Friday, 1 March 2013

The law of unintended consequences

We have written about the likely consequences of the "bedroom tax", the deduction from the housing benefit paid to people in social housing who are considered to be "under-occupying", i.e. have spare bedrooms.  There is a severe shortage of smaller accommodation in the social housing sector for them to move into, and falling back on private rented housing will cost more in housing benefit.  But now we hear that Universal Credit is going to cut the amount of private rented accommodation available.  According to the Telegraph, the Nationwide, the biggest buy-to-let mortgage provider, is not going to offer any more loans to landlords.  The reasoning is that under UC the housing benefit is paid not to the landlord but to the claimant; so the likelihood is that a lot of rent won't get paid and so landlords will default on their mortgages.  Net result - a lot of homeless people.  I don't think that's quite what Iain Duncan Smith intended.
And there's another hole which the government has dug for themselves, or rather for local councils.  Those councils have had their support for means-tested council tax benefit cut by £500m, and many councils have had to charge people on benefits who currently don't pay anything.  The Guardian reports that up to 84% of those hit with the charge are not likely to pay it.  While some councils will pursue people for payment, others will consider that the cost of going after what are small sums is just not worth it.
Another snippet of news: new figures from the ONS show that in 2012 a quarter of all workers earned less than £12,800 a year.
Finally, hats off to a group of churches, the Methodist and United Reformed Churches, the Church of Scotland and the Baptist Union, who have published a study called The Lies we Tell Ourselves.  They accuse the government of deliberately misusing evidence and statistics to misrepresent the plight of the poor. There's a summary on the BBC's website.  (Be careful, BBC, they'll be complaining about bias again.)


  1. ... and disabled people who are currently in receipt of DLA will have to be re-assessed (i.e. attended a dreaded atos "medical")for the new, lower Personal Independence Payment if they move because, under the transition rules, their personal circumstances will be deemed to have changed.

    So, the choice for people with disabilities and health conditions would seem to be: stay where you are and stump up the bedroom tax but keep your DLA; or move to a smaller house and lose your DLA.

    What a mess!

  2. ... and mandatory use of universal jobmatch is to be inflicted upon the poor from 4/3:


  3. There is no (as far as I am aware) legal definition of a "bedroom". If having a bed in a particular room confers the status of a "bedroom", then any shed/garage/storage unit where a bed is stored could be classified as a "bedroom".

    Place a few chairs and table in a room and call it a lounge, add a computer (or notepad & pen), and it becomes a "study". Bars on the window, solid steel door, and a rudimentary bed, most sane people would call it a "prison cell".

    1. We're talking about "social housing", and landlords in this sector - councils and housing associations - certainly do have a definition of "bedroom" when they classify their stock.


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