Tag Archives: False Economy

Nick Clegg is in ‘Bedroom Tax’ denial – how does he sleep at night?

The body language says it all: Nick Clegg appears to goose-step off the stage after his conference speech on Wednesday, Nazi-saluting his fellow party members.

The body language says it all: Nick Clegg appears to goose-step off the stage after his conference speech on Wednesday, Nazi-saluting his fellow party members.

It seems this blog’s prediction that the Liberal Democrat leader would ignore the wishes of his party in favour of cosying up to the Tories has been proved accurate.

The Northern Echo has reported that Clegg is refusing to do anything about the so-called ‘under-occupation charge’, even though it is now his party’s policy to oppose it and demand its repeal.

Instead he has blamed local authorities for any problems suffered by the tax’s victims. He told the Echo that councils were failing to spend – or even returning – Discretionary Housing Payment cash which the government has handed out to them as aid for people falling into rent arrears.

He was lying, of course. It seems unlikely that a falsehood of this magnitude can be ascribed to poor advice.

The example used by the newspaper was that of Durham County Council, which received £883,000 from the government to hand out as DHPs – a sum which the council’s resources director, Don McLure, said would last just eight weeks.

In total, councils have been given £150 million to hand out, which may seem a large amount – but is in fact dwarfed by the demand.

Clegg’s rationale for his claim was that several councils had returned some of their DHP allocation at the end of the last financial year – but this was before the bedroom tax had been imposed and so the claim means nothing – and he must know this.

Excuses for the bedroom tax are flying thick and fast, after research by the Independent and the campaign group False Economy proved that 50,000 families are in danger of eviction because of it.

On the BBC’s Question Time, Shirley Williams claimed that the tax had created problems because suitable smaller accommodation had not been built in readiness for the demand it caused. This is nonsense. If there was already demand for accommodation – and we must assume so, because this is the reason the Conservatives have spent so long bleating about families on waiting lists who need accommodation that the tax’s victims are, allegedly, blocking – then why didn’t the government just get on and build it?

The tax was really brought in for several reasons: It is partly a reaction against the increase in the Housing Benefit bill to accommodate people with jobs whose wages are below their cost of living – this is due to greed on the part of employers; it is partly intended to clear housing – not for people on any waiting list but as a form of social cleansing, getting the riff-raff out of attractive parts of our towns and cities; and it is also another attempt to spite people on sickness, incapacity or disability benefits, who must either face the extra cost and inconvenience of removing special adaptations to their houses and reinstalling them elsewhere if they are able to move, or must lose the company of carers who use spare bedrooms when they have to stay over, or must pay the tax and live without food or heat, thereby risking their health.

According to Facebook friend Shirley Nott, the government’s spokespeople are extremely relaxed about this eventuality: “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.”

So their imminent eviction followed, no doubt, by a nice quiet death in a side street is merely “adjusting” to the new system.

Shirley continues: “Government spokespeople… 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.”

Maybe not – but they can still rely on blogs such as this one to make the point for them.

Please – everyone – feel free to splash this article around wherever you see fit. Use excerpts in letters to your local newspapers, share it with friends who don’t realise the seriousness of the situation – we’ve already had suicides because of this tax, don’t forget…

Make sure it doesn’t go away.

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?

Greed.

New benefit plan has no heroes – only zeroes

Shall we play a game? This one’s called join-the-dots. I didn’t really like it when I was younger and I doubt that you will, after you see the picture we’ll be creating.

We’ll start here: The government wants to cut another £10 billion from the welfare budget – that’s the bit of public spending that keeps millions of people off the streets, if only on the breadline. The government could, alternatively, try stimulating the economy to make that money in taxes, but policy seems to be pushing hard the other way, as we’ll see shortly.

So: cuts are coming. How to perform them? Draw a line to where the government announces it wants to break the link between benefits and inflation, and link them to average earnings instead.

George Osborne thinks this is a good idea because inflation hit 5.2 per cent last September, much higher than rises in earnings – remember, the man who won’t do what his initials demand (GO) has kept public sector wages frozen for the last few years and private sector wages are also stagnant. As a result, Gideon has been paying out more than he thinks he should to people who, honestly, deserve a break from his miserly administration.

Now draw a line to the results of the NatCen survey that came out earlier this week, stating that people do not want to see more money being spent on welfare than is being spent already. This is the excuse that Mr Osborne wants to use – he can say there is polling evidence that puts significant numbers in support of an end to so-called benefits uprating. Never mind that only 3,000 people were asked or that none of the main parties ever intended to increase the proportion of government spending that goes on welfare; this is his justification and he’s sticking to it.

I wonder what will happen if wages start to rise faster than inflation? Will the Nasty Party write a new clause into the contract, that benefits should rise along with inflation or wages, depending on which is lower? Officials have already stated that they do not want a huge increase in benefits if wages start to climb sharply, so they are already working on ways to ‘fix’ the linking mechanism. Evil, isn’t it?

Never mind; the current plan uses wages, so now draw a line to this: The government still wants to introduce regional pay settlements for the public sector. The Tories – sorry, the Coalition – believe that national pay settlements inflate public sector wages in certain parts of the country far beyond what their private sector counterparts can manage. They also believe that forcing regional settlements on us will save them a fortune in salaries.

Think what this will achieve: The ghettoisation of much of the UK. With regional pay deals, people will have less money available for things other than necessities, meaning fewer trips to the shops (which have already suffered thanks to the idiotic VAT increase to 20 per cent, which cut a large chunk of growth out of the economy). What happens then? The shops shut and their suppliers go out of business too. More people end up on benefits and looking for work.

You see, this right-wing government does not accept the simple fact that welfare benefits help keep the economy stable. Yes, government spending increases as payments are made, but businesses keep their customers, the economy stays afloat and the country as a whole avoids a terminal spiral of decline.

Cutting welfare, thereby reducing the incomes of society’s poorest, creates fiscal hindrance. As billions of pounds (£10 billion in this case) are taken from the active economy, businesses lose customers and lay off staff.

In a recession, increased welfare spending benefits national income so that each pound is worth £1.60 when it has worked its way through shop tills and paycheques. When welfare is cut, this works in reverse, so cutting £10 billion from benefits will increase the UK’s recession by more than one per cent.

This means a longer recession, a larger deficit and more debt. (The above information courtesy of the False Economy website, which has produced a handy factsheet for you to download, keep, and show to anyone spouting Tory propoganda)

Now draw a line to: The government wants to cut more money from the welfare budget.

Look at what you’ve drawn. A big, fat zero.

This is what the government’s plan will achieve for the people, and economy, of Britain.