THE full effects of the coalition’s bedroom tax, which was introduced last April, have been highlighted in two reports published on Wednesday and revealed to be as callous and barbaric as predicted.
The tax, which affects housing benefit claimants living in social housing, inflicts a hefty financial penalty of, on average, £80 a month on any family deemed to have a ‘spare’ bedroom.
The report by the National Housing Federation (NHF) reveals that two thirds of households affected by the bedroom tax have fallen into rent arrears since its introduction.
Of these, one in seven families has been issued with ‘eviction risk’ notices.
According to a spokesman for the NHF, the bedroom tax is ‘heaping misery and hardship’ on families already struggling on low pay or benefits who are caught in a vicious trap.
The trap being that given the shortage of smaller accommodation they are unable to move to avoid the benefit cut while at the same time being unable to afford to pay it.
Arrears and eviction is the inevitable result for hundreds of thousands of families with many being driven to choose between rent or food.
Another report, issued by the disability charity the Papworth Trust, gives a lie to the claim by the government last year that disabled people living in modified homes, that enable them to cope with their disability, would be helped from emergency funds provided by local councils.
The trust found that one third of disabled people affected by the bedroom tax and applying for emergency financial help had been refused.
So drastic is the crisis that it has produced another consequence, that of perfectly decent three-bedroom maisonettes and houses being left empty because they are too expensive to rent.
This has led to the grotesque situation where three-bedroom homes are actually being condemned by housing associations because the bedroom tax has made them too expensive for people on benefit to live in and they face demolition as a result.
This came out last November when one Liverpool housing association provider, Magenta Living, admitted that ‘with changes to welfare benefits there is very little prospect of letting upper three bedroom maisonettes in the current climate’.
Magenta are now talking of demolishing entire blocks of these unaffordable flats as the only cost-effective option.
Not just Liverpool but across the north of England housing associations are taking the same road.
At a time when it is estimated that the country faces a property shortage of one million homes, the demolition of affordable homes in perfect condition will be considered by most people as absolutely criminal and beyond belief, but this is the reality under bankrupt British capitalism.
The Tories and their LibDem allies simply don’t care about the amount of suffering caused by their austerity programme.
Their only aim is to cut the welfare state and benefit system to the bone and beyond in order to save money in order to pay back the national debt – a debt that has been driven into the stratosphere by bailing out the banks.
Questioned by a select committee of MPs this week, the government welfare reform minister, Lord Freud, boasted that the welfare cuts would ‘save’ £140 million this year.
This money will be saved at the expense of the unemployed, low paid and disabled and all to pay off the debts of the banks, whose chief executives are busily awarding themselves millions of pounds worth of bonuses while working class families face starvation and homelessness.
The time has more than come for this government and the capitalist system that only survives on the pauperisation of working people to be ended once and for all.
The immediate demand must be for this government to be removed immediately through a general strike and replaced not with a Labour government that is fully committed to the survival of capitalism at all costs, but with a workers government and socialism.