Monday, 16 September 2013

Lib Dems vote aganst the bedroom tax

This afternoon, the Liberal Democrat party conference voted against the bedroom tax.

Many of us have said that, while the concept of the policy was fair enough - to do more to encourage people in social housing to downsize - the practicalities made this impossible from the start. The supply of housing is just not there to enable those who are willing to move to do so, yet they get penalised just the same. And there are many tens of thousands of people with disabilities whose homes are specially adapted. These adaptations would need to be done all over again if they moved at a cost of millions to the public purse.

So the concept of the policy might have been fine in theory, but was always impossible in practice without harming those who were willing to do the right thing.

So today the conference voted in favour of a motion that seeks to review this policy.

Which is great, but the party has to accept that its MPs (largely) voted in favour of the measure in the first place. So we need to do more than pay lip service to the need to end the policy and reverse the many harmful effects of the period it has been in force.

Unlike Conservative or Labour parties, the decisions made by Lib Dem party conference become party policy. It's a free vote where Nick Clegg's vote has only the same weight as that of the newest delegate. I hope that the party leadership and MPs take active steps to implement this call for change within the coalition and, if unsuccessful, make it a key plank in the next manifesto.

However well intentioned the original decision, it's time for our MPs to accept that the policy was wrong and do all they can to make amends.

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