Posts Tagged ‘bedroom tax’

Austerity isn’t inevitable. Labour needs to be bolder on the alternative

08/04/2013, 01:07:55 PM

by Matthew Whittley

We have grown familiar with Tory backbencher’s frustration at the reality of coalition government that prevents them from delivering the yet deeper cuts to social security that a Conservative manifesto would likely call for. So much so that it’s easy to forget just how radical this government has been on welfare. The austerity driven assault on the poor has started to gather pace, with the first raft of welfare reforms already implemented.

This month, the vital link between benefits and inflation will be broken. With inflation remaining at close to 3%, the 1% cap on the uprating of benefits will make it even harder for those families already struggling to keep pace with the rising cost of living. Furthermore, the ending of full council tax rebate is forcing two million low-income households to contribute hundreds of pounds to their council tax – a tax that, until now, they have been considered too poor to pay.

This appears to have gone largely under the radar. One cut that has attracted substantial media attention is the introduction of under-occupancy charges for 660,000 social housing tenants – what’s been dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’. Those with a spare bedroom are having to deal with cuts to their housing benefit of, on average, £56 a month. As well as reducing the housing benefit bill, the government argues that this policy has been designed to make the best use of housing stock. Unfortunately, there aren’t anywhere near enough small properties to move people into.

This is especially the case in the North. Teeside based housing association Coast and Country Housing, for example, has 1,800 tenants classed as under-occupying, but they have only two one-bed properties available to let. People are being sanctioned for not moving into smaller houses that don’t exist.


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Labour has got itself into a mess on welfare

04/04/2013, 07:00:01 AM

by Peter Watt

I don’t know what Labour’s position on welfare reform is.  I know that the Tories want to cut welfare bills and make work pay.  I know this because they keep saying it and because they have just spent the last few weeks pushing changes to the welfare system that appear to confirm this.  It doesn’t matter at this stage whether the policies will actually achieve this or not because at this stage what matters is that their rhetoric is matched by actions that appear consistent with their words.

But Labour has in the past also talked tough on welfare and that it would like to reduce welfare bills.  The problem is that it is currently fighting a battle in which it is opposing the government’s attempts to achieve this.  So Labour appears confused.

The truth about the current crop of welfare reforms will not be known for some time.  Both the government and the opposition have talked up the changes brought in on April 1.  The government wants the changes seen as being a turning of the corner in the ever increasing rise in welfare payments.

The opposition wants the changes to be seen as evidence of the inherent nastiness, unfairness and cynicism of the government.  The truth is of course somewhat more complex.  The so called “bedroom tax” for instance is probably flawed as there is not enough social housing stock for people to actually downsize to.

People will therefore either be worse off or have to move to smaller premises in the private sector which will of course cost the state more in housing benefit.  But other aspects of the changes seem reasonable like the benefits cap; even if the government is crudely talking up the tiny numbers of families able to actually claim hundreds of thousands in benefits.


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More social housing, not a bedroom tax, is the answer to our housing shortage

27/03/2013, 04:24:06 PM

by Helen Godwin Teige

We know that economics alone cannot dictate the shape of our society and despite living under the most regressive government in modern times, we expect human considerations to be included in coalition policy. In the case of the “bedroom tax” it seems that Cameron’s Tories have reached a low ebb in disregarding those who require help from the government.

Growing up in the 1980’s on a small, very green and very pleasant housing estate around a third of the inhabitants had taken up the right to buy option. The street was a mix of young families and older couples, rehoused from post war prefabs. There was no sense of the temporary in our street, owner occupiers and tenants lived, worked and played together; only the council paint palette on the front doors gave away which houses were still local authority owned. Gardens were manicured, hanging baskets tended and everyone looked after each other.

My point is not one of nostalgia; but rather that this world does still exist. The current governments obsession with demonizing those in social housing or claiming housing benefit threatens to tear apart the very fabric of communities across Britain through the bedroom tax which will force people to leave their homes; or face a further financial penalty during some of the toughest times in decades. It is also prudent to highlight that many commentators have little understanding of the benefit of this policy, given the lack of smaller housing stock., confirming that this policy is purely a fiscal one and will do little ease the demand on social housing. Rather, as we all know, the answer is to build new social housing and pull together communities through job creation, renewed confidence and ambition.


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