Spare room subsidy

Paul Malpas made this Freedom of Information request to Department for Work and Pensions

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Dear Department for Work and Pensions,

Messrs Schapps, Duncan-Smith and Cameron refer to the penalty reduction of Housing Benefit for RSL tennents as "removal of the SPARE-ROOM SUBSIDY" popularly known in the press and by the opposition party as The Bedroom Tax.

Please could you provide information regarding the Spare Room Subsidy:
1) When was it introduced
2) Which piece of legislation contains the criteria for the award of Spare Room Subsidy
3) Can you supply any data held on the Spare-Room Subsidy that pre-dates the decision by Government to remove it e.g. any forms, internal e-mails, press releases, information booklets, reference to the cost of the subsidy in published accounts etc
5) If there is in fact no such thing as a Spare Room Subsidy in relation to Housing Benefit claims for Local Authority and Registered Social Landlord tennents can you please state this is in clear language.

In addition can you also tell me how much the "removal of the spare room subsidy" is costing the tax payer this could be a debit or credit overall - I am imagining that there is an overall cost as certainly in my local area Housing Benefit payments for someone in a PRS 2 bed property is certainly more than the payments for a 3 bed RSL property - in addition to this there is the increased cost of temporary accommodation for families forced out of their RSL properties by the reduction in their HB.

Yours faithfully,

Paul Malpas

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Dear DWP - HPD FOI's,

I write in regrda to your response to my FOI assigned reference 4593.

In reposnse to Q2 you state ... "In effect these regulations [HB regs 2006] allowed the Government to subsidise social sector Housing Benefit tenants with unoccupied bedrooms i.e. the rules governing the number of bedrooms that could be allowed depending on household size only applied to tenants living in the private rented sector"

Surely this cannot be true. The Regulations (pre April 2013) did not have the effect of subsidising anyone - other than possibly Private Sector Landlords. You state "the number of bedrooms that could be allowed" there is no allowance or otherwise of bedrooms in relation to PRS letting - LHA is calculated at rate which is measured in "bedrooms" so Family A is "allowed" X number of bedrooms for the benefit of determining LHA rates, that "number of bedrooms" attracts a maximum HB of amount £Y. Note that the physical number of bedrooms Family A may be renting is never a factor in the determination of payment £Y. The amount of HB payable to a family in PRS is almost invariably more than the amount being paid to an identical family in RSL - so who is being subsidised? As an example if a Family A contained 2 adults (a couple) and 2 children (different sex aged 14 and 15)then they would be entitled to a level of LHA called 3 bedroom rate - if they were able to find a 4 bedroom house for this level of rent then full HB would be paid covering the entire rent (assuming a full HB entitlement) for arguments sake we can say this amount is £112.00 / week. Family B (made up in the same way as Family A) in a 4 bed RSL would be receiving the full RSL rent for this property (prior to April 2013) - let's say it's £110.00 / week (these figures are actually based on representative amounts from my area) - what you are saying is that prior to April 2013 there was a recognisable subsidy being paid to Family B of £12.73 (14% £110.00) despite the actual cost to the public purse being £2.00 less.
It's all very well talking about what "in effect" regulations have allowed but this is not a fact and nowhere in pre April 2013 regulations for HB is there any mention of a subsidy or indeed an "effective subsidy" You stated (without qualification other than saying it wasn't specifically referred to) "... the subsidy has been in existence since the introduction of Housing Benefit" - this statement is simply not true - if the government have been paying a subsidy then how much was paid and to whom (rhetorical)? it simply did not exist and you have been asked to say this if it is the case - you have not - why (actual question requiring answer)?
You stated (as a fact) that "The regulations were amended from 1 April 2013 to bring social sector tenants in line with private sector tenants" - if this is the case why is it that differing amounts are still paid to essentially identical families in the same size (in terms of bedroom count) houses. Are you saying that RSL and PRS tenants now have the same rules being applied? PRS tenants almost invariably receive higher payments than similar RSL tenants (this was the caswe before Apr 2013 and is still the case) unyet you insist that RSL tenants are (or rather were) receiving a subsidy not specifically referred to (or indeed quantified). If RSL tenants are now "in line" with PRS tenants then why are LHA rates not applicable to them - if they were then the rent charged by RSL landlords would surely be less than most family's LHA entitlment so no top-up of rent would be needed (I would imagine a property would have to be considerably under occupied for this to be the case except in the case of single people under 35). People being asked to pay 14% of their rent would not be required to do this if LHA rates were applicable to RSL tenancies so saying they are now in-line with eachother is simply not true and not the sort of data I would expect in reposnse to an FoI request.
You have not answered my questions as they were asked but have instead decided to "toe the government line" and explain what effects a non-existent subsidy had. Please respond to this mail - although not an IRR at this point I reserve the right to request an IRR if I do not belive your reponse is satisfactory.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

Dear DWP - HPD FOI's,

If you have received my e-mail of 14th Oct 2013 could you please acknowledge receipt - if you have not please let me know so I can re-send it.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

Dear DWP - HPD FOI's,

I would like to know if you have any intention of answering the questions in my mail of 14.10.13 or indeed responding to my mail of 23.10.13

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

Dear DWP - HPD FOI's,

Are you deliberately ignoring me?

Failure to respond will result in a request for IRR.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Malpas

P. Smith left an annotation ()

Search engines probably find what's written in FoI replies if they are cut and pasted from attachments :o)

https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/annotate/...

Website: www.dwp.gov.uk

Paul Malpas xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx

Your Reference: 4593

Date: 14 October 2013.

Dear Mr Malpas

Thank you for your Freedom of Information request of 26 September 2013. You asked:

Messrs Schapps, Duncan-Smith and Cameron refer to the penalty reduction of Housing Benefit for RSL tennents as "removal of the SPARE-ROOM SUBSIDY" popularly known in the press and by the opposition party as The Bedroom Tax.
Please could you provide information regarding the Spare Room Subsidy:
1) When was it introduced
2) Which piece of legislation contains the criteria for the award of Spare Room Subsidy
3) Can you supply any data held on the Spare-Room Subsidy that pre-dates the decision by Government to remove it e.g. any forms, internal e-mails, press releases, information booklets, reference to the cost of the subsidy in published accounts etc
5) If there is in fact no such thing as a Spare Room Subsidy in relation to Housing Benefit claims for Local Authority and Registered Social Landlord tennents can you please state this is in clear language.
In addition can you also tell me how much the "removal of the spare room subsidy" is costing the tax payer this could be a debit or credit overall - I am imagining that there is an overall cost as certainly in my local area Housing Benefit payments for someone in a PRS 2 bed property is certainly more than the payments for a 3 bed RSL property - in addition to this there is the increased cost of temporary accommodation for families forced out of their RSL properties by the reduction in their HB."

1) Housing Benefit was introduced in 1988. From this date the maximum Housing Benefit for social sector tenants on low incomes was the full eligible rent, irrespective of the number of unoccupied bedrooms.

2) The primary legislation governing Housing Benefit is the Social Security Contributions and Benefits Act 1992. The relevant regulations arising from this act that apply to the “spare room subsidy” are the Housing Benefit Regulations 2006 and the Housing Benefit (Persons who have attained the qualifying age for state pension credit) Regulations 2006. In effect these regulations allowed the Government to subsidise social sector Housing Benefit tenants with unoccupied bedrooms i.e. the rules governing the number of bedrooms that could be allowed depending on household size only applied to tenants living in the private rented sector.

3) The regulations were amended from 1 April 2013 to bring social sector tenants in line with private sector tenants. The term “the removal of the spare room subsidy” was first mentioned during a debate in Parliament on 27 February 2013 by the Minister for Pensions Steve Webb as this was the best way to describe the effect of the policy. Whilst this term has not been specifically referred to in legislation, the subsidy has been in existence since the introduction of Housing Benefit.

I can confirm that the Department holds information falling within the description specified in your request (question 3). However, we estimate that the cost of complying with your request would exceed the appropriate limit of £600. The appropriate limit has been specified in regulations and for central Government it is set at £600. This represents the estimated cost of one person spending 3½ working days in determining whether the Department holds the information, and locating, retrieving and extracting the information. Under section 12 of the Freedom of Information Act the Department is not obliged to comply with your request and we will not be processing your request further for this question

4) This measure is expected to save an estimated £500 million per annum on average for the taxpayer.

Social Sector tenants are not being forced out of their homes, but like private sector tenants and people not on benefits, they must make realistic choices as to how they will continue to fund properties that are larger than they need. Some claimants may choose to relinquish their social sector tenancies and downsize into smaller accommodation in the private rented sector more appropriate to their circumstances. In comparison it may be that renting a similar sized property in the private rented sector is higher, but this should be seen in the wider context. Any movement will free up larger accommodation for families who were previously living in overcrowded conditions in the private sector and who were on the social housing waiting list. It also frees up accommodation for families living in costly temporary accommodation. Consequently Housing Benefit expenditure could actually decrease as the effects of the policy ripple outwards.

Yours sincerely,

DWP FOI Central Information Team.

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