Monday, 3 March 2014

Lib-Dems to oppose bedroom tax?

THE Liberal Democrats are likely to oppose the bedroom tax at the next election unless it is reformed, the party president has suggested.

Tim Farron, President of the Lib-Dems said he would be ‘disappointed’ if the party supported the policy in its current state in its 2015 manifesto.  In an exclusive interview with Inside Housing Mr Farron, who is currently developing the party’s housing policy, criticised the under-occupation penalty for impacting the ‘most vulnerable’ and reducing the amount available to invest in new homes.

He said the policy - which was backed by Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg - needed to be amended ‘in the next parliament’ and said ‘these discussions are happening already’.  Adding,
‘I would be disappointed if we did support it in its current form,’ he said, ‘I do not expect our party to support this policy unreformed, we must take time to fix it, learn some lessons and make sure that it doesn’t hurt the most vulnerable in our communities.’

Mr Farron was one of just two Liberal Democrats to vote against the bedroom tax during Labour’s opposition day debate in November.  However, he voted against introducing exceptions proposed by the House of Lords in February 2012. These included tenants with disabled children, foster carers and those with one excess bedroom where no alternative accommodation was available.  

He praised Steve Webb, the Liberal Democrat pensions minister, for helping to increase the pot of discretionary housing payments available to those affected to £155 million, but criticised the bedroom tax on three grounds.  ‘It’s creating more hardship, it’s wrong and unnecessary… It’s impacting on people and the most vulnerable. It’s also having an impact on housing associations - it means they have less to invest in social housing,’ he said.  ‘I worry about distorting the building market. Currently we are building lots of one-bedroom properties which is reacting to a policy and it’s not in the long-term interest of the country.’ 

At the Liberal Democrat conference in September, grass-roots members passed a motion by a landslide vote condemning the policy for ‘discriminating against the most vulnerable in society’.

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