Editorial comment - 'Cruel and unjust' bedroom tax should be scrapped
THIS week we learn that Government changes to housing benefit have pushed 120 council tenants in the Five Valleys into debt since they took effect in April.
Everyone agrees that something needs to be done to address the budget deficit and plug the black hole in this nation’s finances but policies like the ‘bedroom tax’, as opponents have dubbed it, are not the way forward.
The Government says the withdrawal of the spare room subsidy will help to slash the welfare budget but in fact it could do the very opposite as a shortage of social housing forces tenants into the private rented sector where they face much higher rents.
Remember, it’s not the tenants who will have to meet these increased costs but the taxpayer in the form of housing benefit, which acts as a subsidy for private landlords who know they can charge extortionate rents and let the state pick up the bill.
But the strongest arguments against this ill-advised policy are not economic, they are moral.
It is fundamentally wrong to punish some of the poorest and most vulnerable members of our society for the failure of successive governments to build sufficient numbers of council houses.
The way to solve the housing crisis is not to kick tenants, but to build more social housing, creating jobs and wealth in the process.
Shockingly, two thirds of those hit by the bedroom tax are either sick or disabled.
The Government urges tenants affected by the cuts to downsize if they can’t afford to remain in their homes but where are they supposed to downsize to?
According to the National Housing Federation, there are 180,000 council tenants under-occupying two-bedroom homes in England but fewer than 70,000 one-bedroom properties available in the social sector.
Forcing people who are already hard-up into debt is a disgrace. The stress it will cause them is unimaginable.
Labour should be applauded for finally pledging to scrap the bedroom tax, while Stroud District Council should be saluted for doing it all can to avoid evictions and protect the victims of this cruel and unjust policy.
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