Esther McVey and the OED

I am seriously contemplating whether to ask the OED to include a new verb called “to mcvey” be included in the next edition to mean to knowingly mislead the general public and parliament.   Then Esther McVey, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions will have what all MPs seek – her name in political history.

Her latest set of porkies is in her local newspaper, the Wirral Globe, which used to be my local paper when she accuses the Labour Councillor of being alarmist and scaremongering by saying the bedroom tax will lead to increased homelessness. It is her use of deliberate untruths to substantiate her opinion that is the issue – something which Esther McVey is very fond of doing despite knowing her statistics and figures are patently false.  One cannot accuse a minister at the DWP of not knowing official DWP statistics after all, yet she constantly uses false and misleading statistics to assert her views, in short she mcveys!

In response to Cllr George Davis’ claims the Wirral Globe reports the following: –

However Miss McVey said housing benefit needed to be changed to prevent the bills increasing. She said: “I found Cllr George Davies’ words alarmist and scaremongering at the least. “Over the last three years the Government’s contribution to discretionary housing payments for Wirral have more than tripled and almost doubled from last year – 2011/12 it was £282,981, by 2012/13 it rose to £522,238 and for 2013/14 it will be £917,214.

“The Government needed to reform housing benefit because it doubled under Labour and stood at £24bn in 2012/13, this is double the amount spent on policing in England and Wales.

Housing Benefit doubled under Labour McVey?  The HB bill in 1997/98 when Labour took office was £12.2bn.  When they left in May 2010 it stood at £20.8bn.  That is an increase of £8.6bn or 70% – it did not double.  Yes that is a large rise in 13 years reader I agree just as I agree the Housing Benefit bill needs reform and cutting.

However the Housing Benefit bill under the Tories stood at £3.8bn in 1986/87 and rose to £12.2bn in May 1997.  The HB bill MORE THAN TRIPLED under the previous Tory administrations yet McVey conveniently omits this fact.  So not only has McVey knowingly misled the local electorate she has also knowingly left out the fact that her party’s record was over 4.5 times worse than the last Labour government she so decries.

Esther McVey has a history of misleading parliament too over the bedroom tax which she calls the spare room subsidy and despite the fact it can only be applied on a spare ‘bedroom’ and not any spare room such as a toilet which is also a room along with a pantry or a scullery.

Yet the bedroom tax is where McVey really omits key facts and constantly states known porkies as purported facts.  In February this year she overtly misled parliament by stating that there are 1 million spare bedrooms in social housing paid for by the taxpayer.  Aside from the fact that this government knows and publishes figures to show (a) under occupation in social housing is 10% yet it is 16% in the private rented sector or 60% higher (English Housing Survey), and (b) that we the taxpayer pay £2.17 billion per year more to private tenants for the same number of properties in Housing Benefit – both very pertinent errors of omission and commission by McVey – there cannot be 1 million spare bedrooms in social housing paid for in Housing Benefit.

This is one of those myths that cannot be borne out at all as I now explain.

The DWP states the bedroom tax affects 660,000 under occupying households.  Of these 540,000 under occupy by 1 bedroom and the other 120,000 by 2 or more bedrooms – all from the DWP official estimate in their impact assessment dated June 2012.

540,000 homes with 1 spare bedroom gives 540,000 spare bedrooms obviously.

Yet for there to be 1,000,000 spare bedrooms in total the other 120,000 homes need to have 460,000 spare bedrooms between them or 3.7 spare bedrooms each on average.  To have 3.7 bedrooms spare in 120,000 houses means there must be at least 120,000 social housing properties each having 5 bedrooms and also claiming Housing Benefit.  Yet there are not 120,000 5 bed properties in social housing let alone all claiming Housing Benefit.

Yet such clear and unambiguous facts don’t deter McVey from misleading parliament and knowingly so back In February when she said:

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.

The reason for the clarification was that pensioners are allowed as many spare bedrooms as they like and Housing Benefit will pick up the tab.  Pensioners are exempt from the bedroom tax.

In the same debate McVey who is also responsible for disability and referred to as the Minister for Disability also said in regards to the bedroom tax that: –

The hon. Members for Dundee East and for Strangford (Jim Shannon) asked about people with a disability who need an overnight carer. Obviously, they are exempt, regardless of whether they need an overnight carer all the time or just occasionally. Again, Opposition Members got their facts wrong.

No McVey it is you who has her facts wrong and alarmingly so given you are the Minister for Disability.  It is only a tenant or the tenant’s partner who is allowed a spare room for an overnight carer.  If you have a child or adult in the household who is not the tenant they do NOT qualify for a spare room for an overnight carer – and given you have constituents who have been caught out by this and have written to you yet received no reply (!!!!) you should know this too.

Further the claimed exemption you say they have is not guaranteed at all.  It is up to each local Council to decide and also it DOES matter how often overnight care is provided so again you have this wrong.  Yes reader we can add incompetence and not knowing her own brief to deliberate peddling of mistruths and misleading parliament.

In the same parliamentary debate she said: –

My hon. Friend the Member for City of Chester (Stephen Mosley) reminded Labour Members what they had repeated time and again. They must get a grip of the housing benefit bill. They never managed to do that in government, but they must do it if they are to be even a credible Opposition.

Yet as I state above McVey conveniently omits that the Housing Benefit bill rose 4.5 times under the previous Tory government than the previous Labour one!

McVey also discussed discretionary housing payments in general terms in the parliamentary debate by saying the government has increased these yet she mentions the total DHP bill and DHPs are not just for the bedroom tax shortfalls – a very clever and repeated trick this coalition uses.  In fact the allocation for DHPs when looked at in the Housing Benefit circular S1 of 2013 reveals that just one-sixth of the total amount nationally – £25m out of £150m is allocated for the bedroom tax.

Let’s examine that in the case of Wirral and you will recall she told the Wirral Globe: –

Over the last three years the Government’s contribution to discretionary housing payments for Wirral have more than tripled and almost doubled from last year – 2011/12 it was £282,981, by 2012/13 it rose to £522,238 and for 2013/14 it will be £917,214

This financial year we see the overall DHP amount to Wirral has increased by £384,976 (from £522,238 to £917,214) and this needs to cover the new shortfalls this year of (a) the bedroom tax; (b) the benefit cap and (c) the increase in private sector tenant count  in Wirral.

(a) Wirral has 3816 households at an average shortfall of £14 per week which makes £2.79m this year as one new element the £395k has to deal with.

(b) Then Wirral has 350 households hit with a benefit cap shortfall of £93 per week – a further £1.7m – although this only comes in from August and so in this financial year it is £0.99m making a total so far of £3.78m

So even if Wirral MBC spent all their DHP money on just the bedroom tax and benefit cap shortfall taken out of the system by the coalition then 89 out of every 100 who will get a Housing Benefit deduction this year won’t get a DHP.

You should also note that the 350 households in Wirral who have all received a letter from the DWP stating they will be hot by the benefit cap will become homeless this year.  A £93 per week deduction will mean they cannot afford rent and they will be evicted whether their landlord is a social landlord or a private one.  That transfers the cost of accommodating 350 new families only Wirral Council yet the Council does NOT have 350 properties available and so will need to source hotel or B&B accommodation and have to pay for this.  This could easily cost £5m per year to the Council.

So as well as McVey giving false information, deliberately omitting information, knowingly misleading her constituents and parliament, McVey is clearly wrong on the homeless impact of her government’s reform and again omits the huge cost this places on the local Council.

Note too that in terms of DHPs the government has reduced Housing Benefit to private tenants – known as LHA – in Wirral this year by an average of 1.53% while landlords have increased private rents in the North West by 3.9%.  So many more private tenants will be seeking a DHP for this shortfall which if not paid by Wirral Council will likely see the private tenant evicted and then become an additional homelessness cost to the Council.

The vast majority of DHPs goes to private tenants and about 68% nationally.  This may even be a higher figure in Wirral as here we see 46% of all HB claimants being private tenants when the national average is just 32%.  There are also circa an additional 300 private HB claimants in Wirral in the last year too.


5 thoughts on “Esther McVey and the OED

  1. If McVey is lying, and she clearly is, a complaint should be made to the United Kingdom Statistics Authority. A few weeks ago, her boss, Smith, made a preposterous claim on the One O’Clock News and I complained to UKSA, as per my email and their reply below. At worst this is an irritation to the DWP and notice to them that their falsehoods are not fooling everyone. At best, ministers, like this wretched parly sec, can be reprimanded by UKSA.

    Andrew Staden

    Jun 6

    Iain ‘Duncan’ Smith today made a statement on the BBC One O’Clock News that the current government had made £80 billion of ‘welfare savings’. It’s a lie. Even stretched over five years this would be impossible, requiring £16 billion per annum, and £20 billion per annum if we factor in that the coalition government continued with the projected expenditure of the previous administration in its first year.

    I would like to make a formal complaint about Smith’s preposterous claim, if it is possible. I should be grateful if you would advise me about how to go about doing this.

    Many thanks.

    UKSA REPLY – Jul 1 (2 days ago)

    Dear Mr Staden

    Thank you for your email. The Statistics Authority notes the points you raise. This is a matter for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to respond to in the first instance, so we will ask officials in DWP to respond to you directly and provide a copy of their response to us.

    We are copying this to the National Statistician’s Office who will take this forward with DWP.

    Kind regards

    UK Statistics Authority Secretariat

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