The Coalition committed itself to reducing the aggregate housing benefit bill, which stood at around £20bn per year when it took office. The seemingly inexorable growth in housing benefit payments had been identified as a problem before the Coalition’s formation. It was one indicator that the housing market was sick. So the Coalition’s policy aspirations here were not particularly implausible or objectionable. Indeed, you could argue that it showed creditable determination to deal with a longstanding issue.
The issue is how it has, then, gone about tackling the problem. And to do so it has started by introduced a range of restrictions on eligibility. Here in Bristol it is forecast that something like £11million will be removed from the annual private rented sector housing benefit bill, and the local authority has been allocated £500,000 to manage the fallout. If and when Universal Credit arrives next year the cap on housing benefit will sharply tighten again for many households. [Read more...]