Housing boss queries bedroom tax savings

Wigan Bedroom Tax Campaign members protest outside Wigan Town Hall
Wigan Bedroom Tax Campaign members protest outside Wigan Town Hall

WIGANERS hit by welfare reforms are suffering for policies which will fail to achieve their own goals, the borough’s housing boss is claiming.

Wigan and Leigh Housing (WALH) chief executive Ashley Crumbley criticised the controversial housing benefit reforms after researchers said the policy would not save as much money as the Government claims.

Research conducted by the University of York used data from the first five months of the so-called bedroom tax, including information gathered by WALH on tenants in the borough, suggests the reforms may only bring in around 60 per cent of the saving predicted by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The report suggests the DWP has underestimated the number of people who will move to avoid the benefit deductions, and Mr Crumbley said the human cost of the policy meant the Government should think again.

Mr Crumbley said: “This comes as no surprise. I’ve said from the start I could not see this policy delivering the savings the DWP was quoting. Their figures were estimates.

“This policy is having a terrible impact on housing organisations with rent loss, vacant properties and abandonment costs which will run to many millions of pounds.

“There will be a cost to the public purse as people with disabilities are forced to move and councils have to fund adaptations, and as evictions arise we will have costs for the courts and the increase in homelessness.

“My most serious concern remains the human impact.”

WALH cited the example of a Leigh tenant who moved out of social housing due to the penalty and his house was let to someone who had previously lived with relatives.

This left both the new and previous tenants needing housing support, negating any gain from the bedroom tax.

The York research, commissioned by four social landlords including WALH, claims at least 20 per cent of people with one unused bedroom will try to move and 41.5 per cent of affected tenants looking to relocate will rent privately.

The researchers also suggest more people will get into debt as almost half of those who have chosen to stay in penalised properties are already in rent arrears.

However, the DWP has responded to the researcher’s claims, insisting the reforms were necessary and data from the early stages of a policy could be misleading.

A DWP spokesman said: “This is a necessary reform that will return fairness to housing benefit and help make the system affordable in the long term.

“We are carefully monitoring the policy through the early stages to gain a full and accurate understanding of its impacts, while this research is relying on limited data. We remain confident that this policy will save around £500m per year.”