London rent hikes call into question UK wide Bedroom Tax policy

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  By Angela Haggerty
 
Increasing London prices have driven rent costs up by 8.4 per cent in England since 2005, new figures have revealed, leading to fresh questions over the controversial Bedroom Tax policy which is in force across the whole of the UK.
 
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released the numbers on Wednesday detailing rent figures for England from 2005, although data for Scotland and Wales has only been collected over the last two years.

The figures showed rent increases in the past 12 months in England, Wales and Scotland sat at a similar rate of between 1 and 1.5 per cent, however the data collected in England from 2005 onwards showed a disproportionate rise in rents between the north and south-east, with London seeing double the increase in rent of the north-east at 11 per cent compared to just 5.2 per cent.

In the last year alone, rent prices in the north-east dropped by 0.1 per cent while London prices continued to ascend with a 2.2 per cent rise.

Last month, figures obtained by SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing showed that housing benefit costs were rising two and a half times faster across the whole of the UK than in Scotland alone, leading the MSP to claim Scots were shouldering the burden for spiralling rent increases in the south-east of England.

“The Tories have repeatedly told us that we need the Bedroom Tax to get the soaring housing benefit bill under control, but these figures show us that, as far as Scotland is concerned, this is complete nonsense,” said Ms Ewing.  “Another Tory myth has been shattered.

“Housing benefit is actually rising two and a half times faster across the UK than in Scotland.  I cannot think of a clearer example of how policies set in Westminster do not take into account the needs of the people of Scotland.  Vulnerable Scots are effectively paying the price for soaring rents in the south-east of England.

“Scotland can more than afford our own national social protection system – our expenditure in this area was equivalent to 14.4 per cent of GDP which was lower than the UK figure of 15.9 per cent,” she added.

The Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation has staged a number of demonstrations around the country and continues to hold weekly local meetings in the battle against the policy.  Earlier this month, Federation Chair Tommy Sheridan told Newsnet Scotland that the level of non-payment of the tax north of the border was at 65-70 per cent and said groups were ready for a “new civil disobedience campaign that will probably mirror the anti-poll tax campaign”.

Meanwhile, figures released in April from the Northern Ireland Federation of Housing Associations (NIFHA) and Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) projected it would cost housing associations and the Housing Executive £21m to implement the bedroom tax in Northern Ireland to achieve savings of £17m, leading for fresh calls to scrap the controversial tax.

The UK government claims more than half a million tenants will be affected by the bedroom tax but says taxpayer savings could total £540m by 2014.  However, housing associations in the north of England have suggested the policy may end up costing more than it will save if poorer tenants are forced to move into smaller, more expensive private accommodation to shed an extra room and avoid the tax.

 

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