This Parliamentary session seemed likely to be uneventful. Not so.
Last Friday, I voted for a Bill to protect victims of the awful Bedroom Tax. Very unusually, we won!! The LibDems, repentant sinners on this issue, joined us to defeat the Tories. Don’t cheer yet. The Government will do absolutely everything they can to scupper this Bill.
It doesn’t completely abolish the Bedroom Tax, but does exempt anyone unable to move to a smaller home.
The Bedroom Tax is an appalling Tory attack on families considered to have ‘too many’ bedrooms. The fact is, there just aren’t enough smaller, public sector or affordable homes. Housing Associations and Local Authorities warned the Government from the start, but the Government ignored the evidence.
Even this Government admit that less than 5% of families affected were able to move to smaller accommodation, forcing 60% into rent arrears, just six months after the Tax was introduced. The 95% paying it are getting into debt and going without essentials like food.
In Newham, 1,871 families are hit, paying an extra £1,040 a year for their homes.
The fabulous Community Links team quotes a woman with multiple health problems. She says, “Out of my benefits every fortnight, I have £3 left. I’m going to see my psychiatrist and I don’t care if he puts me in hospital, after what I say to him. At least I’ll get fed, won’t I? I’ll be warm.”
Her story graphically illustrates the impact this dreadful Government policy has, pushing the poor further into poverty: millions in arrears, reliant on food banks, choosing between heating or eating.
Given Newham’s housing shortage, Friday’s vote was good news. Better news is that a Labour Government will abolish the Bedroom Tax altogether.
I’m proud Labour consistently opposed this callous and cruel Tax, unlike the newly-converted Liberal Democrats, desperate to save their seats. They repeatedly backed the Tories to implement it, whilst outrageously cutting taxes for millionaires.
This out-of-touch Government makes the wrong choices and supports the wrong people. Only a Labour Government can and will make Britain better off and fairer for the future.