There can be no doubt about what today’s big news story is: According to the Daily Mirror, hundreds of thousands of families have been put into rent arrears because of the ConDem government-imposed Bedroom Tax – and, according to the Independent, 50,000 of those people are now facing eviction.
Isn’t that exactly what the United Nations special rapporteur on adequate housing, Raquel Rolnik, was saying at the end of her recent tour of Britain to investigate the effect of the Bedroom Tax (often wrongly described as the spare-room subsidy. A subsidy would give money to people; this takes it away)?
Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (to which the UK is a signatory) includes housing as part of the “right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family”.
But Ms Rolnik said that in Britain “the most vulnerable, the most fragile, the people who are on the fringes of coping with everyday life” were being hit hard by the policy – and called for it to be abolished.
In response, the Daily Mail (in particular) attacked Ms Rolnik – on the grounds that she was “a dabbler in witchcraft who offered an animal sacrifice to Marx”. How this relates to her Bedroom Tax investigation has yet to be explained.
The alleged newspaper published a series of character assassination pieces on the internationally-respected United Nations special rapporteur, in which it criticised her for staying in a £300-a-night hotel (booked on her behalf by the United Nations and nothing to do with her personally), and for being born in a country (Brazil) that it described as “violent” and “slum-ridden” (an accident of birth).
It also quoted some stupid Tory lucky-to-be-an-MP called Stewart Jackson, who said she was a “loopy Brazilian leftie”.
But none of its claims about her mission – or those of the Tory MPs it quoted – were true. All were refuted within a day of being voiced.
Today, the Mail thinks it is more important to tell us that the B&B owners who refused to let a gay couple stay on their premises have been forced to sell up because of lack of business.
That other bastion of Conservatism, the Torygraph, tells us that Conservative MPs are on a mass outing to Chipping Norton today. How wonderful for them.
One couple for whom Chipping Norton isn’t wonderful consists of Toni Bloomfield (25), who lives there with her partner Paul Bolton (42) and his four children.
“I have to pay £98 extra a month since the bedroom tax came in,” she told the Independent. “We’ve got a four-bedroom house and Paul’s four children, aged between two and eight, live with us. Before the school holidays we were struggling and now we’re nearly three months behind on rent.
“The children get free school meals and feeding them through the holidays was tough. Paul and I are only eating in the evenings two or three nights a week to make sure we can put enough food on the table. We’re not working, but not out of choice. Trying to find a full-time job here is a nightmare.”
Chipping Norton is the home of David Cameron, when he isn’t pretending to be the Prime Minister, and lies in his constituency of Witney. If people in the Prime Minister’s constituency can’t get on in life, what hope does anyone else have?
It would be interesting to hear more from Mr Bolton and Ms Bloomfield. What is it like, living below the breadline in the home of the infamous ‘Chipping Norton set’? Do they rub shoulders with Jeremy Clarkson down the supermarket (when they can afford to go)? If so, would they kindly suggest to him that he lay off the drink for a while, as it’s encouraging him to say silly things about standing for election?
The information supporting the story was supplied by campaigning group False Economy, which submitted Freedom of Information requests to local authorities across the UK. Of these, 114 replied, providing the figure of 50,000 tenants threatened with eviction.
As not all local authorities responded, the newspaper stated that the total number of affected council tenants was likely to be much higher.
Separate research by the National Housing Federation swells this number by 30,000 housing association tenants, the Independent states.
Clifford Singer, campaign manager for False Economy, said: “Together with the raft of other benefits cuts the Government has forced through, both this year and previously, the bedroom tax is driving tenants and families who were just making ends meet into arrears, and pushing those who were already struggling with the cost of living into a full-blown crisis.”
The Daily Mirror‘s report estimated 330,000 families to have fallen behind with their rent, including around 165,000 who always paid on time in the past.
The reality of the situation is that it shows how badly wages have slipped since Margaret Thatcher came into power with all her silly neo-liberal drip-down economic theories. The Bedroom Tax is a threat because working people do not earn enough to pay the rent along with all their other overheads. This is why the Housing Benefit bill has blown up to huge proportions; if only the unemployed were claiming it, it would be manageable. Employers are to blame – partly.
And who really benefits from Housing Benefit? Not the tenant! No, the people who really receive Housing Benefit are landlords. This is why some, including this blog, have called for it to be renamed ‘Landlord Subsidy’. So part of the blame must also lie with them and the amounts they charge – especially for council houses, where the money never really leaves the local authority’s bank account; it would go out, only to be paid straight back.
So we can say that the debt into which these people have fallen is not their fault; working people should be paid enough to be able to cope, and the unemployed should be able to rely on the state to support them until they can get back on their feet – without the state, itself, going into debt.
It has been created because, somewhere along the line, somebody has been taking too much money for themselves.
What is really to blame?