Ministers have massively miscalculated the number of people unlawfully charged the Bedroom Tax in the last year, figures released by Labour show. Responses to a Freedom of Information request show that claims by Iain Duncan Smith that up to 5,000 people had been affected by a loophole were underestimated by at least a third.
At the beginning of this year, it was revealed that government errors in legislation had led to a loophole in the Bedroom Tax which meant thousands of people have been wrongly charged. At the time ministers insisted it would hit only a handful of households. Iain Duncan Smith MP told the House of Commons on January 13th that, 'that the number is likely to be between 3,000 and 5,000.' When asked how many people were affected by the loophole on 13th January, work and pensions minister Esther McVey MP said 'This information is not available.'
Yet figures uncovered by Labour using Freedom of Information requests have revealed that thousands have been wrongly charged the bedroom tax. The 140 local authorities which replied to the Freedom of Information reported 16,450 people affected by the Bedroom Tax loophole including;
- LONDON - 2593
- SCOTLAND - 1641
- YORKS - 1559
- NORTH WEST - 1555
- NORTH EAST - 1300
- EASTERN - 1484
- WALES - 809
- EAST MIDS - 770
- SOUTH EAST - 712
- WEST MIDS - 455
- SOUTH WEST 366
Jo Stevens, Welsh Labour candidate for Cardiff Central in 2015, said:
"Cardiff already has the highest energy bills in the UK, has already seen wages plummet and is reeling from the effects of the enduring Tory and Lib Dem cost-of-living crisis. With over a quarter of those caught by the Bedroom Tax loophole in Wales living in Cardiff, the Tories and Lib Dems yet again seem happy for local residents to bear the brunt of their cuts while they continue to give millionaires a £100,000 tax cut."
Labour’s Shadow Welfare Reform minister Chris Bryant MP, said:
"Iain Duncan Smith told Parliament that 3000 to 5000 people had been illegally charged the bedroom tax thanks to the loophole, but it’s now clear he was just picking numbers out of thin air.
"With just a third of councils so far responding to our Freedom of Information requests, we already know that over 16,000 people are affected including 809 in Wales. At this rate the total will be nearly 50,000 households, each of them overcharged by an average of £640. That's £3,072,000 that will have to be repaid.
"The Bedroom Tax has been a fiasco from start to finish and now the government have been caught out trying to downplay how many people are exempted by it. This would be a farce if it weren’t for the upset this has caused many vulnerable families and the huge cost to taxpayers.
"We've always said the Bedroom Tax is cruel and unfair. The government should ditch it; if they don't then Labour will."
1. Labour Bedroom Tax FOI
On 14th January 2014, the Labour Party sent a Freedom of Information request to all 346 local authorities in the country asking how many people were affected by the Bedroom Tax loophole. There are 346 local authorities in the UK.
2. Government predictions on number of people affected by loophole
1. In a parliamentary question, Shadow Welfare Reform Minister Chris Bryant asked:
Chris Bryant: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what the cost to his Department is of appeals against the under-occupancy penalty based on Schedule 3 to the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006; 
(2) what estimate he has made of the cost to his Department in the next financial year of appeals against the under-occupancy penalty based on Schedule 3 to the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006; 
(3) how many people currently do not pay the under-occupancy penalty because they meet the criteria of Schedule 3 to the Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit (Consequential Provisions) Regulations 2006. 
Esther McVey: This information is not available.
On 13th January 2014 Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Rachel Reeves asked Iain Duncan Smith the following:
Rachel Reeves (Leeds West) (Lab): We already know that 600,000 people are affected by the bedroom tax, two thirds of them are disabled and 60,000 are carers. Will the Secretary of State now tell the House exactly how many long-term residents have been wrongly paying the bedroom tax since April because the Government failed to spot a loophole in the legislation?
Mr Duncan Smith: We have already made it clear that the number is likely to be between 3,000 and 5,000, but we will be clearer about that when the local authorities, which are responsible for collecting the data, come forward with the final facts.
3. Housing charities have predicted that upward of 40,000 people will be affected