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Time to kill the bedroom tax

Two-thirds of those affected are disabled, which explains the mass booing of George Osborne last summer when he had the front to turn up to award prizes to Paralympic competitors

LET’S hear it for David Nuttall, the only Tory MP with the guts — and rhinoceros skin to match — to attend the debate on Ian Lavery’s bedroom tax Bill and vote against it.

The Bury North MP was the lone voice opposing Lavery’s Housing Benefit and Universal Credit in the Social Housing Sector Bill while 226 voted in favour.

Unfortunately, the Bill has no chance of becoming law because the massed ranks of Tory and Liberal Democrat MPs will be deployed against it.

The conservative coalition that voted as one to cut income tax for the richest 1 per cent will display similar unanimity in supporting the government’s dishonest and brutal tax on some of the poorest people in Britain.

Two-thirds of those affected are disabled, which explains the mass booing of George Osborne last summer when he had the front to turn up to award prizes to Paralympic competitors.

The tax is dishonest because it is based on the false premise that tenants can downsize to smaller properties and refuse to do so.
The National Housing Federation (NHF) reported last year that 180,000 tenants were “underoccupying” two-bedroom homes while only 70,000 one-bedroom flats were available.

In fact, the idea of underoccupation is faulty since it takes no account of the circumstances in which households live, especially when one or more members has a disability.

Had the government been seriously perturbed about a shortage of larger properties being available for families, it would have agreed with housing campaigners that there should be a concerted initiative to build council homes.

The same applies to the very real dearth of one-bedroom accommodation needed by growing numbers of single homeless people as well as those living in homes too big for their needs who would like to downsize.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats have not considered personal circumstances or personal wishes.

They have hunted for ways to dispossess people in social housing and to impose punitive taxes on them as part of an austerity agenda designed to further skew the division of national income towards the rich minority.

The tax has had the effect its opponents forecast before pro-government MPs pushed this measure through Parliament.

It has claimed the lives of tenants driven beyond despair to commit suicide. Others have been plunged into severe depression as the result of escalating debt and the threat of eviction.

According to the NHF, two-thirds of households affected by the tax are now in rent arrears while one in seven have received eviction risk letters.

Labour has pledged to repeal bedroom tax legislation if it wins next year’s general election.

In Holyrood, the Scottish National Party government has said that it will fund the £50 million bedroom tax shortfall, effectively axing the tax in Scotland.

The Department of Work and Pensions admitted last month that a legal loophole meant that social housing tenants who had lived in their homes since January 1 1996 and claimed housing benefit since then would not be subject to the bedroom tax.

It has since announced that this loophole will be closed as of March 3, but the writing is on the wall for this unjust measure.

The bedroom tax has so many similarities to Margaret Thatcher’s poll tax, not least in the nature of its victims and their inability to pay up even if they chose to.

The sooner it is killed off the better.

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