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Monday, August 5, 2013

Tory Bedroom Tax: tax the poor, subsidise the rich

One of the most unpopular policies from a government that seem absolutely intent on ramming through as much rotten legislation as possible, is "Bedroom Tax".

In the months leading up to the introduction of "Bedroom Tax" there was a storm of criticism. I wrote several articles damning the plans as malicious, grotesquely hypocritical and economically illiterate. I also pointed out that some 70% of affected families have one or more severely disabled members.

One of the main objections I raised was that a desperate shortage of smaller social housing, and the fact that priority is always given to the most needy (such as homeless families) ahead of people simply wanting to relocate, would mean that families would be trapped in a situation where they couldn't relocate to a smaller social property, even if they tried.

Now that the scheme has been in operation for four months, it has become absolutely clear that my prediction was absolutely correct. Freedom of Information requests have shown that (of the local councils that bothered to collect the data) there are an average of only 3.8 smaller social houses going spare, for every 100 families affected by "Bedroom Tax". This means that the stated Tory justification narrative for "Bedroom Tax" (that it will incentivise families to relocate to smaller properties) is totally inapplicable to an astonishing 96% of families effected by the scheme.

It is also important to remember that relocating families will be unlikely to get many of these smaller properties, given that high priority cases like homeless families, or people living in temporary accommodation like bedsits, will always get priority over people that have a stable home environment.

The fact that the overwhelming majority of social housing tenants affected by "Bedroom Tax" have absolutely no possibility of relocating to a smaller social housing property means that they are left with two options.
1. They can stay where they are and pay the tax. This would mean that "Bedroom Tax" works as a housing tax on some of the poorest families in society.
2. They can move to a smaller, but more expensive property in the private rental sector, meaning an increased Housing Benefit Claim. This would mean that "Bedroom Tax" works as method of increasing taxpayer subsidisation of the private rental sector.
The thing that exposes the sheer malice of imposing a housing tax on hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable families in the UK, is that in the very same week that "Bedroom Tax" was launched, the Tory led government also introduced an average £100,000 a year tax cut for Britain's 13,000 income millionaires.

The false economy of driving people out of their homes and into the private rental sector, meaning an increase in their Housing Benefit claims, is stunningly obvious. However economic literacy is clearly of little importance if the objective of the scheme is actually to greater transference of public wealth to the private rental sector.

It hardly seems like a coincidence that these two outcomes both align closely with the underlying philosophy of the Conservative party: "Take from the poor, to give to the rich". In a way the Bedroom Tax can be seen as quite a clever scheme which kills two birds with one stone; it smashes the (Labour voting) poor, and enrichens the wealthy (Tory voting) rentier class.

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