The old shadow Work and Pensions secretary, Liam Byrne, said the spare room subsidy was a “hated tax”. Now the new one, Rachel Reeves, says it shows the government is “out of touch”. So today Labour are using an opposition day debate to force a vote, warning “if Tory and Lib Dem MPs vote against repeal, we won’t let them forget it”.
Reeves told the Daily Politics that “two thirds” affected by the reduction in the Spare Room Subsidy “are disabled” and that it was “disingenuous” to say “they could go out to work”. Actually only 27% affected are currently on Disability Living Allowance, and does she really believe that every disabled person in Britain cannot work?
A shocking claim.
Guido is not quite sure how not letting anyone forget about a saving which a majority of the public supports makes for a sensible strategy. Labour has failed to grasp that people actually think their taxes should not go on paying for benefit recipients to have larger houses than they need. When asked, the public quite reasonably thinks a small welfare transfer for those under-occupying their social housing is pretty fair. All the hyperbole and Twitter campaigns in the world won’t change that…
The weakness in the attacks on the Housing Benefit reform is everywhere. Critics claim that the Discretionary Housing Payment, provided to those who can not afford to pay the under-occupancy charge, will not stretch far enough. Yet FOIs reveal that of the £150 million made available to councils to cover this, only a fraction of it has actually been spent so far:
“Figures show 161 of the 212 English councils that responded to an Inside Housing freedom of information request spent less than half their discretionary housing payment funds in the first half of the financial year. Of these, 33 councils spent less than a quarter of their DHP allocation, while six spent less than 15 per cent.”
Labour are on the wrong side of the argument with the wrong numbers.