The Lib Dems are proposing changes to housing benefit cuts including the bedroom tax.
The Lib Dem Chief Secretarty to the Treasury Danny Alexander has said it was “time to take stock and change our approach”, reports the BBC.
A Downing Street spokesman said the Conservatives are committed to reforms. He added that the Lib Dems “have never demanded the abolition of the spare room subsidy in private and have campaigned for it in public.”
Mr Alexander has proposed that nobody should face a cut in state help if there was no suitbale smaller property available and that those who have disabilities should be exempt. New tenants in the social rented sector should be subject to these changes he says, however exisiting tenants would only be penalised if a “suitable smaller home” was offered and they turned it down.
Mr Alexander said the Lib Dems would “make the case for these new fairer rules” immediately, adding: “If we cannot convince our Conservative coalition partners, we will commit to these reforms in the our 2015 Liberal Democrat manifesto.”
Ministers say private sector renters do not get spare rooms for free, and argue the policy will save around £500m a year. But critics say it is forcing households into arrears.
A Downing Street spokesman said: “Bringing the bloated Housing Benefit bill bill under control is a key part of our long term pan to fix welfare. Our reforms are working – and it’s imperative we stick to them. The Conservatives are committed to this.”
Rachel Reeves, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “This is unbelievable hypocrisy from Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems voted for the bedroom tax. There wouldn’t be a bedroom tax if it wasn’t for the Lib Dems. And in February when Labour tabled a bill to scrap the bedroom tax, the Lib Dems were nowhere to be seen.”
The Lib Dem Care Minister, Norman Lamb, defended the shift in the party’s stance.
He told BBC Newsnight: “Should you not be willing to review your position in the light of evidence and experience? It seems to me that the evidence is clear.”
He said it was “perfectly reasonable” for the rules in the private rental sector to apply to social housing.
But he added: “The difficulty we have here, is people who are in social housing, who have a spare room, but are simply not able to move because of their circumstances.”
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