MSP writes to Chancellor in plea to drop ‘bedroom tax’ from budget

Yesterday, 14th March, a Scottish Multiple Sclerosis sufferer was notified that she will lose part of her benefits payments to cover the cost of her spare room – yet, as her condition deteriorates, her partner and carer will need to be in a separate room.

West Scotland MSP, Stuart McMillan wrote yesterday to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne MP, highlighting his concerns over the UK Government’s welfare reforms – which include the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ proposal.

A series of MSPs of all parties have protested about this ill-considered tax on benefits. including local MSP Michael Russell.

This week the trial is progressing of Mick and Mairead Philpott, accused of setting fire to their own home with the consequent death of six of Mr Philpott’s children with his mistress and his wife.

The motive is said to have been to discredit his former mistress who had moved out of a menage a trois in the house in question and was contesting custody of five of the children, who were hers with Mr Philpott. It has been suggested that the dispute at issue was less custody of the children than custody of the child benefit allowance they attracted.

it would make far more sense simply to pay child benefit for a maximum of two children than to impose this silly and indiscriminate ‘bedroom tax’. Local authorities must house the homeless and the needy as best they can. They do not have  – could not have – the housing of all sizes that would allow them accurately to match people to home size, giving each no more than their bare needs.

The only alternative for those issued with notification of this tax is to be rehomed. Supposing there is nowhere else available?

This is a particularly mean spirited move – in the context of a cultural approach to room sizes in social housing and indeed in much of the private market, that is pinched in the extreme.

Stuart McMillan says: ‘The introduction of the ‘Bedroom Tax’ alongside the other damaging cuts to the Welfare Budget, will negatively impact on disabled people and the most vulnerable groups in our society.

‘Disabled people should be able to live in a dignified manner with the support of our Government.  However, as the statistics highlight. they will be the real victims of this unfair tax

‘Children are also set to be affected as separating parents are forced to move individually in to smaller accommodation – which could see the children sleeping on a sofa when they visit their non-resident parent.

‘I have therefore written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer to urge him to use his budget statement on March 20th to change the Government’s policy on this costly proposal.’

The full text of Mr McMillan’s letter to the Chancellor is here: Letter to the Chancellor – Bedroom Tax – 14th March 2013.

Like the Poll Tax, which brought the ruination of the previously powerful Conservative party in Scotland, the ‘Bedroom Tax’ is politically unwinnable without taking serious damage. Any politician with a nose for what is possible and what is impossible would see the sense of pulling back from this one.

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10 Responses to MSP writes to Chancellor in plea to drop ‘bedroom tax’ from budget

  1. I realise that this is a tough ‘tax’ but surely it is better for those who are currently permanently sleeping on sofas to have adequate accommodation over those who may only need to do so at weekends.

    Also, there’s the discretionary payments that all local authorities have after assessing the needs of the disabled.

    And before anyone calls me a Tory – I have never voted Conservative in my life and have no intention of doing so.

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  2. Scotland is a country with vast areas of unproductive ground including within and on the edge of our largest towns and cities.

    Rather than force the vulnerable from their homes force the land owners to make land available through the tax system.

    Decent houses can be built relatively cheaply . It improves the housing stock nationally, provides contraction jobs and shows some humanity.

    England is a country struggling to maintain it’s image as a green and pleasant land because the population density is so great.

    It requires different solutions than Scotland to the problem. give England it’s independence rather than let the UK government impose policies not appropriate to Scotland

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  3. There are thousands of folk in Scotland who are desperate for larger accommodation. Action needs to be taken now – across the UK – as well as urgent development. Scottish cities are no different to those in England and the rural areas have similar issues. The proposed Dunbeg development is certainly something that I hope will help in this area. Let’s hope it gets started sooner rather than later.

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  4. Scottish cities are no different to those in England

    Oh really? The Bedroom Tax is set to have a disproportionate impact in Scotland due to the application of the size criteria to local authority owned temporary housing.

    In Scotland over 50% of homeless temporary accommodation is local authority owned, compared to the rest of the UK where the bulk of temporary accommodation for homelessness provision is leased from the private sector.

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    • If true, doesn’t this means that the need to ensure people are in the right size accommodation, according to their need, is even more crucial in Scotland?
      Obviously the Scottish Government hasn’t built social housing quick enough to meet the requirements of the people of Scotland. Houses with unoccupied rooms that are paid for by benefits seems a little daft when so many other people, usually with children, need them.

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  5. I personally think the whole thing stinks!

    Anyone who is ‘diddling’ the system, reduce/remove benefits. Give them absolutely no choice about where they live and make life as difficult for them as the system can, no sympathy for them. But they are the minority, so why punish everyone else who is legitimately claiming benefits? Why yet again hit the ‘voiceless’ majority who are already struggling to survive.

    When you look at the criteria of the people who it will effect, it’s going to have a huge impact on Argyll and Bute. Families will need to be moved out of towns and villages and re-housed in areas where they may have no family, friends or support structure.

    Single parents who have worked hard trying to support their kids. Keeping 2 or 3 jobs going at a time and only able to survive financially because they receive a little extra bit of help with their rent. Living in the same house for 10 to 15 years and then to be simply evicted from their ‘home’ because their oldest child is going to college/university.

    To be told that as they now have a ‘spare room’ they must either agree to be removed somewhere else or accept an unknown stranger into their family home permanently. That they will have no choice over this as the ‘system’ will select and dictate who the person is…. Sorry but in my book that’s social engineering!

    How can we treat people like they are just worthless commodities to be ‘traded’ as the system chooses? Just doesn’t seem right to me somehow.

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  6. The bedroom tax is one of the most cowardly acts (from a social perspective) that any British Government has done in years. It is a sledgehammer approach to an issue that needs far more thought and consideration of specifics.

    In principle it, of course, sounds reasonable. Downsize people who live in properties that are too big for their ‘on paper’ needs and move people in who need a bigger property. After all why should people get a bigger house than they need paid for out of the welfare state.

    However that misses so many points and also is using a blanket approach to fix a problem, not of the tenants doing but of inadequate social housing planning by governments and councils for many many years.

    Tenants who are “underoccupying” didn’t handpick their house because they fancied an extra room and then demand it get paid for them. They were housed in that property based on a combination of needs at the time and also what properties were available. Yes things change over the years, children get older, move, maybe join the forces and come home a few times a year, then new children are born, people get divorced, marry, families merge etc etc – are we going to create a social housing market where people are moved every time they have a commonplace family change?

    That isn’t to say there shouldn’t be some scope and mechanism to rehouse people into more appropriate properties but that should be done on individual circumstances with proper consideration on a case by case basis. What this approach is doing is going to drive poverty up, drive rent arrears up and increase stress and pressure on people, many of which are least quipped to deal with it.

    Even if you are a hardnosed Tory with that historic value of ‘I’m all right Jack’ surely there is a crumb of common sense left in your brain which tells you that, even if you don’t care about the plight of these people, that actual numbers don’t work. The number of people who will need to move to avoid their rent shortfall increasing is far greater than the number of suitable houses available to them. So what does this policy suggest these people do? The bottom line is they can’t move even if they wanted to.

    A policy designed by people with little or no appreciation of life ‘on the other side’ or, it would appear, without thinking through the ramifications of it before rushing it out.

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  7. I apologise if I am coming across as not having any concern for those caught up in this policy – indeed, I believe it is unfortunate that all governments have allowed this situation to arise. However, I also feel greatly for the need of those waiting for housing and those who need appropriate house. As I have said, many of these people are families with children.

    I don’t think that social housing, with all the benefits that they bring, really means that one can be given a house for your whole life. Social housing must look at individual need and this will change throughout life.

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    • I also don’t think it should mean a guaranteed house for life (what a shame that wasn’t the government’s thought when it pushed through the negligent right to buy scheme). I also have a lot of sympathy for those on the waiting list and I agree that individual need should be at the heart of any decision, made on a case by case basis. This system is doing just the opposite of that.

      Almost amusingly is that the section of society who are most ‘guilty’ or under occupancy are the people who are exempt from the ‘tax’ – it would appear the Tories are scared of the grey vote after all!

      You are right though that this situation is the responsibility of multiple government over decades – unfortunately the current one has come up with a ‘solution’ which is unworkable and going to wreak havoc. Can you see Council’s forcibly evicting people? When that happens what are the chances we see social uprising – it is possible.

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  8. Is attacking the poor, the disabled and the elderly one of those union benefits the bitter together mob aren’t telling us about?

    Now all we need is “unashamedly british” jaimmie to come along and tell us how wonderful things are

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