Mail and Telegraph silent as research proves Rolnik right

[Image: Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation]

[Image: Anti-Bedroom Tax and Benefit Justice Federation]

This is how the right-wing media try to stifle popular protest against their masters – by trying to distract attention away from the facts.

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?


27 thoughts on “Mail and Telegraph silent as research proves Rolnik right

  1. Florence

    I have relatives living in the “Chippy” as we call it (much to the distain of the “set” or “the cavalry” when they ride through).

    There are no supermarkets unless you go into Banbury or Oxford or other population centres. There are village shops. For example in one there is an Artisan Bakery (£4 for a basic loaf) and the local Co-op sells pre-packed duck breasts, instead of chicken. The affluent run the place for themselves.

    The area has long credentials. being the favourite place for Tory past & present, retired cabinet ministers from Thatcher’s era. They’re all up there in the fantasy world of loaned horses, super cars, Christmas dinner with the full butler experience. They think being hard up is having to sell the Bentley to buy a Porsche.

  2. ghost whistler

    It’s easy to misunderstand what the government means by the term ‘spare room subsidy’ as it has never existed before this filthy tax. It was invented by them to represent the portion of a HB claim that covers the unused rooms within the property. Of course there is and never has been any such thing. This is what the government is removing when they talk about what we know more accurately as the Bedroom Tax. It is spin, pure and simple. An attempt to persuade people that, once again, scrougners are getting something for nothing; something they are not truly entitled to.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Exactly. This is why I so enjoy asking them to point out where the spare room subsidy was enshrined in law – what Act of Parliament brought it into being and when it started to be paid.

      1. Gavin MacMillan

        As far as I understand, the actual term used in the white paper is ‘under-occupation penalty’. So it is neither a tax – “a compulsory contribution to state revenue”, or a subsisdy – “a sum of money granted by the state or a public body to help …”, but a penalty – “a punishment imposed for breaking a law, rule, or contract”, (all courtesy of Oxford Online Dictionary).

        If we are going to publicly discuss this, we should use the term actually used by the government as it was meant to be used – ie an intention for the government to punish people for daring to be poor while living in more than a hovel.

      2. Mike Sivier

        “State under-occupation charge” would be the correct terminology (or at least the term I’ve seen). Haven’t seen it described as a “penalty”. It IS a tax, as it is a charge levied on property in a person’s possession, by the government, etc as I’ve mentioned many times before.
        But you’re absolutely right about the government wanting to punish people for not having enough money – a situation brought about because successive governments have allowed the rich to pay too little to the poor.

      3. hstorm

        I’d prefer it if it was a tax in the more conventional sense i.e. it gets applied across the board for anyone who is under-occupying their living space. At the moment, it only affects people on benefits, so the sorts of people who REALLY over-occupy, such as mansion-dwellers, are very unlikely to be touched by it, because they aren’t likely to claim benefits. If it was imposed in anything like a proportional manner, it wouldn’t be that bad a policy – under-occupancy *is* a problem when there is a shortage of adequate housing. But as usual, the people who only contribute a small amount to the problem are hit hard, while the people who really contribute to it in a major way, the people in really big houses, aren’t hit at all.

        Classic Toryism.

    2. Carl Bennett

      Oh but some people ARE getting something for nothing. Ask any farmer what the Single Farm Payment is for: control of land, not growing anything on it. Four billion euros a year in the UK alone.

  3. Pingback: Mail and Telegraph silent as research proves Ro...

  4. Thomas M

    This will enable homes to be sold off to rich people. The sooner we are rid of the Tories and the Lib Dems, the better.

    1. Norman Walsh

      Hear hear we want decent human beings running the country caring for everyone some of us don’t want a fascist Tory country!!!

  5. Pingback: Mail and Telegraph silent as research proves Rolnik right | Brad James.

  6. Bryan Hemming

    For years i have tried to explain to people tjat tenants do not receive rent subisidies to little avail. Not only do these subsidies push up the prices for those on benefit, but they also create a false private sector housing rental market by pushing up private rents. All of this just takes money out of the the real economy, forcing even small businesses to the wall, and making those on low wages poorer, which in turn leaves less money to be spent, and fewer jobs in both the manufacturing and retail sectors. Brilliant economics by idiots.

  7. shirleynott

    Apparently, there’s no need for alarm. Under no circumstances should anyone assume anything untoward is occurring. The reports of 50,000 potential – imminent (initial) evictions are not (“necessarily”) going to be “representative” of a potential situation in the more medium/long term. The ‘rationale’ for this cheery response is (obviously) that the ‘Not a Bedroom Tax’ is only just starting to make its presence felt and so, (of course) people have only just begun “adjusting” to it.

    Government spokespeople appear not remotely concerned/worried and have been at pains to explain – in words of one syllable – that no-one else should worry. It seems possible that some, – even most – of those 50,000 mentioned in today’s news might find such an artfully-delivered response to imminent eviction a little difficult to come to terms with – but interested members of the government are very likely to have reasoned that they’ll probably be far too preoccupied with practicalities to make much of it.

  8. Thomas M

    This government hates the disabled and wants to ruin their lives as much as possible, be it by taking away Legal Aid, privatising the NHS, making them get into rent debt so it can take their homes, or making them work as slaves for what should be theirs by right/making them destitute.

  9. AM-FM

    As another example of ‘how well’ this BT is working out. Around here we now get leaflets from private landlords begging people to take 2 and 3 bedroom properties, the leaflets actually say that benefit claimants are welcome!
    It might not be long before the rent on many larger properties is actually less than on the smaller, it’s already the case sometimes. Then what, move people back into a bit larger than they actually need because it’s cheaper?

    What is ‘spare room’ anyway’, most of these 2 bed properties are very small anyway, certainly no utillity space, or dining room. Why not insist that everybody only needs one room, – mattress in one corner, bucket in another, wooden box to sit on and a camping stove.

  10. PendanticGeek

    This can all be traced back to one decision: the sale of council housing and the banning of new social housing builds by councils. The symptoms have been exaserpated by all governments since propping up the housing market, they would rather see poor people evicted than houses repossessed. The only reason that house prices are as high as they are is because private landlords can afford to pay higher mortgages with housing benefit.
    For a healthy housing market an average house (3 bed terrace)should be no more than 6 times the average wage. To acheive this either wages must rise in a stagnant housing market or house prices need to drop considerably.
    The best way I can see around this problem is a rent to buy scheme where 75% of any rent you pay out of your own pocket becomes equity on your house. If you claim HB it doesn’t give you equity. In this way everyone can afford to live in a house that suits their need; anyone on a wage gets to slowly buy their house and councils/HAs get reliable income to build more houses/provide services.
    Private landlords should be paying a much higher rate of tax on income from property but it seems to be the easiest income to evade tax on.
    There seems to be no trace put on rent paid by tennants as coucils don’t charge the OWNER of the property but the occupier.
    No trace of or enquiry into rental income is conducted by HMRC.
    No link is made between ownership and occupancy is made by any agency as far as I can see.
    A landlord can just declare a property as a second home asset and HMRC just take their word for it. When was the last time HMRC just turned up at a person’s rented home and asked how much rent they were paying?

Comments are closed.