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The truth about the bedroom tax. It costs the taxpayer MORE

Karen Buck the Labour MP tweeted a stunning and stunningly simple message which exposes the bedroom tax for what it is, a costly mistake.

Here is how the bedroom tax costs the taxpayer in just one case the princely sum of £7,398.92 per year more in Housing Benefit.

The HB bill for this social tenant who downsized from a social housing 2 bed to a social housing 1 bed (Yes no private rental involved here!) increases from £5,384.83 per year to £12,783.75 per year.

kbuckbtax-page-001

This social housing tenant would have received £103.20 per week in HB in the £120 per week 2 bed social housing property after the 14% bedroom tax deduction was applied.  Yet she downsized to a 1 bed “affordable rent” (sic) social housing property with a rent of £245 per week all of which is payable in Housing Benefit as there is no bedroom tax and because the misnamed affordable rent property attracts 100% in HB.

Of course if the tenant had moved to a 1 bed private rented property in Westminster then she would have received £255.50 in LHA per week and cost the taxpayer a further £547.88 per year more.  Though she would have had to pay £51.04 per week to cover the shortfall between her £255.50 LHA and her rent of £306 per week.

What a damning indictment of the bedroom tax and its claimed savings to the taxpayer!

What a damning indictment of the coalitions “affordable” (sic) rent policy too?

What better retort to IDS, Freud, Mcvey et al saying the bedroom tax saves the taxpayer?  What better retort to the nonsense Grant Shapps MP said today about the savings from the bedroom tax will go into building new properties!!

Yes dear reader, the Tories are lying when they say the bedroom tax saves money as it costs the taxpayer MORE.

 

 

 

JRF report on bedroom tax – as inept as the policy itself…unfortunately!

The bedroom tax is pernicious and has many victims but I never imagined one of those victims would be the Joseph Rowntree Foundation or JRF.  The report released yesterday was staggering in its ineptitude and this from one of if not the most revered social policy think tank in the UK in the JRF.

To explain I use the ubiquitous follow-up piece that the Guardian always does in giving free rein to in this case JRF to ‘sell’ their research to the public as they do here in a piece by its Policy Director Kathleen Kelly.

I took time contemplating whether to comment on this as JRF has produced consistently excellent research for decades and known for consistently producing excellent research.  Yet they have been so inept in this bedroom tax report and in their recommendations that it has to be said.  So, with some reluctance below is why this bedroom tax report is inept and it is not happy reading!

The Guardian article states in its opening and correctly sets the scene -

The bedroom tax has left tenants struggling to cope, failed to free up larger homes for big families and saved less money than the government estimated.

Agreed and no issue with that but it goes on: -

 Our report, published today, adds to earlier research by the BBC that found just 6% of people affected by the bedroom tax have moved into a smaller home and half those who have stayed put have fallen behind on their rent.

Oh dear! JRF here give credence to the myth published by the BBC a week or two earlier that the bedroom tax is responsible for 6% of social tenants moving.  There is no correlation at all and what has escaped JRF analysis is that for a decade or more about 7% of social tenants move in any case.

Take a look at the English Housing Survey an authoritative report published yearly which says in 2012 that 249,000 of the then 3.88m social tenant households had moved – This is 6.4% and previous years figures for a decade or more says the same. The first year of the bedroom tax has seen fewer social tenants move than in the years before the bedroom tax was live yet somehow JRF go along with the huge myth that the bedroom tax is responsible for more tenant movement.  This is an incredibly flawed and lazy analysis.

The report goes on: -

The fact that savings are £115m below target and, at savings of £330m, form only a paltry part of the £19bn overall welfare savings, mean that the time is right to take a more nuanced look at the future of the policy.

There is one simple reason that the claimed savings are £115m below target and hat is because the DWP target saving was based on the bedroom tax affecting 660,000 households and ‘saving’ £480m per year.  Yet the bedroom tax affects 498,174 households not 660,000 and so affects 24.5% less than the original estimate so the saving is reduced by 24.5%.  This is basis arithmetic without the need for any analysis as to why the figure is 24.5% less.  And 24.5% of £480m the expected DWP ‘saving’ is £117m

Kathleen Kelly then goes on to suggest 6 ways to improve the bedroom tax and here setting aside my well-known objections to the policy per se the suggestions given are staggering in their ineptitude and present the coalition with a gift horse as they can now taint JRF’s analysis to be as shambolic as the bedroom tax policy itself is!

There are six options if we want to make the policy sustainable, other than outright abolition.

1. Give people the chance to move
The bedroom tax currently hits 100,000 people who are willing to move but who are trapped in larger homes because of a shortage of smaller homes. We could require landlords to make tenants an offer of a smaller home to move into before the bedroom tax is applied and housing benefit is reduced so that it does not punish those who want to move but are unable to do so.

This is the Lord Best amendment in the House of Lords and does have merit at least superficially.  Why should the tenant who is willing to move but can’t because of lack of availability be penalised is the essence of it.  Yet “we would require landlords to make tenants an offer of a smaller home…” exposes the futility and unworkability of this proposed solution.  How can a landlord be required to make an offer when the lack of availability means they can’t make such an offer?  Unfortunately this inept analysis gets even worse.

Don’t apply the bedroom tax if the tenant is willing to move but can’t is the essence.  Personally I fully agree with this but JRF are living in cloud cuckoo land with this proposal and totally divorced from political reality.  If as has been uncontested that only 6% are able to downsize each year then this would mean that the bedroom tax would not apply to 94% of current households if the under occupying tenant simply said they were willing to move.  Some figures have suggested that 14% may be able to move yet that would still mean the bedroom tax would not apply in 86% of cases.  Why would this or any government even bother with the policy given those figures?

 2. Define what is a bedroom and what is not

The confusion around which rooms count as bedrooms and which don’t has been confusing for tenants. With central government refusing to clarify the matter and leaving it to individual councils, decisions have been highly inconsistent. Introduce minimum sizes for single and double bedrooms to clear up the confusion.

 

Yes, yes, yes and oh dear!  We have to look at why the government steadfastly refuse to define the term ‘bedroom’ to see why defining it means the policy is dead in the water.  Take the simple case that is well-known that in legislation bedroom needs to be 70 square feet in floor size and apply that as one constituent part of the what a bedroom is.  If its 70 square feet it’s a bedroom if its 69 or less it’s not.

How many homeowners have ‘bedrooms’ of less than 70 square feet and believe they own or are paying a mortgage on an asset they believe to have 3 bedrooms?  If they suddenly found out they own a 2 bed plus boxroom property their asset value and equity drops dramatically and all the borrowing they have against it becomes a huge risk for those who lend.  Cue biggest financial crash ever seen and 2008, the Great Depression and even the South Sea Island Bubble pale into insignificance.

The proposed solutions continue…

 3. Allow spare bedrooms in some cases

Many people with disabilities rely on the extra space a spare room provides to store their medical equipment, or for a place for their carers to sleep. Similarly, a divorced parent who has shared custody of children will need somewhere for them to stay on visits.

Again yes but again what a lazy analysis and lazy and unworkable suggestion.  The disability lobbies have produced some excellent research (as have JRF) to show that disability gives higher costs of living and higher need for space.  Yet what would the criteria be for additional space and do able-bodied persons also need storage space?  Yes I would argue they do and most households have a ‘junk room’ where they store a whole range of things and especially so in a flat over a house as these tend to have far less storage space in any case.  Would the spare alleged ‘bedroom’ be extended to grandparents too and so many more similar questions can be asked which quickly reveal this proposal to be unworkable and incredibly cost intensive to determine.

That leads nicely into the next suggestion for improvement of the policy (a reform of a claimed reform anyone?)

4. Allow people a spare bedroom in all cases

Looking across the profile of the country’s entire housing stock, having a spare bedroom is a well-accepted norm among homeowners. Working-age social tenants make up only 3% of under-occupied homes. Reducing somebody’s benefits only where there is more than one spare bedroom would address this inconsistency.

The DWP original 2012 estimate had 81% of likely bedroom tax households underoccupying by one (alleged) bedroom.  Hence allowing 1 spare ‘bedroom’ would take 81% out of the bedroom tax altogether.  As I said earlier are JRF living in a political cloud cuckoo land?  Of course this is also a suggestion put forward by Riverside and many other social landlords to allow 1 spare bedroom in each household and it has the same implication – it would see 81% taken out altogether and an unknown percentage of the other 19% reduced from a 25% HB deduction to a 14% deduction.  Why on earth would ANY government bother with such a diluted policy?

That makes a further important point that this paucity of thinking and political analysis in the JRF report is mainly a concoction of previous suggestions by others that have been rejected or dismissed because of the financial and political implications they would give. It is lazy naivety writ large!

 5. Make hardship payments a long-term solution

The government has set aside a £155m pot of crisis funds (discretionary housing payments) to help tenants struggling to cope with the bedroom tax, but this fund will not last for long. Many tenants will require long-term financial help in order to cope. The crisis fund should be reformed to help them.

No they have not set aside £155m at all and this is an incredulous thing for JRF to say.

The government has this year set aside or allocated £60m for bedroom tax DHPs not £155m and the £155m is the total amount of DHP for ALL reasons not just for bedroom tax purposes. Has JRF simply bought the government rhetoric on this or is it too lazy to see the £60m figure for bedroom tax DHPs as clear as day as written in the S1 HB circular of 2014?

This also alludes to the purported fact that DHPs are and can only be short-term when they can as a matter of fact be given indefinitely as the DHP guidance manual says they can.  Hence there is no need to reform what is already in place.

It is commonly stated that DHPs can ONLY be given on a short-term basis yet the guidance explicitly states they can be given indefinitely and so once again we see JRF buying into a myth and NOT conducting a proper analysis.  I fully agree that DHPs tend not to be given indefinitely but that is not the point; rather the point is JRF can be easily ridiculed for these proposals and painted by IDS et al as just another biased ‘leftish’ organisation and JRF up till now rightly deserve to refute such a slur on their reputation.

The final suggestion I have no objection to at all: -

 6. Stop counting disability benefits as income

When applying for crisis funds – which are means tested – the disability benefits people may receive have in some cases have been counted as income and can make disabled people less likely to qualify for crisis payments.

As I state above JRF has published many excellent research documents over the years as to the higher costs that disabilities in all their forms, physical, learning and sensory dictate.  And that is why I am so angry at JRF for this woeful analysis and woeful proposals.

The old adage that is takes 20 years to build a good reputation and 5 minutes to lose it is very much at play here.  I am astounded at just how bad this report is at how bad the research is and how bad the analysis is because, to date, JRF research and reports have been so good. Yet this is staggering in its ineptitude per se and not just by comparison.

I truly hope JRF do not get tainted by this aberrant woeful piece of work though I imagine the spads  (SPecial Advisors or spin merchants) for the coalition are rubbing their hands with glee at the ineptitude of this report as they can and will tarnish JRF for this.

What have you done! (Shakes head, still amazed at chronic ineptitude!)

 

 

 

McVey and her underground TAX

How many times dear reader have you heard Esther McVey say the bedroom tax is NOT A TAX.  TAX IS WHAT YOU PAY ON INCOME IT IS NOT A TAX IT IS A SPARE ROOM SUBSIDY.  Yes that would be the same McVey in whose constituency we find that 94% of all new HB claims since the election have come from private tenants who get £3.2m more each year in LHA than social tenants would get in HB (Now that is what a real subsidy is!)

ITISNOTATAXITISNOTATAXITISNOTATAXITISNOTATAXITISNOTATAXITISNOTATAX – ok you get the picture.

In fact you should really get the picture below!!

You may well know that McVey is the MP for Wirral West which is separated from Liverpool by two road tunnels for which you have to pay a toll.  The tunnel toll is supposedly going up again and so today at a protest we see McVey holding up a banner and posing for a photograph.

What do you think it says on her banner?

mcvey tunnel

Yes it does say “Axe the Tunnel TAX “

You could have chosen to hold up a banner saying “Say No to Tunnel Tolls” and as you can see there are SEVEN such banners to hold up and pose for the picture; yet you, the very media savvy Esther McVey chose to hold up one of just two banners calling this a TAX!

Is the gentleman behind you is looking at your other face? Poor chap!

Bedroom tax – a big KISS to naive social landlords

Commentators for social housing just don’t know their backside from their elbow when it comes to communication.  And the rest of this 10 minute post shows I am being complimentary to social landlords

Today sees a 65 page report on the bedroom tax from the all party select committee which when read is a strong critique of the bedroom tax policy.  YET IT WILL NOT BE READ and that is THE issue.

By contrast the government issues a soundbite that the bedroom tax saves £1m per day – AND THAT WILL BE READ AND COMMUNICATED TO JOE PUBLIC.

That in a nutshell is the issue – that social housing / housing commentators / the social housing ‘sector’ just don’t get.

The ‘sector’ is truly inept and incredibly naive in communicating in the political arena in simple terms.

Joe Public couldn’t give a flying fig for the minutiae of a 65-page report which is 15,000 words plus on the welfare reforms.  They will never ever read such a tome and frankly couldn’t be bothered to ever read some very salient points such as Scotland will take 60 years to find enough 1 bed properties for the need the bedroom tax creates which it says at paragraph 56 when read correctly.

15,000 plus words and then appendices of evidence compared to the governments simple message – the bedroom tax saves £1m per day!  You don’t need to be Einstein to figure what will be believed and what will resonate in the mind of Joe Public!

I could write 20,000 words here as to why the bedroom tax will cost the public purse and taxpayer more and totally destroy the unsubstantiated and frankly bullshit claim that the bedroom tax saves anything at all let alone £1m per day.  Yet that matters not a jot to Joe Public who dont have the time to read such an argument whatever the validity, the bedroom tax saving or cost is ALL they need and want to know.

Yet ‘housing’ yet again gets on its narrow parochial high horse and discusses the ins and outs of a gnats arse when it comes to such reports.  That is fine for an extremely limited number of housing people who may want to know that but Joe Public couldn’t give a hoot.

In the bedroom tax ‘Housing’ has let DWP say so many known myths which have been unchallenged and have become ‘fact’ in the publics eye.  There are a million spare bedrooms the taxpayer is paying for is one such fallacious claim and there are so many more such as work 2 hours more to pay the bedroom tax – and argument wonderfully demolished by Hilary Burkitt last year that failed to go outside of ‘Housing’ – and the £1m per day saving is just the latest in a long line of nonsense claims from DWP that Joe Public if they knew the facts would call outright known lies.

Yet these lies and that is what they are have never been challenged and there are a number of reasons for this which highlight a huge problem for the alleged sector that ‘Housing’ is.  Firstly, it is a notoriously conservative sector that very rarely raises it heads above the parapet.  Secondly, it is not a sector it is a collection (note not collective!) of 1200 or so individual social landlords.  Thirdly, there is nobody that represents this collection of landlords in terms of PR / awareness raising / spin (call it what you will!)

It is incredibly naive in the political arena and you only have to look to the even more disparate private rented sector to demonstrate just how politically naive it is.  The PRS lobbies such as the NLA figuratively ‘jump down the throat’ of any government who even flies a kite for 0.000001% of any change to its members whereas the SRS remains quiet and apathetic to the fundamental destruction of the social housing model which is the consequence of the welfare reforms!

The social housing ‘sector’ despite calling for years for social housing to be a political priority (with many false dawns), now that it is there just doesn’t have a clue what the hell to do!!!

Q) Who REPRESENTS social housing?

A) Er….er….er……oooh never thought of that before!

Therein lies a huge problem for the social housing ‘ sector’ and for the social housing model.  The Tories don’t like social housing as a model.  Labour are ambivalent with Miliband also saying Thatcher’s RTB was right. Lib Dems are a side issue with no support for the social housing model either and are having an internal leadership struggle over the bedroom tax with anti BT Farron posturing against ?-BT Clegg!

Yet the social housing model SAVES the taxpayer billions each year and always has.  The current figures shows private landlords receive £2bn+ more in HB for the equivalent properties yet who the hell is shouting that from the rooftops on behalf of the social housing model? Er…..er…..er…exactly!

Social housing means a social tenant can afford to take up employment that pays £6k gross per year less than his privately renting neighbour as his rent is £80pw less.  It is a fantastic invest to save service for the public purse and taxpayer.  It is a huge economic fillip for the country yet Joe Public dont have a clue about that and why is that?   Er…..er….er….!

Instead Joe Public believes social housing is wasteful, believes it is subsidised, believes it is a drain on the taxpayer and also believes it is the housing of last resort and all yes ALL because social housing can’t and hasn’t got its huge economic and social benefits across and there has been nobody willing to stand up and say that on behalf of the ‘sector!’

Earlier today I posted about a dad who emailed me to say he had won his bedroom tax appeal just as his daughter won hers a few weeks before.  The reason that is very pertinent is the dads comments in the email about the bedroom tax: -

“From the very beginning you said don’t moan about it get off your arse and do something about it”

A message that ‘Housing’ or the ‘sector’ needs to take on board.  A very very simple message much like the bedroom tax saves £1m per day x

x = kiss = KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID!!….and boy have social landlords been stupid!

 

 

 

Bedroom tax – a right right to family life as parents and daughter both win appeals

I have a huge smile to my face as a tenant informs me he has won his appeal just as his daughter did a few weeks earlier.  Yes bedroom tax wins for the parents and for their daughter will sure make this Essex family a happy one!

in both cases there is not a full statement of reasons but in simple terms the daughter won by saying the alleged spare bedroom was a study and so she is taken out of the bedroom tax altogether.

The father saw the bedroom tax reduced from 25% to 14% as one of the alleged bedrooms was not big enough to be a bedroom the Tribunal ruled.

So a room usage win for the daughter and a room size win for mum and dad.

However the key issue here is what the dad said in his email to me about 20 minutes ago: -

Hi Joe
I sent you a copy of my daughters tribunal win on the 28/03/14
I can now send you a copy of my own decision 01/04/14
Many thanks Joe I couldn’t have done this without your blog
From the very beginning when you said don’t moan about it get off your arse and do something about it

Stop moaning about how bad the bedroom tax is and get off your arse and appeal.

We can all imagine how happy the two households of the same family are and that really does bring a smile to my face and to anyone else’s face.

Stop moaning about how bad the bedroom tax is and get off your arse and appeal.

Am I being too subliminal reader!!  Oh ok here’s some advice for you

Stop moaning about how bad the bedroom tax is and get off your arse and appeal.

Just in case you didn’t get that

Stop moaning about how bad the bedroom tax is and get off your arse and appeal.

PS – Here’s how to do that in the simplest terms call it a bedroom tax appeal for dummies of call it a bedroom tax appeal strategy for moaners or whatever you like.  Yet it works and that is the key thing so just in case you haven’t got the point of this….Stop moaning about how bad the bedroom tax is and get off your arse and appeal.

 

 

 

The bedroom tax is domestic violence and abuse

At times I have mildly vented my spleen at the bedroom tax. Today I am going the whole hog and with good and informed reason in light of a joke of an article in the Sunday People.

I am also calling for the Chief Executive of Womens Aid to resign over it.  I am also stating that it is time the Labour Party grew a set of balls and also sacked their spokesperson on domestic violence and abuse – and it is telling that I do not even know the name of who that person is!

I have worked with domestic violence and abuse organisations for more than ten years mostly female yet also with the odd male domestic charity so this is not a rant of ignorance and it concerns what is called a sanctuary room.

A sanctuary room is is where a room in an abused home is made a strong room with strong doors and bars on windows for example so if the perpetrator gets into the property the woman and children can lock themselves away….in terror until the police can arrive.

Yet the bedroom tax is charged on such a room!

Does anyone in their right fucking mind think anyone ever sleeps in such a room!  Would you be able to sleep at all in circumstances where your life is in imminent danger?  No of course you would not be able to and so how can a room that is not used for sleeping in be a bedroom and have the bedroom tax applied?

How can it be that a room that is used once in every blue moon be deemed a bedroom?  There dear reader is why the bedroom tax is a back of a fag packet policy in a nutshell.

So what are the Women’s Aid Federation of England (WAFE) doing about this?  Are they advising their members the refuges and other domestic abuse services to support their tenants and clients to appeal the bedroom tax?  Are they lobbying government to take away the bedroom tax from a sanctuary room which is a situation they have known about for at least two years?  No, they are simply moaning about it with a quick comment in today’s Sunday papers…oh and it is Mother’s Day to boot!

Just what the hell does WAFEs chief executive think her role is if not to defend the rights of women victimised and affected by violence and abuse.

Then there is the Labour Party.  If ever there was an issue on which to go big in opposition to the bedroom tax then it is the sanctuary room.  It is outrageous that Her Majesty’s Opposition (giving Labour their official misnomer of a title) who also have had two years and more to highlight the sanctuary room issue and the absurdity that such a room has the bedroom tax levied on it to have stayed silent on this.  They are not ignorant of the issue they are just incompetent and ineffective.

Levying the bedroom tax on a sanctuary would galvanise the entire country and expose just how offensive and ill-conceived the bedroom tax is as a policy.  No one in any rational mind could argue that a sanctuary room is a bedroom for bedroom tax purposes or even the often irrational minds of the likes of IDS and McVey.

This is a gift horse of huge political capital that will acutely embarrass the governments bedroom tax policy yet WAFE and the so-called feminists in the Labour Party are where exactly?  Probably being taken to lunch in some swanky bistro in central London celebrating Mother’s Day while so many more Mother’s are checking the locks on their sanctuary rooms!

I don’t want to be reading academic studies in a few years time when the data is in that the bedroom tax created an increase in domestic violence and abuse.  Yet I will be reading them as that is a direct result of the bedroom tax and the canon of evidence that financial and money problems in a household lead to violence and abuse is voluminous in this area and this is precisely what the bedroom tax does by reducing income into a household.  If I do have to read this my first thoughts will be WAFE and the Labour Party could and should have stopped this and  easily stopped this.

The anti bedroom tax groups across social media and self-serving journalists on the Sunday People who miss the real issues and like to say the Tories have blood on their hands when it comes to the bedroom tax must realise that the Labour Party has too.  So do social landlords and councils who state a sanctuary room is a bedroom.  And while they all dither and miss the real issue the lives of women and children are put at risk by the bedroom tax ineptitude of all of you.  Isn’t it time the real perpetrators of this in the coalition got blamed instead?

Happy Mother’s Dayl!

Esther McVey must have a bedroom tax fur coat

Esther McVey merely talks pants and clearly she does not wear them else they would be on fire!  Yes its another of the bedroom tax bullshit stories emanating from McVey and probably a good reason why she doesn’t wear knickers though she clearly has a fur cost will all the spin (aka superficial bullshit) she comes out with

Today she has been extolling the bedroom tax and saying that it is working as it is freeing up properties and she is correct in that….except they are being freed up to remain empty and she only has to look at the largest social landlord in her Wirral constituency, Magenta Living.

In November at a public meeting held in Bromborough Wirral Magenta stated that before the bedroom tax came into operation they had about 15 or 16 empty properties (voids) that were 3 bedrooms or larger in size.  Yet by November 2013 just 7 months after the bedroom tax they had on average 160 empty 3 bed or larger properties.

Firstly, that is an eight to ten-fold increase.

Secondly, it is an increase in number of 145 3 bed or larger properties that on average are empty and for which no income is being received.  At an average of say £90 per week that is an additional rent loss of circa £700,000 per year ADDITIONAL rent loss to Magenta Living (formerly Wirral Partnership Homes, former Wirral Council Housing department.)

Of course the real loss is much more than that with Magenta (like all social landlords north of London) incurring higher costs of rent collection, higher costs of reletting every property, higher costs of additional staff in ‘welfare teams’ and in a number of other areas not least securing properties by tinning up…although like most landlords perspex rather than metal is the preferred option to escape housing blight.

Just over the water in Liverpool for example we see Cobalt Housing stating they are spending £2k more on each empty property in order to relet each property and such has been the level of empty properties there the landlord has managed to reduce the cost of perspex shutters to the cost of tinned ones!

However, back to McVey’s constituency in leafy Wirral.  I lived there for many years and Wirral has never before had any problem reletting social housing prior to the bedroom tax. Three bed and larger social housing properties available have always been as rare as hen’s teeth….until McVey’s bedroom tax policy.

The official HB figures also prove what is happening in leafy Wirral as I now demonstrate with May 2010 figure and compare with latest figures (for November 2013)

At the election

  • Wirral had 29,380 HB recipients
  • of which 16,660 were social tenants (57%) and
  • 12,720 private tenants (43%).

The latest figures show

  • Wirral has 31,494 HB recipients – an increase of 2,114
  • of which 16784 social tenants – a rise of 124 or 6% of the increase, and
  • 14709 private tenants – and increase of 1990 and 94% of the increase

The significance of the huge rise in private tenants is the cost to the public purse.  In Wirral a 3 bed private tenant receives £121.15 per week in LHA, the private sector version of HB.  This is 35% MORE in HB than a social tenant receives or about £31 per week more.

So £31 per week more multiplied by 1990 more private tenants is an ADDITIONAL £62,000 per week cost to the public purse or and ADDITIONAL £3.2 MILLION PER YEAR and that is just in Wirral alone….in McVey’s constituency in other words.

Now in the same Wirral we see 3797 bedroom tax households who have been deducted on average £749.73 each per year.  That means the bedroom tax has deducted £2.84 million from social tenants in Wirral ….Yes that’s the same Wirral that pays out £3.2m MORE in HB just to new private tenants!!

Now lets look at Wirral in terms of all private tenants.

As stated above we have 14,709 private tenants in receipt of HB and so if they each receive an average of just £25 per week more this means private tenants in McVey’s own constituency receive about

NINETEEN MILLION MORE PER YEAR IN HOUSING BENEFIT THAN IS PAID TO SOCIAL TENANTS IN WIRRAL.

Yes that would be £19m per year more than if these tenants lived in social housing.

So in today’s terms since the election McVeys own constituents in private rented housing have received £76 million more in additional housing benefit, that’s £76 million more in taxpayers money; £76m more to these private rented scroungers than to social housing scroungers and that’s just in Wirral.  Nationally the figure since the election is over EIGHT BILLION POUNDS MORE than social housing tenants have received.

Anyone think the bedroom tax and reducing social tenant’s HB is the real issue here that government should be looking at?   No I didn’t think so.

I needn’t ask whether anyone thinks McVey is being economical with the truth – that’s taken as a negative read dear reader given the lying virus that goes around DWP’s Caxton House – So anyone think that the government should be looking at private rented levels of HB which cost the country circa £2.2bn per year more than social housing …..Yes that same social housing McVey says is subsidised….which it is by £1.2bn per year or £1 BILLION a year less than the taxpayer gives to private landlords in added LHA costs over HB costs for private tenants.

Anyone care to remember last years English Housing Survey?  The EHS is the largest measure of housing in the UK and produced by government.  Yes the same one that said under occupation in social housing is a disgraceful 10 per cent…..oh and also said under occupation in private rented housing is sixty per cent higher at 16%!

Yes there is more under occupation in privately rented housing than there is in social housing!!

Funny how we never hear of that isn’t it reader and not just under occupation reader as there is more overcrowding in social housing than in privately rented housing too!  Here is what the EHS says:

There was no significant change in overcrowding rates since 2010-11 for owner occupiers (1%), social renters (7%) or private renters (6%). Rates of under-occupation remained substantially higher in the owner occupied sector (49%) than in both the social rented sector (10%) and private rented sector (16%).

 

See social housing has more overcrowding at 7% compared with 6% in private housing.  Yes and this government have been saying the bedroom tax is all about getting social tenants to downsize so poor downtrodden overcrowded private tenants can move in there!  What was that reader you have been fed a pack of lies by the propaganda of this government?  Yes of course you have, that is what governments do but especially this one and especially in this back of a fag packet bedroom tax policy.

Yes dear reader it is clear that McVey must have a fur coat!!

Bedroom tax – landlords ARE the lazy consensus and focus on the wrong deficits!

This post argues that social landlords are no longer social and argues that landlords care only about arrears deficits yet have ignored the bigger knowledge and thought deficits they have.  Above all it argues that welfare reform changes the face of social housing to make it about people and not about bricks and mortar. Finally it argues that social housing is not up to the task of the change and quick and radical change is needed needs to challenge the welfare reforms which are a fundamental attack on social housing that landlords seem oblivious to and are doing little to challenge.

The bedroom tax, overall benefit cap, the monthly payment of welfare benefits and the direct payment of Housing Benefit to tenants are all part of the Welfare Reform Act introduced by the coalition government.

The ‘welfare reforms’ as they are commonly and collectively known present radial change to social landlords, social tenants and the social housing model of service delivery. They require an equally radical response and from tenants and landlords and landlords especially if they are to survive.

From spending the last 18 months studying the bedroom tax and overall benefit cap that response also has to be far more proactive than the first year of implementation has seen.

The social tenant can and should appeal the bedroom tax decisions received and needs to prepare for the introduction of monthly welfare benefit payments and the payment of HB direct to them, although monthly payments and direct payments are still some way in the future.

The bedroom tax alone is proving very troublesome to the social tenant (with good reason) and the overall benefit cap is still in its infancy and other welfare reform still to be implemented, so tenant challenges and responses are largely limited to appealing.

The social landlord despite some recent evidence of an increased challenge and response in the last few months is very much a case of too little too late.  The social landlords need to up their game and very quickly indeed. They need to rethink welfare reform and quickly and to simplify it into what it is – an attack of the social housing model and stop acting in what former Housing Minister Grant Shapps called a lazy consensus.

The bedroom tax illustrates the attack on social housing as a model and it highlights a number of key issues:-

  •         Social housing as its name implies is now about people and no longer about ‘bricks and mortar.’ Yet social landlords do NOT know their tenants and largely because they have never had to before in the decades of full housing benefit payments that predated the bedroom tax
  •         This is a clear knowledge deficit and that can only get worse the longer the bedroom tax continues and the longer other factors such as the abolition of council tax benefit kick in and impacts upon the lives and ‘buying’ habits of social tenants
  •         How HB deductions (the bedroom tax) impacts on tenants has not been considered in any seriousness by social landlords and has been largely seen as just an arrears issue and met with traditional arrears responses
  •         The bedroom tax has fundamentally changed the landlord tenant relationship and social landlords have not responded to that adequately or quickly enough because of their knowledge deficit and because they have not thought the welfare reforms through
  •         This combined knowledge and thought deficit creates huge problems for the social housing model and for every social landlord

The knowledge deficit can be ‘excused’ for the reasons that landlords are playing catch up and not had to know how tenants would react to welfare reforms, yet the thought deficit is not excusable.

The bedroom tax appeal explains this thought deficit as landlords were (but no longer) highly resistant to tenants appealing decisions as landlords wrongly believed if an alleged 3 bed property became a 2 bed after appeal that they would (a) have to reduce the rent level and (b) have a reduced asset value leading to higher borrowing costs.

Yet after each successful bedroom tax appeal we find the rent level remains and the landlord receives more in housing benefit.

Successful bedroom tax appeals actually benefit the landlord and their initial resistance to appeals has proven to be hugely overcautious.

However the larger thought deficit was in landlords response to tenants caught by the bedroom tax as not only did they not support the tenant to appeal they bombarded the tenant with red inked letter after red inked letter threatening court actions.

What this did was exacerbate the direct tension the bedroom tax caused between landlord and tenant to create the trust deficit between tenant and landlords and tenants no longer trust landlords and that is a huge issue which if left unattended will create massive problems for social landlords.

Every organisation in every sector needs good customer relations and social housing is no different, yet landlords have ignored this significant dynamic.  Landlords will say they attempted to separate bedroom tax affected tenants into unfortunate cant payers and irresponsible wont payers, yet they treated ALL tenants as irresponsible wont payers with heavy handed arrears strategies.  That was and is quite simply stupid.

When housing benefit is finally paid directly to tenants, the direct payment element of welfare reforms, the tenant will remember the heavy handed arrears strategies and lack of support for appeal and tenants will de-prioritise the payment of rent for which they, very significantly indeed, will have control of.  Tenants do have a perception of mistrust of landlords which landlords themselves heightened and stupidly so with their arrears strategies.

That brief overview reveals the thought deficit which landlords have shown in hugely significant terms and landlords have to repair that perception and often reality ahead of the introduction of direct payment.

Put as simply as possible landlords have to win back tenant trust

Yet just as every organisation needs good customer relations landlords must realise the old adage is at play that it takes 20 years to build a good reputation and just 5 minutes to lose it.

Social landlords have had plenty of 5 minute moments over the last year with the bedroom tax and their customer relations with tenants (who invariably dislike being referred to as customers too!)

Tenants are people not customers and not units or lines on a spreadsheet  and landlords need to deserve to be called ‘social’ landlords and not for tenants to become aware that the correct name for a housing association who comprise 60% of all ‘social’ landlords is a PRP, a PRIVATE Registered Provider.   RPs as they like to refer to themselves is not just a shortened version of PRP and is more than semantics.  Housing association trade on their charitable and ‘social’ roots and the welfare reforms being all about people reveals that landlords need to be getting rid of the knowledge deficit and begin to help and support tenants (note I did not say ‘their’ tenants too!)

The welfare reforms fundamentally change the role of social landlords to become more social and not less yet ‘social’ landlords have become perceived by social tenants as mere businesses and little different from private sector landlords (PSLs) aka the big blue meanies of rented housing they claim to differentiate themselves from!

Having worked in mostly supported housing which has always been about people and not ‘bricks and mortar’ like general needs housing, for over 20 years the importance of reputation and of treating tenants as people is natural.  Yet in the common or garden social housing the reverse is true with typically one housing officer presiding over a ‘patch’ of 500 properties containing 1200 tenants.  The general needs housing professional has 37 hours to ‘look after’ and know the needs of 1200 tenants whereas the supported housing professional works 37 hours to look after 8 tenants.  That is a hugely significant difference and simply explains why supported housing professionals do not have the knowledge deficit of tenants when general needs HOs do have a knowledge deficit of their tenants

The welfare reforms mean general needs housing staff have to become more people oriented just like their supported housing colleagues.  They need to know about people not about ‘bricks and mortar’ as that is what the welfare reforms do to social housing – they make it about people!

Social landlords could learn a lot from supported housing though most of them don’t have supported housing teams after Supporting People cuts.  Those that still do after the last Labour government’s debacle of removing the SP ringfence in 2009 have very generic and very low-level support teams and they by definition can only deliver superficial and generic help to social landlords plagued by the welfare reforms.  Yet landlords need to realise that dealing with their invariable sole focus of arrears deficits is greatly enhanced by overcoming the knowledge and thought deficits they have.

Support (your) tenants and landlord arrears reduce is a simple strategy that landlords need to adopt and very quickly

From working in supported housing for 20 years I thought I knew tenants.  I was wrong as the last year working extensively with them in bedroom tax and other appeals have revealed – and if I had a knowledge deficit then just how big is the knowledge deficit in your average general needs social landlord!

Landlords also need to realise in their thought deficit that with a second year of bedroom tax, a second year of council tax payments and with all the cumulative impacts of welfare reforms, many of which are still to be implemented that they need a massive rethink on welfare reform policies.  Some landlords such as Coast & Country in Redcar and Cobalt Housing in Liverpool have issued numerous standard bedroom tax appeal template letters which is encouraging as is reminding tenants they can help them appeal which Cobalt Housing also put on the end of each rent statement (very encouraging) but needs much more thought.

Can a social landlord really help all its tenants to appeal?  Having first advocated all tenants should appeal in August 2012 a good 6 months before the bedroom tax went live I love the idea, yet is it feasible and is it just one strategy?

No far from it and it needs all landlords to develop these and many more strategies of challenging welfare reforms and winning back ‘their’ tenants.  This is the area of work that will take up my time the next 12 months as even those naive enough to believe the bedroom tax will go with a majority Labour government after the next election must realise that they too are supportive of many of the coalition welfare reforms such as the overall benefit cap and direct payments … and have agreed to welfare austerity for the first two years of any new government.

As no major political party is standing up for social housing then for social landlords to do nothing is a reckless and stupid strategy in dealing with welfare reforms whether by this government or the next.

To revert to my Speye alter ego …”Dear reader when are landlords going to wake up smell the coffee and grow a set of balls?”

The radical nature of responses to welfare reforms is urgent and so is the need to be creative and proactively creative in responses and especially collective responses.  Where is the claimed social housing ‘sector?’  Where are its leaders and advocates for social housing who must surely see that the welfare reforms attack social housing per se and threaten to undo the great things it achieves?

  • Why is nobody saying for example that social housing with its £1.2bn per year subsidy is a great invest to save programme which saves £5bn per year in housing benefit?
  • Why is nobody saying this invest to save programme saves the average taxpayer £170 per year not costs the taxpayer?
  • Why is nobody saying that a social tenant can afford to accept a job paying £6k per year less than his private sector neighbour as his rent is so much lower?
  • Why is nobody within the ‘sector’ making the simple and obvious argument that PRS housing is much more an issue of welfare dependency than social housing ever is?

It doesn’t need this housing professional to go into an alter ego to say just where the hell is the claimed sector!  There IS no collective sector within social housing; it’s just a loose assembly of 1200 social landlords who have a few yearly jamborees and claim they are a sector and one that has no leaders or leadership.

The welfare reforms to date have revealed that social landlords are not ‘social’ and that landlords have a far bigger problem with thought and knowledge deficits than with arrears deficits.

The lazy consensus anyone?

Bedroom Tax – The private tenant can see his children, the social tenant can’t!

If you live in London, Land’s End or John O’Groats you get £71.70 in Job Seekers Allowance.  If you receive ANY welfare benefit it is the same wherever you live.  So why does a private tenant in Cardiff get 49% more in housing benefit and why does a private tenant in London get 289% more in housing benefit than a social tenant?

That can’t be right I hear you say reader, the government tell us that the bedroom tax is only the same in HB terms as the private tenant gets. Yet that is just another bedroom tax lie from IDS, Freud et al and as the table below shows if the tenant getting housing benefit has a private landlord they get between 49% more and 289% more in benefit.

Take the scenario of a single person or couple, that is a 1 bed household need and see what happens when they live in a 3 bedroom property.

Area

SRS Rent

SRS HB

PRS HB

More

Liverpool

£78

£58.50

£92

57%

Cen London

£118

£88.50

£256

289%

Leeds

£82

£63.00

£98

56%

Birmingham

£89

£66.75

£118

77%

Edinburgh

£67

£50.25

£114

117%

Cardiff

£93

£69.75

£104

49%

Brighton

£87

£72.75

£150

106%

Exeter

£84

£63.00

£115

83%

Southampton

£102

£76.50

£115

50%

As you can see the Liverpool tenant gets 25% of his social rent deducted (the bedroom tax) and so receives £58.50 per week in housing benefit as his landlord is a social landlord.  Yet if he was to rent a private property the same tenant would get £92 per week in housing benefit.  This is 57% more.

Yet if the tenant was on JSA he would receive £71.70 whether his landlord was private or a social landlord.

The exact same goes for the Brighton tenant who would receive £72.75 in HB if he live in a social housing property but £150 per week and more than double if his landlord was a private landlord. And yes the same Brighton tenant would receive £71.70 in dole regardless of landlord.

The above figures for LHA come from the governments own website here and the average 3 bed social housing rent figures come from the redoubtable Ferret Information Systems which you can access here in all its 352 pages listing social rent levels and more across the country.

If the government feel it is acceptable, which they do, to pay £71.70 per week in dole wherever the benefit claimant lives and whether their landlord is social or private then how is it acceptable for the private tenant to be paid at least 50% more as the social tenant in housing benefit?

I am surprised nobody has used this as a bedroom tax appeal argument as I would love to see what the first tier and especially the Upper Tribunal judges would make of a human rights argument that being a social tenant denies the right to family life which it does not do to a private tenant.

It can’t be right that say a separated parent can afford to have two spare bedrooms in a PRIVATE property for his children to come and stay yet a SOCIAL tenant cannot have this facility.  It cannot be right that all separated parents HAVE to live in PRIVATE rented accommodation if they want their children to stay over at weekends and in school holidays. Yet that is the reality of the bedroom tax and that simple and common example highlights the human rights arguments for a bedroom tax appeal.

Should the absent parent be forced to move into a property costing the taxpayer between 50% and 289% MORE just so he can see his children and the children can stay with the separated parent?  Of course not but yet again that is the reality of the ill-conceived, pernicious and blatantly discriminatory bedroom tax policy.

The “absent father” (and I detest that phrase though invariably it is the dad that has to leave) has his rights to see his children and his rights to his family denied and is discriminated against with the bedroom tax if he lives in a social housing property.

Why should the absent parent be forced to give up the social housing security of tenure he needs to provide much needed stability for his children as that is the ‘behavioural change’ the bedroom tax imposes on the absent parent in the nudge theory of IDS and Freud.

There must be tens of thousands of absent parents among the near 500,000 bedroom tax affected households for whom the bedroom tax policy denies them a right to family life in  secure social housing property.

So dear reader next time some government minister says the bedroom tax is only what Labour did to the private tenant in 2008 or in fact any MP says this you will know they are talking through their hat.  You will also know that the bedroom tax for absent parents means charge the state 50% – 289% more in benefit or risk losing access to your children.  You will also know just how ill-conceived, irrational and discriminatory the bedroom tax policy is.

_______________________________________________________

Just as a footnote there are approximately 1.7m private tenants getting HB and this means they receive just over £2 billion (TWO THOUSAND MILLION) per year more than social tenants for same number of properties.

The bedroom tax with 498,000 paying £14.70 per week in average bedroom tax saves at most £381m per year (and added costs of it means it costs more than it saves)

 

Bedroom Tax pre 1996 – Well done Liverpool City Council who finally get it right!

Earlier this week I posted that Liverpool City Council were wrongly reading the pre1996 exempt issue with regard to those other than partners who have succeeded to their tenancies in the last 18 years since 2 January 1996. They maintained ONLY the partner of the tenant could qualify for the pre 1996 exemption

Liverpool has now corrected this and very quickly too. In a matter of 6 days they read my email to them and responded by saying they would seek guidance from DWP, they have received that guidance and emailed me back saying I was right.  Yet this is not about my being proved right and I have heard only today that two other councils in Merseyside, namely Sefton and Knowsley, have also adoptedt he initial and now proven to be errant view Liverpool took.

So (a) 6 days is remarkably quick for any organisation and especially for a council and Liverpool rightly deserve credit for their speedy response and correction, and (b) Sefton, Knowsley and maybe more councils need to do the same.

The content of the email is unedited and below:

Further to my recent emails on succession and the under-occupation penalty. I can confirm that DWP has now provided further guidance which means that we are  able to extend exemptions to the under-occupation penalty for certain cases of succession to pre-1996 tenancies.

On the basis of previous advice from the DWP the Benefits Service has only been applying exemptions from the under occupation penalty to those who had inherited tenancies from their partner after the death of the tenant. 

We have reproduced the  DWP guidance below;  this now extends the exemption to any member of the claimant’s family.

DWP Guidance 

In order for the protection to be inherited four main conditions must apply as follows:

 •             Claimant must have taken over the protection from a previous beneficiary in respect of the same dwelling

•             The previous beneficiary must have left the dwelling, been imprisoned or died

•             The claimant must have claimed HB within four weeks

•             The claimant must either have been the partner of the previous beneficiary or  a linked person as follows:

-any member of the claimant’s family;

-if the claimant is a member of a polygamous marriage, any partners of his and any child or young person for whom he or a partner is responsible and who is a member of the same household;

-any relative of the claimant or his partner who occupies the same dwelling as the claimant, whether or not they reside with him, except for a relative who has a separate right of occupation of the dwelling which would enable them to continue to occupy it even if the claimant ceased his occupation of it.

Information on Cases Affected

We have contacted the social landlords in Liverpool to ensure that they provide the Benefits Service with details of any tenancies which may be affected.

We will also be examining our own records to help identify any cases affected.

So well done again Liverpool City Council and I trust Sefton and Knowsley Councils and others will act in a similar manner from now on and ensure that ALL the tenants who could benefit from the pre 1996 exemption from April 2013 to 3 March 2014 are sought and recompensed.

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