General Election 2015: Tory minister admits bedroom tax is 'not an easy sell' on the doorstep

Michael Fallon was asked by a Tory candidate how best to justify the policy

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The so-called bedroom tax is “not an easy sell” on the election doorstep, a Tory Cabinet minister has privately admitted as he suggested that tenants struggling to pay the charge should move to a different part of the country.

Michael Fallon’s comments, in a secret tape recording passed to The Independent, came when he was asked by a Tory candidate how best to justify the policy.

The Defence Secretary replied that it was “not particularly easy, not an easy sell, I fully appreciate that”.

Speaking at a Tory fund-raiser for candidates in the North East of England, he indicated that there were continuing problems with the “spare room subsidy” under which working age tenants in social housing lose 14 per cent of housing benefit if they are deemed to have a surplus bedroom.

Mr Fallon said “almost every council in the country” had failed to use money set aside by the Government to help people who have faced hardship as a result of the policy.

 

“The discretionary money that we’ve set aside for councils that have problems with it has not been spent,” he said.

Mr Fallon also appeared to advocate people who were struggling to cope moving to a cheaper part of the country.

“We have to do more to speed up the exchanges and information between the various councils and make it easier for people to move from one council area to the other,” he said.

The minister was responding to the Tory candidate in Hartlepool, Richard Royal, who told him the bedroom tax was a “big issue in the North East”. He said: “Most of us in this room will probably agree with the principles of it but sometimes the practicalities don’t necessarily work.”


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Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, will repeat his party’s commitment to scrapping the bedroom tax as election campaigning enters its final strait.

Rachel Reeves, the shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, said: “The Tories admit the bedroom tax isn’t working and is hugely unpopular. Yet they continue to defend it. It’s another example of the failing Tory plan which has hit family living standards.”

The Government has argued the policy, which has trimmed £500m from welfare spending, is freeing up housing stock and providing extra space for families in cramped accommodation.

People affected by the move, which came into effect in April 2013, have lost around £14 per week, prompting protests that man were being forced into penury.

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