Stay of execution for Housing Benefit claimants
It looks as though two Housing Benefit reforms, due to come into effect next year, are to be postponed till January 2012. The first change to be postponed is the limit to the amount of HB that can be claimed by tenants in private rented accommodation (£250 a week for one bedroom, £290 for two, £340 three and £400 for four), which was due to come into effect in April. The other is a change in the way HB is calculated – from reference to the median for similar local properties to the bottom 30 per cent – which was due to start in October. According to the BBC, the DWP is dismissing the story as “speculation”, but it is now being widely reported that ministers will announce the move this week.
The stories all report that this “extra time to make alternative arrangements” has been prompted by fears of the impact of the changes on next year’s local elections. This does suggest that the government can be induced to change direction when there is a good chance the voters will punish them. This is no time for defeatism.