This one is an absolute cracker. Here’s SPeye Joe:
Iain Duncan Smith has knowingly and deliberately lied to parliament. He is a liar as can so easily be proven. I make no bones either about calling him a liar and a deliberate and knowing one and I refuse to use euphemisms such as being economical with the truth and the like – he is a liar as the figures below highlight and in just a simple 10 minute blog using official figures that he produces!
Joe won’t get any argument from this part of the Internet. Vox Political rightly named Iain Duncan Smith a liar all the way back in May 2013. But Joe has him over a barrel:
He lied over the bedroom tax… IDS claims A saving of £830m so far as at yesterday. The absolute maximum… is £615.87 million so IDS has stated a figure AT LEAST 35% MORE THAN IS THE MAXIMUM POSSIBLE.
IDS claims the full first two years saving to be £1 billion. Yet the absolute maximum saving is £736.228 million and again 35% MORE THAN IS THE MAXIMUM POSSIBLE.
Take away the DHP costs which for the first two years for bedroom tax are £115 million and we see the maximum possible saving is £621m over two full years (£736m – £115m)
So IDS has told parliament that the ‘saving’ is 61 PER CENT HIGHER THAN IT CAN POSSIBLY BE
Yes he is lying and knowingly lying through his teeth.
Standing in the shadow of a giant: Vox Political’s Mike Sivier (front) at ‘Cooper Corner’, with Caerphilly Castle in the background.
Vox Political was relatively quiet yesterday; although I reblogged plenty of articles from other sources, there was no new piece from the site itself because I was in Caerphilly, delivering a speech at a Bedroom Tax protest there.
Caerphilly is the birthplace of the late, great comic Tommy Cooper, and it was in the shadow of his statue that the demonstration took place. I instantly (and privately) named the location ‘Cooper Corner’.
I took the opportunity to lighten proceedings at the start by suggesting that Mr Cooper (albeit in petrified effigy) would be providing the jokes. I held the microphone up towards the statue. “Anything? No? No. I didn’t think so.” Turning back to the crowd I added: “The Bedroom Tax is no laughing matter.” Then I got into the body of the speech:
“I write a small blog called Vox Political. I started it a couple of years ago as an attempt to put in writing what a reasonable, thinking person might have to say about government policies in these years of forced austerity, and politics in general.
“As you can probably imagine, this means I knew about the Bedroom Tax, several months before it was actually imposed on us all. I was writing articles warning people against it from October 2012. The trouble was, Vox Political is a small blog that even now has only a few thousand readers a day – and the mainstream media has been almost entirely bought by a political machine with far more funding than I have.
“It is a tax, by the way. You may have heard a lot of nonsense that it isn’t, but consider it this way: a tax is defined as a compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government against a citizen’s person, property or activity, to support government policies.
“It is not a ‘spare-room subsidy’. If anyone in authority tries to tell you you’re having your ‘spare-room subsidy’ removed (or more likely, imposed, they’re so confused about this), just tell them to go and find the Act of Parliament that introduced the ‘spare room subsidy’, using those words. Tell them if they can find it, you’ll pay it – but if they can’t, they must not take any money away from you. They won’t be able to find it because it doesn’t exist.
“It is more accurately described as the ‘State Underoccupation Charge’ – SUC! And it really does suck.
“It sucks money that social housing tenants need for food, heat, water and other necessities out of their pockets and forces them to send it to their landlord instead – either the local council or a social landlord like a housing association. The reasoning behind it has always been that this would encourage people to move, but in fact we know that there is no social accommodation for them to move into. When the Bedroom Tax became law, there was only enough smaller housing to accommodate around 15 per cent of the affected households. It is clearly a trap, designed to make poor people poorer.
“This is why the first advice I put on my blog was for anyone affected by the Bedroom Tax to appeal against it – and I was criticised quite harshly for it, because some people decided such action would mark tenants out as troublemakers and create more problems for them. At the time, I thought it was right to give some of the aggravation back to the people who were foisting this additional burden onto lower-income families; make them work for it, if they want it so badly. As it turns out, I was right to do so, because there are so many loopholes in the legislation that it seems almost anybody could avoid paying!
“Do you think Stephanie Bottrill would have died if she had known that she could successfully appeal against her Bedroom Tax, on the grounds that she had been a social housing tenant since before January 1996 and was therefore exempt? The government spitefully closed that particular loophole earlier this month, but that lady is already dead, due to a lie. Had she been properly informed, she could have successfully fought it off and then taken advice on how to cope with it after the government amendment was brought in.
“There is a case for corporate manslaughter against the Department for Work and Pensions, right there. If tested in court, it seems likely that the way its activities have been managed and organised by senior management – the fact that it foisted the Bedroom Tax, wrongly, on this lady – will be found to have led to her death, in gross breach of its duty of care to those who claim state benefits (in this case, Housing Benefit).
“David Cameron has wasted a great deal of oxygen telling us all that disabled people are not affected by the tax. Perhaps he could explain why a disabled gentleman in my home town was forced to move out of his specially-adapted home, incurring not only the cost of moving but an extra £5,000 for removing the adaptations and installing them into new accommodation? He appealed against Bedroom Tax decision but the result came back after the date when he had to be out of his home. Can you guess what it was? That’s right – he won. I have been trying to get him to take legal action against the council and the government about this as it would be an important test case.
“It includes a study, a utility room, a play room, even an Iain Duncan Smith voodoo doll-making room, if that takes your fancy!
“I was particularly happy to hear that you can have a study as I’ve been writing my blog from the broom cupboard – oh! That’s another room you can have!
“Check the DWP’s online forms. They ask about bedrooms, and then they ask about other rooms. The distinction is clear.”
Then I closed the speech. In retrospect, I should have finished with a few words about the fact that this was the first bit of public speaking I had ever done. I could have given them something along these lines: “I am aware that speech-making is a lucrative sideline for many people, including comedians (although I’m not aware that Mr Cooper ever made any) and also politicians. Perhaps I should use this platform to suggest that, if you know anybody who is considering booking a speaker for a special occasion – society dinner, rugby club social, wedding or party, why not ask them to get in touch with me – instead of Iain Duncan Smith!”
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Demonstrating for justice: Campaigners against the Bedroom Tax gathered outside Parliament while MPs debated it inside.
“I’m amazed Labour have chosen to spend their allotted day in Parliament arguing for more unfunded spending on housing benefit.” That’s what Matt Hancock, Conservative MP for West Sussex, had to say about the Opposition Day debate on the Bedroom Tax in the House of Commons on November 12.
Hancock is, it seems, author of a book entitled Masters of Nothing, which sums up his understanding of the situation rather well. He clearly has not mastered the fact that the State Under-Occupation Charge will not save money. He has not mastered the fact that emptying dwellings of their current owners will not make them available to new familes as these people are afraid they will themselves be tipped onto the street when their circumstances change – instead the premises will be left empty, at huge cost to social landlords; and he has not mastered the fact that anyone evicted because of the tax will become a burden on local authorities, who have a duty to rehouse them in bed and breakfast accommodation, even though the money provided to them for this purpose by the government is ludicrously inadequate to the task.
Hancock is not alone in having misconceptions about the Bedroom Tax. Most, if not all, of the Conservatives who spoke during the debate uttered howlers – and the purpose of this article is to name them and explain why they should be ashamed of their words.
Please take the opportunity, Dear Reader, to look for your own MP in the catalogue of calamity that follows, then use it to attack them in their own consituency. Let’s make them realise that actions have consequences.
If you don’t have a Tory MP, feel free to use what follows in order to make sure you never have to put up with one.
We begin with Tobias Ellwood (Bournemouth East) who asked of Rachel Reeves: “What does she say to the almost 400,000 families who are living in overcrowded situations when they look over their shoulders at the almost one million spare bedrooms in Britain?”
The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary responded without hesitation: “I say that instead of presiding over the lowest rate of house building since the 1920s, this Government should get on and build some houses.”
The Minister of State, Steve Webb, came back to this point later, saying: “Who was doing the house building for 13 years?” Well, we all know who hasn’t been doing it for the last three.
Mr Ellwood said the Tax was brought in because the cost of housing benefit was rising alarmingly: “After 13 years of Labour the cost of housing benefit doubled to £21 billion. That is unacceptable. The cost to taxpayers was £900 per household. The system was getting out of control.” His failure is that he refused to accept the explanation offered by Labour’s Katy Clark – that this was due to the rising cost of rent in the private sector (private rents have indeed been rising massively and the government refuses to take action because this would interfere with the market. Bizarrely, the Conservative-led Coalition seems to believe it is acceptable to pay huge gobs of housing benefit to private landlords – who make unreasonable demands – and then blame social renting tenants for it). He also, by inference, rejected the evidence that the Bedroom Tax will not save any money.
Mr Ellwood also referred to the deficit run by the Labour government of 1997-2010. He said: “Labour lived beyond its means. In 2002-03, it spent £26 billion beyond its means. Four years later that rose to £33 billion. In its final year of office, the deficit rose to £156 billion. That always accumulates.”
This is disingenuous. As he must know, not only did Labour run a lower deficit than the Conservative governments of both Thatcher and Major (average 41 per cent of gross domestic product) from 1997 to 2007, it also made a surplus in the 2000-2001 financial year – something that the previous Conservative governments never did. This means Labour actually paid off some of the debts that had been accumulating. With that pedigree, even the 43 per cent deficit of 2008 looks respectable. The higher deficits of 2009 and 2010 were entirely caused by the bankster-instigated financial crisis, when the actions taken by Labour were entirely supported by the Conservative Party.
He went on to condemn Labour for voting against £83 billion of welfare savings; if the reasoning for them was as shaky as that for the Bedroom Tax (and it was; see previous VP articles) then Labour was quite right to do so!
It should be noted that the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, was not present at the debate. RTU (as we like to call him) was woofing it up in Paris, rather than accounting for his misbehaviour to the taxpayer.
Mrs Anne Main (St Albans) echoed a comment by Mr Webb, but did it in such an inept way that we’ll look at her words rather than his. Following Labour’s Stephen Twigg, she referred to the too-low allocation of Discretionary Housing Payment to families having to cope with the Bedroom Tax: “Perhaps he would like to speak to his Labour-run Liverpool council and ask why, when it received £892,000 in discretionary housing payments last year, it actually sent back £337,000.”
Mr Twigg put her straight: “Does she accept that the figures that she has given are from before the bedroom tax was introduced? This year, Liverpool city council will certainly spend the entire discretionary housing pot.”
His words echoed fellow Labour MP Lucy Powell, who had previously berated Mr Webb: “The Minister incorrectly gave figures for last year—the bedroom tax was introduced only in April. I was talking about money that will come back this year. I can guarantee that the Minister will not be getting any money back from Manchester this year — the year of the bedroom tax.”
Referring to the 400,000 disabled people affected by the Bedroom Tax, Mrs Reeves said 100,000 disabled people live in properties specially adapted for their disability, but the average grant issued by local authorities for adaptations to homes [when they are forced to move out by the Bedroom Tax] stands at £6,000. The total cost of doing the adaptations all over again could run into tens of millions of pounds.
At this moment, Heather Wheeler (South Derbyshire), said while seated: “They’re exempt.”
The response: “The hon. Lady said from a sedentary position that disabled people are exempt, but she would not say it when she was on her feet because she knows it is not true.” In Vox Political‘s home constituency, at least one disabled person has already been evicted because of the Bedroom Tax.
Philip Davies (also known as ‘Stupid of Shipley’) weighed in with a shocking error, in an attempt to attack his local housing association and its director, a Labour MP: “Does the Minister agree that the spare room subsidy is one reason why we do not have the right mix of housing? Social housing providers could build houses as big as they wanted, knowing that the Government would cover the full bill irrespectively. In that respect, does he deplore the social housing provider in my area, of which a Labour MP is a director? It complains on the one hand that it has too many three-bedroom houses—”
That’s as far as he got, and just as well. Let’s go through this one more time: The ‘spare room subsidy’ is a fiction. It never existed and therefore could never have been abolished by the Conservative-led Coalition government. Being entirely make-believe, it could never have affected the decisions of social housing providers. This is just one of the many reasons why Mr Davies is rightly considered to be one of the biggest twits in the Tory Party (among hefty competition). Another might be his claim that disabled people should work for less than the minimum wage.
David TC Davies (Monmouth) complained: “Opposition Members… do not want to talk about the fact that they introduced a measure like this for the private sector.”
He was among many Tories who complained about this apparent double-standard. Labour members reminded them that the Bedroom Tax is retrospective (affecting people currently in social housing) while the private-sector measure was for new tenants only. One may also ask why, if these Conservatives were so disturbed by the apparent discrepancy, they were not calling for this earlier measure to be scrapped as well.
George Hollingbery (Meon Valley) said: “We need to pose ourselves a question: what is dealing with the spare room subsidy about? Is it about reducing the housing benefit bill? Yes, of course it is. The Government propose a £500 million saving, which is important.”
It is important, because Conservatives seemed confused throughout the debate about whether they were trying to sort out overcrowding by putting people into appropriate accommodation, or trying to save money. The two are mutually exclusive. The only way to make money on the policy is for people to remain locked in housing that, thanks to the Bedroom Tax, is now too expensive for them – but this cannot last because they will soon be evicted for non-payment of rent. Moving people around, so that nobody is under-occupying, will result in a higher housing benefit bill because more people will be claiming – the original tenants in their new properties (which, if they are run by private landlords, will be more expensive) and the new tenants who will be occupying to the limit of a property’s capability and therefore may claim the full amount of housing benefit. Either way, Mr Hollingberry’s claim of a £500 million saving is pie-in-the-sky.
Margot James (Stourbridge) made a proper fool of herself. She said: “The Opposition… want to position the end of the subsidy and the creation of a level playing field between all recipients of social housing support as a modern day poll tax.” This is the least of her mistakes as some Labour members may have suggested such a thing; in fact it is Eric Pickles’ Council Tax Reduction Scheme that is the modern-day Poll Tax, because every household must now towards it.
Margot James went on to deny that the Bedroom Tax is a tax, saying: “A tax is a government levy on somebody’s income, whereas we are clearly talking about reducing a subsidy.” This is wrong on two counts. Firstly, there has been no subsidy to reduce – unless she was referring to housing benefit in its entirety. The spare room subsidy is, as already mentioned, as mythical as the “unicorns and fairies” to which Anne Main referred when she tried to dismiss the existence of the under-occupation charge as a tax on bedrooms. Both ladies are wrong, because a tax may also be defined as a government levy on property owned or used by a citizen (such as, say, a bedroom). So – not quite as mythical as unicorns and fairies. One has to wonder why Mrs Main mentioned these, as she has clearly been away with the fairies herself.
Kwasi Kwarteng (Spelthorne) breezed in from another committee to provide the benefit of his own ignorance. He asked: “Is it fair that someone on a low income who is in privately rented accommodation should pay taxes in order to subsidise someone else’s spare room? Is it fair to raise taxation from low-paid workers to subsidise other people’s accommodation?”
The answer, of course, is yes. It is fair. In fact, it is a principle of our system of taxation. Everybody pays into the national treasury, in order to allow the state to provide services – such as housing – for those in need. This may be a detail that current Tories have missed, considering the government’s vigorous attempts to write the highest earners out of taxation altogether. If he wanted to help low-waged people in private rented housing, the answer to that is also simple: cap their rents.
And doesn’t he know that the very low-paid have been lifted out of taxation by his own government, as the Coalition has been raising the threshold for payment of income tax every year, aiming to reach a target of £10,000 income per annum by 2015.
At the end of the day, the motion to scrap the Bedroom Tax was lost by 26 votes. Some have already said that Labour could have won it if all members had been present, but that was never really on the cards; the government has the numbers, even if some Liberal Democrats (like VP‘s own MP, Roger Williams) abstained.
So what are we to make of it all? Simply this: The Conservatives do not have a credible narrative to describe what the Bedroom Tax is about. It doesn’t save money; it won’t put people into appropriate accommodation; and it certainly won’t cut homelessness!
Work out what it’s really about, and you will understand why they are so desperate to keep it.
Housing associations are finding three-bedroomed properties impossible to maintain. They cannot let them out, sell them or keep up with the costs of keeping them while they are empty.
All of this has serious implications for the Coalition government that voted the Bedroom Tax onto the statute books as part of Mr ‘Returned To Unit’ Smith’s hugely unpopular – and now proving to be unworkable – Welfare Reform Act last year.
Labour’s Rachel Reeves has overcome a shaky start in her role as shadow Work and Pensions Secretary to get right on-message with this. According to The Guardian report, she said: “This incompetent and out of touch government seems oblivious to the perverse and costly consequences of this unjust and unworkable policy.
“Not only is it hitting 660,000 vulnerable households, including 440,000 disabled people; the costs to the taxpayer are mounting as people are pushed into more expensive private rented accommodation while existing social homes are left vacant.”
Surely it makes more sense to have someone living in these properties, rather than losing them altogether? Does the government have an answer for this?
Apparently not. A government spokes-robot trotted out the same tired nonsense we’ve all come to despise: “The removal of the spare room subsidy is a necessary reform that will return fairness to housing benefit. We’ve been clear that hardworking people should not be subsidising tenants living in properties that are too large for their requirements.”
Let’s all remember that there never was a spare room subsidy for the government to remove. It never existed. Therefore its removal is not a necessary reform; it can never be vital to remove something that is fictional. Also, the removal of a fictional thing cannot restore fairness anywhere.
Hard-working people probably shouldn’t be subsidising tenants who are under-occupying, but then hard-working people were never the only ones paying for this to happen. Everybody in the UK pays taxes one way or another – even children.
And while we’re on the subject of what hard-working people subsidise, why is it bad for them to help people stay in the social housing that was originally allocated to them, but good for them to help massive corporations keep their payroll costs down by paying tax credits, housing benefit and council tax reduction costs for people earning less than the Living Wage? Why is it good for them to pay the cost of MPs’ energy bills as well as their own?
“Consent from the Homes and Communities Agency is required before any social housing provider can dispose of a site on which social housing stood and will ensure that public investment and the needs of tenants are protected,” the robot continued, but we should all know that this will be no obstacle.
Demolition of social housing means land becomes available for private developers to build new, luxury homes for the very rich.
The Department for Work and Pensions is heralding the result of a new poll as proof that a large majority of people support its controversial Bedroom Tax policy – in fact the findings prove nothing of the sort.
Headlined (incorrectly) ‘Poll shows support for removal of spare room subsidy’ – there is no such thing as a spare room subsidy so it cannot be removed – yesterday’s press release relies on some not-so-subtle wordplay and the gullibility of the reader to make its case.
If you want to find out how many people supported the government’s policy, you’ll have to look somewhere else because it is not directly identified anywhere in the article.
“New independent research shows there is strong public support for reducing under-occupation and overcrowding in social housing,” it begins – and this is fair enough.
People do indeed want to reduce under-occupation in social housing – but we have seen, time and time again, that people think there must be adequate social housing available for people who want, or need, to move. This is not what the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government are offering.
Instead, people are being told they can either move into smaller, privately-rented accommodation that will create more expense for the government, or if this is unavailable, pay the Bedroom Tax at 14 per cent of their eligible rent for one room and 25 per cent for two or more. Whatever they do, they end up having to pay more. That is not reasonable.
“In a poll [of 2,021 people] conducted by Ipsos MORI, 78% of respondents said they thought it was important to tackle the problem, which has led to nearly one-third of social housing tenants who receive Housing Benefit living in homes that are too big for their needs,” the article continues.
What problem is this, then? The problem of people occupying social rented properties that are too large for them, as the ConDems want you to believe? Or the problem of successive governments failing to build social housing that is adequate for the needs of the population? The latter seems more likely, don’t you think?
None of the information around that 78 per cent figure suggests that 1,576 people support the Bedroom Tax. I happen to believe it is important to tackle the bottleneck, in order to relieve the overcrowding issue. The Bedroom Tax won’t do that, though. It will just take money from poor people.
Was support for the Bedroom Tax indicated anywhere in these results? No. The closest we get is: “The polling also found that 54% agreed that it is fair that people of working age, who live in social housing, should receive less Housing Benefit if they have more bedrooms than they need.” Even this does not suggest that those questioned agreed with the amount the government is taking from hardworking social tenants.
Curiously, the same proportion of those polled – 54 per cent – said they believed “the coalition government’s removal of the spare room subsidy policy will encourage those receiving less housing benefit to improve their personal situation by, for example, finding work.”
There are a couple of points to make here. Firstly – there is no policy to remove the spare room subsidy because, as previously mentioned, the spare room subsidy has never existed. Secondly, the idea that people can find work (or find better-paying work) is a bad joke.
Only yesterday, a staffer at my local Job Centre was heard admitting that their office had received no new job advertisements in several weeks, and there is no evidence that this is a unique case. It is unrealistic to suggest this as a reasonable way out.
The fact that both these questions received 54 per cent support leads one to question how many of the respondents were affected by the Tax. My guess would be 46 per cent or less. The other 46 per cent, of course.
DWP ministerial rentamouth Esther McVey was on hand to provide the commentary (Iain Duncan Smith is still in hiding, one presumes). She said: “This shows that the public agree that action was needed to tackle overcrowding and to make better use of our housing stock.” Except, as already pointed out, it doesn’t show that the public agree with the government.
She added: “We have seen our Housing Benefit bill exceed £24 billion – an increase of 50% in just 10 years – and this had to be brought under control.”
The Bedroom Tax will do nothing in this respect – in fact, the bill may increase (people moving into private rented property would receive more benefit, and people who have been evicted because they can’t pay their bills after the Tax was imposed will be a burden on councils, who will have to put them up in more expensive B&B accommodation).
Also, increasing numbers of working people are being forced to claim housing benefit because companies are making sure their wages are too low to provide a decent living. Almost a million working people were claiming housing benefit in May this year, and that figure seems sure to have been exceeded by the time the next set of statistics is released on November 13 (Wednesday).
Apparently it is bad for unemployed people to claim the benefits they deserve, but perfectly fine for companies to have the lousy wages they pay topped up at the taxpayers’ expense.
His “furious” letter states that the corporation has been misleading viewers because the phrase is “innately politically and indeed factually wrong”.
Oh, is it, Iain?
Let’s have a look at his reason for saying this: “A tax, as the Oxford English Dictionary makes clear, is a ‘compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the government on workers’ income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services and transactions’.”
That’s right – and the state under-occupation charge (to give it it’s correct title) is a compulsory contribution to state revenue, added to the cost of a service. In this case, the service is rental of a dwelling. There can be no doubt that the contribution is compulsory, and it is clearly the state that receives (or rather, keeps) the money.
It is a tax. And we can say that, since the number of spare bedrooms in a dwelling is used to apply the charge, it is a bedroom tax. It’s the same principle as was used to describe the ‘Window Tax’ of the 19th century or thereabouts.
Some pundits have stated that it cannot be a tax because it is not paid by everybody, but this is also nonsense. Does everybody pay Inheritance Tax, or Capital Gains Tax? No. Even the corporations don’t pay Corporation Tax any more, according to all the reports we hear about tax avoidance!
And it may also be stated that the BBC is simply reflecting public parlance in its use of the phrase. People do not talk about the “underoccupation charge” or the “removal of the spare room subsidy” – they talk about the Bedroom Tax.
So RTU can whine all he likes; the BBC is factually correct in using the phrase, and it also reflects public custom in doing so.
His letter continues by claiming the BBC has adopted the language of the Opposition, stating, “We do not believe it is the job of the BBC to use misleading terms and promote the views of the Labour Party.”
Again, he is wrong to claim that the BBC has a left-wing bias. You may get tired of reading this, Dear Reader, but research by Cardiff University has shown that “The BBC tends to reproduce a Conservative, Eurosceptic, pro-business version of the world, not a left-wing, anti-business agenda”. Read the report for yourself.
The Daily Mail goes on to report that former Immigration Minister Damian Green has been unhappy with the Beeb’s reporting of immigration data, saying it was “mystifying” that a 36,000 drop in migration was described as “slight”.
And Mr Green might have had a little more sympathy for the BBC report if he had bothered to read the latest information on immigration by the Office for National Statistics, which stated that a drop of 39,000 long-term migrants between December 2011 and December 2012 was “not a statistically significant fall”. This is the information used by his government.
Of course we all know the reason for this latest round of BBC-bashing – the Tories are putting out a ‘marker’ for the general election.
They are telling the BBC, in no uncertain terms: “Behave. We don’t want any trouble from you in the run-up to May 2015 – just nice stories saying how great we are. Otherwise it will go badly for you after the election.”
Considering the evidence that the BBC already has a right-wing, Conservative-supporting viewpoint, it would be perfectly understandable if any high-ranking member of the corporation, receiving that message, did the exact opposite.
These Tories are ungrateful. They should know it is impossible for the BBC to hide the vast amount of cock-ups, miscalculations and intentional harm they have inflicted on the nation in the last three years. Attempted intimidation can’t alter the facts.
But then, threats are a part of the Tory way of life – especially for Iain Duncan Smith.
That is clear to anyone who has spent a few months signing unemployed at a Job Centre.
Labour doesn’t need to justify scrapping the bedroom tax beyond stating the fact that it is an unjust measure designed to inflict misery upon the lowest-earning citizens of the UK while conferring no discernible benefit on the state.
Therefore Ed Miliband’s insistence on pandering to the Coa-lamity government’s narrative by trying to say where he would find the money to make the move possible may be seen as a mistake; there is no evidence that the bedroom tax has saved a single penny and every reason to believe that it will be a greater burden on the taxpayer in the long run.
Labour failed to attack the claim that the bedroom tax was saving money and we should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail.
He should have pointed out that the Coalition government’s claim – that the tax negates differences between social rented accommodation and the private sector – is nonsense and we should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail.
And he should have pointed out that the Coalition’s claim – that the bedroom tax and other changes would cut the cost of Housing Benefit by £2 billion – is also nonsense; that bill was £20.8 billion in 2010 when the claim was made so, with the current cost at more than £23 billion, the bill is now £5 billion above the Coalition’s target without showing any signs of coming down. We should question the wisdom of Miliband’s advisors in omitting this detail, also.
Or rather, he should question their wisdom.
There will be a time for that, but this isn’t it.
Those arguments don’t matter right now.
The fact is that he said the bedroom tax is unfair and a Labour government would end it – and he said it after a United Nations investigator made exactly the same claim. Labour has brought itself in line with UN findings and now the Coalition has been cast as a rogue government, acting against legally-binding international agreements which Labour would uphold.
But let’s just have a look at that mistake again. Labour said it would be able to axe the bedroom tax because it would save money by other means – ending a tax break for hedge funds and cutting short the new shares-for-rights scheme currently being thrust at company employees by the Treasury.
These are things that Labour would do anyway. The bedroom tax is just an excuse – in the same way that the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats put up an excuse for inflicting it on the poor, the sick and the disabled in the first place. It’s basically Miliband and the rest of the Labour Party offering the Conservatives and their little yellow friends a taste of their own medicine.
That gives them credibility.
And, if these measures really can boost public funds by £2 billion, then Labour will have found a way to do what the Coalition could not, because the bedroom tax was always likely to cost more money than it saved, for reasons well-discussed in the past.
Hedge funds are a rich seam of cash, ripe for mining by politicians because they aim to make money whether the market is moving up or down. The means by which they do this are extremely questionable and can artificially engineer collapses in company share prices, so it is right that a punitive tax regime should be imposed upon them.
That means that Labour’s plan really has been costed in a reasonable way. Costed and credible – just as Miliband claimed.
And the Treasury knows it. Look at its response – an unfounded, nonsense claim that Labour would tax pensions and borrow more money to fund the change.
Sajid Javid came out with this rubbish on the BBC’s news website. His credibility is already shaky and his claim has done nothing to improve that situation for him.
Business minister Matthew Hancock also got in the ring, but flailed wildly around with another nonsense claim that ending the bedroom tax would lead to higher taxes and higher mortgage rates.
He doesn’t matter. Javid doesn’t matter. A Department for Work and Pensions spokeswoman said something as well, but that doesn’t matter either because nobody believes a single word those people say.
The Guardian is currently running a poll asking members of the public to vote on whether the bedroom tax should be scrapped. A massive 91 per cent of voters want rid of it.
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…
[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.
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.
“Not even this much”: Iain Duncan Smith demonstrates how much he cares about the damage his policies are doing to public health, and to the public finances. (Image: Evening Standard)
When it comes to Iain Duncan Smith, it seems the point still isn’t being made forcefully enough.
So let us be perfectly clear: This man is a liability to the United Kingdom. He is costing this country billions of pounds with his failed pet projects like Universal Credit, his contracted-out work programmes that are more likely to hinder people looking for a job then get them into one, and even his enormous expenses claims – £39, just for breakfast!
Now it seems he has lied to Parliament – yet again. He told the House of Commons, and the country at large, that his Department for Work and Pensions expected to write off £34 million of investment in the IT systems being developed to administer his real-time, six-benefits-in-one Universal Credit. The actual amount, revealed to Parliament’s public accounts committee yesterday, is more like £161 million.
Not only that, but he was lying when he said he had been monitoring the project constantly. If that is true, then why was a civil servant’s personal assistant allowed to sign off contracts when the responsibility lay with himself, or at least his ministers?
Even more damning, it seems the DWP has spent the last six months sitting on this information, rather than actually doing anything about it!
And this odious little liar last week tried to blame the civil service for Universal Credit’s failure. He is a lower form of life than an intestinal worm.
He described her call to abolish the tax as “outrageous”, claiming that it undermined the impartiality of the UN. Isn’t it more accurate to say that she has revealed the truth, and now he is panicking?
He said he wanted UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon to investigate Ms Rolnik’s conduct – a line already pointlessly taken by Grant Shapps, all of whose claims were lies, as we discovered yesterday.
In the Daily Mail, he said she had not asked ministers or officials for their input, adding: “I find it staggering that without this official information Mrs Rolnik feels she is in a position to be able to properly prescribe what the future of the policy should be.” In fact, she met many officials and government representatives, all of whom are listed in her preliminary report.
So IDS – or RTU, as we like to describe him here (it refers to Army personnel who are Returned To Unit for failing to make the grade) – has lied again. And he joined a deeply dodgy cadre of Conservatives in denouncing her for – among other things – being born in a country with worse deprivation than the UK. Doesn’t that put her in an excellent position to point out the faults in our system?
But then, what can we expect from this vile creature. There are strains of syphilis with more charm and social grace.
Is the point made yet?
Back in May, Vox Political published ‘Iain Duncan Smith has committed contempt of Parliament and should be expelled’. That article has been read by more than 12,600 people who almost unanimously supported it. Now we see that he has shown the same contempt, to Parliament, to the British people, and now to a respected and senior United Nations representative. Go back and refresh your memory if you need to do so.
Is the point made now?
No, it probably isn’t.
The fact of the matter is that most people won’t care, because most people don’t think they are affected by the disasters Iain Duncan Smith is inflicting on us.
They are wrong.
Just go back and consider the cost of all his mistakes: Billions of pounds wasted. Possibly tens of billions, when you consider the cumulative effect (although this would be a hard concept for him; he has resisted all attempts to get his Department to provide a cumulative assessment of his regressive changes’ effect on this country’s poor for many months, claiming it would be “too difficult”).
Tens of billions of pounds have been wasted on his so-called attempts to cut the benefit bill, while that bill has increased, year on year, because of his government’s policies.
As Adlai Stevenson said of Nixon (and the comparison to Nixon is well-deserved): “He is the kind of politician who would cut down a redwood tree and then mount the stump to make a speech for conservation.”
This hypocrite does not speak for you. He doesn’t speak for the taxpayers because he is robbing them of their hard-earned money and wasting it despicably. He doesn’t speak for the unemployed, the sick or the disabled because he is a social darwinist who would steal a wheelchair to see how the owner managed without it. He doesn’t speak for Parliament because he has lied to Parliament.
Why aren’t you demanding his dismissal in your millions?
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