Bedroom tax – could landlords score a bigger own goal?

Just heard the world at one on Radio 4 about some academic research by Centre for Housing Policy at York university.  They had been given data from 4 large landlords, Riverside and WALH mentioned the other two not, on actual bedroom tax numbers to date.

The big message social landlords wanted to get across was 1 in 5 social tenants have downsized and so the claimed savings from the bedroom tax policy would be £160m less than the DWP claimed.

How bloody stupid can social landlords get?  What a huge own goal this is was my first reaction which I am sure will be confirmed when we see the transcript of the programme later tonight.

Think about it, one in five downsizing?  That is 132,000 of the 660,000 affected by the bedroom tax.  The programme also said 40% of these went to private rented so leaving the other 60% – or 79,000+ downsizing to social housing properties.  SEVENTY NINE THOUSAND!!!

Have these 79,000 smaller social housing properties just appeared out of the ether? Have social landlords been conducting a secret mass house building operation under cover of darkness? No of course not and the research conclusions are as much of a sham as the bedroom tax decision making process and the social landlords involved have scored a massive own goal by inferring that 20% could downsize and that social housing has 12% capacity (60% of that 20%) for social tenants to downsize to!

Even worse the flapping like crazy new DWP Minister Esther McVey was made to seem more credible than this ridiculous claim from social landlords who are trying to outdo Gerald Ratner when it comes to PR!

Bungling idiots just doesn’t cut it from these landlords one presumes released this bizarre and incredulous research with a view to challenging the bedroom tax policy.

When and if you hear this programme or see the transcript you will note McVey was woeful and full or rank hypocrisy and of course failed to answer any questions and deserves scorn for her woeful performance.  Yet the abiding legacy from this farce is that landlords have shot themselves in the foot and big time.  They couldn’t have given the coalition a bigger coup if they tried and have given a massive impression that social landlords don’t know what they are doing and couldn’t organise pea soup in a brewery.  Idiots!!

Update 10.20pm

Just in after, ironically, speaking about the bedroom tax in an academic forum and find some twitter comments from well regarded academics saying I should have read the report first and that CHP at York University well regarded.  No and so what!

There was no need to read the report as (a) the damage has already been done, (b) the people this affects ie tenants would never read and, (c) because this was an extremely sloppy piece of research that can be proven without having to read the report!!

A bold claim even arrogant you think reader? No. Its simple to explain, so simple that even a social landlord could understand.

The aim of this research was to cut through government assumptions on the bedroom tax and specifically that more will downsize than the DWP estimated.  This was stated by the researchers on the Radio 4 programme.  These academics went on to say that the data , when extrapolated (the usual academic caveat) would see the government’s claimed saving reduce by £160m from their £480m estimate.

Stop there!  Would that be the DWP £480m estimate that the academics took as read and did not investigate as being an assumption?  Yes the same incredulous assumption that, incredulously the academics took to be truth and fact!!  The same incredulous £480m figure that comes from 660,000 affected at £14 per week average that just happens to become £480m. Yes. And the same bedroom tax that the coalition tells us they put in an additional £35m of DHPs on top of the original £25m in DHPs allocated for the bedroom tax?  Yes the same one.

Now hang and excuse my smug as hell tone here but how can the bedroom tax ever save the public purse this £480m per year?  That incredulously figure (which the incredulous research sought NOT to investigate!!) is the absolute maximum assuming there are no costs of the bedroom tax.  Yet straightaway we need to take away the £60m in DHPs…oh dear the academics didn’t see this – and I don’t have to read the report to know that – as the same academics said this figure on the radio 4 programme!  Is that inept, unprofessional or just sloppy as hell?

Then what about the costs the bedroom tax gives in appeals as public purse costs to local councils and the tribunals.  That is a direct cost of the bedroom tax which has simply been assumed to be ethereal by the academics.  What about the homelessness costs the bedroom tax will give to the public purse too?  Yes I could go on and on but this was an incredibly sloppy piece of work by the academics.

What was even worse was the social landlords chronic ineptitude, though we should not be surprised at this by now as social landlords have proven to be inept at getting a message across over the bedroom tax and what the hell were they thinking!!

A month or so ago the Independent published an article which proved once and for all that there was not enough properties to downsize to.  The House of Lords said this (see Lord Best’s original amendment)  as did other in the welfare reform debates in 2011 and 2012 but it took this to be splashed over the Independent for it to resonate and become accepted.  What that led to was the general public having sympathy for the first time and specifically because the general public thought it wrong to tax somebody when they couldn’t move.  The Independent claiming only 4% were able to move. Last week we had a London council seeking praise by claiming they had helped 94 families to downsize and hey people aren’t we good news release put out.  They failed to mention of course that the councils has 2700 households hit by the bedroom tax and again less than 4% could move!  See how pesky numbers can be to spoil a good story eh reader. Whats that have the universities been cut that much they can’t afford a calculator!

Yet here we have 4 large social landlords trying to make a point about the level of claimed savings by saying more will downsize than you predicted!!!  Are they mad or just stupid?  Or are they ‘playing’ at games again interfering in areas they know they are woeful and constantly make things worse…and all in an effort to say well at least we tried?

Brains of a rocking horse is too high a description for that!

What in God’s name did social landlords think they could achieve by saying more are downsizing than you anticipated DWP?  Oh yes it means you were right all along and we have just handed you a massive PR coup.

Rant over and you see why I get angry and why this was an almighty cock-up and why I don have to read the report before stating that.  I have praised the two named landlords in this research Riverside and WALH as two of the few social landlords that have put their head above the parapet and openly and publicly criticised the bedroom tax. I am also on speaking terms with senior figures in both organisations and other landlords who will be angered at my venom here but not surprised.  They will realise soon enough if they haven’t already that this was a monumental cock-up.  

Unfortunately the battle for the hearts and minds of the public is not like a cock-up an individual landlord will make (and they all do as does everyone) and then say ok sorry, draw a line in the sand and lets adopt a lessons learned approach.  This is PR and aimed at the public arena (else it wouldn’t have been gifted to Radio 4 who also made numerous mistakes too) and is a very different thing altogether.  

The battle for the hearts and minds of the public is crucial yet social landlords take to that like ducks to oil spillages and not to water.  The NHF who are far and away the best at lobbying in the sector yet even they admitted in January that 57% of people did not know of the bedroom tax despite their efforts.  Yet just a month or so after that thanks to TV news reports we had 60 million bedroom tax experts in the UK and everybody knew of the hated bedroom tax.  Social landlords and even the best of their lobby groups are inept at reaching the general public with a message and that’s a huge problem for social housing as it would be with any sectors survival.

Academia is not the point of call for winning the hearts and minds as they communicate in academic speak and the bedroom tax issues needs to be communicated in simple terms such as the Independent did with the simple message that tenants cannot downsize because there are far too few properties to downsize to…and in any case why the hell should tenants downsize when the housing benefit paid to a single person in private housing is enough to pay for a three bed social housing property anywhere in the country?  Yet again the DWP calls this fair and this assumption and assertion was not challenged in a simple way – a simple way that would influence the hearts and minds.  Put another way even if this incredulous conclusion today that 1 in 5 tenants would downsize but this would only leave a £320m saving those hearts and minds would say it’s still a £320m saving!!

What the hell were these landlords thinking is not anger it is the right question to ask and one in the calmest possible voice!  I don’t need to read the report.  I will of course and wonder if the research shows that arrears are much greater than anticipated.  If it shows as one landlord said two weeks ago we have 8 times more voids and void loss now than we had before the bedroom tax and so bedroom tax direct arrears are not just the only problem.  Or to see if it says as one chief executive told me last week that void loss in figures this year will be over 250% higher than the year before? or will the report focus on and start from the naive and frankly stupid hypothesis that the savings are not as high as the DWP expected and more will downsize?  If it’s the latter is it worth reading?


11 thoughts on “Bedroom tax – could landlords score a bigger own goal?

  1. Yeah but if 40% of downsizing tenants moved to private let then it means that the losses are even greater. I know that for the price of my one-bedroom privately rented flat I could have a three-bedroom council house with a garden. So, assuming I already lived in the three-bed house, they would make me pay like £25 a week to keep the three-bedroom or I could move and the LHA would wholly cover the smaller flat. Where are the savings if the same (or more) money is being spent?

  2. Another amazing, informative blog Mr H. As I began to read almost right away I was getting angry with disbelief and as things progressed I went through most emotions known to man! I was so engrossed (with 1 hand on forehead & other raised) I was ranting and shouting “obscenities”) at my laptop! Maybe I am crazy why haha, but what I have just read is insane!

  3. I belong to a Facebook BT appeal group. We have done FOI requests that prove there are NOT smaller properties to move to………….. Then we have people who didn’t know they could appeal. And some who have actually been told by their council that they CAN’T appeal……… We read that there are many 3 bed properties standing empty.. (Therefore loss of rent). As some people will have moved to the private sector to escape the ‘bedroom tax’. So, where are all these families that the government spout are needed for families that are overcrowded???……..They will have given up their secure/Assured tenancies and be at the Mersey of the private landlord……. And so, will the council/HA’s sell of these empty properties??? Wouldn’t be at all surprised!! Leaving, even less social housing!!!!
    The whole thing is utter madness. And needs to be scrapped. ASAP. It is a policy designed to persecute the poorest and most vulnerable in our society…. And this government already have blood on their hands……
    Even the Disabled are NOT protected………. Why should you be told that you should move from your specially adapted home. (Which will have cost thousands of pounds to do).
    And, NO. They are NOT being awarded DHP’s. Another falsehood, spouted by this government!!

  4. Just read this in the Independent today: Esther McVey was asked about all the 3 bed properties lying EMPTY because of this policy, her answer was that they should be chopped up and made into 1 or 2 bed properties!

    Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but one of the aims of the policy was supposed to be “freeing up” 3 bed homes for those who were overcrowded and/or on the waiting list, now McVey advocates chopping them up!

    You could not make this up, you really couldn’t!!

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