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Bedroom tax: Lib Dems call for controversial policy to be scrapped

The party voted for the reform during their time in Coalition, but now admit it is 'time to change approach'

The Liberal Democrats have called for the so-called bedroom tax to be scrapped after figures showed just one in 20 tenants affected had moved to a smaller home and 330,000 had fallen behind on their rent.

The “spare bedroom subsidy” - as it is officially called by the Government - saw tenants lose up to 25 per cent of their housing benefit if they had bedrooms that were not occupied.

In September last year, Raquel Rolnik, the United Nations special rapporteur on housing, called for the controversial welfare reform to be abolished saying it was driving some people to the point of suicide.

Many of Britain’s poorest people found themselves unable to find a smaller property to move into and unable to find enough money to pay a quarter of their rent. Councils also started running out of money to pay emergency hardship funds.

The Lib Dems have voted for the policy during their time in the Coalition but Danny Alexander, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, admitted it was “time to change our approach” and adopt “new, fairer rules”.

“Our revised proposal is that new tenants in the social rented sector would receive housing benefit based on the number of rooms they need,” he wrote in the Daily Mirror.

“But those already in the social rented sector would only see a reduction in benefit if they are offered a suitable smaller home and, crucially, turn it down.

“Disabled adults should be treated the same as disabled children, by permanently exempting them. And we would introduce new measures on social landlords to manage their stock more effectively so more people get put into the right home.”

Mr Alexander said the Liberal Democrats would try to get the changes introduced before the General Election next year.

“If we can’t convince our Conservative coalition partners, we will commit to these reforms in our 2015 manifesto,” he said. “I want everyone to have the chance to live securely in a decent home.”

Mr Alexander’s father Di Alexander, who chairs Lochaber Housing Association in Scotland, was among those who spoke out against the policy.

He wrote that it was “particularly unfair in that it penalises both our tenants and ourselves for not being able to magic up a supply of smaller properties, particularly those with only one bedroom, when we have been funded by government since our inception to build nothing smaller than two-bedroomed flats and houses”.