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Liberal Democrats advocate 'bedroom tax' reform

The Liberal Democrats have announced a U-turn on their support for the so-called 'bedroom tax' - officially known as the spare room subsidy.Reforms to the system have been proposed by the party after the publication of a government report showing only one in 20 affected tenants had moved to a smaller home.The Liberal Democrats have proposed new rules whereby those in the social rented sector would only lose their benefit if they are offered a suitable alternative home and turn it down. Disabled adults would be permanently exempted from the policy.Writing in the Mirror, chief secretary to the treasury Danny Alexander insisted his party had the best of intentions when it initially gave its backing to the bedroom tax.He said the policy was introduced to tackle the "crazy situation" in which 240,000 families occupy homes that are too large for them while families are being paid benefits to keep them in larger properties. This resulted in 820,000 spare rooms being kept empty.Mr Alexander said the policy was also introduced to help tackle the unfairness of those in the social housing getting rent on better terms than private sector counterparts and to ensure the country has an affordable welfare bill.He added that the Liberal Democrats will attempt to introduce the changes during the remainder of this parliament by lobbying their coalition partners; if they are not successful, they will commit to the reforms in their 2015 manifesto.The announcement was welcomed by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH). Director of policy and practice Gavin Smart said: "It's been clear for some time that the bedroom tax is causing hardship and suffering for thousands of people across Great Britain.""The government's own report on the policy this week has provided more evidence, so any recognition from the Liberal Democrats that the bedroom tax is not working is welcome - although long overdue."Mr Smart added that the CIH advocates the repeal of the spare room subsidy, as it is unfair and does not work. 

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