Bedroom tax: Lib Dem conference says no – as do 53% of party members

by Stephen Tall on September 17, 2013

Lib Dem Voice has polled our members-only forum  to discover what Lib Dem members think of various political issues, the Coalition, and the performance of key party figures. Almost 700 party members responded – thank you – and we’re publishing the full results.

Lib Dem conference representatives voted overwhelmingly to review the controversial policy known by most as the ‘bedroom tax’, by some as the ‘spare room subsidy’ and by no-one at all as the ‘under-occupancy charge’. Here’s how the BBC reported it:

In the last of a series of debates at the party’s conference in Glasgow, delegates voted overwhelmingly to review housing benefit rules. They called for an immediate review of the impact of the policy, dubbed the “bedroom tax” by critics and called the “spare room subsidy” by the government. They want to review to to look at the money saved, costs incurred and the affect on vulnerable tenants.

We asked about the bedroom tax / spare room subsidy in our members’ survey — here’s what we found…

From April this year housing benefit was decreased for people who live in council housing or housing association properties that have more bedrooms than the government think they require. This means a couple living in a house with two bedrooms, or a couple with one child but three bedrooms would have their housing benefit reduced by 14%. This is officially called the “under occupany charge”, but more commonly known either as the “bedroom tax” or “spare room subsidy”. Do you support or oppose this policy?

    38% – Support

    53% – Oppose

    8% – Don’t know

A clear majority (53%) of Lib Dem members are opposed, though the result was far less overwhelmingly against than the conference decision. Here’s a sample of your comments…

This policy might be OK if it were localised. Applying it nationally means it affects people in places where the under-occupation problem does not exist, and/or where the nature of the housing stock makes it incapable of resolution.

Support but there should be *many* exceptions: eg disability, military service abroad, fostering to name but a few.

Too crude. Should be a fixed rate of entitlement dependent on circumstances eg disability size of family etc regardless of the type of home occupied.

Support the principle. Would preferred it to be going forward not retroactively charged though.

For every council house that is under occupied, there are half a dozen families crammed into houses that are too small for them. House building of new social housing, preferably in mixed developments, must be a priority.

Until there are sufficient smaller properties, close by, for those who want to move to do so.

It only works if there is a supply of smaller properties.

So hard to tell how it’s working. Stories of real hardship vs government assertion that people are hogging big council homes.

The retrospective element of the policy is the biggest difficulty

There aren’t enough locally available smaller homes for people to move to.

I support in principle as I have to pay my own rent but do not have a two bedroom flat as I cannot afford it. However, the way this has been implemented means that a lot of vulnerable people, especially the disabled, are caught by it when they do need a second bedroom. This must be resolved by the government as it is doing severe damage.

I would support it if the vast majority of social housing did not have three bedrooms.

So long as its combined with more construction.

In principle I do believe this is a fair and balanced approach, offering fairness for those who are overcrowded, HOWEVER, considering the issues of ‘lack of’ smaller properties for people to move too, I do not believe enough consideration was given!

I support the principle, however I oppose the way it was implemented. It should only apply to new tenancies, and the rules around rooms for carers and medical equipment etc need reviewing

This policy should only be implemented with the proviso that alternative [smaller] accommodation in the same area must be offered.

Not enough housing stock to cope with demand for smaller houses.

I support the idea behind the spare room subsidy however it is very unfair to remove benefits when it is impossible to move.

Reduction in benefits should only be done when the household has been provided with reasonable alternative accommodation within a reasonable distance of their current house. (i.e they can get to work / school). Opting a 3 strike rule whereby on the third rejection of a reasonable offer the benefits are reduced.
There also needs to be better provision for disabled and carers.

Support but it is a blunt instrument and many cases need to be looked at sympathetically

If there is to be a bedroom tax, it should be equally applied to those on benefit, and those not, including those in private rented accommodation and those who own their own homes. (It used to be called the rating system).

Any benefit from using the housing stock better outweighed by the human costs of this terrible policy. The issue is to increase the stock of social housing.

I oppose the way the tax is implemented. The tax should not be applied unless the tenant has been given the opportunity to move into a suitable smaller property

While it has been communicated in a very incompetent way, it does make sense as a policy because of the system in privately owned properties.

stupid, costly, inflicting unnecessary misery on society’s most disadvantaged

Support, but recognise the need for more social housing to accommodate those affected.

But might support if more attention was given to individual needs and charge was only applied if alternative accommodation was available

This policy should help the thousands of people living in overcrowded accommodation find more suitable homes.

Nobody is ever talking about the many people who never get into social housing, because apparently social housing tenants are apparently a class apart which can’t be touched without major political cost. What about those who can’t reach this status?

Where I live, in Merseyside, the policy could not be effective in its stated aim as there are almost no one bedroom flats or houses to downzise into. All it is doing is punishing the poor.

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  • * Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.