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Birkenhead MP attacks Government over 'growing chaos' in bedroom tax
BIRKENHEAD MP Frank Field has condemned “growing chaos” at the heart of the so-called 'bedroom tax' changes to housing benefit.
Following a series of parliamentary questions, Mr Field discovered the Government does not know how many people affected by the tax have downsized to a smaller property, or whether that property has a lower rent.
Under changes to the welfare rules, social housing tenants who are deemed to have more rooms than they need are liable to have their housing benefit cut, removing what ministers call the "spare room subsidy".
The Government maintains it will save money and free up existing stock to cut housing queues.
But Mr Field said the latest admission throws doubt on both of these arguments.
He said: “How on earth can the Government know how much money the bedroom tax will save when it doesn’t even know how many people have downsized?
“If disabled people downsize and need their new property to be adapted, this will end up costing the Government more money.
“Likewise housing associations have warned that families may be forced to downsize into the private sector at a higher rent.
“This vicious policy isn’t achieving anything other than hitting those hardest who can least afford it.”
In another answer, the Government also admitted it does not know how many people in wheelchairs have been hit with the bedroom tax.
- In a separate attack on the tax, Labour said local authority data showed that as a result of a loophole in the legislation, at least 16,000 households had wrongly had their benefit cut - while the true figure could be closer to 50,000.
The loophole, identified earlier this year, means the tax does not apply to certain tenants who have lived in the same home for more than 17 years.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith has previously told MPs that between 3,000 to 5,000 tenants were thought to have been affected by the error.
But after submitting Freedom of Information requests to all 346 local authorities in the UK, Labour said responses from the 140 councils which have so far replied showed that 16,450 households had been incorrectly caught.
In Wirral, 450 tenants of social landlord Magenta are affected plus 150 other tenants. The local authority began repaying the money a fortnight ago.
Shadow work and pensions minister Chris Bryant said that if there was a similar rate of wrongful deductions across the whole country, the final total would be almost 50,000.
The Department for Work and Pensions said the regulations were now being amended and that it still believed its earlier estimate of the numbers affected was correct.