Friday, 29 March 2013

Stop the bedroom tax

We are being sold a whopper of a lie. The ConDems claim that the current wave of welfare and public service cuts are designed to get the country out of debt and the medicine, while it tastes bad, will work. So why is the public debt getting worse as a result of these cutbacks? Because reducing incomes for the poor by an enormous 38% since taking office in 2010 was always going to stop people being able to spend so create jobs in the economy.

Why are there no jobs? The banks are taking money from the government and using it to speculate in international markets rather than offering it as loans for investment. The result is that the banks get to plug the gaps in their balance sheets and reward each other with huge bonuses while the rest of us find it impossible to find sustained employment. This is particularly true of the young who are finding that the abolition of Education Maintenance Allowance and hiked tuition fees destroy their route into education but there are no jobs either.

Why is Osborne cutting tax for the richest earners and corporations? Those earning over £150,000 per year will see their tax cut but up to £40,000 as a result of Osborne’s changes. Corporation tax is being cut again and is scheduled to be reduced to 20%. The amazing thing about this corporate giveaway is that public borrowing is mainly made up of a huge shortfall in tax payments from corporations anyway so giving away more is plain lunacy unless your agenda is not what you claim it is.

While the richest are getting tax cuts, the poorest are suffering a growing burden. The bedroom tax is an appalling instrument that compares to Thatcher’s hated Poll Tax. If you are classified to have a spare bedroom in social housing, you will lose 14% of your housing benefit. If it is deemed by the government that you have 2 spare bedrooms, you will lose 25%. Children under 10 of both sexes are expected to share a bedroom while children under 16 of the same sex are expected to share. The disabled are particularly at risk as carers often need a bedroom to sleep in but the room will be counted as spare.

660,000 or 20% of those in social housing will be affected. In the North of England, this could reach as much as 40%. People are ludicrously being told to move to smaller properties to make the spare bedrooms available to larger families.

The truth is that these smaller properties are simply not available. For nearly 30 years, governments have failed to build council houses while councils have been forbidden by law from diverting funds into council house building. The result has been a private property market that is out of control and the almost complete ruin of public housing stock. Councils have sold off their houses to housing associations and not invested in more housing. Housing associations have speculated on international stock exchanges instead of building more houses. Private rents have climbed, the price of buying has exploded and so has the length of housing waiting lists for the poor. In Manchester, the average wait is now over 7 years and climbing.

People deemed to have a spare bedroom will mostly have nowhere to go so they will be saddled with the cut in housing benefit as there are not enough houses to downsize into. Two thirds of these have disabled people who are bearing the brunt of government attacks in the form of ATOS directed assessments to remove disabled people from benefits and force them to either work or die. The Labour Party should hold its head in shame at this development as it was responsible for bringing ATOS assessments into the benefits system.

Idiotically, this bedroom tax will not save a penny. The cost in terms of increased homelessness alone will wipe out any savings to the government. It is a purely spiteful measure designed to label the poor as undeserving of help or benefits. It will generate overcrowding and the return of slum-like conditions for the poorest. It will create huge hardship, anxiety and upheaval for those most in need of help and stability.

Meanwhile the rich are getting a tax cut.

by Chris Chilvers