Today something is introduced that has been appearing on my timeline and in my newspapers that I have not cared about perhaps as much as I should. I mean I’ve cared about it. Just not as much as I have about North Korea or George Osbourne’s continuing smugness or Boy singing the Check-A-Trade Dot Com jingle. That something is The Bedroom Tax.
On the face of it this is something I should be in favour of. Here I am getting up at stupid o’clock in the morning to commute to a job to pay the bills and, thanks to the rise in property prices, those bills cover a tiny two bedroom house. Which would be fine except I have two children. One of each. And in the private sector I’m one of the ones lucky enough to own my own place. Many families of our age are stuck renting.
Meanwhile feckless Granny Shameless up the road has finally kicked out her seventeenth child and, up to today, had the right to rattle round in her luxurious five bedroom council house, that I was paying for ON MY OWN out of taxes and sweat, for the rest of her life. But only up to today. That’ll show you Granny Shameless.
C’mon. You know Granny Shameless don’t you? You must do. She’s everywhere. Except I don’t and you probably don’t either. You might be able to point to s similar example in a national tabloid but you know why that is?
Two reporters, John and Mick return back to the News Editor with a story from a council estate. One features Paul who has been trying to get work for over a year. In that time he’s applied for over 200 jobs and had three interviews. Now he’s being sent jobs that he’s totally unsuited to by Universal Jobmatch. The other story is Granny Shameless and I’d have to agree she’s far better copy. Guess who gets reported on? The thing is you know her only from the papers. I know a real Paul.
The idea that making people downsize their social housing when they don’t need the extra room is, however, a good one in principle, or at least more fair. It should introduce fluidity in to a system that currently has none. However, it is flawed by the fact that everything else in the social housing market isn’t equal. There is no huge stock of smaller properties to fall back on. This study from Case includes a table that shows the inevitable mismatch.
The Guardian meanwhile reports that 66% of affected people are disabled. The Government disputes that and, lets face it, it was The Guardian. So let’s halve that and say that it’s 33%, just for arguments sake. A policy change where one third of the people worse off are disabled, and far more likely to need their benefit as the safety net it was intended as, cannot be fair or equitable. And I am inclined to believe that they are the greatest proportion affected because we can all see how some bozo in a housing office has had to allocate them a house rather than a bungalow because of ill thought out preference rules or, again, lack of suitable stock. That ‘spare’ bedroom may be unwanted and up a set of stairs the tenant can’t use.
Then there are fathers who keep a room for children from previous relationships. It’s entirely possible to see how a family breakdown could lead to a need for social housing, about how the children’s father now faces not seeing the children, paying extra rent or, y’know, just bunking in with the kids and hoping the social don’t notice. Still it’ll make those Bulgarians and Romanians think twice about accepting their luxury 7 bed Mansion when all 29 million of them pour over to nick our jobs and live on benefits.
So all in all you could say I’m against.
But here’s the real kick in the teeth. Later this month, Saturday in fact, the highest rate of tax will be abolished because it raised only 1 billion instead of the £2.5 billion predicted by Labour.
What a failure eh? I mean, which of us, if we were offered a billion pounds, would turn it down with a flat “I’m sorry, it’s 2.5 billion or nothing thanks.”
Not me that’s for sure. For a cool billion I could buy an island and a car and a bigger house for the kids, and several Jeroboams of Krug and some nice jeans and a dragon and some really expensive hookers that I’d just keep around to serve cocaine to the dwarves, and a lawn mower and a toy train and a private jet. I could even employ some Bulgarians, not that I’d pay them minimum wage because, frankly, the tax on that billion would already be paying ALL their benefits. Or something.
So yeah. One week after an idea that sounds fair in principle but horribly wrong when you analyse it the richest people in the country will be getting a tax cut. And let’s not forget the politicians who thought this up think they deserve a £20,000 pay rise.