Isle MP slams ‘crazy’ spare room subsidies

MP Andrew Percy.
MP Andrew Percy.

Isle MP Andrew Percy abstained rather than support his party, in a motion brought by Labour to repeal the so-called Bedroom Tax.

In the recent Opposition Day Debate over the Government’s controversial ‘spare room subsidy’, Labour lost by 252 to 226 votes, as a majority of 26 went against the motion to reject the tax. The Government might usually expect a majority of more than 50.

The new Labour parliamentary candidate for the Brigg and Goole constituency that takes in the Isle is Jacky Crawford. She claimed the Conservative MP had “ducked out” in the recent debate and that “sitting on the fence on such an issue as this is not an option.”

She said: “It comes down to whether you agree with this tax - keeping it or abolishing it, and it was a simple vote.

“ I see many people suffering because of it. One elderly gent I know was moved recently from a two-bedroom property to an outlying village, and is now isolated, crying with loneliness. It’s an unfair tax.”

The Isle MP defended his stance, saying he and many constituents agree with the tax in principle.

But he added: “There are points that concern me. I believe the rules are drawn too tightly.

“There is a need for flexibility. For example, some properties are too hard to let because they are big and undesirable. Local councils should be able to downgrade these properties. It’s crazy to penalise people who in a way are doing them a favour by living in them.

“This isn’t, however, an issue in the Isle where more properties are privately rented.”

He continued: “I would prefer people to be penalised if they refused smaller accommodation. There are a lot of situations to be taken in to account, and not enough exceptions for disabled people. But there is nothing wrong with the principle, if there is protection and flexibility for those who need it. The devil is in the detail.”

Mr Percy revealed that he voted against the tax initially in parliament, because the rules were “too rigid”.

But he said: “On the other hand, it has been proven to be a trigger or a push to people to find work,” adding that overcrowded accommodation due to a lack of social housing is a problem.

The Commons debate was brought by Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Rachel Reeves, who labelled the spare room subsidy, that is claimed to affect over 650,000 people nationally, as “cruel and unworkable.”

It means a reduction in benefit for any person or persons who have unoccupied bedrooms, with an average bill of £720 a year. It hits around 50,400 people within the Yorkshire and Humberside region.