The bedroom tax will NOT be abolished in May at the General Election. Neither will the overall benefit cap and other welfare reform (sic) policies and the cuts will continue with a devastating affect on social housing, on the ‘benefit tenant’ and on the low paid worker.
It also means that efforts to challenge the bedroom tax need to be ramped up considerably and especially by landlords supporting tenants to review and appeal the bedroom tax decisions which makes financial and good business sense for tenant and landlord.
Ladbrokes have put out today their estimate of the number of seats each party will receive in May 2015:
A majority is 326 of the 650 seats and becomes the magic figure.
Ladbrokes like any bookmaker is rarely that far out in any estimate and so an outright majority for the Tories or Labour would appear unlikely as both parties would need a 20% increase from now till may to achieve that and so a coalition appears inevitable.
It is perhaps too simple to see SNP (39) aligning with Labour (278) to give 317 in total yet that is still short of a majority and an uneasy alliance too not least because Labour led the ‘No’ campaign in the Scottish Independence referendum.
The current Tory / Lib Dem coalition would see 305 and 21 seats short of a majority and many will be surprised that UKIP polling at 18% or so will only realise 5 seats and so UKIP is an irrelevance in terms of electoral seats.
You can permutate the many variables above anyway you like but it is looking hugely odds-on that another coalition government will be in place after May and with some very flimsy alliances too making another election perhaps inevitable pretty soon after this and similar to 1974 with the February and October General Elections that year.
A Tory / Lib Dem / Ulster Unionist and UKIP coalition is still not enough and an unworkable alliance in any case, unreliable in that it could never survive and would be too much of a cobbling together that was rife for no confidence votes at the drop of a hat. A Labour / SNP / Green / Plaid Cymru / Sinn Fein alliance is precisely the same unreliable coalition. The only slightly more viable alliance and coalition is Lab / SNP / Lib Dem yet given that Labour also lobbied for a No vote in the Scottish independence referendum this too is unlikely to be stable and reliable.
While the political parties vie for alliances and power the welfare reform policies will continue and apace. Austerity, that euphemism for cuts, will continue and those cuts such as the reduction in the overall benefit cap – which is hugely popular with the electorate at 70% approval rating – will happen and shaft the social housing model and the ‘benefit tenant’ and low paid worker even further.
Social housing will be up to its eyes in the brown smelly stuff when this does happen. The social housing model is radically threatened by it and both the social tenant and social landlords are in that brown smelly stuff.
Family sizes of 2 parent 3 children and above will be evicted if they are not in work (unemployed, sick, disabled and note ESA working group are included in the benefit cap) yet they will have nowhere to live except in incredibly expensive ‘temporary’ homeless accommodation that will become permanent provision and cost the welfare benefit spend so much more.
Social landlords will be unable and unwilling to allocate a property to such households sizes are they are a financial risk too far to arrears. The social tenant households of 2 parents and 3 children or 1 parent and 4 children ANYWHERE IN THE UK and not just London will have nowhere to live as they cannot afford social housing and social housing cannot afford them.
The detail of this benefit cap reduction is here and while social landlords state the usual platitudes of we hope for the best but plan for the worst, they remain hugely blase and frankly ignorant of the radical change the benefit cap reduction will mean for the social housing model. They need to be shaken out of the naive and errant view that the benefit cap only affects the private tenant in high rent areas such as London. That is utter baloney as the figures demonstrate.
What this will also means is that more social housing evictions will inevitably take place and that will sour the already strained landlord to tenant relationship created by the bedroom tax. This is a huge issue and again one that social landlords have paid far too little attention. The worsening landlord perception by the tenant is not to be taken lightly as it is now; rather it needs to become THE highest priority for landlord once direct payments rolls out. The greater the negative perception the tenant has of the landlord the lower paying rent becomes as a tenant priority – and especially as all other debt tends to incur interest payments unlike rent arrears. And of course note well it is the tenants perception that matter whether the landlord is at fault or not.
Over the past year I have been advising the more enlightened landlords and their tenant groups to challenge the bedroom tax decisions. This has produced positive results and is very good business sense for social landlords to fund and support and especially so given the Fife Upper Tribunal ruling which said the landlords view is a mere starting point and the local council’s HB decision makers have to consider ALL relevant circumstances on a case by case basis and not as they have done to date, impose the bedroom tax in a blanket fashion based solely on the landlords view.
Aside from tenants winning at First-tier Tribunals we have seen councils change decisions far more readily and agree that many tenants for example need an overnight carer and they reduce or take away the bedroom tax completely. In just one week alone councils have reviewed and changed decisions in 13 cases meaning that the tenants and landlords receive over £10,000 per year more in HB payments and that is from councils who before tenants began to challenge would not entertain a review of the decision unless the landlords reclassified – and that is just another unlawful decision of many councils in the bedroom tax too as it denies the tenants absolute right to a review of any HB decision.
In a month or so the 2015/16 bedroom tax decisions will land on the mats of social tenants. Again these will have been made WITHOUT taking into consideration any potentially relevant circumstances and will NOT have been taken on an individual case by case basis that the UT said was the intention of parliament in this policy and which all councils have to abide by.
In short the Fife UT ruling should see a huge increase in the number of tenants asking for a full statement of reasons from their council as to how they made the bedroom tax decisions AND then tenants following this up by asking their council to review and reconsider its decision which will mean that councils will have to come out and inspect properties in many case. Both of these challenges will cost every council huge amounts in cost and other resources and then further cost when the tenants disagree with their councils review decision and launch a formal appeal to the FtT.
It has always made sense for landlords to fund and support these challenges as not only do landlords benefit in the immediate term, they will benefit massive in the longer term as tenants will prioritise the payment of rent when direct payment of Housing Benefit goes to the tenant and not directly to the landlord as it does now.
The fact that now the bedroom tax is unlikely to be abolished in May and that the proposed reduction in the benefit cap will happen means that social landlords would be frankly stupid not to support their tenants. It is so much of a no-brainer that even the CIH who have long rejected the bedroom tax appeals now say social landlords should be supporting their tenants to do precisely that. Further as I reported here winning a bedroom tax challenge, at review or appeal will save every tenant and landlord an average of over £4000 over the next 5 years
In summary, all of those landlords who hope for the bedroom tax to be abolished and all the tenants too need to think and be prepared to take action to get rid of it through increasing the pressure on the system by challenging it by way of review and appeal and both need to wake up out of the delusion that the Labour party will have a majority in May or will form a lasting coalition either.
PS – The current state of the parties is as below for thse keen to see all the permutations of any alliance or coalition and note well that ‘other’ with 23 projected seats includes all the parties in Northern Ireland, The Green Party, Plaid Cymru, and the odd independent who may win on a local issue such as a hospital closure as happened last time. A reliable working government cannot be formed with the myriad of issues and egos that will produce.
The only saving grace from this seat projection is to show just how insignificant UKIP and Farage are
|Social Democratic & Labour Party||3|
|UK Independence Party||2|
|Total number of seats||650|