All governments have to make unpopular decisions. It is the nature of politics and I suspect it always will be. However, with the Tory and Lib-Dems’ introduction of the Bedroom Tax we have not seen a policy so unpopular and inspiring such vitriol since the Poll Tax.
The aim of the policy, which is to encourage people to live in Council properties appropriate to the occupants, doesn’t seem too controversial initially. As we’ve seen with many ideas from this Lib-Dem and Tory Government, they find a problem that needs solving, in this case the massive shortage of council properties, and then they come up with solution driven by a broken ideology and utter incompetence. We’ve seen it in the NHS, in education, the economy and welfare. Yes things need changing but this Government is making it worse. The treatment is hurting but it is not working.
In the area of Leeds, stretching from Otley to Headingley, this new Bedroom Tax will hit 1466 families. These families are either on low incomes or receiving disability benefit. In the same year that the Lib-Dems and Tories have given millionaires a £100,000 tax cut, these 1466 families are being asked to pay between £473 and £845 a year each to pay for this millionaires’ tax cut.
Just south of Leeds in the Wakefield district there are around 2000 single people living in a two bed properties who will be hit by this Bedroom Tax, and how many single bed properties are ready for them, should they want to not pay this tax? 15. 15 properties for 2000 people.
Often on TV we see the Tories and Lib-Dems complaining about the semantics of the Bedroom Tax, distracting themselves from the thousands of people on the poverty line from whom they are demanding more money. The Dictionary defines a tax as, ‘a financial charge or other levy imposed upon an individual by a state such that failure to pay is punishable by law.’ These 2000 people in Wakefield cannot move because properties are not available. We must be unequivocally clear about this; when people have no choice but to pay, it is a tax.
If David Cameron and Nick Clegg build thousands upon thousands of new council houses as is necessary, then yes, we will happily discuss semantics with them then.
So these people facing the Bedroom Tax; what are their choices? They can stay and try to find the money, which most will not be able to do, or they could move to the private rented sector where money will go to private landlords instead of back to the council to be reinvested – this will cost the taxpayer more. From every perspective this policy is damaging. Even if one was to accept the motive of the policy at face value, the sheer impracticalities show that it cannot work.
Labour’s Housing minister, Jack Dromey, has said that he wants to use a bankers’ bonus tax to fund 250,000 new affordable homes and put unemployed builders back to work to boost the construction industry. This double advantage has the added bonus of getting the people responsible for the financial crisis to pay – not ordinary families.
If you have been affected by the Bedroom Tax and want to see how the council could help, please call their Council Tax and Benefits department on 0113 222 4404.