Iain Duncan Smith has slammed the door on victims of the bedroom tax hoping to reclaim their charges for a so-called ‘spare bedroom’. A loophole in legislation underpinning the hated tax was closed yesterday after tenants claiming housing benefit continuously since before 1 January 1996 had been able to get their money back.
And with the drafting error just one of several monumental cock-ups plaguing the department, the DWP is still insisting that just 5,000 people were affected — in the face of counter-claims by housing experts.
This is odd to say the least with the news that 300 tenants have claimed back £214,000 in south Essex alone.
Don’t trust anything on DWP until it’s been officially denied.
- DWP boss’ local councils forced to fund food banks
- But cabinet minister refused to meet charity bosses
- Even Tory think tank says benefits regime to blame
Two councils covering Iain Duncan Smith’s constituency have been forced to spend £70,000 to support food banks. The news emerges three months after the cabinet minister snubbed repeated requests for a face-to-face meeting by accusing the UK’s largest food bank charity of “scaremongering”.
BBC Panorama is set to report that a third of councils are funding food banks, with the burden on local authorities running to £3 million per year. They include the two of the three covering Duncan Smith’s Chingford and Woodford Green constituency.
Back in December it was revealed that Duncan Smith had yet again refused to meet with the Christian-run Trussell Trust food bank, complaining that charity bosses have “repeatedly sought to link the growth in your network to welfare reform”:
“I strongly refute this claim and would politely ask you to stop scaremongering in this way. I understand that a feature of your business model must require you to continuously achieve publicity, but I’m concerned that you are now seeking to do this by making your political opposition to welfare reform overtly clear.”
But the Duncan Smith’s defence is now crumbling – with a Tory think tank breaking ranks to underscore the link between the harsh new sanctions regime and food bank use. A report from Policy Exchange — founded by Michael Gove and Francis Maude and described as “David Cameron’s favourite think tank” — released today states:
“With some estimates suggesting that 43% of those referred to food banks are there due to benefit stoppage or being refused a crisis loan, it is clear that there is not currently an adequate safety net for those who are wrongly sanctioned”
Whether it’s Universal Credit, benefits sanctions or food banks, Iain Duncan Smith inhabits his own fantasy world.
A victim of the Bedroom Tax has struck a legal blow against the hated charge after officials wrongly claimed that his dining room was a ‘spare bedroom’. The news comes after countless vulnerable tenants have seen living and storage areas bizarrely reclassified.
As Scrapbook reported back in November, families have been left facing hardship after downstairs living areas have been suddenly designated as bedrooms. And in perhaps the most shocking case of its kind, even rooms reserved for medical purposes such kidney dialysis have been reclassified under Iain Duncan Smith’s policy.
But a judge in the case of an unnamed victim in Rochdale told a Bedroom Tax tribunal:
“On the evidence I am persuaded he has always used the second room as a dining room and regards the property as one-bedroomed.”
With the case brought with the aid of Citizens Advice Bureau, the ruling could open the floodgates to a mass rebellion against unfair reclassifications.
Following Iain Duncan Smith’s evidence on Monday, DWP select committee member Glenda Jackson brought a fiery point of order in the Commons immediately after PMQs earlier. Jackson highlighted the manner in which the Quiet Man thinks he can talk to MPs asking basic questions about Universal Credit:
“With respect, I don’t have to tell the committee everything that is happening in the department until we have reached a conclusion about what is actually happening.”
“With respect, chairman, I do not think this committee can run the department.”
With IDS claiming he had ”nothing to tell” the MPs about experts drafted in to rescue the IT underpinning his flagship policy, Commons speaker John Bercow confirmed that the job of the DWP Committee is to, errr, scrutinise DWP.
At one point in Monday’s proceedings, IDS said he did not understand what Glenda Jackson was talking about — and that it sounded as if she was speaking in a “foreign language”.
Scrapbook trusts that her intervention today was clear enough for him.
This blog doesn’t usually direct readers towards select committee hearings but the 4:30pm fixture in the Wilson Room promises to be particularly amusing. Having tried to throw his most senior civil servant under a bus over Universal Credit fiasco, Iain Duncan Smith will be forced to explain himself to MPs while sat alongside that very man.
Scrapbook understand IDS and Robert Devereux are barely on talking terms.
Current Universal Credit write-off: £40.1 million. Prospective future write-off: £130 million. Having to testify to a select committee while sitting alongside the bloke you tried to blame for your own failure: priceless.
Armed police swooped to arrest a Tory councillor in Essex after reports of a fight involving a man carrying a gun. Nick Buckmaster was due in court on a charge of “possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear”, with officers recovering an air gun from the scene of the incident. The Tory’s plea to the charge has not yet been reported by the local press.
As a councillor for Larkswood ward in Chingford, Buckmaster is a local ally of work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. IDS has previously been forced to deny claims that Buckmaster was party to “intimidating” behaviour at a consultation event.
With the rozzers involved, he shouldn’t expect any help from the ‘Quiet Man’ this time.
The number of Bedroom Tax victims due for a refund after a “technical error” meant they were wrongly charged the so-called under ‘under-occupancy penalty’ could be up to four times higher than Ian Duncan Smith told the Commons on Tuesday. The news comes days after it emerged that a woman who committed suicide over the policy would have been exempt.
Asked how many residents — mostly disabled people — are due a refund because they have been living in the same home and claiming benefits since 1996, IDS told MPs:
“We have already made it clear that the number is likely to be between 3,000 and 5,000″
But an analysis by the Chartered Institute of Housing based on a sample of cases suggests that between 6,500 and 12,500 tenants will be getting their money back. Housing solicitor Sam Lister claims the figure is even higher — a minimum of 15,000 to 20,000:
“It varies from place to place, but it can’t be as low as 5,000 or 6,000.”
With the DWP refusing to reveal how they arrived at their figures, IDS has been accused of “not having a clue” what is going on. Having blamed his permanent secretary, other departmental officials and IT companies for various cock ups on the Universal Credit programme, it is — of course – local authorities who are responsible for the current confusion on the Bedroom Tax:
“we will be clearer about that when the local authorities, which are responsible for collecting the data, come forward with the final facts”
It can’t be long before IDS says that bigger boys did it and then ran off.
It’s 2014 — but apparently Iain Duncan Smith thinks it’s okay to refer to a gay colleague as a “pantomime dame”. The cabinet member made the homophobic jibe to out Labour shadow minister Chris Bryant during work and pensions questions earlier this afternoon:
It is sadly poignant that a senior member of the government would make this sick comment on the same day that Stonewall launch a campaign on homophobic workplace bullying:
The jibe compounds sexist gaffes from David Cameron and William Hague, in which they dismissed female MPs with the jibes “calm down, dear” and “stupid woman”.