Since its introduction earlier this year, there has been mounting opposition to Bedroom Tax Peter Woodthe element of the welfare reform policy which has been dubbed the ‘Bedroom Tax’ by its opponents, but is referred to as the ‘removal of the spare room subsidy’ by the Government.

Whatever name is used, the policy means that tenants in receipt of Housing Benefit in order to meet their rent payments are hit by a 14 per cent reduction in the amount they receive if they have a spare bedroom, and a 25 per cent reduction if they have two spare rooms. This, the Government says, is to encourage people to downsize to free up larger homes for others on waiting lists.

Another aim of the policy was to reduce the overall Housing Benefit bill by £480m according to initial Department for Work  & Pensions estimates. However, according to research by the Centre for Housing Policy at the University of York, “The savings estimated by DWP assume that of the 660,000 households affected, none of them will move to a smaller home.”

But their research shows that people are moving, but with nearly half of those who cannot move already in arrears, their report adds “we can only see that figure going in one direction.”

Many other organisations have called on the Government to re-think its policy including Shelter, the homelessness charity, and the Citizens Advice Bureau.

Chief Executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy said in a statement “Thousands are being pushed into arrears, 96 per cent of people affected have no alternative smaller homes to move into and some housing associations say they are being forced to demolish homes whilst 1.8 million languish on waiting lists.

“Ministers are right to seek value for money, but the rushed nature of these changes and the lack of alternative housing means many will be caught in a catch-22 and unable to avoid the extra cost.

“The fundamental problem with the high cost of Housing Benefit is the lack of houses, not the families who live in them. For many disabled people and their families, having a second bedroom is not a luxury but an indispensible necessity.”

So while the data shows that there are simply not enough smaller homes for those affected to move into in social housing stock – as pointed out by fellow Consett Magazine contributor F Jackson this time last year – some people are moving into smaller homes in the private rental sector, where rents are considerably higher than the rents in social housing, meaning that Housing Benefit costs are even higher.

Opposition to the policy came back to Westminster in November, with Labour MP for South Shields, Emma Lewell-Buck, bringing a debate before Westminster Hall on November 5th. The following week, Labour used an opposition day motion on the 12th to call on the Government to scrap what Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves described as the “cruel” and “unworkable” Bedroom Tax.

Many MPs gave very emotive speeches describing the plights of their constituents who are now facing paying the tax, two thirds of whom are disabled. However the Work & Pensions minister, Steve Webb, pointed out that they have increased the funding available for Discretionary Housing Payments to local authorities, although tenants have to reapply for these payments, initially designed to be temporary, in some cases as often as every three months.

Labour was defeated by the Government in the commons with a majority of 26 votes. Two Liberal Democrat MPs, Tim Farron and Andrew George voted in support of the Labour motion, but 31 other LibDem MPs voted with the Government, despite a majority of LibDem members voting for an immediate evaluation of the policy at their September conference.

But there was one fundamental theme running throughout the five and a half hour debate, and it boiled down to what the two biggest parties believe social housing is and what it should be. For the Conservatives, the ongoing sentiment seemed to be that social housing is something that is transient, that people should only rely upon it when they really need to and that they should aspire to want better. However, for Labour, whether it is a council house or rented through a housing association, social housing – for a lot of families, for several generations – is a home. And it is down that line that these two parties will never be able to reconcile their differences. The only thing that they all did seem to agree on (mostly) was that more housing must be built.

How are people in Consett being affected by the Bedroom Tax? If you’d like to share your story you can email us at Or carry on the discussion in the comments below.



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