Coalition announces crackdown on nonexistent cheats as Housing Benefit bill skyrockets


Inadequate wages and extortionate rents are pushing up the Housing Benefit bill, it has been revealed.

What is the Coalition government’s solution? It is increasing its efforts to tackle fraud.

What genius.

“Forecast spending on Housing Benefit (we call it Landlord Subsidy) has been revised up by £2.5bn (11 per cent) since the expected number of renters and the level of rents relative to earnings have increased at a faster rate than predicted,” according to the New Statesman.

“As wages have continued to lag behind inflation, the number forced to rely on welfare to remain in their homes has surged. The government is now forecast to spend more than £27bn on housing benefit by 2018-19, accounting for more than 11 per cent of welfare [that’s social security] expenditure.”

It seems our Tory leaders find this far more acceptable than the alternative, which is to cap rents and pay working people a living wage. Remember that the vast majority of new Landlord Subsidy claims come from people who have jobs.

The Bedroom Tax must also take some of the blame: “One of the main causes of higher spending has been the shift from public to private rented housing,” states the Statesman. “In 2012-13, the number of private renters exceeded the nunber of social renters for the first time in nearly 50 years. Since private rents are usually higher than social rents, the housing benefit bill has risen accordingly.” This may be attributable to the introduction of the Bedroom Tax in April 2013, with social tenants scrambling to grab the cheapest – that’s right, the cheapest – private accommodation before everyone else.

The Coalition government’s response has been predictable: Falsely accuse tenants of fraud. It worked with incapacity benefits – why not with this?

“We know there is more to do to crack down on benefit fraud,” said Work and Pensions Minister Mark Harper – who is himself a fraudster, having employed an illegal migrant and lied about it. “This month we have brought in a new detection system that will cross-check all housing benefit claims against up-to-the-minute information on earnings and pension income.”

Great. Will that bring down the level of fraud, which totalled £340 million for the tax year 2013-14 – a monumental 1.42 per cent of that year’s £23.9 billion Housing Benefit bill?

Who cares? Even if it eliminated fraud altogether, no new claims were made and HB was not increased, the bill would still be £23.56 billion.

(Here’s a little perspective: If the total spent on fraudulent claims was saved, the government would keep more money than it would make from selling the UK’s share in the Eurostar train service, which is expected to be £300 million.)

Labour has said it will increase wages and build more affordable homes – tackling the causes of the problem rather than scapegoating its victims.

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8 thoughts on “Coalition announces crackdown on nonexistent cheats as Housing Benefit bill skyrockets

  1. Mike Sivier Post author

    I’ve been reminded that another good move would be a rent cap. Tories have dismissed this as unacceptable interference in the markets.
    What’s the Bedroom Tax, then?

  2. amnesiaclinic

    But the landlords are tory voters and buddies making their millions out of expensive, poor rented accommodation. The bedroom tax makes them even more as your figures show, people scramble for the cheapest private accommodation which pushes up rents even higher by creating shortage.
    The only answers, as you say, building more affordable houses which would provide jobs and raising wages.
    Something tories will fight tooth and nail.

  3. Rupert Mitchell (@rupert_rrl)

    The government is good at creating illusions! It is the government which is at fault for encouraging “Buy To Rent ” landlords and for not having reasonable rent controls on all property. It want to have its cake and eat it like all greedy people; extortionate rents but low wages. When the elastic is stretched too far it breaks!

  4. Jonathan Wilson

    The other stupid thing is the “[un]affordable” rent model, which as RSP’s slowly move from social rent to the AH model, with its “inflation linked” ladder of increases that will also increase the total of housing benefit.

    Seriously they complain about the expanding housing benefit bill, then go hell for leather to both push people from the SH into private rent via the bedroom tax and increase the bill with affordable housing, cut grant for new build social housing, use onerous terms for any “replacement” funding, up the subsidy given to buy “a council house” and hugely inflate the market with is state backed funding for new build buy, and destroy the one thing that is proven to save the tax pay money over the medium to long term… social housing… fecking eejits.

    1. Donna Stanley

      I am disabled, made disabled by being assaulted at son is now my carer, he gets carers allowance, for me, i have lived in the same local authority house for just over 30 years…i am liable for the “bedroom tax” i do not want to move, my house has all my memories, so we have to pay the bedroom tax, my sons carers allowance pays the “bedroom tax” he now has to live on £30 a week, this government has also given local authorities permission to Sell vacated SH meaning, those who have downsized may not necessarily see their old home go to large families they are being urged to vacate for, they may see their old home in an estate agents window for sale to private investors ….kept that quite didn’t they??

  5. Susan Mitton (@suemitton1)

    The housing benefit bill is up because of extortionate rents in the private sector. The government needs to get a grip, get back to earth and build more social housing. How can it be ‘affordable’ or ‘make any sense’ to rehouse a social housing tenant (who is having to move because of bedroom tax), from a 3 bed social sector house @£140 per week, into a 2 bed ex council flat, now privately owned @£400 per week. I was never any good at maths myself but a 5 year old could work this one out!

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