Who needs a spare room, anyway?

I’m sure Lord Freud would love the chance to swap just one of his eight bedrooms in his comfy mansion for a single sofa

Mark Steel
Tuesday 29 January 2013 21:13

Now that someone’s pointed it out, it’s obvious who caused the economy to collapse – people on benefits with a spare room. So there’s a new law, starting in April, which will cut 15 per cent off anyone’s housing benefit if their place contains one of these “spare” rooms.

The cut applies to any household in which a bedroom isn’t lived in all the time. For example, welfare minister Lord Freud told a parent whose three children stay with him half the week that he would lose the spare room as the kids can sleep on the sofa. Luckily, the fact that sofas appear to be smaller than three children is an optical illusion. Many families have lived for years on them, and if they come into some spare equity build a cushion as an extension. Lord Freud himself has to make do with an eight-bedroom mansion, so you can understand why he’d give that advice, as he’d LOVE the opportunity to swap that cramped dwelling for a sofa.

Parents whose son or daughter work for the armed forces, leaving their room empty while they’re away on duty, will also have their benefits cut, and Lord Freud's advice to those parents was to take in a lodger. That should be easy enough, because it’s simple to rent out a room on the basis that every couple of months you have to budge up a bit in bed to make room for a squaddie just back from Afghanistan. You can probably charge a bit of extra rent on the grounds that if the room has any mines in it, your roommate will know exactly how to sweep them away.

Disabled people who need a spare room for equipment will have their payments cut, and the Government expects the new rule to affect 660,000 households. If all these families did as they were asked and moved somewhere smaller, there might be a problem, in that there aren’t 660,000 spare smaller houses. But this can be easily solved by getting the residents to destroy their extra room with gelignite, leaving them with the right-sized property while the taxpayer no longer feels upset at paying for unnecessary lumps of space.

It could be time-consuming for David Cameron, because everyone facing these cuts will presumably be granted two meetings with the Prime Minister, as happened with Starbucks when it was suggested they make the odd payment of tax. But there’s a solution to help everyone.

Once these cuts have been introduced, we could start on toilets. How much housing benefit goes towards renting a toilet, and yet most of these claimants spend barely more than a few minutes a day on it, the ungrateful pigs? One toilet per street is plenty.

The rest could be rented out to Starbucks, in return for a tax payment, and every council flat would have its own coffee shop, selling almond croissants to be enjoyed during long summer walks around the glorious grounds of the sofa.

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