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;
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 1300 in the North East. 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.”