The government suffered an awkward defeat in the House of Lords this afternoon on its changes to council tax benefit. Rebels on an amendment to the Local Government Finance Bill calling for an independent review of the changes to be carried out within three years of their introduction included 16 Liberal Democrats.
Labour has dubbed the changes, which will mean councils will have to design their own local schemes to help low-income households with council tax bills, the ‘poll tax mark two’ because two million families will have to contribute towards their council tax for the first time. Liberal Democrat Lord Shipley told the Chamber:
‘The problems for individuals could be very severe in the face of so much change at once. As a very minimum the Government should commission an independent review to report on how the changes are working.’
The motion, tabled by Labour’s Baroness Hollis, carried by 203 votes to 165. It’s unlikely be the only Lib Dem rebellion in the Lords, either. If the government had hoped that it had moved on from those late winter nights when the junior coalition partner’s peers voted against key aspects of welfare reform and legal aid legislation, it may well find itself in for a shock. I understand Liberal Democrat peers – and not just those on tonight’s list of 16 rebels – are mulling voting against the government’s regulations for the personal independence payment when they come to the Lords.