The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All?

THINK LEFT
THINK LEFT

 

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by Jim Grundy

On 1st April 2013, a little under 1,000 Ashfield District Council tenancies will be subject to the new ‘Under-Occupancy Charge’, more commonly known as the ‘Bedroom Tax’.

It is difficult to imagine a worse policy, even from a Government that appears short of everything except bad ideas.

Any council or housing association household of working age with one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms and in receipt of Housing Benefit will receive a cut to that benefit of up to £20 per week.

The stated aim of the new tax on the poorest is to increase the supply of larger accommodation and to cut the Housing Benefit bill by moving people into smaller properties.

Does that stand up to scrutiny?

In short, “no”.

But let us first consider the kind of work-shy benefit scroungers that are to be affected by the Bedroom Tax.

Firstly, let us think of a scenario where a family with a severely disabled child under the age of ten has, on medical advice, to have their own, specially adapted, bedroom.

According to this new legislation, the young boy or girl would have to share with a sibling or the family would have to pay the penalty charge.

Then there’s the example of a middle-aged couple, who have to sleep in separate rooms because one of them suffers from pressure sores and whose room is full of medical equipment.

Despite the medical necessity for that couple requiring two bedrooms, the legislation does not recognise that and they would be penalised.

Another example could see a discharged soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) whose wife has died and whose child is pondering whether to go to university for fear that the Bedroom Tax will leave their father unable to cope.

But current members of the armed forces are affected too.

Current government defence policy places greater reliance upon part-time reserve forces. Yet an absence of 13 weeks – rather less than the average tour to Afghanistan – from a council or housing association tenancy would see the family of that member of the military subject to the charge too.

They might be serving their country but that won’t protect them from the Bedroom Tax.

Not excluded from the charge either would be a disabled household who rely on regular stop-over visits by friends or family to help them continue to live independently.

They, too, fall foul of the new legislation.

Others guilty of the crime of under-occupation will include those affected by domestic violence and families with a spare room offering to foster children, some of whom will have come from very troubled backgrounds.

Nevertheless, those who are prepared to take them in, to offer protection to vulnerable children, are not excluded from the new tax.

Less emotively, let us consider the simple example of an individual with no family, who is not disabled, living in a two bedroom council property (and who obviously has no ambition to have a family of their own).

If there is no alternative accommodation within the council stock they would be obliged to move into the private rented sector.

Inevitably, renting from a private landlord would prove more expensive than from a local authority, so the aim of saving on the Housing Benefit bill would be completely compromised.

I started by saying that the Bedroom Tax will neither release larger accommodation nor will it save Housing Benefit.

Moving people into the private rented sector will add costs, not save money, that much is obvious, but is there the supply of smaller accommodation within the council stock to move people around, even if there were no other considerations to be taken into account?

Again, the answer is clear and it is an overwhelming ‘no’.

With nearly 1,000 tenancies to be affected by the Bedroom Tax, within Ashfield there is no scope to transfer any more than 40-50 households each year into a home where they wouldn’t lose out to the Bedroom Tax.

It would take, therefore, around 20 years to place people into smaller homes, assuming no-one’s circumstances changed over the next couple of decades.

So the social consequences of the policy are dire.

It penalises some of the most vulnerable people.

It even punishes those serving their country in war zones.

But the crowning irony, the final insult and a further example, were one even needed, of the gross hypocrisy of the Coalition Government is the fact that Lord Freud, the minister leading on this policy, has 11 spare bedrooms of his own, including eight in his own country mansion.

So tax the chronically sick; tax the serving solder, but for heaven’s sake don’t tax a millionaire in his mansion. 

 

THINK LEFT

They parasitise us from above. But landowners and the Tory party’s idle rich are spared the fairest and simplest of taxes that would have spared us every turn of the screw Posted on January 21, 2013 

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3,300 Dundee households to be hit by ‘bedroom tax’

The spare bedroom tax: a mess of contradiction and impossibility

 

 

Comments
  • Anna Hayward January 28, 2013 at 12:01 am

    Don’t forget families who foster – they won’t be able to keep a spare bedrooms to use for those children, thus reducing still further the number of families able to foster, at a time when the government are penalising councils for not finding sufficient foster homes.

    On the other hand, those same families have a perverse incentive to have more birth children as then they’ll be able to keep their larger house without having to move or pay a penalty.

    And if an adult child to a disabled parent decides to stay home, to avoid bedroom tax, woe betides that family if the child is earning – for benefit purposes they’ll then be considered the main earner. I have a friend in this position. Does she pay the bedroom tax or lose income support on account of her adult son moving back home? Either way, she’s going to be on the breadline. It’s not as if she can work to earn more money – she’s one of the lucky ones ATOS decided really was unable to work.

    • murphy January 29, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      If the disabled parent is in receipt of DLA care at any rate then there are no non dependent deductions. This is set to continue with PIP. It’s a little known aspect of housing benefit and a lot of frontline advisors aren’t even aware of it.

    • Neil February 1, 2013 at 6:50 pm

      If there was no door on the bedroom (temporarily removed) then it is open plan and therefore not a separate room thus ineligible for the tax?

  • Michael Astill January 29, 2013 at 1:25 am

    I fully agree that this is a most unfair and ill thought out benefit cut.It is playing lip service to redneck tory right. But I think there is an error or two in the above statement. A serving soldier in the armed forces is unlikely to be in reciept of housing benfit. There is also a discretionary clause for disabled occupancy, but this is at the discretion of the local goverment. In these tough times the local councils will probably not be as lenient or compassionate as the law allows.

  • GEOFF REYNOLDS January 29, 2013 at 2:28 pm

    ITS NICE TO SEE OUR FRIENDS IN SCOTLAND USING THE UNIFIED PEOPLE POWER TO GET THE BACKING OF THE RELEVANT ORGANISATIONS TO TACKLE THIS INJUSTICE HEAD ON. I FEEL PROUD OF YOU.

    Govan Law Centre (GLC) is delighted that Shelter Scotland and the STUC have endorsed the principles of the‘No eviction for bedroom tax’ campaign, which is already supported by local tenants and residents in Glasgow, following two public meetings in Govan.

    bedroomtaxevictionsGLC had suggested the need for urgent minor law reform amendment to implement a ‘No eviction for bedroom tax‘ policy in Scotland, upon the basis the bedroom tax cuts would be affecting tenants within 4 months or so, and Scotland needed a new safety net otherwise we would be unable to prevent evictions based on rent arrears caused by the bedroom tax.

  • Neil February 1, 2013 at 6:49 pm

    If the door on the bedroom is not on the frame then it is open plan and therefore not a separate room thus ineligible for the tax?

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