Just in case you live in cloud cuckoo land the DWP admitted they made a serious cock up by misdirecting local councils over the bedroom tax. Many thousands have had the bedroom tax wrongly imposed when they should have been exempt.
But how many?
The official DWP figures put out in November say 523,0000 households are affected by the bedroom tax
The DWP said Wednesday it is a ‘small’ number and by today they said it is at most 5000 if you believe the BBC website which saw the reporter blithely restate this DWP view. Hence 5000 is just a 0.96% figure of all those affected.
Then the Guardian put out a report entitled 40,000 could be exempted and say the figure is between 4 and 15% of the total which is a range of 22000 to 78500 and far higher than the DWP estimate.
Another council, which did not want to be named, said its initial inquiries suggested 15% of its tenants affected by the bedroom tax could be exempt and would qualify for a refund.
Bear in mind here that initial inquiries are likely to be less than the final number given complications such as if the current tenant inherited the tenancy after 1996 so 15% is not a maximum figure though it is still 15 times higher than the DWP figure of 0.96%
Yesterday using newly reported figures for Exeter City Council who paid back the bedroom tax before DWP announcement to a reported 50 or so of the 624 affected (DWP figure for Exeter is 624 affected by bedroom tax) or about 8%. That 8% translates to about 42000 households nationally.
To recap DWP say 5000 max; Guardian between 22000 and 78000 and I about 42000.
Whats clear is two things (a) all guesses are speculative to an extent and (b) the DWP 5000 max and the Guardian max of 78000 appear out of kilter. The 40000 or so figure looks and appears about right.
Note that everyone in a bedroom tax affected household is affected by it and with the average household containing 2.3 persons then my 42000 estimate sees 100,000 men women and children affected and having the bedroom tax imposed wrongly. Even Wembley Stadium doesn’t hold that many these days!
Let’s be blunt though and 5000 is 5000 too many just as 40000 is 40000 too many and it means this is one monumental cock up and a national outrage when you consider what the bedroom tax means to those affected. Could you cut out one meal a day? Could you cope with a 30% cut in your overall income if that income was a mere £71.70 per week? No of course you couldn’t reader yet that is what the bedroom tax means for many and whether the bedroom tax is applied according to the rules or as in this case in error of fact and of law.
Let’s go back to the DWP of 5000 maximum which is 0.96% which DWP say is ‘small.’ The official fraud figure for all welfare benefits is 0.7% and that comes from the very same DWP who state that welfare fraud is a BIG problem!
That is the real political context for me and the welfare benefit fraud figure (usually given as 1.2% and entitled fraud AND error – which are two separate things) it is LESS than this ‘small’ matter of the error they made! So when others do a less than one percent error it is big but when the DWP do a less than one per cent error it is small! Eh!
That context says more about the political spin which comes out of the DWP than anything else. For me if just 1 tenant that has been evicted due in part or in whole to bedroom tax arrears is now found to have been exempt and thus has lost their home due to DWP error then the entire bedroom tax policy must be politically untenable. Anyone know of such a case?
UPDATE – 5 minutes after posting (9.40am) Cllr Paul Bull from Exeter has tweeted this
So the Exeter City Council figure of 31 is 5% of the 624 there who have had the bedroom tax imposed. 5% of the national 523,000 figure is just over 26000 if extrapolated on a national basis and still over 5 times the DWP estimate.
My original post published 23 December 2013 gave reasons in more detail why I suspected a figure of 40000 was more likely.