Make a wish

If ministers thought the furore over the bedroom tax would die down once it was introduced in April, they were sadly mistaken. What they insist on calling the removal of the spare room subsidy has now been in operation for over 200 days and, if anything, the controversy is still growing.

What began as a harsh but arcane cut in housing benefit – the under-occupation penalty or social sector size criteria – has instead forced its way into the public consciousness. As James Green, external affairs manager of the National Housing Federation, explains: ‘When we started our work on the Welfare Reform Bill it seemed like it would be impossible to make it mainstream or get any traction. Now you can go into any pub in the country and say ‘bedroom tax’ and people know what you’re talking about.’

At a political level, it’s become a symbol of the unfairness of the government’s welfare reforms. At the Lib Dem conference, nobody from the party leadership defended one of their own government’s policies. At the Labour conference, Ed Miliband shook off his party’s caution on welfare to pledge that he would repeal it. At the SNP conference, Alex Salmond used the imposition of the bedroom tax from Westminster as a key part of his appeal to the Scottish people to vote for independence. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some Conservative backbenchers are becoming uncomfortable about the policy as they realise its full implications.

Read the rest of my feature on the human, political and  legal implications of the bedroom tax at 24 Housing


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