Bedroom tax crisis: Ed Miliband commits to abolition of controversial benefit cut - if Labour win next election

Archbishop of Canterbury joins chorus of voices condemning ‘vicious’ policy

Ed Miliband pledged to abolish the Coalition’s “vicious and iniquitous bedroom tax” if Labour is returned to power at the next election.

In a keynote announcement at the start of his party’s Brighton conference, Mr Miliband said the next manifesto would include a commitment to scrap the benefit cut – which has been condemned for plunging thousands of  council tenants into rent arrears.

Mr Miliband said Labour would make up for the £470m the spare room subsidy is meant to save by reversing some of the Government’s tax cuts for businesses and George Osborne’s “shares for rights” scheme. The pledge opens up a clear policy divide between Labour and its Conservative and Liberal Democrat opponents and is likely to be a major issue at the next election. While Mr Miliband is nervous about committing Labour to reversing other Coalition benefit restrictions, he believes he can win the public argument over the “bedroom tax” because of its perceived unfairness.

A new survey suggests that nearly 60 per cent of people believe the policy should be abandoned entirely – and the Archbishop of Canterbury has also joined in the criticism.

The Independent revealed earlier this week that around 50,000 people who have lost out under the benefit change have now fallen behind on their rent and could face eviction.

Under the new rules, tenants face a housing benefit reduction of up to 25 per cent if they have a “spare” bedroom. However, campaigners argue that many of those affected do not have an option to move because there are no smaller properties available.

Ministers say that Labour introduced a similar policy when it was in power by restricting housing benefit for those in under-occupied private sector properties.

In a speech at the conference on Saturday, Mr Miliband will link abolishing the bedroom tax with his “One Nation Labour” philosophy.

“The bedroom tax – not what the Tories call the spare room subsidy – the bedroom tax is a symbol of an out-of-touch, uncaring Tory Government that stands up for the privileged few,” he is expected to say.

“So we will scrap the bedroom tax [and pay for it by] abolishing the shady schemes of tax loopholes for the privileged few which the Tories keep inventing. Tax cuts for hedge funds, the billion-pound black hole created with a scheme for workers to sell their rights for shares, and by tackling scams which cheat the taxpayer in construction. That’s what a One Nation Labour government will do. That’s a party that will fight for you.”

Labour’s shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne said research suggested that councils did not have suitable properties for 90 per cent of those affected by the bedroom tax to move into.

“We have to show where the money will come from in order to reverse this iniquitous and vicious tax and we have to prove that it is costing more than it saves,” he said.

The Labour announcement came as the Archbishop of Canterbury,  Justin Welby, also lined up to attack the penalty. Insisting he was “not making a party political point”, the Archbishop said that the benefits shake-up was likely to mean a rise in debts to housing associations.

“When a series of other things are combined, notably reductions in benefit to take account of what is seen as excess house space – the so-called bedroom tax – higher costs for energy, and for many the fact that short-term lenders can take money direct from an account within hours of it coming in, suddenly the problem and possibility of growing a large-scale arrears becomes very serious,” he said.

Sajid Javid, Economic Secretary to the Treasury, condemned Mr Miliband’s move. “Labour’s first policy commitment, after three years of waiting, is more spending on housing benefit, funded by a tax on pensions and more borrowing,” he said.

“That sums up Labour’s record in office and shows it’s still the same old Labour. Hardworking people would pay the price through higher taxes and higher mortgage rates.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Reimagined: Gwyneth Paltrow and Toni Collette in the film adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma
books
Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan
Cannes 2015Dheepan, film review
Sport
sport
News
Richard Blair is concerned the trenches are falling into disrepair
newsGeorge Orwell's son wants to save war site that inspired book
Arts and Entertainment
The pair in their heyday in 1967
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine