Cameron’s crocodile tears over social housing

The face is red but the heart is black: Cameron's strategy is to say one thing and do something entirely different.

The face is red but the heart is black: Cameron’s strategy is to say one thing and do something entirely different.

Neither Caerphilly MP Wayne David nor the rest of the Labour Party should take seriously David Cameron’s posturing over social housing, as demonstrated in Prime Minister’s Questions today.

Mr David raised the serious question of a disabled couple who have been living in the same house for 26 years, and who will have to pay the government’s ‘bedroom tax’ on the property, starting in April. He asked: “What justification can there be for this?”

Mr Cameron’s initial response was predictable: “This is not a tax; a tax is when someone earns money, it is their money, and the government takes some of it away.”

He’s wrong. A tax is a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government against a citizen’s person, property or activity, to support government policies. So the ‘state underoccupation subsidy’ – a phrase only coined within the last few months and a measure that will only come into force in April – is a tax, as it is levied against property occupied by citizens of the UK to support government policies.

Let’s see if he fared any better with his next comment: “The party opposite has got to engage in the fact that housing benefit now accounts for £23 billion of government spending – that is a 50 per cent increase over the last decade.”

That is the financial argument – and the fact is, this is no laughing matter. But dreaming up a way of taking money from the poor, simply for the privilege of continuing to live in their own homes, is treating the symptom and not the cause. Mr Cameron makes no attempt to ask why the government is having to spend more on housing benefit because that might reflect badly on his government, its policies, and the fatcat business executives it supports.

Housing benefit is paid to people who are unemployed or disabled. Why are they unemployed? Because of a recession that followed a global economic crash, caused by high-paid banking executives, perhaps. Has Mr Cameron’s government penalised the banking executives? No. Their bonuses are secure.

Housing benefit is also paid to people who are in work but on low incomes. More than nine-tenths of all new housing benefit claims are made by citizens who fall into this category. This means they aren’t being paid enough by their employers to cover all their costs. Isn’t this an indictment against Britain’s business leaders – that they are not willing to pay a living wage for an honest day’s work? Has Mr Cameron’s government stepped in to seek better pay for employees? No. The comedy Prime Minister takes great pleasure in crowing about employment increases but refuses to examine the damaging small print.

And housing benefit, ultimately, does not go to the occupant but goes to the landlord instead – and landlords will continue to receive their full rent, no matter how unjustified the amount or unfit the accommodation. Social landlords, as I have learned to my own cost, are particularly poor at resolving problems. The bedroom tax therefore cruelly impoverishes people who are already on the bread line, using the threat of eviction as the stick with which to beat them. Has the government done anything to dissuade landlords from charging rents that are too high on properties that are not up to scratch – like capping rents? No. This government believes that such action would be unjustified interference in the market.

Mr Cameron concluded: “And we have to address the fact – as well – that we have 250,000 families in overcrowded accommodation and we have 1.8 million people waiting for a council house.”

This is probably the most misleading of all his comments as it attempts to hide a policy his own government is actively pursuing at the moment, and vigorously – the sale of social housing.

According to the BBC, more than 2,000 tenants took up the government’s Right to Buy discount scheme during the last three months of 2012, after the government quadrupled the discount to a maximum of £75,000.

Mr Cameron is selling off social housing and then complaining that there isn’t enough!

It’s typical of Conservative Party policy: Say one thing – do another.

15 thoughts on “Cameron’s crocodile tears over social housing

  1. Steve CK

    Have you thought that he’s just red faced through frustration at the constant attacks on his cruel politics and realisation that the masses are finally starting to see him for what he really is?


    the usual Tory response was either the blame game …” you’re in subsidised housing and should shut up ” or ” you should aspire to the private sector / ultimately buying your own house ” ….the other Tory ” justification ” is the right wing Daily Mail myth ….” Gordon McBroon stole my pension ” so these buy to let landlords can charge what they like ….it’s the ” magic ” market you see

  3. Gloria Tubb

    It was Maggie Thatchers government who started the council house sell off, privatisation of nationally owned companies, and the poll tax that put a lot of small self-employed people on the scrap heap. Subsequent tory governments have carried on with this kind of mentality. This lot are determined to wreck the rest, the poor, the sick, the disabled, the NHS, by the time the next general election gets around this country will be living in a Victorian style system where the rich get richer and the poor can crawl away and die, unless there is a vote of no confidence to bring this bunch of rich elite down.

  4. Kim Forbes

    I live near Glasgow and I have seen hundreds of boarded up houses and blocks of flats and tenements that have sat empty for years! I have also stopped and talked to hundreds of people who are homeless on the streets in Glasgow and many surrounding areas. Surely instead of screwing those who may well end up joining their fellow man sitting on the side of the road in the rain, snow and the cold with a begging cup in their hands, the government would surely bring in more revenue by renovating those empty properties and selling a portion at a fair price to first time buyers to give them a chance of the property market and allocating the rest, even as halfway houses, to the homeless which would allow them to have an address to offer a possible employer. Rents should be capped, tenancy rights should be paramount and landlords penalised for breaching these rights. Revenue can be used to provide jobs. Employ the unemployed to renovate these properties and reward them with the possibility of reaping the benefits!


  5. Sasson

    I am underoccupying and I must admit that I do feel guilty about that, but then this house was rented to me 28 years ago with a secure tenancy which meant it was mine for life. As such along, hundreds of thousands of others, I didn’t mind spending my hard earned income doing the place up. It was little more than dilapidated shell when I moved in with no heating, kitchen and plaster falling off the walls; the garden was a bombsite. Now it’s a lovely home.

    What sticks in my throat is the element of unfairness about this tax; if the details of it were worked out more practically people wouldn’t be so aggrieved about it.

    1. Alternative accommodation should already have been in place BEFORE it was implemented.

    2. Whilst no viable alternative existed, tenants should be exempt from the charge.

    3. There should be full compensation for the cost of the improvements undertaken by the tenant.

    4. There should be cash available for: moving costs, new carpets, possibly new furniture if that won’t fit in the new accommodation, appliance fitting, decorating, and the costs of refitting thing like light fittings.

    5. If the charge was really about freeing up homes for famililes then the charge should have applied to ALL social housing tenants working, and pensioners alike.

    6. Where properties have been heavily adapted for a disabled person they can remain there.

    7. Where other problems exist caused by disability that warrant a spare room (not just overnight carers) tenants can remain there.

    8. Where family responsibilities exist or foster arrangements tenants should remain there.

    Since none of these arrangements exist (although some HAs have given tenants removal costs and a cash bonus), then one can only assume that the basis of this policy is based on discrimination and victimization of the poor.

    That said, I don’t want to move from my HOME thank you very much. Rather governments want a kick up the arse to start BUILDING more social housing. This move does not free up more housing, it just moves the pieces around an already packed board, and swaps one families suffering for the tenants suffering: somebody still suffers and ends up in sub standard housing.

  6. Pete Kennedy

    Shouldn’t we be consistent and call housing benefit ‘Landlord benefit’ it’s a more accurate description.

    1. Mike Sivier

      I made this point myself a while ago and then completely forgot about it!

      Thanks from bringing it up again, Pete. I agree completely. Let’s all call it ‘Landlord benefit’ from now on!

  7. katrina

    I agree with you Sasson no decent legislation or help has been provided for those it affects. The bill has been rushed through without regard for anyone it affects. There are a lack of one bed properties in my area but quite frankly you couldn’t swing a cat in the one’s available and this only effects people’s psychological state when they feel they have no choice and no quality of life. I think it’s a bid to sell of the rest of social housing. If there are such a shortage of houses why are there so many second home owners leaving buildings standing empty for the majority of time. Social housing was built to help families on lower incomes but many families are faced with the fact that they will never afford to get on the property ladder or earn enough to have anything near the lifestyle the last generation had. If you had a difficult start in life for whatever reason it is unlikely that you will have this current ideologies reinforce ideas of life stage ideals but these are outmoded concepts in the modern world. It is a psychological battering from a government who is trying to guilt it’s people for not yet making it on their own. Typical Tory branding you can’t force change you have to work towards it and i do not think citizens should be forced to suffer and clean up the mess of any government,

  8. morry

    Human beings are like parts of a body
    Created from the same essence
    When one part is hurt and in pain the others
    Cannot remain in peace and quiet
    If the misery of others leaves you indifferent
    And with no feelings of sorrow
    You cannot be called a human being.

  9. morry

    So what happens about the fact that many of the rooms taxed are not classed as full bedroom and so cannot be rented to a lodger because they are less than 70 sq ft? Last year a landlord was prosecuted and fined £2,500 for renting out a bedroom less than 70 sq ft. It is against the housing law for overcrowding 1985. But they will probably just ignore it.

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