Bedroom Tax – One Million ‘spare’ bedrooms in social housing is a known lie minister!

Steve Webb the junior minister at the DWP, the department responsible for the bedroom tax, is blatantly misleading Parliament by stating over and over again that there are one million spare bedrooms in social housing.  That cannot be true by the DWPs own figures which say 660,000 social housing households are affected…you know the bedroom tax scroungers!

Of this 660,000 the DWP says 540,000 under-occupy by 1 bedroom – so that’s 540,000 spare bedrooms on those figures.

Yet to be ONE MILLION spare bedrooms in social housing the other 120,000 (660,000 less 540,000) need to under occupy by a total of 460,000 bedrooms.

So for the government claim to be true and not invented the 120,000 social rented households affected by the bedroom tax MUST have 460,000 spare bedrooms – or 3.83 spare bedrooms each on average.

That means – ON AVERAGE – the government believes there are 120,000 single persons living in 5 bed properties!!! That is what the coalition and DWP are saying when they claim there are ONE MILLION spare bedrooms in social housing during the bedroom tax debate.

UNLESS of course this 1 million figure includes pensioners! Yet Steve Webb and the coalition are still overtly and knowingly misleading if they trot out this figure as part of the bedroom tax as pensioners are not affected.

It is a pity no opposition MP has sought to ask for clarity on this 1 million spare social housing bedrooms.  If this misleading figure does include the exempted pensioners – which for it to have any validity it must – then it undermines the coalition view that this is about under occupation as why should a single pensioner be allowed to roam about in a 5 bed scarce social housing property that is a privileged national resource?  What would that say? That a pensioner is free to take the piss perhaps but woe betide a working-age person doing the same? Yes it would!

Of course NO party is going to say pensioners should be affected by the bedroom tax or any other welfare reform with 40% of the electorate being this ‘grey vote.’  Yet because pensioner stake over half of all welfare benefits it must be a known lie when ANY MP of ANY party says they will reduce the welfare benefit bill if they do exempt pensioners.

Whatever happened to we are all in this together?  Oh I see we are all in this together UNLESS you are a pensioner!!  Sorry my mistake a ‘poor’ pensioner as they are known…yes so poor that their minimum income (circa £140pw) is double that of a working age person (circa £70pw) who must be a really really poor non-pensioner then!

Yet this government have repeatedly stated they are going to reduce the welfare benefit bill, time and time again they have said this and continue to do so today.  Yet they must be knowingly fibbing to you the taxpayer in saying this mustn’t they?  Just like Steve Webb and so many coalition MPs who trotted out “there are a million spare bedrooms in social housing” today!

PS – just being bloody obtuse here but if this government refuse to define what is a bedroom then how the hell can they say there are any spare? Is that an obtuse lie? Maybe Steve Webb should ask Clegg if it’s a non-specific lie?


Dear Reader, I have just cut and pasted the debate from yesterday’s House of Commons session from Hansard (which runs to 107 pages of A4!) and in summarising the debate for the government just before the vote we find government junior minister Esther McVey saying this:

The hon. Member for Dumfries and Galloway (Mr Brown) questioned the number of spare bedrooms. There are 1 million spare bedrooms in properties occupied by working-age people alone, so that does not include pensioners


Column 340 Steve Webb

“We subsidise a million spare bedrooms in the social rented sector through housing benefit”


Column 340 Steve Webb

When we have a million spare bedrooms, and over a quarter of a million households living in overcrowded accommodation, we must do better


Column 342 Steve Webb (yet again!)

The 1 million spare bedrooms are a precious resource of our communities and of vulnerable people in them

Column 343 Steve Webb

We have 1 million spare bedrooms among people on housing benefit

Column 348 (Guess who – Yes Steve Webb!)

The most valuable way in which we can look at social sector housing benefit costs is to look at the million spare bedrooms that we currently subsidise

Column 362 (Just for variety NOT Steve Webb but Greg Mulholland – Lib Dem)

Mr Russell Brown: Will the hon. Gentleman clarify something for me? There is much talk about 1 million empty bedrooms, but there is some confusion about that. Are we talking about 1 million empty bedrooms in households that exclude pensioners, or would pensioner households create 1 million-plus empty bedrooms? Are we talking solely about households excluding pensioners?

Greg Mulholland: As the hon. Gentleman has clearly heard, it is the former. I hope that is clear.

Column 386 (Jacob Rees-Mogg) Tory

There are those who have large families, live in small accommodation, or are living in the private rented sector, and cannot get into social housing or council housing because of the problem of under-occupancy, which, we have discovered from the Government, amounts to 1 million bedrooms

Is repeating the lie just sheer incompetence in not having checked it reader?  Or is it something more sinister as this appears loud and clear as an agreed coalition strategy ahead of the debate doesn’t it?

And that brings me back to Column 423 and Esther McVey’s whopper which takes away any ambiguity:

There are 1 million spare bedrooms in properties occupied by working-age people alone, so that does not include pensioners.

Very good of the The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (Esther McVey) to kindly confirm in unambiguous terms the lies that her coalition colleagues have been inflcting on Parliament and the general public.

NEWSFLASH: Simon and Garfunkel comment:

All lies and jest, still a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest….LIE LiE LIE (altogether now) LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE, LIE LIE LIE, LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE LIE

FURTHER UPDATE – Thursday 28 February 2013

I have been made aware of a House of Commons Library Paper referenced SN06272 published on Tuesday this week which is worth reading in full and you can access here

This paper is a Standard Note (SN) which is as near as you are ever going to get to an objective opinion on the bedroom tax.  SN’s are published so as to be read by all MPs and therefore have to be scrupulously objective.

Dear reader, in light of what I have said above about the coalition ministers overtly and knowingly misleading the house (or in simple terms their lies) can I direct you to page 4 of this objective Standard Note on the bedroom tax.  There it says:

Lord Freud justified the measure during the passage of the Welfare Reform Act through Parliament…

I remind noble Lords of the core argumentation. We do not think that taxpayers should be expected to meet the cost of somewhere approaching 1 million spare bedrooms, a cost of around £0.5 billion every year.

This reveals Lord Freud stated the lie first (is it a noble lie if spoken to the Lords? Dulce et Decorum est dear reader!) in a House of Lords debate on 14 February 2012.  Yes this particularly easy to disprove lie has been around for over a year!

The SN paper goes on directly below to say: –

It is clear from the February 2012  Impact Assessment that the desired savings in Housing Benefit expenditure will only be realised in full if social tenants do not seek to move from the homes they are under-occupying.

Estimates of Housing Benefit savings are based upon the current profile of tenants in the social rented sector, with little tenant mobility assumed.  If a significant number of tenants wished to move, this would reduce direct savings and place extra demands on social landlords.

So Reader here we have

(a) The HoC Library stating unambiguously that the desired (£480m) savings will ONLY be realised IF tenants do not move

(b) Lord Freud admitting the exact same

(c) Lord Freud saying any tenant movement would reduce this maximum £480m saving which was contained in the impact assessment done by the DWP

Yet, yesterday in Parliament Steve Webb, the DWP Minister (!!!) said this was NOT the case at all and the £480m saving would be achieved whether tenants moved or not!! He also said the impact assessment was a robust estimate yet he thoroughly contradicts that in lying to the House by saying as I quoted here:

Ms Karen Buck (Westminster North) (Lab): Will the Minister take this opportunity to confirm his own impact statement, which makes it clear that if this policy works and encourages people to downsize to smaller accommodation, there will be no savings? Will he explain to the House which of the two objectives he supports: saving money or encouraging downsizing?

Steve Webb: No, I am afraid that the hon. Lady is not correct in saying that. There will be a range of responses to this change, which I will run through later in my remarks. Some people will stay where they are and will pay the shortfall; some people will use a spare room for a lodger or for sub-letting; some people will work or work more hours; and some people will move. Our impact assessment has a range of modelling on how people will respond, but it clearly includes people staying where they are and paying the shortfall—that is where the saving comes from.

The above can be read in Hansard column 335 and in response to a question from Karen Buck which simply read back the DWP’s own impact assessment findings and confirmed above by Lord Freud and by the HoC paper that savings of £480m can ONLY be achieved by every tenant staying Steve Webb says “No, I am afraid that the hon. Lady is not correct in saying that!!!!!!”

Oh dear oh dear oh dear – I wonder how many examples Steve Webb needs from as many objective sources such as the HoC paper and Hansard that proves he lies and does so knowingly.

Now if only a MP would ask a parliamentary question of the DWP Minister asking for the DWP’s breakdown of the numbers of spare bedrooms and how they arrive at this figure and get a written answer!

14 thoughts on “Bedroom Tax – One Million ‘spare’ bedrooms in social housing is a known lie minister!

  1. As we all know bar the party faithfools Labour don’t give a monkeys about Social Housing , especially Council Housing their record speaks for itself, and the ConDems are the same thats the reality of “we are all in it together”

  2. What about the many couples who are claiming individually but actually living together and have flats or houses lying empty and claim 100% housing benefit for these. This prevents genuine people from getting access to housing. I have seen at least 3 cases of this in my community recently. No one will convince me this is right.

  3. I expect very few of the so-called spare bedrooms are unoccuppied given the ridiculous definition of when children are counted as sharing rooms under the bedroom tax regulations. The formula bears no relation to the reality of family life and also a point that has been missed by most commentators.

  4. I listened to a large chunk of yesterday’s parliamentary debate on the bedroom tax, and one opposition member did in fact ask for clarification of whether that figure of 1 million spare bedrooms included properties inhabited by pensionerers. Unfortunately, the question was put in such a way that I’m not totally sure what the answer was! It was meant to be an either/or question, but the ‘or’ just sounded like a rewording of the ‘either’ to me! Nevertheless, I took the answer (“the former”) to imply that the figure does not include pensioners. I was shouting at my computer screen in frustration at the unclear question/answer!

    Moreover, I heard a minister state yet again that paying the bedroom tax was just a matter of working another couple of hours – surprise surprise, the claim went unchallenged.

  5. @mousegran, I think one of the most interesting things to someone like myself who had never watched a debate before was just how few people turned up on the gov benches to listen to the arguments (I can’t be sure but it seemed not one person was there for the duration) and then all waddled in from the bars to vote for the govs policy (against the EDM) without having heard a thing so voted with no information and only did so “cos its party policy” with no thought or conviction.

    Totaly disgusting… no wonder people feel politicians are pathetic sciving scum living of the hard paying taxpayers earnings.. to use there own rhetoric against them.

    That said, come 2015 there are going to be potentially 660,000 households taking an interest in voting who would never have done so before and they sure as hell won’t be voting tory or lib-dem… but then again, I doubt the other parties will repeal this if they get in; they’ll just fiddle with the edges making it more complex and more expensive.

  6. I was also watching a debate for the first time, and my thoughts were the same as yours, Jonathan. What was also clear was that of those who spoke, particularly on the Government side, very few appeared to have much knowledge that went beyond the much-repeated and misleading government rhetoric or (frequently incorrect) newspaper headlines.

    Joe’s blogs should be compulsory reading for anyone voting on the welfare reforms!

  7. What about the original statistics that actually included home owners who made up 85% of those under occupying?

    Estimates from the English Housing Survey on overcrowding and under occupation
    produce the estimates in the table shown below. These figures are based upon the
    ‘bedroom standard’ rather than the size criteria applied in Housing Benefit.
    Overcrowded At Standard Under occupied
    Social Rented Sector 7.3% 52.6% 40.1%
    Private Rented Sector 5.6% 41.6% 52.8%
    Owner Occupiers 1.3% 13.6% 85.0%
    ALL TENURES 3.0% 24.8% 72.3%
    Source: Three-year average based on 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11 English Housing
    Survey full household samples. Households are counted as under occupying
    accommodation if they are one or more above the ‘bedroom standard’.

    Click to access social-sector-housing-under-occupation-wr2011-ia.pdf

    I think that now they have brought into the policy children of certain ages have to now share a room they should do another research on statistics, which will of course change the % of over crowding and under occupation.

  8. Colin McKee: “What about the many couples who are claiming individually but actually living together and have flats or houses lying empty and claim 100% housing benefit for these”. No one is claiming that this is right, and it is a completely separate issue to the Bedroom Tax. Having said that, the benefits system can act as a disincentive to people living together.

  9. Would the bedroom tax have reached this stage if those voting for it had been aware of the true facts?

    There is something fundamentally wrong with a system that allows a policy to be legally implemented when its passage through parliament was based on lies. IMHO.

  10. @Joe, I think you may have covered this before either in part or fully (I know you did document room and people sizes and the whole fractional debate) but I had another thought…

    if under the bedroom tax, with no definition of a bedroom, two children of the same sex have to share a bedroom and that bedroom is between 50 and 70sqft and the present occupier has two such rooms meaning that legally the occupation is correct under the HA1985 does this mean that the council/ha/tenant can be forced to break the law by overcrowding to meet the BT standard of one room for two whole people age 10-16?

    I do believe that some people are managing to get rooms under 50sqft excluded but it seems to vary between councils and how much a tenant kicks up a fuss… likewise the issue of 2/3 bed parlor houses where a second reception could be used either as a granny room or a dining room but it does seem to be up to the individual to argue the case so some get it but people not aware of the argument by default don’t get the exclusion.

    I believe that some people are trying a legal argument using the dispersal act (I think its called) and arguing that a room that is less than 70sqft cannot be classed as a bedroom under this act, but I can see this easily defeated by the government arguing that yes it can as it clearly states it in the 1985 act and also the dispersal act (if this was an act as apposed to some other form of “contract”) but that act I believe was also more about HMO’s or multiple purpose dwellings which a normal council/ha property is not… however if they do use the 1985 act as argument they then have to admit that it is relevant to the definition of a bedroom.

    If a 3 bed house has two “small bedrooms” can a family reject it on the basis that “I have two 11 year olds, and so will have a spare room?

    Likewise, most new build 2 bed council flats are only offered to people with two children under 10, or 1 child over 10 as the second bedroom is exactly 70sqft will the council/HA have to offer this to couples with two children regardless of age and therefore break the law as it can only hold “1 full person, or two half people” or will the councils only choice be to try and find property within its stock that has a large second bedroom for two whole people or force people to accept a three bedroom place that is suitable for a family that has “two full persons” children but means that they will be forced to pay the bedroom tax as a result.

    I hope you get my gist? as I said, if you’ve already covered this aspect I apologize.

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