Councillor Kevin Price, Labour's Executive Councillor for Housing on Cambridge City Council, has reacted sharply to the news that the Liberal Democrats have withdrawn support for the coalition's controversial bedroom tax. A report from the Cambridge-based Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research for the Department of Work and Pensions has just been released showing that nationally up to 60% of those hit by the cut in housing benefit are in arrears, less than 5% have been able to downsize and many are having to chose between debt or food to pay the shortfall.
Councillor Price said: "It is breathtaking hypocrisy by the Liberal Democrats. From the outset we, along with countless other social landlords and charities, have said the bedroom tax is unworkable and unfair and time and again they have defended it with the mantra that it brought housing benefit paid to social tenants into line with private sector rental tenants. The difference was of course that the legislation for private sector tenants was not retrospective. It has caused untold worry and hardship for those affected and who are caught in a catch-22 situation of not being able to pay and not being able to move.
"Councils and Housing Associations have been left to pick up the pieces of a policy which was defended and supported by Liberal Democrats locally in Cambridge and by the City's MP, Julian Huppert, in Westminster. In Cambridge about 600 council tenants were affected from April 2013 and in line with what has happened nationally only about 5% have been able to downsize whilst the waiting times for all on the Housing Needs Register have doubled in the last year."
Councillor Price added: "Just over a year ago Cambridge Liberal Democrats threw out a motion to the Council I put forward saying almost exactly what the Hardship research report shows about the impact. At that time they said it would take two years until tenants affected had downsized but at the current rate it will take many many more and continue to cause real hardship. Their U-turn is far too little and far too late to help those affected now and who will continue to worry until and unless this harsh measure has been repealed."