honcho himself the Prime Minister as he is not afraid of throwing in some whopping porkies.  You will recall numerous occasions that Cameron has said the disabled are exempt from the bedroom tax. Try here and here for example.  So if Cameron is not fibbing through his hat can you tell me why the bedroom tax report this week had this nice little pie chart?  It shows that local councils take into account the disabled claimants DLA as income in whether to award a DHP to mitigate the bedroom tax!  Yes that’s the same disabled applicant who Cameron tells us is exempt from the bedroom tax so why are they applying for a DHP then Prime Minister?

dlaasincomefor DHP

 

Do you recall read reader IDS and Lord Freud saying only a small number of vulnerable households had the bedroom tax wrongly imposed?  Their estimate was between 3,000 and 5,000 in total across the country when research from a FOI request revealed their was likely to be over 40,000 households affected – the same as I predicted.  Has the coalition ever released the final figure? Has the Labour Party forgotten to follow this up and tell us just how many vulnerable households had the bedroom tax wrongly imposed?

Here is an oldish graph which compares actual figures (which will have risen) compared with the DWP estimates:

 

PRE96EXEMPT

 

But then what is a bedroom and what is under occupying?  On that latter point see this from the then Housing Minister Grant Shapps as Hansard recalls:

shappsbedroom

“Under-occupying households are those with at least TWO bedrooms more than they need..”  Yes that does say TWO dear reader!

So what is a bedroom?  Oh yes the DWP steadfastly refuse to define that don’t they? They also say outside of a kitchen, bathroom and living room that all rooms must be bedrooms.  Yes that’s the same DWP who administer other welfare benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) or dole.  And looky here what the JSA Online claim form says: -

JSAO2 other

Yes the same DWP allows the claimant to have rooms other than bedrooms and even offers STUDY or UTILITY ROOM or a PLAYROOM as an example of what a claimant may legitimately have in their property. Yet woe betide the HB claimant who says a disputed room is not a bedroom its a study eh!

Ah cake and eating it dear reader? Why of course that’s the case!

awileystairlift1 awverticallift1 awverticallift2Yes the 3 pictures above are a bedroom according to DWP and the local authority in this case Sefton MBC …and because the tenancy agreement and the landlord says so.  Of course a bed could not even fit into this room but hey the landlords asset register which they transmitted to the council had not been updated with the vertical lift taking out one of the former bedrooms.

Yes dear reader that is the basis on which the bedroom tax decisions were taken and one other council Bury MBC kindly revealed precisely what information they got back from landlords and the entirety of how their decisions were taken was commonplace across all councils in the UK

burydetailfromlandlord

Hard to believe that a family’s life has been turned upside down with the life changing bedroom tax decisions based on the above isn’t it?  Well that’s the stark reality dear reader!

I could go on and on with this pictorial representation of the bedroom tax.  But I will finish (for now) with an excerpt from the Welsh Quality Housing Standard below.

Note this is just a pointer as is the Housing Acts of 1985, 1988 and 2004 over what constitutes the term ‘bedroom’ in terms of floor size. Just a pointer dear reader yet in the absence and steadfast refusal of DWP to define the term bedroom we are left with Tribunal judges having to determine what the term ‘bedroom’ means and the diagram below does help in that regard by giving accurate dimensions of a bed, bedside cabinet, dressing tables and wardrobes – the usual and normal furnishings which make a room a bedroom – and the necessary space needed between these necessary furnishings too.

whqs bedroom

 

 

I was going to conclude with some words here.  Yet words can be ambiguous and downright misleading cant they IDS…you know as in the “I believe it to be right” piffle you spout when the likes of the ONS and NAO find you and your DWP mislead, dissemble and overtly and knowingly lie.

If a picture paints a thousand words then each one is 3 letters long begins with L ends in E and has I in the middle when it comes to your version of the bedroom tax and welfare reforms.

Let’s unmask the villain here and think of Scooby Doo – IDS would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky facts!!

 

 

Cleggs opens up bedroom tax debate and confirms he is an idiot!

So we are loudly told with front page banner headlines Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are now against the bedroom tax. Oh but hang on that U-turn changed within the hour late last evening as Clegg & Compo and the rest are only for a partial revision of the bedroom tax.  I see so its what the Joseph Rowntree Foundation advocated (without credulity see here) a few months back and the bedroom tax should not apply to “the disabled” and not to those who have nowhere to downsize to…or at least that is what it appears and as per usual this is soundbite politics not detailed written policy.  Still lots of publicity that serves to highlight that Clegg (a) still has a pulse and (b) that Clegg still has a knack of what Prince Philip calls pedidentary – that is putting ones foot in ones mouth without any forethought!

Politics is the art of the possible and is pragmatism writ large and just as I explained with the normally excellent JRF report such a position of the bedroom tax not applying to anyone ‘disabled’ (however defined) and only applying where there is nowhere for the tenant to downsize to (however that is defined) is utterly impractical.

As it is often stated without any challenge that 63% of bedroom tax households have someone resident with a disability then this would take 63% out of the bedroom tax being applied.  What flows from that is that 63% of the (alleged) savings would be lost to central government.  So lets look at some numbers.

Currently 471,000 households have an average yearly bedroom tax of £748.80 applied making a theoretical maximum saving of £353 million.  Note that is THE maximum possible the bedroom tax policy could save yet the coalition still maintain the saving will be £500m per year which is mathematically impossible from the above factual figures though doesn’t stop the likes of the BBC still reporting them a that is what Freud et al still disingenuously maintain!

“Ministers say private sector renters do not get spare rooms for free, and argue the policy will save around £500m a year. But critics say it is forcing households into arrears”

says the BBC today here yet as the basic arithmetic above reveals the Ministers have overestimated the maximum an theoretically possible savings by £147m per year or by 42% whichever you prefer!

So as 63% are disabled the maximum theoretical saving to central government reduces by 63% to £130 million or a whopping 74% less than the aforesaid innumerate Ministers still adhere to!

But presumably the government would then not have to provide the £60m of DHPs they allocate to local government to mitigate the impacts of the bedroom tax (and see HB circular SI/2014 which details this allocation).

So the maximum saving becomes £190m per year and £310m less than the coalition (oh yes that include Clegg and Compo et al) still illogically maintain it holds and seek. But hang on then we would need to reduce that figure by taking out of the bedroom tax those current tenants who could not downsize due to no smaller properties being available.

The DWP proudly proclaimed in April that 6% of social tenants had downsized and the sham of an alleged bedroom tax monitoring report released yesterday said much the same.  Hence 94% cannot downsize as the smaller properties are not available.  Ergo the £190m maximum theoretical saving must reduce by 94% leaving just a maximum theoretical saving of £11.4 million per year – which is some £488.6m less than the innumerate coalition ministers claim it does save and seek!

So we arrive at a point which sees the absolute maximum ‘saving’ from the bedroom tax become £11.4 million or thereabouts.

To set against this we have the added public purse costs of administering the bedroom tax which is done by 340 or so local authorities on the government behalf.  471,000 or so additional HB decisions means if each decision costs more than £24.20 each then this extraordinarily cheap cost per case would see the cost of the bedroom tax outweigh the maximum £11.4m it could save!

Oh hang on what about the estimated £1500 per case each bedroom tax appeal cots central government as this too is an additional cost of the bedroom tax.

Sorry reader, I realise the above contains sums and many of you don’t really like sums but then you are in good company as clearly the coalition don’t like sums either!  If you didn’t already think Clegg was an incompetent buffoon you must realise that now, though I do have to admire his outrageous optimism as he clearly believes he and his Liberal Democrats have any power or influence now within the coalition or will be in any such position after the May 2015 general election.

He is almost as deluded as anyone who asserts the bedroom tax in its current pernicious guise saves any money such as IDS and Freud, though their delusions are they can fool all of the people all of the time with their repeated lies which still get repeated even after they have been found out.

While I am constructively criticising this charade I cannot leave out the Daily Mirror who are tweeting like mad across social media sites that “Its the Mirror that did it” and similar nonsense. Did what dear reader..oh yes… claim a victory for the bedroom tax with this even more back of a fag packet idea that Clegg has come up with that is just as much back of a fag packet as the original delusion of IDS in the bedroom tax itself.

Though of course the real scorn needs to be directed at Her Majesty’s official Opposition, that is the Labour Party.  Not once have they challenged the innumerate and delusional assertion of the coalition that the bedroom tax saves £500m per year.  As all that takes is the ability to multiply the number of households (471,000) by the average yearly cut (£749) which gives a maximum of £353m and reveals the coalition is over egging the maximum possible saving by 42% and is therefore must be lying as well as being incompetent and innumerate.

Sorry reader I cant be bothered wasting any more of my time or yours with this charade.  The idea put forward by Clegg and immediately revised cant work and is a nonsensical and illogical idea by a politician and the party he leads desperate to hold onto any last vestiges of ‘power’ he believes he and his party has.  The fact the media hype this into a story while not knowing what the hell they are talking about and without the competence to do some basic maths on a £1 calculator…well what’s new!

10pm UPDATE

I have just watched what can only be called car crash politics with Lib Dem Danny Alexander attempting to explain the new Lib Dem bedroom tax policy…and if Clegg is an idiot which he is then Danny Alexander is the biggest incompetent f*ckwit!

Not only does he squirm and wriggle and finally give in and watch here as it is so cringeworthy to be amusing BUT Danny Alexander states he is going to put a new DUTY on councils and housing associations to reduce under occupancy.

A DUTY is a mandatory action that can ONLY apply to a PUBLIC body yet of course the real name of housing associations is PRIVATE REGISTERED PROVIDERS and no government can put any form of DUTY upon a private body.  It seems the erstwhile Mr Alexander does not know this and why should he as he has only been in high politic office at the centre of government for 4 years yet a  spotty 16 year-old kid studying any form of government or law could tell you this fact that Danny Alexander clearly does not know!

Do you think dear reader that the Lib Dems are a tad unprepared and a tad incompetent to be trying to wriggle out of their vote FOR the bedroom tax and making a huge pig’s ear out if it?

Politics is like a septic tank, the big chunks always rise to the top!!!

PS Do watch the C4 interview it is so funny!!

 

The bastard bedroom tax report

Bastard n. – illegitimate

The Welfare Reform Act of which the bedroom tax is part had huge numbers of debates and I think was knocked back on 8 occasions (?) by the House of Lords before the coalition steamrollered it through using financial privilege.  It received Royal Assent I recall in March 2012 and then in June 2012 the DWP published what it alleged was an impact assessment.

Any decision and one that involves radical change by any individual, organisation or government should be considered as to the impacts and consequences of that decision before the decision is taken.  That is what an impact assessment does and is commonsense and also stating the obvious and it is an essential part of democracy and democratic legitimacy .  Yet the June 2012 alleged impact assessment by the DWP into the bedroom tax stated it did not know what the impact of the bedroom tax policy would be on gender, race or disability.

I often get stereotyped as some ‘lefty’ against this coalition and especially against the bedroom tax yet those who make this false presumption clearly haven’t read how I constantly attacked the last Labour government over the Supporting People programme or SP which included being ‘asked’ to come into the ODPM as was now CLG and ‘asked’ to tone down my comments and offered employment by the department in order to silence my dissention to SP.  In short, I challenge any policy of any government which shafts vulnerable people.

Check out my Twitter alter ego SpeyeJoe (yes keeping an eye of SP) and it reads: -

Housing consultant either a lateral thinker or i’m planking – hates ANY vulnerable people being shafted by ANY incompetent govt.

So my real concern is or at least starts from an apolitical perspective and my first degree being in Politics means I have high regard for democracy and democratic legitimacy.  In the bedroom tax and to preserve any ounce of legitimacy the policy was implemented on the condition that an ongoing monitoring of it would take place.

The result, and very late and out-of-date result was the sham that appeared yesterday.  A report without any legitimacy – a bastard of a report in other words.

No government should impose a policy that is at the same time radical in changes sought and irrational in how it is to be implemented and operated without forethought.  Yet that aptly describes the bedroom tax in seeking radical change of social housing and the social housing model and rides roughshod over vulnerable people and all based on local government believing the word of a social landlord out of expedience when the same local government officials would not dream of believing the word of a private landlord: Indeed the local government decision-making officers are guided in regulations to seek independent assessment of what a bedroom is and how many a property has through the Rent Officer service yet are disallowed from doing the same for a social tenant.

Instead a life-changing cut in benefit is imposed on the social tenant on this flimsy and irrational and illegitimate way.  Again, in simple terms, the bedroom tax tenant is shafted and while the report includes the consequences of this with so many tenants choosing to heat or eat and go without other necessities that is just reporting of what we have all known for a long time.

The report – the illegitimate or bastard report – holds no recommendations at all either.  Yet surely that must have been the purpose and the only legitimate purpose of allowing a policy to go ahead with ongoing monitoring in that the evaluation would provide recommendations for change, yet it does no such thing.

In summary the bedroom tax policy only had any semblance of legitimacy in being implemented dependent upon iterative oversight and that has not happened.  The same report also says the next report will be in 2015 and we know from Steve Webb ex-minister at DWP that this will be in summer of 2015 and critically, after the next election.  The British public and the great democratic history of the country has been duped by this government and yes they are a bastard of a government for that. Three full years and more of an ill-considered and dangerous policy with no legitimacy whatsoever is what we have in the bedroom tax.

Doubtless after yesterday’s reshuffle which was used to mask this bastard of a report we will see a more Eurosceptic government which will shout about the ‘democratic deficit’ at the heart of the European Union while conveniently ignoring its own bedroom tax policy has even less democratic legitimacy than the EU.

Plus ca change ou l’etat c’est moi mon cher lecteur?

 

 

 

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