by Leon Duveen on 16 March, 2013
Today Labour are organising demonstrations against what they call the Bedroom Tax, ignoring the fact that it is neither a tax nor is it being charged on all bedrooms. They have spent much effort in the last few months putting out misleading information on the Under-occupancy Surcharge, scaring old people (existing pensioners are exempt), those not getting Housing Benefit (the Surcharge is just on those who receive it) and many others, just to score party political points over the Coalition Government.
What they are not telling you is that many of the problems with social (that is council & housing association owned) housing today is a direct result of the scandalous small number of social homes built during the years of the Labour Government so those in council houses with bedrooms they don’t need don’t have the smaller homes to move to. This is also why the families living in overcrowded homes (which you don’t hear Labour talking about) haven’t got the bigger homes available to meet their needs.
Another fact that Labour are keeping quiet about is that they introduced a similar restriction on Housing Benefit for tenants of private landlords (they called it Local Housing Allowance) in 2008 but then it was acceptable to for the government to “to provide an incentive for those on Housing Benefit to find cheaper accommodation.” Does Labour think that those lucky enough to be in social housing shouldn’t have the same incentives?
Don’t get me wrong, I am not defending the way the Tories have introduced the Under-occupancy Surcharge; as usual they have taken what at heart is a reasonable idea, to encourage families in social housing to move to homes that are the right size for them, and made it into a charge on hard pressed families who have no options available to move to smaller houses. Because too many at the top of the Tory party have no idea what it is to live on housing benefit (or even care about those that live on it), they have made the issue into one of reducing the costs of the Welfare budget.
So what is my solution? Firstly as a country we should be investing in building new social housing to replace those sold off under the “Right to Buy” scheme. Locally, the Council should be working harder to make sure that the homes left empty for more than a year are brought back into use to give those who need them a suitable home.
As for the Under-occupancy Surcharge, it should only be used after a family with spare bedrooms has been offered alternatives to move to and have refused to move without good reason. These reasons should include:
As usual, Labour only want you to see the faults with others, not give solutions or admit their past errors. Don’t let them get away with it; yes we should oppose the introduction of the so called “Bedroom Tax” as the Tories have constructed it but we also need to expose the labour hypocrisy on this issue.1 Comment