Labour continues to pile the pressure onto Iain Duncan Smith over reductions in housing benefit to those who have one or more spare bedrooms in their social housing. At DWP questions today, Labour MP after Labour MP stood up to ask a question about what they call the “bedroom tax” (Tories hate the label but their “spare room subsidy” label misses the point).
Amid the barrage of questions, it became clear that DWP is about to offer a concession. IDS told the Lib Dem MP Greg Mulholland that guidance would be going out to councils tomorrow about what they can do for severely disabled children.
DWP officials have since clarified the situation. Councils will be allowed to exempt families with a severely disabled child who cannot share with a sibling from the loss of part of their housing benefit. The money this will end up costing the state will be footed by central government, not the councils themselves. They will still have a separate pot of £280m over two years to subsidise other special cases as they see fit.
The move is unlikely to cost much: the department thinks there are very few families who would actually qualify for this exemption. But it might buy IDS some more breathing space, if not from the implacably hostile Labour benches, then at least from his Lib Dem coalition colleagues.