One of the objections to the spare room subsidy cut is that there is nowhere for those having to downsize to go in order to avoid the extra rent. Yet throughout the country there are severely overcrowded households who would love the chance to swap and have a bigger home.
In August, The Independent splashed on their front page areas where it is impossible to downsize. They highlighted Cornwall, Sefton and Wiltshire. However, Freedom of Information responses which I have obtained show that even in those areas there are many families in overcrowded conditions.
In Cornwall there are thousands of families on the housing register in overcrowded conditions. This means that their accommodation does not comply with the official Bedroom Standard which is defined as follows:
“A separate bedroom is allowed for each married or cohabiting couple, any other person aged 21 or over, each pair of adolescents aged 10-20 of the same sex, and each pair of children under 10.”
Cornwall has 2,961 households that are one bedroom below this standard. Another 529 are two or more bedrooms below.
In Sefton the figures are 323 overcrowded households, including 39 severely overcrowded households.
In Wiltshire there are 2,000 overcrowded households, including 314 in severe overcrowding.
Of course people in these conditions would willing swap with those in their area with larger properties.
The Labour politicians who claim that those hit by the spare room subsidy have nobody to swap with ignore the evidence in their own areas. The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves, is a Leeds MP. That city has 2,462 families in overcrowded social housing – including 278 in severe overcrowding. The numbers are down since the spare room subsidy was cut in April. They used to be 2610 and 299. Miss Reeves’ constituents who suffer from overcrowding are being helped by the reform she is opposing. So do those of her fellow Leeds MP, the Shadow Communities Secretary Hilary Benn.
Previously the Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary was a Birmingham MP, Liam Byrne. In Birmingham there were 11,417 households on the housing register in April – this number is now 10,834. The number in severe overcrowding is down from 2,929 to 2,756.
What of the yellow bellied Lib Dems? Typically they went along with the policy in private but, as always, run for cover when the SWP start waving placards and the BBC give the airwaves to spokesman from lobby groups.
Former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy said the policy was unsuitable for his constituents in the Highlands. But the Highlands Council report 1,876 households in overcrowding and 289 in severe overcrowding.
In London there is a terrible problem with overcrowding. The Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, is a Waltham Forest MP. In his borough they don’t have the April figures, but the current ones show 7,927 in overcrowding and 2,448 in severe overcrowding. The numbers downsizing due to the loss of spare room subsidy will not be enough to solve the problem. But it will help. When Mr Duncan Smith faces constituents in his surgeries talking to him about problems with overcrowding, he will be able to look them straight in the eye knowing that he is doing something about it. The socialist politicians will doubtless profess sympathy – while campaigning for this vital reform to be abolished, which offers hope to those in such difficult conditions.