“Oh what a tangled WEBB we weave, when first we practice to deceive” proclaimed Sir Walter Scott in Marmion:A tale of Flodden Field
Go and work 3 hours extra at the minimum wage to pay off your £16 per week bedroom tax says Steve Webb the junior minister at the DWP. That’s all it takes he claimed on Radio 4 last week. Absolute nonsense and brought this statement to mind as the government are overtly trying to deceive.
The £18.57 pw gross extra in wages sees the government reduce your housing and council tax benefit by £15.78. Those 3 hours additional work see you better off by a massive £2.79 or 93p per extra hour worked!
Yes that does mean for every extra £1 you earn your benefit will be reduced by 85p – an effective tax rate of 85%!
(Note too that applies to all ages not just pensioners and if a billionaire only pays 45%…and allows them to say errantly that you will always be better off working which you wont be!)
Cue scores of Government apologists saying this is not a tax it’s a benefit reduction!
Call it whatever you like but if it looks like a duck and walks like a duck it’s an effing duck!
Now imagine you are a 59 year-old woman and your husband is 66. This is known as a mixed-age pensioner couple; mixed-age as one qualifies for pension or pension credit and the other does not. Your combined electricity and gas bill has increased 9%, food cost is going up by the day and predicted to rise much more so in the coming months, all other household costs are increasing too and your hard-earned savings at getting interest at 0.01% in the building society.
Hubby you say, they want me to work 3 hours a week more from April and we need the extra money. Ok love if that’s what you want. So you do. Then – and there is no easy diplomatic way to say this reader – the shit hits the fan!
Not only do you discover the 3 extra hours earn you the princely sum of 93p per hour but because this is a change in circumstances you are now hit by the bedroom tax and have to pay 25% of your rent on the 3 bed house you have made your home for 40 years bringing up your four children. They have homes of their own now and treat them with the same love and attention you have given ‘the family home’ as that is what it is since 1973. The same family home the darling grandchildren come to visit and stay over to give their mums and dads a night out or just a break. The same darling grandchildren who make you feel young again and on whom you lavish love and affection and get so much back in return.
How are we going to cope with the £37.50 per week Housing Benefit cut from our £150 per week rent in ‘the family home’ in London.
I could go on with this tale in the same way yet the key issue here is that mixed-age pensioner couples will be hit by the bedroom tax in April if they have a change in circumstances, such as working 3 more hours as the government advises in it tangled WEBB of deceit. The couple above would be £2.79 per week better off yet then have to pay £37.50 per week in the bedroom tax.
They would be £34.71 per week worse off for working 3 additional hours that government minister Steve Webb advocates …and that can happen from April 2013.
What a tangled WEBB of deceit eh reader? Sir Walter Scotts Ivanhoe has clearly missed this crusade hasn’t he?
What was that Mr Cameron, Clegg, IDS, Freud, Webb and hundreds of other coalition MPs? The bedroom tax doesn’t affect pensioners!
Maybe I am a bit late for pantomime season but, altogether now, OH YES IT DOES! Perhaps do you think the couple above may have sat with their grandchildren at a panto saying the same thing about 6 weeks ago? Yes that’s what grandparents do isn’t it take the grandchildren to panto and share the simple pleasures on their faces…but they can’t afford to do it this year. Well maybe but no popcorn or ice cream and definitely not taking them to McDonalds afterwards!
Sorry darlings even Father Christmas lives in these austere times they will say in 10 months time. No of course it’s not you that haven’t been good children. Santa had to let a few of the elves go.
Some more technical notes now for the housing professionals who think the Timms exchange with WEBB disproves the above. Sorry tenant pensioner I am not patronising you I am making this crystal clear for the housing professional who by and large di not believe the above so I am making it simple for them! The Timms exhange with Steve Webb doesn’t disprove and in fact all the above detail is correct.
The Timms exhange occured in November – and the time here is important – the National Housing Federation asked a question and you can see this in the House of Commons briefing paper here:
“The National Housing Federation asked for further clarification in light of changes that the Universal Credit will introduce:
From October 2013, when Universal Credit is introduced, if either member in a couple is under the qualifying age for Pension Credit then the couple will be ‘treated as working age’. This means they would be expected to claim the Universal Credit, and would therefore be subject to the size criteria. However, it is not clear what will happen to couples who begin to straddle the Pension Credit age after April 2013 but before the Universal Credit is introduced from October 2013. We would like clarification on this issue, in the regulations if necessary. Further to that, what happens when a household with one partner over the Pension Credit age and another under it, who would be exempt if they claimed Pension Credit prior to October 2013, claims it for the first time after October 2013?1
The mixed-age couple I mention above is what was being talked about and specifically as I have highlighted between April 2013 and October 2013.
The reply from the junior minister for tangled Webb is below and again note the date (November 2012)
“The Minister, Steve Webb, was questioned on this during consideration of the draft regulations by the First Delegated Legislation Committee:
Stephen Timms: I think the Minister has given a clear answer to my question, but I would like to be absolutely clear. Is he saying that what he describes as a mixed-age couple will not suffer the under-occupancy penalty prior to the introduction of universal credit, but they will afterwards. Is that right?
Steve Webb: More or less, so they will not suffer it prior to universal credit; if they are already in the system and protected by the time universal credit comes in, we will not go back, as it were, unless there is a major change of circumstance, but future claims will be treated in the opposite way.18
“The Universal Credit will only apply to new claimants from October 2013.” Is the comment that the House of Commons paper puts on this. Yet for once the usually excellent HoC Papers written so well and objectively by Wendy Wilson have this wrong.
Note the caveat I have highlighted “…unless there is a major change in circumstance” as this is precisely what working the 3 additional hours per work is, a change in circumstance which throws the existing or legacy claim into a new claim and a new UC claim from April.
So why is the date important of the Timms / Webb exchange above from November? Because the DWP issues new and unambiguous guidance on this on 10th December 2012 some 5 weeks after this exchange.
You will also mow see why I have highlighted in the regulations above as the new December 2012 guidance are the regulations.
The Universal Credit Policy Briefing Note from the DWP of DECEMBER 2012 clarifies absolutely and with no ambiguity whatsoever the point I make that mixed-age pensioner couples can and will be affected from April 2013
Note 1 Para 1 says:-
“We have said that we will offer Transitional Protection to claimants migrating to Universal Credit from legacy benefits where their circumstances have otherwise remained the same to ensure that they do not receive less as a result of their move to Universal Credit”
Yet if there is a change in circumstances such as taking on 3 extra hours to pay for bedroom tax which is what Steve Webb advocated then that is a change in circumstance which will see the bedroom tax apply
Note 1 Para 2 says:-
“As a result we have amended the list of circumstances that will constitute a termination of Transitional Protection to ensure that claimants who are moved onto Universal Credit with no change in circumstance are protected by a transitional package that is simple to understand and administer.”
Ditto. Transitional protection applies from April to October and means pensioners will not be affected by the bedroom UNLESS there is a change in circumstance. Yet if there is a CIC then transitional protection will be lost and the bedroom tax applies
Note 2 Para 2 say:-
“Claimants who come onto Universal Credit as a result of a change of circumstance meaning they need to apply to Universal Credit instead will not be entitled to Transitional Protection”
Remarkably unambiguous for a DWP document!! It could not be any clearer could it? If there is a change in circumstance the existing or legacy claim ends and a new UC claim commences and the pensioner couple ARE subject to the bedroom tax. (And the overall benefit cap and council tax deductions too!)
Note 3 para 2 says: –
“To ensure, there will be no cash losers directly as a result of the migration to Universal Credit where circumstances remain the same, the Government will provide cash protection…”
The CIC is a huge caveat and means when there is a CIC that transitional protection does NOT apply and so if a mixed-age pensioner couple take 3 more hours work or any other CIC after 1 April then in effect the old claim ends and with that any transitional protection payment goes, and a new claim is assessed under the UC regulations – the ones that say BOTH partners have to have reached qualifying pension age.
The bedroom tax will apply and will apply from April with any change in circumstance!
Just a final note go back and read what Steve Webb said and ask yourself did he deliberately mislead. It is not a MAJOR change in circumstance that throws out the old legacy claim and prompts a new UC claim it is ANY change in circumstance.
So to all the housing professionals that believe the Timms position which would appear to be the NHF too, go back and do your bloody homework. If that’s sounds arrogant of me …tough! To all the opposition MPs who believe the bedroom tax won’t apply to pensioners before October 2013 you go back and do your bloody homework too! Again tough if you don’t like the tone of that. To all the older persons lobby groups who believe if won’t affect pensioners from April, you too get off your lazy backsides.
To all mixed-age pensioner couples – You are being shafted by the government and being deceived by them too.
Ask yourself what is next? What other benefits will this government take away from you, by stealth as in this one, or openly? You are being targeted here for all pensioners.
If the government can tax or take benefit away from mixed-age pensioners without a fuss then next time why not try all pensioners?
After all even the older persons lobbies don’t realise this is happening and are not using their power and influence – and it’s a huge influence too – because they cannot see what is happening!
Pensioners rely on Age UK and Michael Parkinson, June Whitfield and Dame Joan Bakewell to inform them and to promote their case in all government changes. Yet they are silent and it’s not a case of you having presbyacusis (age-related deafness or going a bit mutton as you get older.) It’s a case of the hugely powerful older persons lobbies not knowing wht is about to happen in just over 8 weeks!!
To all pensioners – The coalition is committed it says to reduce welfare benefit spend yet it can’t reduce the welfare bill unless it does reduce pensioner benefits as these account to over half of the entire welfare spend. This and all previous governments don’t like to say that old age pension is considered as a welfare benefit as they castigate welfare benefit recipients as scroungers and pensioners are 40%+ of the vote. This coalition in particular, however, has set its stall out. We will cut the welfare benefit spend so let them be judged on that as they will and the overall bill is currently £14bn per year more than they inherited.
More importantly what it means is the coalition will HAVE to cut pensioner benefits to achieve this – there is NO OTHER OPTION. The bedroom tax cut to a small group of 90,000 mixed-age pensioners is a nice easy way for them to trail it and gauge the likely opposition to later cuts to all pensioners isn’t it?
Yes! Let’s sneak one in and hope that nobody notices and then we can use it as precedent in the next lot of pensioner benefit cuts is the coalition strategy
Why not begin asking yourselves a simple question. If the coalition is adamant it is unfair for housing benefit to pay for spare bedrooms for working-age people, then why is it fair for this not to apply to all pensioners? When, not if, will the coalition say we need to means test free TV licences or winter fuel payments or any other universal benefits just as they have done with Child Benefit.
Maybe with all the snow and cold about today and recently the government may think pensioners will be too cold to protest? No I don’t think so do you?