MPs debate impact of housing benefit cuts on Wales

 

There are few current political issues more controversial than the bedroom tax/spare room subsidy/under-occupancy penalty (delete as appropriate).

Anger is rarely far from the surface among its opponents, who see the cuts to housing benefit paid to tenants of council and social housing as a tax on the poor.

Perhaps it was the more informal setting of Westminster Hall, the parallel House of Commons chamber, but this afternoon's debate on the changes in Wales involved contributions that were unusually calm and reasoned despite deep political differences. Perhaps the tone was set by the chair of the Welsh affairs committee, David Davies, who won cross-party praise for the way he handled its inquiry into such a partisan subject.

Today's arguments were familiar, although both sides could rely on a year of experience to back up their arguments. Labour, Plaid Cymru and Liberal Democrat MPs told the debate that the changes had caused hardship and stress to tenants.

The change, introduced a year ago, means that tenants in council and housing association homes that are deemed to be larger than they need have their housing benefit cut by 14 % for one spare room and 25 % for two. A higher proportion of tenants in Wales were affected than elsewhere, according to the select committee's report.

Work and Pensions Minister Steve Webb said only three of the 22 local authorities in Wales applied for extra UK government funding to help mitigate the impact of the cuts. He said only Cardiff, Conwy and Caerphilly had bid for a share of an additional £20m top-up fund set aside by the government.

"No other local authority in Wales asked us for a penny," said Mr Webb. "We cannot simultaneously say there is un-met need in Newport, Swansea and in other areas, local authorities are having to turn needy people away, when those local authorities didn't ask us for the money to top up their DHP (discretionary housing payment) budget.

"Now what are those local authorities doing? If it's the case that they have constituents for whom the impact of this tax, of the change that's been made is inappropriate or harsh or unfair - the many words that have been used - what were their local authorities doing not drawing down the additional money that was available?"

 
David Cornock, Parliamentary correspondent, Wales Article written by David Cornock David Cornock Parliamentary correspondent, Wales

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 7.

    6 Boxer - You are right, LA,s should know how to access funding.
    My thought process was more one of the WAG (who have made much of the changes to Housing Benefit) issuing a reminder to LA's to apply to the fund.
    CJ cannot say, as he has, that changes have had a severe impact on Wales, and then fail to remind our LA's to apply for funding - can he?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 6.

    "I wonder if the WA issued guidance to Welsh LA's "
    Since the management structure of our LAs is as complex as that of Chelsea FC, and the wagebill similar, one might naively hope that someone on the LA payroll might know how to access funding from WA.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 5.

    I note that the Welsh Government have decided to adopt an English education initiative. How very dare they adopt policies from the empire of evil? Mab, I demand an explanation!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 4.

    2. SEDWOT

    Incompetence I reckon.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 3.

    Numerous questions have been asked at Westminster about Housing Benefits. AM's have complained that the changes have had a major impact on Wales. Indeed the shadow Welsh Secretary had a little spat over the figures.
    I wonder if the WA issued guidance to Welsh LA's on the how to bid for a share of the top up fund. I don't know but I very much doubt it .

 

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