How many had the bedroom tax wrongly imposed?

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

Cllr Paul Bull@CllrPaul4Cowick 1h

.@nearlylegal @nickduxbury Figure of 31 for @ExeterCouncil is on the button, so extrapolation by @SpeyeJoe would make good first guess

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.

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12 thoughts on “How many had the bedroom tax wrongly imposed?

  1. Major, info we are getting on Facebook groups is: That the DWP are going to close ‘this loophole’ very quickly.

    We HAVE to find ways of stopping them. Is going to the Parliamentary Ombudsman going to help??

    Labour, should be ‘stepping up to the plate’ on this one.

    It needs a strong debate in PMQ’s for a start.

    Am thinking that everyone with a Labour MP should be emailing them on this issue.

  2. Joe i have contacted WBC today regarding my letter i sent to them,( copy of template one you published) they confirmed that they received my letter on the 2nd jan, and that it has gone to the appeals dept to be looked at, i asked why it had gone to the appeals dept and was told it was because i asked for my hb decision to be reviewed, i stated that it should not have to be appealed as according to the DWP criteria i should not of even had the bedroom tax imposed on me. they said they will contact me once the decision as been made.

    1. Pat – the ‘appeals dept’ is just the name Wirral have for looking at cases which are challenged so that includes reviews and appeals. Wirral have by now (Sunday 12 Jan) started to send out letters and refunds to tenants who are exempt and one of the first councils to do this

  3. went to a local group yesterday. Despite my having reblogged about this and put a link up on the group’s facebook page last week, nobody knew about it. Brilliant work, Mike, in publicising this, but I hope your many individual readers spread this news by mouth to reach people directly affected. The internet is a wonderful thing, but on its own it it never enough.

  4. I finally managed to get my friend to appeal on the basis that the room is too small. The council wrote back saying “this is true, you are exempt – the size of your rooms was confirmed by the landlord”. As the council is their landlord, they had all the necessary information to hand – they could have just checked their books. This is an outrage – it’s like an attempt at fraud. Also, it means that the friend was living in overcrowded accommodation for the past ten or so years until one of the kids moved out. No apologies or compensation for that.

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