I have been alarmed by some of the urgent correspondence I have received from residents in Denton and Reddish about the Government’s Bedroom Tax, and I thought I should use this space to make everybody aware of this drastic issue that will hit hundreds of vulnerable people in Tameside.
The Bedroom Tax will take a whopping half a billion pounds away from disabled people, foster parents, families of soldiers and low income households. Yet the DWP has only provided £30 million to protect people against the tax. The truth is this policy does nothing to address our housing problems, but it will hit low income working families and some of the most vulnerable people in society.
Two thirds of the households affected by this are home to someone who is disabled. On exactly the same day this government is giving 13,000 millionaires a tax cut of £107,000 a year. We are talking about some of the most vulnerable people in society. No-one is given a spare room, these are people who find themselves with a spare room because of a change in circumstances – often caused by a bereavement. I met one man who took early retirement through ill health. He is 56. He and his wife moved into a two bedroom flat in a small housing development in Dane Bank – an over 55s only development – and will have to pay the Bedroom Tax. He is not taking up a family home, yet the Government is forcing him to pay hundreds of pounds for having a small spare room.
The New Charter Housing Trust campaign against the Bedroom Tax is extremely welcome, and their chief executive Ian Munro has sent an open letter to the Prime Minister setting out why they vehemently oppose it. Recently, I discovered National Housing Federation figures which show that 1,292 people in Denton, Reddish, Audenshaw and Dukinfield will be hit by the Bedroom Tax, losing on average £728 per year. If the Prime Minister and his chums believe that is an insubstantial amount of money for somebody here to lose, they are living in cloud cuckoo land. I have raised these points in the House of Commons on numerous occasions, but the Government refuses to listen.
Many of these people might want to move to smaller accommodation but there simply aren’t enough properties to move to. All this will do is make some of the poorest people in society even poorer. Hitting social sector tenants with the Bedroom Tax when there is no alternative accommodation will not solve under occupancy and could end up costing more than it saves. If people are made homeless or pushed into expensive private rented accommodation the benefit bill will rise. This could cost the taxpayer more than is saves.
But this isn’t about tough choices – it’s the wrong choice. Two thirds of the households hit by the bedroom tax are home to someone who is disabled. But Ministers aren’t giving them the opportunity to move to smaller accommodation – they are just hitting some of the most vulnerable people in society with the unfair bedroom tax. Labour’s proposal would have helped to solve under-occupancy, without making people homeless or pushing them into expensive private rented accommodation, which will cost the taxpayer more.
Labour will set out our tax and spending plans at the time of the next election, but we are clear on our opposition to the tax, and we would never have brought it in if we were in power. Ministers know Discretionary Housing Payment is a drop in the ocean compared to the chaos the Bedroom Tax could cause. Even DWP admit that there aren’t enough smaller properties for households to move to and two thirds of those hit are home to someone who is disabled.
The Bedroom Tax is the policy of a man who listens only to a small group of his rich and powerful friends. In just two weeks this Bedroom Tax will cause more misery and anger across our community in Greater Manchester and across the country’s 660,000 affected households when its full impact is felt, and I will continue to oppose it in the House of Commons and in our community.
This article was written for the Tameside Reporter newspaper and will be published on March 21st 2013