This week in Parliament; week commencing 17 January 2011

 [b]Payment direct to landlords[/i][/b]

[b]Steve Webb:[/b]We continue to support the principle that tenants in the private rented sector should be responsible for managing their rental payments. There are safeguards in place so that housing benefit can be paid to the landlord if the tenant is unable or unlikely to pay their rent. Benefit is also paid direct to the landlord if the tenant is in arrears by eight weeks' rent.

From April 2011 we are widening local authority discretion to pay housing benefit direct to the landlord only if it would help the customer secure a new tenancy or remain in their current home at a reduced rent. We will work closely with local authorities to ensure this provision is used in very specific circumstances where landlords are reducing rents to a level that is affordable for customers.

The 10% reduction and families[/i][/b]

[b]Mr Andrew Smith:[/b]To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will make it his policy to exempt families with children from his proposed reduction in housing benefit for people in receipt of jobseeker's allowance for more than one year.

[b]Steve Webb:[/b]We are carefully considering the impact on benefit customers as we develop the detailed policy for introduction of this measure in the Welfare Reform Bill. People for whom jobseeker's allowance is not appropriate, including lone parent families with very young children aged less than five, will not be affected.

Housing Benefit costs and expected savings [/i][/b]

[b]Steve Webb:[/b] Housing benefit expenditure has risen from £11 billion in 2000-01 to an expected £21.5 billion in 2010-11 in cash terms.

The package of measures announced in the June Budget and being introduced for the local housing allowance in 2011-12, including the removal of the £15 excess planned by the previous administration, will achieve savings of around £1 billion by 2015-16. The other changes to housing benefit announced in the June Budget are estimated to save a further £1.1 billion in 2015-16. Overall, this represents a reduction of 9% in the total 2015-16 expenditure on housing benefit 

Housing Benefit staff[/i][/b]

[b]Steve Webb: [/b]The Department for Work and Pensions estimates that 20,000 local authority staff work on housing benefit and council tax benefit. The processing of these benefits is largely combined and therefore we do not have an estimate of the number of staff working on each benefit.

[b]Council Tax Benefit changes[/i][/b]

[b]Steve Webb:[/b]We are still in the process of finalising decisions on the future of council tax benefit, including how it will be delivered. We will publish an impact assessment for the proposed changes to council tax benefit in the normal way, accompanying the relevant legislation when introduced in Parliament.

[/strong][i]Universal Credit and Council Tax Benefit[/i][i][/i]

[/strong]Steve Rotheram: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions pursuant to the answer of 10 January 2011, [i]Official Report[/i], columns 137-8W, on universal credit, whether his calculation of the marginal reduction rate before full implementation of universal credit includes the 20 per cent. council tax benefit taper. [34254]

[b]Chris Grayling:[/b]All analysis presented to date includes the 20% council tax benefit taper when calculating marginal deduction rates in the current tax and benefit system. It has also been assumed for modelling purposes that council tax benefit is included within the universal credit and is subject to the single overall taper of 65% when calculating marginal deduction rates under universal credit.

The Government's recent announcement that they would give local authorities more say on the administration of council tax benefit will have implications for universal credit. As stated in the recent White Paper 'Universal Credit: Welfare That Works', the Government will work closely with local government and the devolved Administrations to develop the details of the proposal and to ensure that this reform does not undermine the positive impact of universal credit on work incentives.