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Under-occupancy Penalty (Wales)

Volume 563: debated on Monday 20 May 2013

Our equality impact assessment estimates that around 40,000 claimants will be affected by the removal of the spare room subsidy in Wales. A formal evaluation of the policy will be carried out over a two-year period with initial findings available early next year.

BBC Wales reports that for every 70 victims of the bedroom tax, only one alternative unit of accommodation is available. That means that 69 out of every 70 will have no choice but to endure this tax, which is unfair, impractical and will further impoverish the already poor.

The hon. Gentleman is right that we are asking social tenants to pay £2 a day towards a spare room—something that private tenants had to do under Labour’s local housing allowance scheme. Within Wales, a quarter of all social accommodation is one-bedroom properties. If we can deal with overcrowding and people on the waiting list in Wales, we will be doing the right thing by the people of Wales.

I am pleased that £50 million-worth of discretionary housing payments have been made available to ease the transition in difficult cases and to support families. How will the Minister ensure that my constituents are aware of this extra support?

My hon. Friend makes an important point. We need local authorities and social landlords, with which we have been working, to alert tenants to the fact that over £150 million has been made available to local authorities this year to help individuals in hard cases.

Monmouthshire council has allocated over a third of its £121,000-worth of discretionary housing payments in the six weeks since the bedroom tax came in. Given that the demand and the need is so high, does the Minister really believe that the Government have given enough money?

It was always the case that there would be high demand at the start of the year, because unlike other discretionary housing payments that arise randomly through the course of the year, this will apply for the whole year. We expected and planned for a higher rate of demand at the start of the year. We do keep these things under review, of course, and we are in close contact with local authorities in Wales to monitor the early implementation of this policy.

What will the Minister do to ensure that councils actually use the discretionary funding that has been given and do not hide the money away in order to make a political point against this particular policy?

My hon. Friend is right. We need to ensure that local authorities use the money that has been given to them to assist households when an extra contribution would be helpful. We have given a huge amount of taxpayers’ money to councils for that purpose, and we expect them to use every penny of it.

19. Government changes already require the British taxpayer to find nearly £2 billion more to rehouse vulnerable families. How many families does the Minister think will need to be rehoused as a result of this punitive bedroom tax? (155877)

I do not recognise that number at all. In fact, many of the scare stories that have come from the hon. Lady and others have proved not to transpire. When we capped rents in the private rented sector, we were told that there would be mass evictions and that vast droves of people would be moving all over London, but the evidence has not borne that out.