In recent weeks Conservative and Lib Dem politicians have tried to justify the highly criticised Bedroom Tax policy (aka ‘spare room subsidy’) by suggesting it will reduce the welfare bill and, in turn, the economic deficit.
This sounds great in principle, but in reality the policy is incredibly ill-conceived and morally wrong. Not only are there hardly any smaller social houses for affected people to move to, but the policy will also hit vulnerable groups such as the disabled disproportionately. It is true that there are discretionary payments available for local authorities to support particularly needy cases, but the money allocated is peanuts compared to the total sum that people will be asked to pay, meaning it is inevitable that most will lose out. The Tories and Lib Dems seem to think all benefit claimants are lazy, don’t want to work and are purposefully living in a house that is far too big for their needs. The reality is that two thirds of the people who are being hit by the latest round of cuts to tax credits and benefits are in work but simply have low incomes. Of those that are unemployed our flatlining economy means that they are hardly spoilt for choice when it comes to job opportunities. There are parts of the North such as Hull where there are 55 unemployed people per job vacancy. In the same city 4,700 people are being hit by the Bedroom Tax but there are only 73 smaller houses to move to. It cannot be right to penalise the poor by making them poorer when the jobs and smaller houses are simply not there. Not only is the Bedroom Tax immoral, but this week’s damning report by Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee has pointed out that it will do nothing to help the government cut costs either. It stated that the policy could actually cost the taxpayer more than it saves, with rental arrears, costly evictions and homelessness all likely to increase, and people being forced into the private sector where housing benefit costs are higher. Unbelievably, at exactly the same time as the Bedroom Tax is to hit low earners the government is giving a tax cut to the highest earners. Their justification is the claim that the 50p top rate introduced by Labour actually led to less government money being brought in than before, as high earners managed to dodge payments. Now that we know the Bedroom Tax policy is also likely to cost taxpayers more than it saves shouldn’t the government be axing that too? Or is it one rule for the poor and another for millionaires? As things stand it’s pretty clear where this government’s priorities lie - an estimated 600,000 households on low incomes will be losing an average of £728 per year as a result of the Bedroom Tax at exactly the same time that millionaires will be benefiting from an average £100,000 tax cut. None of this will help the country’s GDP figures either - the poor tend to have to spend all of their income, where as the super rich are much more likely to be able to save it, doing nothing to stimulate growth and jobs. ‘Bedroom Tax’ or ‘spare room subsidy’? Call it what you want - it is morally wrong and makes no economic sense.
Cllr Adam Wilkinson
Labour, Sowerby Bridge