Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Coalition shame on "bedroom tax"

My article in this week’s Cornish Guardian focused on the “bedroom tax” – following the recent Commons vote. It is as follows:

Thousands of people continue to campaign against the “bedroom tax,” but the majority of MPs are not listening.

The Coalition has decided that working-age tenants in council / housing association properties – who have a spare bedroom and claim housing benefit – should have their benefits slashed.

The Conservative-led Government continues to claim that their “under-occupancy penalty” will “encourage” families living in larger properties to move elsewhere, allowing better use to be made of social housing and to reduce the housing benefit bill.

But the “bedroom tax” is a nonsensical shambles. There are simply not enough smaller social housing properties for families to downsize into, while families forced out of social housing and into the private sector will end up paying higher rents, which will actually increase the amount of housing benefit being paid!

Last week, MPs debated the “bedroom tax” and many tenants attended. One disabled lady sat in the public gallery and could not contain her anger. It was widely reported that she ended up shouting at the MPs.

But it was hardly surprising. Wheelchair bound, she lives with her husband and son in a three-bed home that had been specially adapted with a wetroom and stairlift to help her cope with a degenerative back problem. She uses her “spare room” to store her mobility equipment, though it is sometimes used as a bedroom when one of her daughters visit. But, in spite of this, her housing benefit has been reduced by £17 a week.

In the Commons debate, only two Coalition MPs voted to end the “bedroom tax,” one of whom was St Ives MP Andrew George. He condemned the so-called “spare room penalty” as “immoral,” and it is well worth reading what he had to say in more detail

He said “it victimises the most marginalised in our communities, undermines family life, penalises the hard-working low-paid for being prepared to stomach low-paid work, masks the excessive cost and disruption to those disabled who have to move from expensively adapted homes and is, in my view, Dickensian in its social divisiveness.”

Well said. It is just extremely disappointing that all the other MPs from Cornwall ignored what he had to say and continued to demonstrate their support for the “bedroom tax.” Shame on George Eustice, Stephen Gilbert, Sheryll Murray, Sarah Newton and Dan Rogerson.

The motion calling for the abolition of the “bedroom tax” was defeated by 252 to 226.

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