Tag Archives: Pickles Poll Tax

Evictions begin as government starts grabbing your homes

140222evictions

It is easy to get caught up in headlines and forget that the Coalition’s benefit reforms mean people you know will lose their homes.

You know what happens then? PEOPLE YOU KNOW START LOSING THEIR HOMES.

Vox Political was warning the world about this back in 2012 – nearly two years ago – saying the bedroom tax would put people on the streets while homes go empty and warning about the ‘Poll Tax revival plan to take away your home’. It gives me no pleasure at all to report that I was right.

This week I heard about two cases in my Mid Wales town. You may think that isn’t many, but this is a town with a population of less than 5,000 – and I haven’t heard about every case.

The first involves a family that has been living in the same council house for more than 30 years. Sadly the head of the household recently had a stroke and has been forced to move into a care home. In the past, the tenancy would have been handed down to the next generation of the family – two sons, one of whom has a family of his own. The other is a friend of mine, of excellent character. By day he works very hard at his job; after hours, he is a member of a popular local band (along with his brother, as it happens). They are what this government would call “strivers”.

But they are being penalised because they have been told to vacate the only home they have had. Not only that, they are being asked to stump up a small fortune in backdated rent (as their father has been paying for his care, not the house) and another small fortune to dispose of carpets they cannot take with them, which the council does not want.

When I spoke to my friend yesterday, he told me that the council simply does not want him or his brother as tenants because “it is easier to process a large family who are on benefits”. I queried this, and it seems likely that this is to do with the forthcoming Universal Credit system, and with the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (also known as the Pickles Poll Tax); it is easier to handle Universal Credit and council tax claims if the authorities have foreknowledge of a household’s income.

We both agreed that there is a serious drawback to this thinking.

Large families do not want to move into vacant social accommodation because they fear what the government – national and local – will do to them if their circumstances change. Children grow up; adults move out – and that will make them vulnerable to the Bedroom Tax. Suddenly their benefits won’t be enough to pay the rent and they, in turn, will be turfed out onto the streets. They know it is a trap; they will try to avoid it.

My friend agreed. “That house is going to stay empty for a very long time,” he said.

This is madness. Here are two people who are perfectly willing and able to pay the council’s rent, on time, for as long as they need the property but, because of the Welfare Reform Act and the Localism Act, the council is treating them abominably and the house will end up providing no income at all.

If you think that’s bad, though, just wait until you learn about my other friend!

He is an older gentleman who has been disabled for many years. He had been living in a small, two-bedroomed house that had been adapted to accommodate his needs. We know precisely how much these adaptations cost to install at current rates: £5,000.

I believe he needed the extra bedroom to accommodate carer needs but I could be mistaken.

Along came the Bedroom Tax and suddenly he did not have enough income to cover the cost of living there. The council (or social landlord, I have to admit I’m not sure) sent him an eviction notice. He appealed.

Guess what? His appeal was set to be decided after the date he was ordered to be out of his home.

So he had to go. He was lucky enough to find another place to live, and all the equipment he needs to accommodate his disability moved along with him – at a cost of £5,000.

Then he received the judgement on his appeal: He was exempt from paying the Bedroom Tax; he should never have been forced to move.

Is this British justice?

This country was once the envy of the world because we were far more enlightened than any other nation in our policies of social justice and inclusion. Not any more! Now we are regressing into a new dark age in which the squalid Shylocks infesting Westminster manipulate local authorities into performing grubby property grabs for them.

Is the ‘Bulldog Spirit’ that made us famous for standing our ground during the Blitz now being turned to hounding the poor out of their homes?

Are you willing to put up with this?

In Iceland, they marched to their Parliament and set up camp outside until the government gave up and agreed to the demands of the people. Here, an unmandated government rides roughshod over democracy while you sit at home watching The X Factor, Coronation Street and the Winter Olympics.

Nothing will change until you change it – but you know this already. The simple fact is that, if you are reading this article, you probably sympathise with the sentiments it is expressing and are already active in opposing the heinous crimes being committed against our people.

There are not enough of you. People who need to read these words are being allowed to live in ignorance, lulled into inactivity by the right-wing mass media.

It’s time to put an end to that. There can be no excuse for ignorance and inaction while people are being made homeless. Think of someone you know who needs to be shown the truth and make them read this article. Ask them what they think of it and explain the facts of what is happening around them.

Then tell them to pass it on to someone they know.

Spread the word – don’t keep it to yourself. And don’t sit on your thumbs and expect somebody else to do your bit for you. If you don’t act, why should anybody else? What’s the point of me writing these articles if you can’t be bothered to do anything about it? Are you going to wait until someone tells you they want your home?

Then it will be too late.

I’ll know if you succeed because it will be reflected in the number of times this article is viewed. I’ll report the results of this experiment next week.

Don’t let yourself down.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Is the Coalition government 80,000 times worse than Herod?

shame

You may have noticed that yesterday was Christmas – the day when Christians throughout the world celebrate the birth of Jesus, whose teachings in later life form the basis of their faith.

Jesus was born into a world of politics and political machinations – the Roman world was much the same as our own in this respect – and had an effect on it, right from his birth.

According to one of the Gospels, when King Herod learned that a child had been born who had been named ‘King of the Jews’, he sent spies to find out who this possible usurper was; failing in this attempt, he gave orders for the death of all boys aged two or less in Bethlehem and nearby.

Joseph (husband of Mary, Jesus’ mother) was warned in a dream that Herod intended to kill Jesus, so the family fled to Egypt until after the King’s death – then moved to Nazareth in Galilee to avoid living under Herod’s son Archelaus (the Romans had divided the kingdom into three, and Nazareth was ruled by another of Herod’s sons, Herod Antipas).

Regarding the Massacre of the Innocents, doubt has been cast on whether the event ever took place. No other account of the period makes reference to it. Some have said that this may be because the number of male children of the right age might have been less than 20.

Since the point of this article is to compare what happened then with current events, here in Britain, it seems best to bookmark the disputed event; we’ll come back to it if we must.

The part we are told under no uncertain terms is that Joseph took Mary and Jesus to Egypt until Herod’s rule was over. In modern terms, they were made homeless because of political persecution that was so extreme, they had to flee the country.

The situation in the UK today, as stated by Shelter, is no less than 80,000 times as bad.

The charity told us (in November): “Government figures show that 80,000 children in Britain will be homeless this Christmas.”

Vox Political said then that government policies had caused the dramatic rise: “The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.” This blog had warned that this would happen, as long ago as January.

In contrast with the Bible story, in which the family fled to safety, most homeless families interviewed by Shelter said they felt more unsafe, witnessing violence, sexual offences, drug use and dealing.

This is more than 2,000 years after the Biblical incident; civilisation is supposed to have improved over that time. Why are we allowing our government to do this to our children on such a massively more widespread scale?

Perhaps we can take some small comfort from Herod’s fate. Modern medicine suggests he had chronic kidney failure, complicated by Fourier’s gangrene – but let us see how it was described at the time. The historian Josephus – in Antiquities, Book 17, Chapter 6, Verse 5 – describes the disease that killed him shortly after he set out to murder Jesus: “a fire glowed in him slowly, which did not so much appear to the touch outwardly, as it augmented his pains inwardly; for it brought upon him a vehement appetite to eating, which he could not avoid to supply with one sort of food or other. His entrails were also ex-ulcerated, and the chief violence of his pain lay on his colon; an aqueous and transparent liquor also had settled itself about his feet, and a like matter afflicted him at the bottom of his belly. Nay, further, his privy-member was putrefied, and produced worms; and when he sat upright, he had a difficulty of breathing, which was very loathsome, on account of the stench of his breath, and the quickness of its returns; he had also convulsions in all parts of his body, which increased his strength to an insufferable degree. It was said by those who pretended to divine, and who were endued with wisdom to foretell such things, that God inflicted this punishment on the king on account of his great impiety.”

Eric Pickles, Iain Duncan Smith, and above all David Cameron, beware.

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Coalition policy success: 80,000 children homeless for Christmas

shame

Tory politicians don’t care and Liberal Democrats don’t have any power – that’s why 80,000 children are being housed in temporary accommodation, alongside drug users and enduring threats of violence, as reported by Shelter today.

The government’s own figures show 2,090 families living in bed and breakfasts – an increase of eight per cent on 2012 and the largest number in 10 years, according to The Guardian. Of these, 760 have been living in B&Bs longer than the legal six-week limit – a 10 per cent increase on last year.

More than 43,000 other homeless households with children are in other emergency accommodation – usually privately-rented short-term flats, which are expensive. This is an increase of nine per cent on last year.

To put this into context, a Labour government commitment to halve the number of families in this kind of emergency accommodation meant the total fell between 2005 and 2010 – but it has been rising again since June 2011.

This is a human disaster created by the Coalition government.

Most families interviewed by the charity said they felt unsafe, with one child directly threatened by a man after an argument over a shared bathroom. Almost half said their children had witnessed incidents such as sexual offences, drug use and dealing.

One mother of three said: “One of the reasons we left was one of the residents trying to sell us crack cocaine.”

Most of the 25 families Shelter interviewed lived in one room; half said the children were sharing beds with parents or siblings and the family was sharing kitchen facilities with others. All but three said it was hard to find a safe place for their children to play. Three families had no cooking facilities and one reported sharing a cooker and fridge with 22 other people.

More than half had to share a bathroom or toilet with strangers, with 10 families sharing with seven or more other people; two-thirds had no table to eat on, and schoolchildren were finding it hard to do homework.

And their health is suffering: “It’s so hard to give him a balanced diet as it’s impossible to make proper meals here, let alone a Christmas dinner. He’s getting really pale and is so tired all the time. He gets so scared but it’s difficult when I’m scared myself. This is no place for a child to live,” said a mother in a Hounslow B&B.

“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” said Shelter’s chief executive, Campbell Robb, who described the charity’s findings as “shocking” and the conditions forced on families as “shameful”.

He said: “No child should be homeless, let alone 80,000. But tragically, with more people struggling to make ends meet and homelessness on the rise, we’re bracing ourselves for an increase in demand from families who desperately need our help.”

Housing minister Kris Hopkins couldn’t care less. “We’ve given councils nearly £1bn to tackle homelessness and to support people affected by the welfare reforms,” he sniffed.

“I am very clear that they should be fully able to meet their legal responsibility to house families in suitable accommodation.”

Let us be very clear on this: the problem is not that Tories like Hopkins don’t understand. This is exactly the result that they wanted; they just won’t acknowledge it because it is electorally damaging.

Look at the policies that created this problem: The bedroom tax; the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, otherwise known as the Council Tax reduction scheme; the benefit cap that so many people in this country seem to support without understanding any of its implications.

Vox Political reported back in January what they would mean: “There will be a rise in rent and mortgage arrears… affordable housing will be less available and landlords less able or willing to rent to tenants on benefits… Private sector rental may become less attractive to landlords if tenants aren’t paying the rent. This will lead to a growth in homelessness. Councils have statutory duties and may see an increasing burden.”

But increases to the Discretionary Housing Payment fund have been entirely insignificant compared with the extra burden councils have faced. They received £150 million between them; Durham County Council had £883,000 and spent it all within eight weeks.

We have seen the start of the social cleansing predicted by this blog back in August 2012, when we noted that at least one council would use these measures to “clear out the poor and set up shop as a desirable residence for the rich”.

The housing bubble created by George Osborne with his ‘Help To Buy’ scheme will accelerate this process.

So don’t let a Tory tell you it’s nothing to do with them. They wanted this. In fact, 80,000 homeless children at Christmas is probably not enough for them.

Catch-22 for PIP-claiming taxpayers, while giant corporations pay no taxes at all

A drop in the ocean:  That's what your taxes are, in comparison to the £30,450,000 owed by Thames Water in corporation tax this year. But Thames Water is paying nothing and, if you have to claim PIP or ESA in the future, that's what you're likely to get, in spite of paying up on time and in full.

A drop in the ocean: That’s what your taxes are, in comparison to the £30,450,000 owed by Thames Water in corporation tax this year. But Thames Water is paying nothing and, even though you’ve paid up on time and in full, if you have to claim PIP or ESA in the future, nothing is what you’re likely to get.

“Unum Provident is an outlaw company. It is a company that has operated in an illegal fashion for years.” – California Department of Insurance Commissioner, John Garamendi, 2005.

Is there really a connection between the roll-out of the government’s new Personal Independence Payment scam, outlawed (in the US) insurance company Unum, and the fact that Thames Water didn’t pay any taxes for the last financial year, despite profits totalling around £145 million?

Would any of you be surprised to read that the answer is yes?

PIP, the replacement for Disability Living Allowance, entered the second stage of its roll-out yesterday, when new claimants of working age, applying for disability benefit, were told they would be asking for it rather than DLA. New claimants in northern England have been applying for PIP since April.

The new system follows very closely the pattern established by the claim system for Employment and Support Allowance. ESA claim forms ask sick or disabled people to relate their symptoms to a series of ‘descriptors’, using ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answers (there is space to describe the individual issues but we have no proof that this receives any consideration at all).

The descriptors are based on a perversion of the so-called ‘biopsychosocial model’, created by American company Unum Provident to provide a defensible excuse for refusing to pay out on disability claims, at a time when the company was finding it hard to come up with the cash. Unfortunately (for Unum) the US legal system decided the excuse was not defensible after all and ordered Unum to reconsider 200,000 claims, back in 2006. Unfortunately (for British disability claimants) by then Unum already had its claws in the UK’s Department for Work and Pensions. For more on Unum, see Mo Stewart’s excellent series of reports, written over a three-year investigative period, here and here.

At least one major newspaper reported last year that the Atos-run work capability assessments were finding 70 per cent of ESA claimants fit for work. Of the remaining 30 per cent, 17 were put in the work-related activity group, meaning they were being asked to recover within one calendar year of the benefit being awarded, no matter what their condition. The remaining 13 per cent were put in the support group, which allows indefinite continuation of their claims.

Official government figures put entitlement for the benefit at 99.6 per cent. Less than half of one per cent of claims have been found to be fraudulent.

So there’s a bit of a credibility gap in the government’s system, isn’t there? A gap spanning 69.6 per cent of claimants at best, and 86.6 per cent at worst.

That is the Unum influence. The government has taken this company’s criminal (in America) scheme to deprive insurance policyholders of their payouts and applied it to the national insurance scheme that is the British benefits system, in order to deprive UK citizens of their benefits and rob them of the rewards due to them for paying their taxes.

Let’s all remember, please, that the majority of people claiming ESA have paid their taxes, on time and in full. How many big businesses operating in this country can say the same?

Not Thames Water, that’s for sure. The BBC reported yesterday that the UK’s biggest water firm, which is privately-owned, paid no corporation tax in the last financial year, despite making £145 million in (it says here) pre-tax profit.

The company says this is because it has offset the interest payments on its debts against its tax liability, and claimed allowances on capital project spending. It has been seeking government support for a £4.1bn project to build a new “super sewer” under the Thames, as reported in Vox Political last year.

The total amount of tax owed but offset in this manner is around £1 billion – but let’s not forget that this amount may drop. Part-time Chancellor George Osborne has already cut corporation tax by a quarter (from 28 per cent in 2010 to 21 per cent now) and there is no evidence that he won’t carry on slashing it, to help out his big business buddies and royally screw up the public finances.

Thames Water increased its bills by 6.7 per cent last year. It has reported an increase in revenues of six per cent. Doesn’t that mean that it only needed to raise its bills by 0.7 per cent in order to maintain profits? Doesn’t that mean that the remainder of that increase is down to the greed of its private shareholders, amounting to nothing less than robbery of the 14 million customers who – in this great era of consumer choice, ushered in by David Cameron – have absolutely no alternative water suppliers at all?

I wouldn’t want to be living in the Thames Water catchment area and applying for PIP right now. Also, what if you’re in that position, but living on social housing that the government decides is too big for you, triggering Bedroom Tax payments? How are you going to pay what you’ll owe on the Council Tax Reduction Scheme (the Pickles Poll Tax)?

If you’re in that position, just remember it’s a Conservative-led government that put you there, in Coalition with the Liberal Democrats. Did you vote for either of them in 2010?

If so, will you do it again in 2015?

If you say yes, you’ll be entitled to PIP on grounds of insanity – but then the government will lose voters, so that won’t be allowed.

Catch-22.

Osborne-created tax loophole diddles the UK out of hundreds of millions

A tax avoidance loophole specially created by George Osborne, the UK Chancellor, last year means that water companies have played the system to reduce their tax bills to a trickle.

Some people just don’t know when it’s time to do the right thing.

Look at the three water companies that are paying practically no tax on their huge profits, while yanking up prices every year according to the retail price index and enjoying a monopoly in their areas – according to today’s report in The Observer.

Thames Water avoids tax by offsetting the interest payments on its debts against its tax liability and delaying it by claiming allowances on capital project spending. The company is seeking government support for a £4.1bn project to build a new “super sewer” under the Thames.

Anglian lent £1,609.1m to a subsidiary company in the Cayman Islands tax haven in 2002. This year it was able to pay £478.1m in equity dividends to investors, including its subsidiary in the tax haven.

Yorkshire Water also increased the debt on its books recently, which offsets tax payments.

In other words, all three were able to exploit a new tax loophole, created by George Osborne last year – that’s right, the Chancellor who is supposedly trying to stop tax avoidance has actually been creating more ways for big business to achieve it – to pay as little tax as possible.

In my article last Monday, I highlighted changes to the tax laws, brought in by Gideon, I mean Mr 0, that mean companies in the UK pay nothing at all on money made by their foreign branches and may claim the expense of funding those foreign branches against tax paid in the UK. That is exactly what Anglian and Yorkshire are doing, according to the Observer report.

Without knowing where the Thames debt is based, it’s hard to say for certain whether it falls into this category of tax avoidance.

Thames made an operating profit of £650 million last year, and Anglia’s was £492, while Yorkshire’s was £303 million. With Corporation Tax at 26 per cent (they should all pay the higher rate), this means the Treasury failed to collect nearly £376 million from the three companies.

The amount lost to the Treasury from these three companies alone would pay off three-quarters of what the government hopes to take away from people currently on council tax benefit, when local authorities implement their new council tax relief schemes – the ‘Pickles Poll Tax’ – in accordance with Eric Pickles’ Localism Act, next April.

Both Thames and Anglian told The Observer their tax was merely being deferred, and they would have to pay it in full at a later date. Yorkshire declined to comment.

My problem with this is that the UK is in deficit difficulties NOW. We need everybody’s tax money NOW. Not later. By exploiting a loophole in the tax system that the Chancellor irresponsibly created, they – AND HE – are extending the problem.

The absence of any significant tax bills means Thames and Anglian were able to pay out dividends totalling £1.5881 billion. I don’t have the figures for Yorkshire. Ask yourself how many of those shareholders have tax avoidance schemes of their own.

Meanwhile, those of us on PAYE have to pay the full amounts of our tax bills – and our utility bills – no matter what harm they do to our household finances. There can be no deferrals for the working-class citizen!

And what help do our bloated water companies give us?

A drop in the ocean.

Living under the threat of welfare ‘reform’

If I could force Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs, politicians, and supporters to read what follows, I would. It was sent to me today in response to my article, Bedroom tax will put people on streets while homes go empty, and details exactly what the author – a fellow blogger going by the monicker Clarebelz – expects will happen to her after the bedroom tax and other so-called welfare ‘reforms’ come into effect, starting in April 2013.

This is not fiction.

It is what this person expects to become her reality.

While you are reading it, please ask yourself: Do you want to live in a society that treats its most vulnerable like this?

“I went shopping today to my local town with my carers. I only go a couple of times a year to get necessary things that are not available either online or at my local village. I had to pay for these things with a credit card.

“As the deadline for paying bedroom tax and council tax draws near I, along with others commenting here and elsewhere, are feeling ever more hopeless about the whole situation. I just wanted to go to bed when I came back, unable to face another day worrying about how the hell I’m going to manage when I’m hardly managing now.

“I pay back out of my DLA and ESA to the local authority £3,000 per year (it’s a myth that people with no assets pay nothing for care). My care plan has just been reduced by 25 per cent, the LA justifying that by saying, “We don’t fund that activity/job anymore”. Initially they wanted to cut it by 75 per cent, but I took advice and fought it. The activities/jobs that they won’t fund I still need, which will cost in the region of another £1,500 per year. When I next have a financial review, if they don’t reduce my contribution to take account of this, and I’m forced to pay rent and council tax, this will wipe out my food budget.

“And, if I lose out under Universal Credit, then I may as well just end it all because I am not going to be forced to go cap in hand to family or friends to survive; I couldn’t stand the humiliation after all I’ve been through both personally and physically, and such a situation makes you very vulnerable to abuse. A friend of mine had her DLA taken away and because of her mortgage costs she was left with £12 per week to live on (she daren’t apply for a flat anywhere as most are in horrible blocks that are drug/thief ridden). Her so-called friends offered help willingly at first, then they started bullying her and taking advantage of her. She got her DLA back, but she is still in a terrible psychological state because of the way people treated her. No thank you: I’m not going to go through that!

“Prior to complete destitution, I intend to demonstrate/beg on my street. I’m going to make large boards with my message on it, and get my carers to wheel me onto the main road to sit all day if necessary, so that the whole community can see what the government are doing to the vulnerable. I refuse to be hidden away like I was many times before when I used to go days or even a week at a time without heat, light or food. And whole winters without heat. No, this time I’m going to make sure that everyone knows. I’ll have nothing left to lose.

“This disgusting, despicable government has stolen the last two years from me through fear. I’ve just started painting again and doing other creative things that I used to, but it’s really hard to feel inspired when you’ve had the life sucked out of you, especially when your illness leaves you with little life left to do anything.

“I say that I’ll end it all, but really, we need to stick around so that the public can see our predicament. It’s just like others, it all feels so hopeless.

“By the way, my care plan assessor inquired about the bedroom tax for me from someone she knows at the DWP. The assessor said that the bedroom tax hits those of working age, which I knew anyway, but – interestingly – she said that the DWP person told her that the government has informed them that, once they have dealt with housing benefit in relation to people of working age, they will then move on to apply the same sanctions to pensioners, because many larger homes belong to pensioners who won’t move.

“So yet again the government are liars. Two years ago this autumn, Grant Shapps stated in a TV interview that the new rules would not apply to existing tenants; obviously not true. You can’t believe a word they say.

“Well, sorry to go on and on, but it’s been one of those days when I feel like, “What’s the point?” My home doesn’t even feel like my home any more; I have recurrent nightmares of my clothes and all my belongings strewn in the street, and my coming home to find a family have just moved in.

“It’s a horrible feeling.”

Bedroom tax will put people on streets while homes go empty

The National Housing Federation ran a campaign against the ‘bedroom tax’ while the legislation was going through Parliament – but the government was blind to the concerns of this expert organisation.

By now you should know that you’ll be in financial trouble from April next year, if you receive housing benefit and the government decides you’ve got one or two too many bedrooms.

This applies to people who are working but on low pay, who must therefore claim housing benefit in order to keep a roof over their heads. This means it applies to 93 per cent of people who have claimed housing benefit since the Coalition government came to power (only seven per cent of claimants were unemployed).

It applies to separated parents who share the care of their children and who may have been allocated an extra bedroom to reflect this. Benefit rules mean that there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for children (who receives the extra benefit).

It applies to couples who use their ‘spare’ bedroom when recovering from an illness or operation.

It applies to foster carers, because foster children are not counted as part of the household for benefit purposes (this is particularly evil, in my view).

It applies to parents whose children visit but are not part of the household -although housholds where there is a room kept for a student studying away from home will not be deemed to be under-occupying if the student is away for less than 52 weeks (under housing benefit) or six months (under Universal Credit). Students are exempt from non-dependant deductions, but full-time students will not be exempt from the Housing Cost Contribution (HCC) which replaces non-dependent deductions under Universal Credit (more on this elsewhere in the article). Students over 21 will face a contribution in the region of £15 per week.

It applies to families with disabled children; and

It applies to disabled people, including those living in adapted or specially designed properties (again, this is evil, as it could mean these people will be required to leave that home for another one, with the added expense of having to re-install all the special adaptations).

Pensioners will not be affected – unless they are part of a couple and the partner is below pension age, after Universal Credit is introduced.

The size criteria that will be applied means housing benefit wil be restricted to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household. However:

Children under 16, who are either both boys or both girls, will be expected to share. This will undoubtedly create many family feuds as puberty is not known for its calming effect on young people.

Children under 10 will be expected to share, regardless of gender. Again, this will create problems for families. It is not a normal situation and it seems bizarre for the government to suggest that it should be.

On the ‘plus’ side, a disabled tenant or partner who needs a non-resident overnight carer will be allowed an extra bedroom for that carer.   If you have a ‘spare’ bedroom under the new rules, you will lose 14 per cent of your housing benefit; for two or more extra bedrooms, you’ll lose a quarter of your benefit. According to the government’s impact assessment, this means 660,000 people will lose an average of £14 per week (£16 for housing association tenants).

Now for the complications.

After Universal Credit is brought in, if only one member of a couple is over pension age, the bedroom tax will apply to the household. If one is receiving Pension Credit, they will be unaffected.

There are currently six different rates of ‘non-dependent deductions’ – amounts removed from housing benefit according to the earnings of people aged over 18 who live in a household but are not dependent on the tenant for financial support. This will become one flat-rate ‘housing cost contribution’ that will be deducted from housing benefit. It will not apply to anyone aged under 21.

Under UC, each adult non-dependent will get their own room, but each must pay the full, flat-rate housing cost contribution – unless aged under 21 and therefore exempt.

Under UC, lodgers will not get a room allowance but any income is disregarded. They will not count as occupying a room under size criteria rules. Currently any income is taken into account and deducted pound for pound from benefit, apart from the first £20. As this income is completely disregarded under UC, my best guess is that the government expects this amount to cover any loss in both housing benefit and Universal Credit. I have a doubt about that. Taking in a lodger will also affect home contents insurance policies, potentially invalidating them or raising the premiums.

Bedroom tax will not apply in joint tenancy cases.

Until UC comes in, benefits will be protected for up to 52 weeks after death; afterwards the run-on will be three months.

And until UC comes in, tenants will receive 13 weeks’ protection where they could previously afford the rent and housing benefit has not been claimed in the previous year; afterwards, the size criteria will apply immediately.   Pre-1989 tenancies are not exempt from the bedroom tax.

Those are the facts relating to this particular benefit change. There are others which will also affect your ability to keep your home, but – concentrating on this for a moment – you’re probably already screaming “What does it MEAN?” in frustration at your screen.

If you’re on a low income, aged over 40 with children who have left home, or disabled, you could be not only slightly but severely and unfairly affected. It seems likely you will have to choose to either pay the extra amount, or move. It seems likely that I will be in this category, so be assured that I sympathise completely with everyone else in the same situation.

And there will be many, many people who are. Surveys say around a third of tenants will try to move, mainly to one-bedroom properties. This is far more than the government has anticipated in its planning.

Here’s where things get suspicious: There is a national shortage of one bedroom council and housing association homes, meaning many tenants will have no choice but to move into the more expensive private sector or stay put – even though they will not be able to afford the extra costs.

The majority will stay put, but nearly eight-tenths (80 per cent) of those are worried about going into debt, with two-fifths (40 per cent) fearing they will accumulate rent arrears.

The evidence shows that, whether you move or stay put, landlords will lose income, which in turn means evictions and homelessness will increase. This is my belief. We will see a lot of people going homeless at the same time as a lot of houses go empty.

In fact, homelessness is already on the rise – as it always is under a Conservative government. According to the National Housing Federation – the umbrella organisation for housing associations in England – there has been a leap of nearly 50 per cent in the number of families forced into B&Bs. Between January and March this year, they totalled 3,960, compared with 2,750 during the same period in 2011. That number will escalate under the new legislation.

Any fool can see that this is madness. The logical choice has to be that people, who would otherwise go homeless, should be housed in buildings that would otherwise go empty.

But we are under the heel of a government that has little to do with sanity. The sane choice – in order to keep housing benefit payments down – is to cap rents at a particular, affordable, level. This way, landlords receive a steady amount of money, tenants keep their homes, and housing benefit remains manageable. But the government cannot tolerate this as it is deemed to be unwarranted interference in the market. Never mind the fact that the market could collapse if enough homes go empty! The idea is that the steady drive to increase rents will attract people rich enough to afford them. Again, one wonders where these people are and how they will be able to pay. Also, every price bubble eventually pops, so sooner or later – again – we’ll have a lot of homeless people on the streets while buildings go empty and (eventually) derelict.

Am I painting a depressing picture? Let’s add to the misery by reminding you that housing benefit is being withdrawn for everybody aged under 25. The assumption is that they will return to the family home if they can’t afford their rent – but that is a big assumption. There may be reasons they cannot do so (I’m sure you can imagine some for yourself). what do they do then? Housing benefit itself is being capped. And then there is the Localism Act and its effect on Council Tax payments. From responses to my previous article about the so-called ‘Pickles Poll Tax’, you will be able to see that some councils will add as much as 30 per cent of the council tax bill to the costs of those tenants who currently receive full council tax benefit, regardless of whether they can afford to pay. And has anybody said anything recently about the plan to cap all benefits at £500-per-week-per-household?

If you want to call on the government to axe the bedroom tax, there is an e-petition against it: http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/33438