The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All?

by Jim Grundy

On 1st April 2013, a little under 1,000 Ashfield District Council tenancies will be subject to the new ‘Under-Occupancy Charge’, more commonly known as the ‘Bedroom Tax’. It is difficult to imagine a worse policy, even from a Government that appears short of everything except bad ideas.

Any council or housing association household of working age with one or more ‘spare’ bedrooms and in receipt of Housing Benefit will receive a cut to that benefit of up to £20 per week.

The stated aim of the new tax on the poorest is to increase the supply of larger accommodation and to cut the Housing Benefit bill by moving people into smaller properties. Does that stand up to scrutiny?

In short, “no”.

But let us first consider the kind of work-shy benefit scroungers that are to be affected by the Bedroom Tax.

Firstly, let us think of a scenario where a family with a severely disabled child under the age of ten has, on medical advice, to have their own, specially adapted, bedroom. According to this new legislation, the young boy or girl would have to share with a sibling or the family would have to pay the penalty charge.

Then there’s the example of a middle-aged couple, who have to sleep in separate rooms because one of them suffers from pressure sores and whose room is full of medical equipment. Despite the medical necessity for that couple requiring two bedrooms, the legislation does not recognise that and they would be penalised.

Another example could see a discharged soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) whose wife has died and whose child is pondering whether to go to university for fear that the Bedroom Tax will leave their father unable to cope.

But current members of the armed forces are affected too. Current government defence policy places greater reliance upon part-time reserve forces. Yet an absence of 13 weeks – rather less than the average tour to Afghanistan – from a council or housing association tenancy would see the family of that member of the military subject to the charge too. They might be serving their country but that won’t protect them from the Bedroom Tax.

Not excluded from the charge either would be a disabled household who rely on regular stop-over visits by friends or family to help them continue to live independently. They, too, fall foul of the new legislation.

Others guilty of the crime of under-occupation will include those affected by domestic violence and families with a spare room offering to foster children, some of whom will have come from very troubled backgrounds. Nevertheless, those who are prepared to take them in, to offer protection to vulnerable children, are not excluded from the new tax.

Less emotively, let us consider the simple example of an individual with no family, who is not disabled, living in a two bedroom council property (and who obviously has no ambition to have a family of their own). If there is no alternative accommodation within the council stock they would be obliged to move into the private rented sector. Inevitably, renting from a private landlord would prove more expensive than from a local authority, so the aim of saving on the Housing Benefit bill would be completely compromised.

I started by saying that the Bedroom Tax will neither release larger accommodation nor will it save Housing Benefit. Moving people into the private rented sector will add costs, not save money, that much is obvious, but is there the supply of smaller accommodation within the council stock to move people around, even if there were no other considerations to be taken into account?

Again, the answer is clear and it is an overwhelming ‘no’.

With nearly 1,000 tenancies to be affected by the Bedroom Tax, within Ashfield there is no scope to transfer any more than 40-50 households each year into a home where they wouldn’t lose out to the Bedroom Tax.

It would take, therefore, around 20 years to place people into smaller homes, assuming no-one’s circumstances changed over the next couple of decades.

So the social consequences of the policy are dire. It penalises some of the most vulnerable people. It even punishes those serving their country in war zones.

But the crowning irony, the final insult and a further example, were one even needed, of the gross hypocrisy of the Coalition Government is the fact that Lord Freud, the minister leading on this policy, has 11 spare bedrooms of his own, including eight in his own country mansion.

So tax the chronically sick; tax the serving solder, but for heaven’s sake don’t tax a millionaire in his mansion.

Other posts by Jim Grundy:

Ungentlemenly Conduct: The 1881 Nottinghamshire Cricket Strike?

Plebgate: Andrew Mitchell and the Gift That Keeps on Giving

If… The Clegg Version (with apologies to Rudyard Kipling)

How can pay rise be unfair when mega-rich get tax cut?

The Unnatural Death of Affordable Housing

Planning to Blame Immigrants? Get Your Facts Straight & Get Rid of Your Prejudices, Nick Boles

Arguments that every Liberal Democrat would do well to hear

“We Take Care of Our Own” or What Labour Needs to Remember if it Wants to Win.

Softly, Softly, into Slums: New Law permits Councils to turn Homeless away

Cut out Cuts – Leave the Eton Mess Behind

23 thoughts on “The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All?

    • I feel guilty because I am in a three bedroom house alone, but have been here for 30 years and live beside my family. My father who is 87 may need to move in with me in the future, should he be incapable of independent living.
      If I had moved out of my home once the children had left home, I would not have been able to accommodate my son when his marriage failed.
      I use one of my bedrooms for my grandchildren at weekends so would lose this connection in a one bedroom place.
      I have 60% discount awarded for long term tenancy should I be left money in a will to buy my home for my family(although until the council changed over to gestapo housing associations I was dead against buying council housing unless prepared to keep it for life,not use it to profit and move into private sector or rent it out).
      While people are awaiting smaller homes rent arrears will be accrued leaving the tenant facing possible eviction at any time if they cannot pay as in my case the 25% extra for 2 bedrooms one of which is classified as too small to be a bedroom.
      I did not create the housing shortage, the council sold us down the river to housing associations that renovated parts of it’s social housing rented stock and put it up for sale or part sale part rent in the private sector, thus reducing much needed low rented social housing at a time when it was needed most. This was started under labour and is escalated under the tories.
      The one bedroom dwellings have very little storage space should you have a hobby or may need medical equipment in your home, and the elderly or disabled tend to be all housed together, no wonder there is little understanding or interaction between the old and the young the abled and disabled etc.

  1. Pingback: The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All? | Black Triangle Campaign

  2. If the naming and function of each room is at Landlord’s discretion, what is to stop H.As from changing these in accommodation where a tenant is said to be ‘under-occupying. It is in the landlord’s interest to get the Housing Benefit, so why dont they simply alter the naming and function of one of the bedrooms to DINING ROOM, or STUDY OR …GYMNASIUM (the ‘fat shirkers’ are clearly thought to need the latter?!)
    Surely it is within the power of the BVT to do this as a way of getting round this ‘evil’ tax? and this way they will not have difficulty getting their rent …Otherwise I foresee many problems and MUCH suffering for many tenants…

  3. Pingback: The Bedroom Tax: The Unkindest Cut of All? | Welfare, Disability, Politics and People's Right's | Scoop.it

  4. Pingback: ‘Disgusting’: Family’s outrage at bedroom tax on severely disabled girl who needs her own room | Atos Victims Group News

  5. i dont know what is going to happen in the long run when people will get into arrears and end up getting evicted in droves. then they will have plenty of two and three bedroomed accommodation to let. the cost of people having to go into bed and breakfast is going to cost the country a lot more. im a full time carer for my father and because i am paid a pittance of £58 a week my rent is paid by the government if i was paid an hourly rate for the full time job i do i could pay my own rent. Also you dont get anyone exchanging from a one bed flat which accommodates two people to a three bedroomed house i tried this found a flat with a couple who wanted to start a family they were in their thirties and were both working full time and was told this isnt allowed. madness people are going to be suicidal.

  6. Pingback: Bedroom Tax – ministers agree exemption if spare room used to flog shit coffee on the high street « Pride's Purge

  7. Not in Ashfield – for now. Universal Credit and the direct payment of housing benefit to tenants is a much bigger challenge. The cuts to Local Housing Allowance (housing benefit for private tenants) is really going to hurt too.

  8. They need the spare capacity in housing to accommodate all the Romanians and Bulgarians who will be coming here from the end of the year onwards.

  9. The bedroom tax and, soon to be with us part council tax contribution will reduce the income of the most vulnerable to a level that will guarantee an unacceptable rise in poverty for those already on the breadline. The economic problems in the country are not going to be solved by these policies. If we look at the bedroom tax trial in Torfaen, Wales we can clearly see the consequences of this poorly thought out new system. A seven fold increase in rent arrears, currently at £140.000.00, in seven months. Multiply that by all the local authorities in the country and it is obvious even to the most dim-witted of voters, that this Government is unleashing an economic time bomb that will bring social housing providers to there knees. It’s no use those of us who can manage financially blaming the ‘Benefit scroungers’. My Grandson completed his degree last year and is unable to get ANY sort of job, in spite of applying for 130 posts since he left University. Does that make him one of the benefit scroungers some people constantly malign? This Government seems intent on perpetuating this ‘divide and conquer ‘ attitude between the people of this country. It is easy making the less well off our whipping boys and, of course, it takes our attention away from the Government and its slash and burn policies. Thankfully, its apparent, from reading the posts here, that some subscribers can see through the smoke and mirrors

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  11. Pingback: Will the ‘left’ throw the baby out with the bathwater? | Think Left

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