Almost half a million households are still losing up to a quarter of their housing benefit to the “bedroom tax” as the UK plunges into a cost-of-living crisis, new figures have revealed.
On its introduction in 2012, Conservative ministers argued that the removal of what they called a “spare room subsidy” would encourage social housing tenants with one or two unused bedrooms to downsize to homes more appropriate to their needs.
But campaigners warned that many would not be able to find smaller accommodation and would just have to take the financial hit. A decade on, figures obtained by Green Party peer Natalie Bennett show that 396,100 households in Britain are still having 14 per cent deducted from housing benefit for having one “surplus” room, while 84,900 with two extra bedrooms are losing 25 per cent.
Green co-leader Carla Denyer called for the tax to be scrapped in recognition of the pressure on some of the UK’s poorest people from inflation approaching double figures. Failure to do so was “an unconscionable act of cruelty from this out-of-touch government”, she told The Independent.
The figures were revealed in a written statement by Department for Work and Pensions minister Baroness Stedman-Scott in response to a question from Lady Bennett.
But the minister made no reply at all to the former Green leader’s demand to know what assessment the government had made of the impact of the bedroom tax on families struggling to pay their bills amid soaring prices for energy and food.
Ms Denyer said: “The bedroom tax urgently needs to be reconsidered by the government in light of the cost-of-living crisis.
“That nearly 400,000 households are losing 14 per cent of their housing benefit, and 85,000 are losing 25 per cent, when in very many cases they cannot move or end that loss, is an unconscionable act of cruelty from this out-of-touch government.
“The Green Party has consistently campaigned against the bedroom tax, but it is now more clear than ever that such a punitive measure on the poorest in society has absolutely no place as we try to protect people from the worst impacts of the cost of living crisis.”
Baroness Bennett said: “This is a failed policy. The original claim was that it would force people to move, and so free up housing stock, but nearly half a million households have not been able to do so.
“Many local authorities simply don’t have the housing stock that would allow people to move, and it is causing terrible hardship with no hope of relief for its victims.
“I asked the government what assessment it was making of the impact in the light of the cost-of-living crisis. That they failed to even answer this question can only lead me to conclude that this is something this government in turmoil has not even considered.”
In her reply to Lady Bennett’s question, Baroness Stedman-Scott said: “The removal of the spare room subsidy is an important tool to make better use of the existing social housing stock, enable mobility within the social rented sector and contain growing housing support expenditure.
“It also aligns the size criteria rules used in the private rented sector in the social sector.”