This week I read a story in the Liverpool Echo that stopped me in my tracks. It said that because of the bedroom tax, there are family homes standing empty in Merseyside, whilst many people still wait and wait for a decent place to live. A housing association in St Helens said it had three times the number of 3 and 4 bedroom homes standing empty, whilst waiting times for smaller properties shoot up. I thought I knew how counter-productive the Bedroom Tax was, but this is a new low. It is a cruel and unfair measure that hits over 400,000 disabled people. For the vast majority of those affected, there is nowhere smaller to move to, hitting vulnerable people through no fault of their own.
In Parliament, we’ve also been showing how flawed and unworkable the tax is. It has recently been discovered that a loophole in the government’s legislation exempts people who have been claiming housing benefit at the same property continuously since 1996. The government says that only 3,000-5,000 people fall into this category, but Freedom of Information investigations carried out by the Labour’s spokespeople suggest that the number could be far greater. Some housing experts believe that the figure could be well over 40,000.
Instead of scrambling to close loopholes in its own legislation and bringing more people within reach of the tax, the government should be reversing it. If this Tory-led government doesn’t repeal the Bedroom Tax, the next Labour government will. To ensure that it can be reversed without any additional borrowing, funds have been earmarked from reversing recent tax cuts benefiting the wealthy and addressing the tax loss from disguised employment in construction. Labour will deal with under-occupation by funding local authorities who are able to help people with the costs of moving to suitable accommodation, using the funding set aside by the Government through Discretionary Housing Payments for dealing with the problems caused by the Bedroom Tax.
The bedroom tax was a bad idea from the very start. Merseyside MPs warned Government Ministers it wouldn’t work, and it hasn’t. It’s time to get rid of it.
By Alison McGovern for the Wirral News