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Friday, 13 March 2015

Labour looking to save £1bn from Housing Benefit

The Labour party has, this afternoon, set a new target to save £1 billion from the Housing Benefit bill across the next parliament by cutting the cost of overpayments due to error and fraud. The tenth interim report from Labour’s Zero-Based Review (ZBR) of every pound spent by government shows how a Labour government will tackle the rising Housing Benefit bill, as part of Labour’s plan to control social security spending fairly. 

Housing Benefit spending is the second largest area of DWP spending after pensions and has risen by more than £1.5 billion since 2010. Labour will cut the deficit every year, and get the current budget into surplus – and national debt falling – as soon as possible in the next parliament.

Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Rachel Reeves, said: "Under David Cameron the cost to tax payers of Housing Benefit error and fraud has risen to £1.4 billion, its highest ever recorded level, an increase of £470 million a year since 2010. And the number of working people forced to rely on Housing Benefit to pay the rent is set to double by 2019. Working people can’t afford another five years of Tory failure on Housing Benefit." 

"Labour has a better plan to control the cost of Housing Benefit. We will tackle the root causes of rising spending by building at least 200,000 homes a year and tackling low pay with an £8 minimum wage before 2020. And a Labour government will reverse the rise in error and fraud seen under this government by increasing the use of data from credit reference agencies to tackle Housing Benefit overpayments and scrapping the government’s plan to take fraud investigation measures away from local authorities, to save £1 billion in the next parliament." Ms Reeves added.

Commenting on Labour's zero-based review, Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Chris Leslie, said: "Labour’s interim Zero-Based Review has identified at least £200m of annual savings in the housing benefit bill. We will get a grip on overpayments, which have soared by more than 50 per cent since 2010, and ensure councils retain the powers they need to tackle fraud locally. It would be wrong to centralise anti-fraud controls in a government department which is currently limping from crisis to catastrophe under the coalition." 

"By reducing on official error, and tightening controls on the small minority who try to cheat the housing benefit system, we will get a better deal for taxpayers and support those people who need help with the cost of a home." Chris Leslie also commented.