Friday, February 22, 2013

The Bedroom Tax mess

It's been kicking around for some time, but a story in the Shuttle shows the sheer idiocy of the government's "under-occupancy" benefit reduction commonly referred to as "bedroom tax". A disabled man uses the spare bedroom for his dialysis machine yet may face a cut as it's an unoccupied bedroom and thus lose his home.

How truly screwed-up is this plan? I'll go through it point by point.

 First off is the definition of under-occupancy as provided in the Parliamentary papers. In a simplistic tone one could state under-occupancy occurs with an un-used bedroom; too simplistic for the government though. Under-occupancy can occur where a bedroom is being used when unnecessary. Two under-15's of the same sex (the paper incorrectly uses the word gender) each with their own bedroom would be deemed under-occupancy as they should be sharing; children under-9 should share regardless of their sex.

So it's not just having a spare bedroom it's potentially having a spare bedroom.

How much of a failure is this? Consider a house with three bedrooms small bedrooms and two 12-year old boys (or girls) this would be classed as having a spare bedroom in exactly the same way a house with three large-bedrooms would. Laughingly the paper even points this out and shifts blame to the landlords who they claim wanted this so as to not to have to measure up all the rooms. Please show me any landlord who hasn't measured the rooms of their property.

At least all this only applies to designated bedrooms. A designated bedroom being - whatever the landlord designates as a bedroom on the lease/agreement. Excellent. So move into a three-bedroom house and shift one of the spare rooms into a medical centre and it's still a bedroom. Stick a campbed in the living room and it's still a living room.

Again the joke is that the paper points out the problem here and again makes the excuse that it's up to the landlord and this makes things easier for the benefits office in how to define such things.

I'm sorry we're not here to make life easy for the government departments; by all means don't go out of your way to make things harder, but we're discussing removing money from people causing them/forcing them to move out of properties they may have lived in for years even decades. Going the easy route is not something that should be taken by default.

Why are we even doing this in the first place - read the very first paragraph of the paper

Social landlords have long had an interest in tackling under-occupation in order to achieve the best use of their housing stock. Landlords have developed incentive schemes to encourage tenants to relocate to smaller properties; however, as a general rule, they do not have the power to force social tenants to move against their will.
So much for the great vaunted free-market that our Conservative masters bring up - the free market is offering incentives and that's failed so the government's decided to step in. Gee so glad they are hope they step in regarding water/energy/food prices - oh wait no can do that's all about competition and the free market - hypocrites.

So what's the real story here? It's the moocher/slacker spin that the Conservatives in concert with certain tabloid papers just love. The welfare people living lives of ease in mansions on "your" money and you know what there are indeed some out there - some. A minority, a tiny minority. A minority so small it barely registers until some tabloid goes off on the single example they happen to find.

This is politics; this is playing to the middle-class (a group along the same lines of 'average' drivers with all the self-proclaimed members). Let's not try to get the economy working so more people work and aren't on benefit (or reduced benefits). Let's try not to stimulate the housing market by building more houses (can't risk the ire of falling house prices) beyond the free-market approach of tearing up planning restrictions. Nope let's attack a group out of sheer political expediency. That'll work.