people out in the cold with effectively no roof over their heads because the taxpayer is paying for rooms which aren't in use. It’s just a common-sense reform, which in the end will help house more people.”
That is what the Conservative Party chairman Grant Schapps said about the dreadful bedroom tax which was introduced in April. The tax effectively fines people who are deemed to have too many bedrooms, by reducing their entitlement to Housing Benefit. Tenants can lose up to 25% of their rental support. Many of us feared that we would see spiraling debt and evictions. After 3 months those fears have been more than borne out.
It is those on lowest incomes who are most affected. This tax has added to the anxiety already felt by those facing the most wide sweeping benefit changes in history. The Samaritans are apparently offering training for housing association staff on suicide prevention.
This alone makes the tax indefensible.
But there is no sign that it is coming anywhere near to achieving its declared aims. According to the Government, the idea is to ‘help’ or rather force those on low income to move into smaller accommodation. But the whole concept misses one crucial point. There isn't enough smaller accommodation form them to move to.
One report from Bolton in
says that 11,000 tenants are waiting for just 91 one-bed roomed flats. The Town’s biggest Housing Association says
that it would take it years to move everybody to accommodation deemed to be
appropriate. In Liverpool, 14,000 households have fallen into arrears. For nearly half of them it was the first time they had found
themselves behind in their rent. 26,500 Liverpool
tenants are affected by the tax but only 155 have managed to downsize.
All of this makes the idea look even more like an attack on the poor by politicians who seemed to have overlooked the most obvious flaw – there isn't enough room! All they have done is put thousands into debt and worry.
So we will see tenant after tenant facing eviction for arrears. As I mentioned previously the situation has been aggravated further by the removal of legal aid which makes it impossible for the worst affected to get advice or representation.
This coalition has done many things wrong but there can few which have come close to the Bedroom Tax and the sooner it is abolished the better.