AN explosive report into the effect of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ on families throughout the country was published on Thursday – sneaked out on the very day that MPs left Westminster to enjoy their Christmas holiday.
Not much festive enjoyment will be felt by the hundreds of thousands of social housing tenants who are suffering under the regime, introduced in 2013, which saw their housing benefit cut by up to £15 a week if they are deemed to have one ‘spare’ bedroom and £25 a week if the DWP decides they have two.
This damning report, by Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research and Ipsos MORI and commissioned by the DWP itself, exposes the brutality of cuts inflicted by the Tories on social housing tenants.
The researchers found that nearly 80% of those affected by the tax had been forced to cut back their spending because of the cuts and reported that they were regularly running out of money by the end of the week.
56% had cut back on food, 46% had cut back on heating, 42% on leisure activities and 33% on travel expenditure as a direct result of cuts to housing benefits due to the bedroom tax. Social housing landlords told the researchers that many tenants affected were ‘in severe poverty and unable to pay the shortfall’, forcing them to find money to pay the rent through borrowing either from family and friends or by running up debt through having to resort to loan companies.
Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: ‘The research shows what anyone working with families already knows, the “bedroom” tax is forcing people to cut back on the basics of living – food, clothing and footwear. Affected households were also twice as likely than others to resort to borrowing.’
She added that only one in nine households had escaped the effects of the change by moving to a different property with fewer bedrooms. This, of course, was the justification that Iain Duncan Smith used when imposing the tax – that it would free up social housing and cut the housing waiting list. The report found that disabled tenants have been particularly hard hit by the bedroom tax because of the near impossibility of ‘finding a property that meets their needs as well as in packing and transporting their belongings’.
When it was introduced in 2013 Duncan Smith insisted that any hardship experienced by people would be offset by a Discretionary Housing Payment that would support those struggling to pay their rent. In fact, only 29% of those affected by the tax had applied for the payment and of these only 36% had received any financial help at all.
Owen Smith, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, called the report ‘damning’, saying: ‘If one policy sums up the cruelty of this Tory government it’s the Bedroom Tax. This damning independent report published by the DWP itself, shows how this brutal and unfair policy deliberately drives people deeper and deeper into poverty. It’s shameful.’
What is even more shameful than the Tories all-out war to drive the working class into the gutter of poverty, however, is the refusal of the Labour Party leadership to put an end to the Tory government and an end to all the savage cuts imposed in the name of saving a bankrupt capitalist system.
In October this year they refused to back a motion in the House of Lords that would have killed the Tory tax credit bill stone dead – opting instead for a delay in its implementation. They passed up the golden opportunity to defeat the Tories and create the conditions under which the government would have faced demands that it resign immediately.
All the pious words denouncing the cruelty of the Tories cannot disguise the fact that it remains in power courtesy of the refusal of the ‘left’-led Labour Party and the trade union leadership to bring it down.
The only way to stop the Bedroom Tax is to kick out the Tories by demanding that the TUC call a general strike to remove them and advance to a workers government and socialism.