Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Grass-roots surge on "bedroom tax"

As reported on the local party web-site, the Liberal Democrat conference in Glasgow resolved yesterday that there should be an immediate government evaluation of the working of restrictions on housing benefit and that in the meantime the cuts should be suspended where they are causing hardship. The impression that I had from watching the debate on television that the motion was inspired not by low electoral motives but by real experience from councillors and MPs. Time and time again the note was struck that the theory of moving claimants from housing that was too large for them to free it up for families was all very well, but that in practice it really hurt people. There was just not enough suitable social housing for people to move to. Clearly, the feedback ministers by storm, because there was no real opposition from the "top table".

There was certainly no sense of a move towards Labour on this. It was pointed out that the Thatcher government allowed more council house building than New Labour did in thirteen years of government. Given that Labour had introduced a "bedroom tax" in the private sector (and, though it was not mentioned in the debate, were moving towards it in social housing), their current campaigning was described as opportunistic. Much was made of the split in Labour over its repeal.

Since I last posted on this subject, my attention has been drawn to more parliamentary material which indicated where the New Labour government was heading. For instance, there was the Green Paper issued in January 2006, entitled: "A new deal for welfare: Empowering people to work". The Green Paper itself is no longer available in the National Archive. There is only an executive summary. However, there is enough in the published responses to the consultation to indicate the then government's thinking. There are also several written answers (too long to reproduce here) which reinforce the impression. Chris Bryant has recently accused Liberal Democrats of hypocrisy. He should look at beams in eyes closer to home.

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