The Bedroom Tax: A Step Too Far?

bedroom tax

Having been involved in political campaigning for some time, I’ll be the first to admit that it can be difficult to remain positive when faced with disinterest, apathy and even opposition from a sizeable section of the population. Even campaigns such as keeping the NHS public can sometimes be snubbed despite the adverse effects privatisation will have on the NHS and thus the whole population.

However, you try your best to shrug it off and tell yourself that tomorrow will be better. It’s worked for me so far, otherwise I would find it hard to continue to be stubbornly making a stand on issues that I feel strongly about. Though, at times it can still be quite disheartening and it requires a lot more effort to keep active and motivated.

…Then something like the bedroom tax comes along.

The bedroom tax itself is aimed at discouraging those with ‘spare’ bedrooms from under-occupying social housing by cutting housing benefit by 14-25% depending on the number of spare bedrooms. This will then free up housing for larger families who need the space and reduces the burden on the tax payer by lowering the welfare bill. I certainly have no issue with allocating housing according to need or efforts to constructively reduce the welfare bill so why what’s the problem?

The problem is that there is a lot more to this issue than the Tory propagandists are making out. I’ve heard many people say that people should pay if they want the ‘luxury’ of the extra space which sounds agreeable on the surface. But this assumption infers that it easy for those who are under-occupying to move into smaller housing. In reality, the social housing isn’t there for people to downgrade to if they are deemed to be under-occupying so many will just be penalised despite there being no alternative. Many others will move into smaller private accommodation which will increase the welfare bill as these properties have been shown to be more expensive in a lot of cases. There’s also the cost of moving to consider as well as the need to purchase smaller furniture which is likely when moving to a smaller property.

Then there’s the issue of what exactly constitutes a ‘spare’ bedroom. Concessions have already been made for armed forced personnel, children with severe disabilities and foster parents, concessions that were not in the original drafting. However, there is still no consideration for split-parents who require a room for their children to sleep in when they come to visit. There’s also disabled people who may have a spare bedroom but have had thousands of pounds spent adapting their homes to their specific needs who can’t move out because the funding won’t be provided again. The government are also forcing children under 10 to share rooms and same-sex children under 16 to share rooms which will impoverish families by forcing them into cramped living conditions or cutting the benefits they receive.

On the face of it, the bedroom tax doesn’t stand out as a particularly salient issue when compared to the wealth of others out there. Don’t get me wrong, I think this bedroom tax is a disgusting piece of legislation which is going to hit the most vulnerable hardest, but that phrase has become almost redundant with the constant attacks on every working class demographic. The privatisation of our NHS and parts of the police service as well as threats to break away from the European Court of Human Rights will affect everyone in the UK and yet the British Public have remained, on the whole, silent. However, the bedroom tax seems to have struck a nerve and is really starting to rile up the masses. It is certainly an inspiration to see people in their hundreds turn out onto the streets in protest.

In Plymouth, over a hundred people turned up to make their voices heard even in spite of the wet, windy and, thanks to the freak hailstorm, painful weather! Not to mention the estimated 57 other cities which all had well populated protests. Furthermore, follow-up protests have already been organised in over 40 cities (including Plymouth) to help escalate the opposition.

This mass mobilisation does beg the question: is the bedroom tax simply a monstrous piece of legislation which has caused public outcry or is it the final straw in a long line of cuts and austerity measures which have pushed people to the point where they are starting to say enough is enough?

People are being squeezed further and further to pay for the bank bailouts and balancing the books which is thrusting many into poverty while millionaires have just been given a tax cut. Not to mention that there would be no need for austerity if large corporations were not able to engage in legal tax avoidance. It certainly doesn’t look like we’re “all in this together” and bearing in mind who is bearing the brunt of austerity it becomes clear to see that this austerity program is driven by ideology, not necessity.

But if we’re to get that to change we need to step up the action. Big business and millionaires can sway mainstream politics with their generous “donations” and lobbying but it is through people power that we can oppose this corruption and put a halt to the ideology which is making the poor suffer for the failures of the rich and powerful.

The bedroom tax has caused quite a stir already and the fact that the government have already given some concessions should encourage people to keep pushing to have this legislation scrapped. But even if we manage to get the bedroom tax abolished should we stop there or should we step up the action further and organise ourselves against the wider austerity program?

I know I will be continuing the fight and I hope you will too but for now I shall focus on building for the next wave of bedroom tax protests on March 30th. I know where I’ll be on March 30th, I’ll be here:

http://www.facebook.com/events/456044871133544/

The question is, where will you be?

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