The real consequences of the Bedroom Tax

A slightly edited version of the letter below was printed in the Rotherham Advertiser this week:

Sir – Iain Duncan Smith (Advertiser, 15th March) tries to justify the government’s bedroom tax, but the reality is far from the picture he paints. The reality is that the disabled, the low paid, and families with nowhere else to go will penalised for having a spare bedroom, if they live in council houses or rent from a social landlord, and depend on Housing Benefit to pay their rent.

An estimated 4,300 households in Rotherham will lose out. The government’s own assessment suggests that two thirds of those affected are disabled. One third will have children. Contrary to what some people may think, the overwhelming majority of new claimants of Housing Benefit are people in work.

One case in our ward demonstrates how the policy is both cruel, and won’t achieve its objectives. A lady is disabled and lives in a two bedroom property. She can’t work so receives income support. The property has been specially adapted for her to live independently. The second bedroom is used by the lady’s mother when she is very unwell and requires someone to stay with her.  Now Mr Duncan-Smith decrees that she will have to pay £14.20 every week in Bedroom Tax not to lose her home. Leave aside the impact that has on her for a moment, it would cost the council – and so the taxpayer – a lot more to move her and have to make adaptations to another property.

For someone dependent on Job Seekers Allowance, the Bedroom Tax and government’s cuts to Council Tax support amount to the equivalent of a sudden and immediate 18% rise in income tax. The government wouldn’t dare try to force that on anyone else, and they shouldn’t try to force it on the poor and vulnerable.

Yours faithfully,

Cllrs Sue Ellis, Emma Hoddinott and Chris Read

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