Article published: Wednesday, June 26th 2013
A chief architect of the government’s workfare reforms, Baron David Freud, will be lobbied tomorrow by campaigners opposed to the hated Bedroom Tax ahead of his speech to the national Housing 2013 conference held in Manchester.
The conference, organised by the Charted Institute of Housing, billed as “the biggest and best attended” affordable housing event in the UK and featuring landlords and housing professionals from across the country, has invited Lord Freud as a panel speaker on the topic, “Welfare reform – how do we make it work?”
Lord Freud, a former Financial Times journalist and investment banker, has been a key government social security advisor since first being appointed by Tony Blair in 2006 to head up a review of Britain’s welfare system.
He was made a Conservative Party Peer in 2009 and was appointed as the Coalition government’s welfare reform minister in May 2010. There he has been responsible for steering through workfare reforms, highly controversial disability benefit changes and policies such as the Tory-led government’s “bedroom tax” housing benefit cuts.
The tax, which slashes housing benefit for people in social housing by 14 per cent for having one spare room and 25 per cent for two or more, is hitting hundreds of thousands of families across Britain, including over 12,000 in Manchester.
The tax has been widely condemned as putting hundreds of thousands at risk of greater poverty. Pat, a Southways housing tenant in Manchester, said “I sold all my mum’s jewelry to pay the bedroom tax. But now its all gone. I am not paying anymore.”
Data obtained by the website False Economy from 107 local authorities has revealed 86,000 households have been forced to look for one bedroom homes – of which only 33,000 have become available in the last year. Fears of both mass homelessness and the bankruptcy of housing associations have been raised, with up to half of all tenants not paying the tax in some parts of the country according to trade magazine Inside Housing.
Another person affected, a single father from Gorton, said “‘I was homeless. They put me in a two bedroom flat. I told them that my teenage children come to stay with me. Now they say I’ve got to pay more. Well I have not got it!”
A Grandmother from Gorton said, “My son is serving in Afghanistan. The “spare rooms” in my house are not spare. When he comes home he stays with me. My six grandchildren come over and stay. Why should I now pay extra to live in my own home?”
Some local authorities such as Leeds have reclassified hundreds of houses as having fewer rooms in what has been seen as an attempt to circumvent the tax. But Lord Freud recently threatened against such a move in a letter to council chief executives, warning that “Where it is found that a local authority has redesignated properties without reasonable grounds and without reducing rents, my department would consider either restricting or not paying their housing benefit subsidy.”
The lobby will take place at 9am outside the Manchester Central Convention Complex.
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