Bedroom Tax – Radio 4 Today Programme and the Gruffalo with webbed feet and forked tongue

Radio 4 this morning and the sophistry of junior minister Steve Webb over the bedroom tax was staggering.  If you think sophistry is a euphemism for knowingly lying you would be correct in this case. Then again BBC’s reporter Mark Easton also made many simple errors which he presented as fact.

The difference is that Steve Webb knew what he was saying whereas Mark Easton just didn’t master his brief on the bedroom tax.

The Radio 4 Today programme on the bedroom tax is here and it began at 8.34am and ran till 8.44am so fast forward to 2hr and 34 minutes into the above link.

At 8.34am Mark Easton says the bedroom tax only affects working-age people.  It doesn’t and it affects pensioner households as you can see here and here.

At 8.35am Mark Easton states “The government say almost a third of all social housing is under-occupied.”  When I went to school 660,000 bedroom tax affected households out of 3,700,000 social housing households was 17.83% not 33% Mr Easton.  Or did Mr Gove do the arithmetic for you which almost doubles the rationale of the government errantly?

At 8.39am Mark Easton discussing that some social tenants may have to move to the private sector says private rent levels are maybe 20% or 30% higher!  Average 3 bed social rent is £86pw, average 3 bed private rent is £182pw and more than double or more than 100% higher in private rented than in social housing.  The same applies to any bed size and Mark Easton should have mentioned that we, the taxpayer pay out £2.2bn more in Housing Benefit for the same number of private properties than we would if they were social housing ones.  Perhaps inadvertently nicking Michael Gove’s calculator was not a good idea after all!

So thus far an inept performance from the BBC itself.

Enter Steve Webb, the junior minister at the DWP, the responsible department for the bedroom tax, for a master class in sophistry, deception, over and knowing misleading, dissembling, being economic with the actualite and all those other euphemisms for barefaced lies.

8.40am – “With over a million (spare) bedrooms being paid for in Housing Benefit and over a quarter of a million overcrowded households…”

Steve Webb was clearly saying under-occupation is much worse than over-occupation or overcrowding as we more commonly refer to it.  Yet note my emphasis as this sleight of mouth from the ambitious Steve Webb, a liberal too, Et tu Brute!  A bedroom is not a household they are two different things and a household needs bedrooms, that is plural and so this is not a comparison of 1,000,000 under occupied bedrooms and 250,000 bedrooms more needed is it?

8.41am – The average bedroom tax is £14 so the 100,000 in work can simply go out and work three extra hours to pay for it was Steve Webb’s argument.  Firstly look at the excellent work Hilary Burkitt has done to totally blow this argument out of the water. I have nothing further to add to that except to say Steve Webb is knowingly misleading here.

However what I will also say against that woeful argument is that even if 100,000 could do this then that means the other 560,000 could not as they are not working.  So 85% can’t take up that option can they Mr Webb?  And there’s got to be some joke there about this incredibly slippery MP having webbed feet hasn’t there.

Hang on webbed feet and forked tongue…anyone up for reading the Gruffalo MP? A poisonous wart on the top of his shoulders…sorry reader getting confused with IDS’s head there aren’t I?

8.42am – Asked whether the bedroom tax would cost more if social tenants had to downsize to the private sector Steve Webb retorted with the usual response that entails a huge assumption – well someone from the more costly private rented sector will move in!

This is what is known as the ‘absolute-bollocks-this-bovine-anal-secretion-has-been-disproved-before gambit!  Remember when Shapps as Housing Minister said the “affordable rent” model would cost no more in HB as those in the private sector would move in; and then the NATIONAL AUDIT Office said it will cost billions?  Yes that one.

Now Shapps is the Conservative Party Chairman which just goes to prove the old saying that the Tory Party is like a septic tank, the big chunks rise to the top!

Sorry reader the above was for housing professionals. Here’s the lay reason why this seemingly plausible ‘gambit’ from Steve Webb is bunk.  The government firstly doesn’t and never has expected many to move and downsize.  Yet even if they did we have the 258,000 households (not bedrooms see above) which are the 2009 figures for overcrowded households.  These are existing social tenants who would move into any newly freed-up social properties first for a number of reasons.  Firstly, some are statutorily overcrowded which means councils have a legal statutory duty to rehouse them.  Secondly, and with all of the 258,000 households they are existing tenants that the social landlord knows and knows are overcrowded.  These will be given first choice obviously.

When you think this through the ‘bedroom tax will free up properties’ is a myth.

It may well lead to one under-occupied household switching properties with an overcrowded one but that is all.  It is in effect a home swap.  That in Housing benefit terms mean no savings and also no increase in cost to the HB bill.  Yet if say 10,000 or even 100,000 do downsize to the higher cost private rented sector, there will still be 258,000 households ready to fill those voids, so at best the bedroom tax will see higher HB cost and a reduction in overcrowding.  The myth of the higher cost current private sector tenant coming into lower cost social housing is just that…a myth!

8.43am – Steve Webb in the usual passing the buck exercise., you know the same old same old bull being trotted out that we’ve heard many times before!  Asked about a disabled lady who’s case had been explained as she has a through roof lift in her adapted home which takes up one of the bedrooms yet is going to be hit by the bedroom tax, Steve Webb passed the buck to LOCAL councils.

We can’t and didn’t want to prescribe exceptions in this policy.  Local councils know local needs best (ding ding ding off goes the most overused cliché klaxons around the country) and we have given local councils £30m extra to deal with this at THEIR discretion.  So Mrs quadriplegic disabled tenant or any other deserving case you can throw at me says Steve Webb, I will pass back and tell them if you don’t get help it’s your local councils fault so don’t blame me or the government!

8.44 am – end and Steve Webb disappears into the ether though given his proclivity for sophistry no doubt he will be back on the national news again sometime today.

A tenant took a stroll through the benefit wood. IDS came long and the tenant looked good. Where are you going to scrounger thats lax? No money for tea with my bedroom tax? No said the tenant but I do like your broom. I’d invite you in but I haven’t the room!


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