Small ads

Bedroom Tax

From Simon Hayles

Friday, 22 February 2013

If you live in council or housing association property and you have a 'spare bedroom' make sure that before April it becomes a 'therapy room' or 'playroom'. Under law there is no definition of 'bedroom' so you can challenge the benefit cut.

See article from the Scottish Herald

The same applies to England. Fight for what's fair!

This benefit cut really is despicable. For many poorly-off individuals and households this equates to a forced eviction notice. Coming on the same day as a reduction in corporation tax which gives away the same as the amount saved £500M - see this Daily Mail article: this is beneath contempt.

From Allen Keep

Saturday, 23 February 2013

This really is a very nasty government indeed. I listened to Lord Freud on a Radio 5 phone-in a while ago while driving for work.

He replied to a separated father on benefits who had a spare room he used for his children when they came to visit weekends and holidays. He didn't want to lose the room or his benefit - what was he to do?

Clearly flustered by this straight forward question from an honest soul, Freud's advice was for him to buy a pull-out sofa. Our welfare minister, who made himself a fortune in banking, has a £2m house in London and a very very nice (and spacious) country pile in Kent for the weekend.

I haven't heard much that says more about the shower who are running the country these days.

I'm not sure how I stayed on the road.

From Eleanor Land

Sunday, 24 February 2013

The problem with the elite (our Coalition government) is that they have no idea of how most ordinary people live. Attending Eton simply doesn't equip them for it. They spend our money to finance their living costs through their expenses, whilst lecturing everyone else about how they should live their lives. The austerity certainly hasn't hit them. Out of touch, cynical and hopefully soon out of office before they can do any more damage.

From Darren G

Monday, 4 March 2013

It would be interesting to find out how many spare bedrooms are available in the houses owned by our cabinet members. After all the Government are saying it's nothing to do with a tax; it's all to do with rehoming over populated houses. We all know different. This could be as important as the poll tax was with the last Tory lot. Fight them all the way.

From David Telford

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

I think the proposal is very fair.

Essentially it's making the most of the social housing stock, what appears a little daft is that the upper age limit to the benefit reduction would appear to remove those whom are most likely to be sitting on a larger home with family long since gone. My own Mother in Law currently lives in a 3 bed housing association home but effectively lives & sleeps in the living room and cannot use the upstairs. It's daft that a family home is being blocked, especially when she can't cope with such a large house.

In the contributing economy, a home owner decides to have a larger home by limitiing their own spending power. This proposal mirrors that decision process and helps move away from a situation that a benefit recipient receives a better lifestyle (for nothing) than someone working for a living.

I can't see the above arguments are valid, they seem to attack the gevernment rather than the policy.

From Eleanor Land

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Mr Telford and the Coalition Government have made an assumption i.e. that the people penalised by the Bedroom Tax have the choice to downsize. In reality there are not enough smaller residences available to enable people to do so. This proposal would only make sense if there were housing stock available to facilitate it. Personally, I believe the small print on any government proposal should be closely scrutinized in order to find out what our politicians are up to. In this case it is a cynical move to make vulnerable people soak up even more cuts. Meanwhile politicians and their rich friends continue to line their pockets.

Finally I might point out that Housing Benefit is not only confined to those "dreadful" benefit recipients, it is mainly paid to the working poor, who are contributing. The reason they need Housing Benefit is that successive governments have allowed unscrupulous employers to pay them pittance wages, whilst rewarding themselves and their shareholders, and also allowed excessive rents to be charged.


From Rev Tony Buglass

Friday, 8 March 2013

There are several problems with this scheme. The first, as has already been noted, is that it presupposes the availability of smaller houses. This is generally not the case, so it is unfair to penalise people for not moving when they cannot move.

Secondly, it assumes that the need for larger homes is the same in every place. When my parents died, they left my brother living in the 4-bed council house which had been our family home for some 30 years. We all expected he'd have to move to a smaller house, but the council said they'd rather he stayed where he was, because there was greater demand for smaller houses. The picture is far from uniform, so a uniform policy simply bludgeons everyone and generally fails to deliver.

Thirdly, even assuming a great demand for larger homes currently blocked by unwilling or selfish tenants, applying pressure through the benefits system is unfair. My brother is still in that council house, with 3 spare bedrooms, but he is in work and not receiving benefits, so not affected. If the Government really wanted to apply pressure fairly, they would do it through the council tax or something of that ilk, thus putting pressure on those not in receipt of benefits. But that would also affect many homeowners, and adversely affect big homeowners (who might even be Tory voters), and they don't want to do that. So instead, they do what they always do, and attack the most vulnerable, scapegoating those least able to defend themselves.

It also means they don't need to ask why there is insufficient social housing, and conveniently forget how Mrs Thatcher forced through a 'right to buy' but refused to allow councils to use the proceeds of sale to build replacement housing.

There is something especially despicable about the powerful stamping all over the powerless, and blaming the powerless for being stamped on...


From David Telford

Friday, 8 March 2013

Tony & Eleanor, there may or may not be a shortage of 1 bedroom accommodation but the main thrust of this policy is to get people into accommodation to meet benefit recipients' minimum requirements. This policy will show where the bottlenecks are and a stategy of addressing the shortages can be drawn up.

Iain Duncan Smith acknowledged the problems of shortages to advise that the policy will be reviewed so that those unable to trade down will not be penalised, nor will those with disabilities. My concern that this may lead to councils that perhaps do not share the political views of the coalition may sweep the issue under the carpet as the aim of the policy appears to be very good.

The way I see it is they are trying to allocate the social housing stock efficiently, ensure that those on benefits are not seen to be better off than those prepared to work for life's niceties and moreover, get the cost to the public purse down. On the whole, the policy will be achieved.
In your anecdotal example Tony, I'd have thought the council should be charging your brother a level of rent that is comparable to the private sector & a 4 bed home in this area will be around £800 per month which I suspect may encourage your brother to find more suitable accommodation to his means & needs. I can't see the council tax being a useful tool, notwithstanding the fact I think it should be abolished in favour of a local poll tax based on income, I'd have thought penalising people in 3-4 bed homes will just worsen the position where the contributing people in society and worse off than those who just take.

Mrs Thatcher's right to buy did empower the working man/woman and getting more working people into property ownership / private housing is an excellent aim. I do think that public provision of the most basic accommodation (note, as opposed to housing) needs to be expanded.
This policy will help get to a fairer situation where those who work have a greater standard of living than those who don't but nevertheless will not leave those who don't work destitute.

From Charles Gate

Friday, 8 March 2013

Bedroom Tax - protest against the tax outside Halifax Town Hall has been rescheduled for Sat March 23, between 1 pm and 3 pm.

'New figures show eighty thousand people in Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire will be affected by the Government's "bedroom tax".

Fifty thousand of these people are disabled.

The figures, released by the National Housing Federation, also state people living in the area who are on housing benefit will lose an average of £500 a year if they have one spare bedroom. This rises to £893 a year if there are two spare rooms.'

See 80,000 in Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire "affected by bedroom tax"

From Tim B

Saturday, 9 March 2013

"ensure that those on benefits are not seen to be better off than those prepared to work for life's niceties"

David, I find your comment above disingenuous at best; the majority of housing benefit recipients do work. (IIRC 70% of HB recipients work) It just happens they are not earning a living wage.


From Eleanor Land

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Mr Telford, I have followed the story of Bedroom Tax very closely in the media, I have not heard Duncan Smith say that people who cannot downsize will not be pensalised, this is why severely disabled people are taking him to court. David Cameron (not for the first time) has been caught out lying about the effect on disabled people, he did it at PM Questions this week. In my opinion Duncan Smith knew that people would not be able to downsize and the government would be able to save yet more money from the poor and the vulnerable. Another deeply cynical move from a morally bankrupt government, who think the poor and vulnerable should be the ones to pay for the failings of the elite.

Finally I reiterate my point that the vast majority of the people in receipt of Housing Benefit are the working poor, a fact you seem unable to grasp in your eagerness to drive a wedge between those working and those who are not. I am sure the government would like to paint all these people as feckless, it suits their ideology. I like to think that most people have a more rounded view of society than that. The actions of Thatcher in selling off council houses and banning councils from building new ones has resulted in a private sector charging extortionate rents and not enough affordable houses being built.

From Jonathan Timbers

Saturday, 16 March 2013

In case anyone is under the illusion that the Bedroom Tax is remotely fair, they should read this, posted on a blog organised by disabled people:

Diary of a Benefit Scrounger: The human story behind the Bedroom Tax

The people behind this blog have embarassed the government into several retreats already.

I just find the whole thing unspeakable, so cruel and immoral. Just to prop up a financial elite and their corrupt and failing system.

From Charles Gate

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

There will be a joint public meeting in Halifax, Thursday 11th April at 7.30pm at the Maurice Jagger Centre, Winding Road (opposite the bus station), called by Calderdale Save Our Services and Halifax Protest the Bedroom Tax.

More details can be found here

From Cllr James Baker

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

The Coalition Government is introducing size criteria for new and existing Housing Benefit claimants living in the social rented sector. This is not a tax which is defined by the Oxford dictionary as "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".

The Spare Room Subsidy is being introduced to make better use of the available social housing stock, to support people in over-crowded accommodation and on waiting lists. It will also help contain growing Housing Benefit expenditure.

The under-occupancy penalty is to encourage more effective use of social housing. There are almost 1 million spare rooms being paid for by Housing Benefit for working-age, social rented sector tenants. This is not affordable when others are living in overcrowded accommodation.

Despite the outright scaremongering by those whose only political ambition seems to be to protect a culture of welfareism there are a number of exemptions to fully protect pensioners, people with severely disabled children and people who need round-the-clock care from under-occupancy penalties. The Lib Dems successfully campaigned to provide local authorities with an additional £30 million of Discretionary Housing Payments to help disabled people and foster carers.

People claiming Housing Benefit in the social rented sector can currently get their full rent paid regardless of whether the property they live in is too large for their needs. In contrast, people claiming Housing Benefit in private rented accommodation don’t get a spare room subsidy. We are introducing parity to the private and social rented sectors with claimants having to make the same decisions about affordability.

Housing benefit spiraled out of control under Labour, doubling to £23 billion. This policy will save more than £1billion from this bill over the next two years.

From Maureen Brian

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

If you cannot prove, Cllr Baker, that there also exist one million smaller homes immediately available for rent or to swap then your thesis falls apart - on the arithmetic alone.

Factor in the additional costs of care and support arrangements falling apart, people in hospital unnecessarily, schooling disrupted, people losing jobs in the moving about, broken families and all the other possible costs down the line and you'll be lucky to make thrupence-ha'penny out of this scam.

A benevolent and competent government would have begun with a locally-based swap and assistance with moving service and followed that up by building and refurbishing smaller homes. Sadly, this does not provide half the emotional "kick" to be had from pushing poor people around.

From Jenny B

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

What I find puzzling about the whole eligibility issue is that pensioners are not affected. You have a single pensioner with a minimum guaranteed income of £145 ish per week and being allowed full housing benefit on a 3 bedroomed house. You get a young unemployed male receiving guaranteed income of £71.00 per week and he has to pay an extra £14 out of that because he was allocated a 2 bedroom flat in a tower block with a lift that rarely works, that families and elderly do not want to live in.

Now, before the grey brigade get on their high horses about their generation having 'earned' their rights, I know many older people who would love to live in a nice small accessible flat or bungalow with one bedroom, lower maintenance and lower heating bills to free up their house for a family.

The main issue is there are none of these one bedroomed houses available, because no one built them, so Elsie is locked in her home that is too big but at least she doesnt pay for the spare rooms, and Joe is paying £14 out of his £71 to stay locked into a flat that hes happy enough in and no one else wants. Fair? Reducing welfare dependancy? No creating a new generation of people living in poverty because who is going to kick up a fuss about the Joe's of this world? Try charging Elsie a bedroom tax and the peasants may revolt.

From Eleanor Land

Thursday, 28 March 2013

It matters little what you call this policy Councillor Baker, it's actual consequence is to take yet more money from the poor and vulnerable who have no chance to downsize because they are no properties available to them. What voters need to remember when standing in front of the ballot box in 2015, is that the Liberal Democrats have fallen over themselves to vote for policies like this, whilst at the same time voting for huge tax cuts for millionaires. The cumulative affect of adverse policies affecting poor people far outweighs the raising of thresholds gained by your party. This will be your Poll tax moment.

From Simon Hayles

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Thank you Councillor Baker for so lucidly expressing your views, though I should say that your quote from the OED's definition of 'tax' neglected to mention the definition: 'to make heavy demands on a person's powers or resources' as in 'you tax my patience'.

You suggest that these are necessary cuts to help the economy - tell me, have just lost our AAA credit rating? Is the national deficit decreasing or is it still rising fast? You know the answers! 'Austerity' is simply not working.

What really shocks me is your pejorative use of the phrase 'culture of welfareism'. Do you not want a country where the welfare of its citizens is the highest priority? It forcibly strikes me that your ambitions do not lie with the welfare of your constituents but in currying favour with those who might advance your political career if you publicly recite their mantras for them. Shame on you.


From Rev Tony Buglass

Friday, 29 March 2013

I'm sorry to put it so bluntly, Cllr Baker, but your attempted defence of the so-called bedroom tax is utter, utter bilge. If the policy is sincerely intended to address the issue of overcrowding, then it is incompetent. That is the kindest thing I can say about it. However, my normal desire to see the best in people is stretched to the limit when I look at how this evil policy is affecting people. It is quite clearly aimed at the most vulnerable - people who are on benefits and in social housing. It does not affect people who are in social housing and in work. It doesn't affect house-owners, in work or on benefits. It only affects people on benefits and in social housing. It assumes that it is possible for people with surplus rooms to downsize - ie, that smaller accommodation is available and nearby. So, if a family on benefits is forced to move out of their home, and (for the sake of argument) smaller accommodation is available nearby, who pays for the move? What happens to families when there is NO available smaller accommodation? What about the numerous cases illustrated on TV and in the press where the so-called surplus bedroom is necessary because of medical reasons, or a son in the army, or a child who is away at university?

I could go on at length. This policy is indefensible. It is at best incompetent, and at worst evil. It was dreamed up by a cabinet of millionaires who do not have the faintest idea how ordinary people live and manage to survive. If they really wanted to provide housing for the poor by forcing people to downsize, they would have done this through the council tax (thereby also affecting house-owners - but in the process inflicting huge costs on those who own very large country houses and estates - can't do that, can we?). If they really cared about the poor, they would have made sure housing associations could build sufficient housing stock, they would have allowed councils to spend the income from 'right to buy' purchases on the building of new houses (which Mrs Thatcher forbade, and her later minions have not dared to suggest), and there wouldn't be the current shortage.

Except that it isn't particularly clear that there really is a shortage, is it? My brother lives on his own in the 4-bed council house we lived in as a family before the rest of us moved out and my parents died (over 10 years ago) - the council didn't want him to move out, because there was more demand for smaller units than larger ones, and having him there kept it in rent. And he's in work, so not affected by the benefits cut (sorry, bedroom tax).

This appears to be less to do with pushing people to make room for those who need accommodation (which is only lacking because of Tory mismanagement) and more to do with reducing the benefits bill. And the tax paid by Cameron's cronies. Sorry, James, I'm not persuaded by your efforts to justify the unjustifiable. Don't try. This whole policy is transparently oppressive and evil. And anyone trying to support or defend it will certainly pay the price at the next election -and if my eschatology is right, will pay a much heavier penalty beyond that, but that's another story. On both levels, I'd rather you and all the others who are screwing the poor repent now... 

From Paul Clarke

Friday, 29 March 2013

Well said Tony. I think free market fanatic Mr Baker has been put well and truly in his place.

But we should be grateful to Mr Baker for revealing the true face of the Lib Dems. Many on the left used to see them as some sort of fellow travellers despite the fact that they are a free market party.

Their 'nice party' image is now well and truly busted as this appalling piece of social engineering and tax on the poor will only get through with their votes.

The same votes that pushed through increases in student fees - despite their promise they wouldn't - and the ongoing destruction of the NHS.

In fact all the failing austerity cuts that are ruining our nation have relied on craven Lib Dem votes to go through . . . shame on them.

I love Mr Baker's naivety in revealing their true face as the nasty party which sees them trailing right wing idiots UKIP in the polls.

So here's my challenge to other local Lib Dems- do you agree with Mr Baker? I'm calling out Cllr Battye to tell us if she supports the bedroom tax.

As the economist JK Galbraith observed: "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man's oldest exercises in moral philosophy: that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness."

I think same can be said of free market devotee Mr Baker.

From Darren G

Saturday, 30 March 2013

To put the governments policy of making work pay simply, they are taking away any safety net so the only way to survive is work for pittance.

Well I hope they didn't use their free university degree to work out that policy. We can visit many countries with that policy and we usually call them backward or 3rd world.

It's the easiest, laziest most vicious way of running a society, tax the most vulnerable because they are the least able to fight back

From Allen Keep

Saturday, 30 March 2013

“outright scaremongering by those whose only political ambition seems to be to protect a culture of welfareism“

This, from Cllr Baker, is perhaps the most offensive and chilling statement I’ve ever read on Hebweb and it will surely come back to haunt him.
I have absolutely no illusions in the Lib Dems and never have had - but I know there are many decent and humane supporters and members of this party who will be squirming with embarrassment not just at this snippet but at his dreadful defence of this odious and callous bedroom tax which reads like a press statement from Tory central office. Truly appalling.

Paul is quite right to question other Lib Dems re: their support for Cllr Baker and the bedroom tax in general - but I hope he isn’t holding his breath.

A more pertinent question is raised by Jenny B –just who is going to stand up against the bedroom tax and try to do something about it?
I hope we will see a real campaign here in Calderdale against the Tax which should be able to unite a very wide range of people and one which I expect local labour party supporters, trade unionists, councillors, campaigning groups and community activists to take a lead on.

A start has already been made with the formation of an anti-bedroom tax group in Halifax –mirroring the explosion of campaigning groups up and down the country.

The group and Calderdale Save Our Services have called a public meeting as highlighted by Charles Gate to discuss ways to take the campaign forward.

Jenny, Eleanor, Tony, Paul, Darren, Tim, Jonathan and Simon – you and everyone else who wants to help provide the best possible response to Cllr Baker are very welcome to come along.

Join us in the fight against this disgusting legislation.

From S Norwood

Sunday, 31 March 2013

A single person age 61 unable to work and undergoing surgery and chemotherapy for bowel cancer is entitled to £71 a week means tested benefit for the first 13 weeks of their claim. If they live in 2 bedroom social housing they will have to pay 14% (say £14 a week) of their rent out of their means tested benefit. For 13 weeks, while recovering from surgery and having chemotherapy, they will have to live on £57 a week after rent payments. This is for food, heating and all other expenses. This occurs at a time when they are facing extra expenses in the way of clothing, bedding (because of weight loss and incontinence) and getting to hospital for treatment. They are too unwell to move home at the moment and anyway there is not a suitable 1 bedroom property available. Inevitably they will have to chose whether to eat or to keep warm. Of course they can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment but if they get it this is only likely to be paid for a limited period.

A single person age 63 in good health and able to work but not working will receive £142 a week means tested benefit. If living alone in 3 bedroom social housing they will continue to get all the rent paid by housing benefit.

I'm all in favour of protecting benefit entitlement for older people but to withdraw essential support from people with long term illness is immoral.

How can a Lib Dem support a social security policy that can produce this outcome?


From Rev Tony Buglass

Monday, 1 April 2013

A major report has been produced by the Baptist, Methodist, United Reformed Churches, and the Church of Scotland, condemning the Government's so-called welfare reform as hitting the poorest hardest, being utterly unfair and unjust.  It has been the lead item on the BBC news website all day:

BBC News: Welfare cuts unjust, say four churches

It finally displaced ex-Archbishop Carey's rant about so-called persecution - written in the Daily Mail, when he could have highlighted the Christian community as an Easter people proclaiming the love of God for his people, he hijacked the news for his own narrow agenda.  Well, I regret that, and I'm pleased that the report has shown that most committed Christians are concerned about the poor - in particular, exposing the lies and half-truths on which the Government has depended to further its budget-driven policies.  The serious increase in foodbanks in the country over the last year or two is criminal - I'm glad we're doing it, but I'm appalled that we have to - especially when the same day as this iniquitous tax will come in will see a generous tax deduction given to the richest.  All in it together?  Yeah, right.

From Darren G

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Most people living with a long term health problem usually survive, that's all, there's no living involved with illness and benefits, just survival.
I worked very long hours for many years, never expected illness to take over my life and thought there was a safety net. Can I suggest those thinking people are well off on benefits have not had to rely on them, not long term anyway.

Any Labour councillors putting the bedroom tax into force should have any union support withdrawn. It's up to them to find a way round this vile tax on the least well off.

From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

There is no doubt in my mind that, like the Poll Tax many years ago, there will be (and quite rightly) a lot of direct action against this disgusting legislation.

I am aware of at least two councils that have been forced into taking a stand of no evicitions for those who have been hit by the tax and fallen into arrears and I think this is an excellent demand to take forward everywhere.

The Halifax anti-bedroom tax group have called a collective action/ demonstration to petition Pennine Housing to take just such a step which will take place at Bull Green, Halifax, HX1 2EB on Wednesday 3 April -Midday - 1pm.

It's time to axe this tax and I hope as many readers of Hebweb as possible will join the action on Wednesday. All will be welcome -please come along if you can.

From Charles Gate

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

There will be a Bedroom Tax protest outside Pennine Housing 2000 (the largest provider of social housing in Calderdale) Head Office, Bull Green, Halifax, on Wednesday 3rd April, from 12noon until 1pm, calling on Pennine Housing to publicly state where they stand on the Bedroom Tax and evictions. All welcome, please bring banners.

From Simon Hayles

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

So it begins and my heart is in pain for the 660,000 homes (2/3 of which include disabled persons) afflicted by the crimes of these super-wealthy sociopaths.

I've been trying to think through the real consequences of this hideous legislation with some difficulty. It's clear that there is almost no one-bedroom social housing available (there never was), so a tenant facing a financial shortfall cannot move and (rightly) choosing food and heat over rent will get into arrears. Eventually the council or housing association will evict them, at which point they become homeless and then the council has a duty to house them... Eh? Where? In their old, now vacant home? But they can't afford the rent! Most have disabilities so it certainly can't be bedsits... Can it? Where will they go?


From Cllr James Baker

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

I care about trying to help people out of poverty and I believe that encouraging people into work and ensuring work pays is the best way to do that. I have worked all my life and often I haven’t been able to afford to live somewhere with spare room. When I speak to people on the door step they also express frustration that despite working hard they often can’t afford things they see people on benefits getting.

I also want to see families on the social housing waiting list get the properties they need, It can’t be right people like Bob Crow on salaries of over £100,000 a year can still get tax payer subsided houses whilst others are left on the waiting list.

I appreciate there are some people who can’t work, and a humane society should ensure they are cared for and have a good quality of life. This is why there are exemptions to fully protect pensioners, people with severely disabled children and people who need round-the-clock care from under-occupancy penalties. Not every circumstance can be accounted for, which is why the discretionary housing payment fund has been established. Lib dems successfully campaigned to provide local authorities with an additional £30 million for this fund. The case of someone recovering from surgery that has been used on this forum is a prime example of someone who should apply for these housing payments whilst they recover.

It’s important not to ignore the other work that is being done to help working people get out of poverty, this month 23 million working people have been given a tax cut of £230. People can now earn up to £10,000 tax free, and I would like to see this taken further to help ensure that more working people are able to lift themselves out of poverty. Furthermore it was announced that Lib Dems have secured £1,200 tax free child care.

I should like to challenge the claim that millionaires are getting a tax cut. This is misleading as it only focuses on income tax, and not other forms of tax that are being increased for the super-rich. Income tax is being decreased to bring it the right side of the laffer curve and increase revenues to spend on services. The new rate of 45% is still higher than the rate set by the previous government, and over the five years of this Parliament under the Coalition, a millionaire (earning £1m p/a) will pay £381,000 more tax on their income (income tax and NICs) than they did under the last five years of the Labour Government.

Other forms of tax that millionaires pay, such as capital gains tax, and stamp duty on properties worth over £2 million have increased. Labour cut Capital Gains Tax for the richest every year, and slashed the rate they paid from 40% to 18%. The total tax burden on millionaires is higher than it ever has been. This is only fair the super-rich should help pay their fair share in bringing down the massive financial deficit our country faces.

From S Norwood

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

There simply won't be enough in the Discretionary Housing Payment fund to go round. If the coalition government wanted to protect people with disability and long term illness the they could have drafted regulations doing so. It would have been easy to draft regulations protecting, for example, people in receipt of an award of Disability Living Allowance or in the Support Group of Employment & Support Allowance.

Cllr Baker : Why should a person who is having treatment for cancer have to apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment? Why have their Housing Benefit payments not been protected?

From Cllr James Baker

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

I criticize the culture of welfarism because I want people to be empowered and to take control of their own situation, to start their own cooperatives, businesses and to work for themselves. A country where the welfare of the poorest is the highest priority and the welfare state are not synonymous. It can't be right that working people find themselves in a situation where they can't even afford to house themselves, and are made reliant on form filling to claim tax credits and housing benefit.

Herbert Marcuse the Marxist thinker of the Frankfurt school criticized what he termed the welfare/warfare state because the welfare state distributes some prosperity, preventing internal challenges to the social and economic status quo. The radical left used to talk about empowerment, autonomy, and solidarity, about building a world where people kept the fruits of their labour and looked after each other. Now it defends a culture of welfarism that leaves people trapped in poverty.

Tony - threatening me with damnation seems somewhat extreme.

From Eleanor Land

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

You just don't get it do you Councillor Baker. The rich have become substantially richer during the financial crisis, they don't need a tax cut.

The top 10% are 500 times richer than the bottom 10%. So why are the people at the bottom paying the highest price. I'll tell you why Councillor Baker, it's because you and your Tory friends prefer to protect the rich. You throw the occasional bone to the poor and then take it back with higher VAT and cuts in benefits, such as Housing Benefit.

You and your party are a total disgrace, sucking up to the Tory ideological cuts programme and then pretending to care about the poor. If you cared about the vulnerable people caught up in this Bedroom Tax debacle, you wouldn't be insulting them by insinuating they were addicated to "Welfareism".

I have never had much time for politicians but when I read sweeping, ill thought out and ignorant statements like that, it makes me very angry.

From Cllr Tim Swift

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

It's good of Cllr James Baker to accept their are people who can't work, but he continues the Tory game of dividing into 'strivers' and 'shirkers' by implying that disability or ill health are the only reasons why people are unable to work.

He ignores, of course, the fact that there are not enough jobs and in particular there are not enough jobs that enable people with limited skills to earn a living wage.

The bedroom tax is quite explicitly about cutting benefit payments to the poorest. As has been established times, if people moved to smaller properties outside the social housing sector, their housing benefit payments would go up, not down. It will save the Government money because for all sorts of reasons, people will not move - at least at first - they will try to scrape by on less.

As for the Government helping low income people and making work pay, go and read the IFS reports on what this government has done to people on lowest incomes, working or on benefits. They have lost out since 2010, not gained. The raised tax thresholds are good politics but an ineffective way of targeting help at the lowest paid. They are about making the comfortable feel better whilst ducking hard choices.

As for the Liberal Democrats 'campaigning' for extra discretionary payments - they don't have to 'campaign' for it, they are a part of the Government and have enthusiastically and consistently supported this whole raft of benefit changes.

In any case, what kind of progress is it to see a system of guaranteed payments assessed on need replaced with locally determined, financially capped benefits based on local discretion? That's what this Government is bringing in - not just with the Discretionary Housing Fund, but also with the localisation of the social fund and of Council Tax relief.

I'm not a historian but it seems to me like we are going back to the days of Poor Laws and parish relief.

From Rev Tony Buglass

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Thank you for responding, Cllr Baker, and trying to give a more balanced view of the unfolding disaster. I have no doubt that things would have been worse without the input of the LibDems, but I'm still not convinced - this is still a disaster, and I don't think the protections you mention will make much difference.

You refer to the discretionary allowances to be made available. (By the same people who gave us ATOS...?) It sounds suspiciously similar to the Social Fund which Mrs Thatcher's government introduced in 1988. Prior to that, people were entitled to Supplementary Benefit (which was supposed to the minimum on which it was possible to live - so that people on benefits would not be better off than hose in work - familiar song?), and if something major was needed (new bed, new cooker) a grant would be given to cover the purchase. Under the new system, that grant would be given from a strictly limited pot (the Social Fund, limited because it was felt necessary to reduce the cost of benefits - another familiar song?) - when that pot ran out, people could apply for a discretionary loan (that word again...), which if given would then be repaid by fixed deductions from their benefits. In other words, they were forced to buy necessary major purchases from the money which was assumed to be the minimum on which it was possible to live. At the time, I was minister in North Northumberland - for the first time, I had people ringing to ask for help because they had run out of money and could not feed their children. That was when churches began to stockpile tins for distribution: some of our Methodist Central Halls faced very heavy demands. We'll see what happens when people ask for discretionary funds, shall we?

As to encouraging people to work - doesn't this assume that those without work like it that way? I know the Daily Fail likes to foster the caricature of the lazy workshy scrounger, but most of the folk I know who are out of work would love to find a job. I grew up on a large North-Eastern council estate, with high unemployment - I've been there, and signed on, along with my dad and my neighbours. I don't think there were many of them who would have preferred to remain on the dole. Cutting benefits achieves nothing if there are no jobs for people to go for. It's called 'kicking someone when they're down.' Now, investment in job-creation, that would encourage people to find work - is that on the agenda?

Sorry, but so far, so unconvincing. These are policies which will damage people, hurt families, and damage communities. There will be consequences. As to the eschatology - sorry if you think I'm being a bit heavy; I'm not usually a hell-fire and damnation preacher, my understanding of God is a bit more loving than that. But I can't ignore what my Boss said about "when you do it to the least of these, you do it to me." (Matt.25:31-46, for those who are interested.) It shouldn't need threats of judgment (although if I were LibDem, I'd be afraid of judgment at the next elections) - it should just need simple justice and human compassion.

From Eleanor Land

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

I am sure your elecorate will be really impressed you want to "empower" them Councillor Baker, and thrilled with your precis of Herbert Marcuse's thinking. Personally I would prefer our politicians to try and live in the real world of their constituents, not spend their time trying to justify bad policy by quoting long dead philosophers.

From Cllr James Baker

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Cllr Swift you are right there are indeed people who want to find work and who can't. I'm not ignoring the problems of unemployment, in fact I am urging the left to do more to focus on the creation of jobs. Socialism used to be about about encouraging people to join together and work for themselves, not defending the welfare state. If you want to work on some schemes on Calderdale to encourage the sort of job creation, I will happily work with you, I am a great believer in mutuals, co-ops and people taking control of their own situation and working themselves out of poverty.

People are right to point out the Daily Fail has a tendency to view all benefit claimants as scroungers, but so to does the left have a tendency to ignore the problems that our welfare culture has caused. The welfare state in its current form has created an underclass of people dependent on the state, it has bred poverty, and encouraged people to think of themselves as incapable, and unable to work. Too often it has been easier to cheat the system than work. I believe it is fair to ensure that work pays.

Between 2003/04 and 2010/11, Labour spent a staggering £170 billion on tax credits, contributing to a 60 per cent rise in the welfare bill. Despite this workless households increased under Labour, and there were 1 in 5 households with nobody working as a result 2 million children were left living in workless families, higher than any other country in the EU. Under Labour, the poorest fifth of the population paid a greater proportion of their income in tax than the richest fifth. So no wonder wealth gaps were increasing.

Labour's solution now is to reintroduce the 10p tax rate on the poorest, a measure that the IFS who Cllr Swift makes reference to have said has "no plausible economic justification".

A key principle behind the benefits reforms are making work pay and to ensure this there will be more generous work allowances so people keep more of their earnings as they enter work, and a single taper to withdraw support at a single rate as earnings rise. Under the old system 500,000 people have marginal deduction rates over 80 per cent, meaning they lose 80 pence of every £1 earned.

Around 3.1 million households will have higher entitlement as a result of Universal Credit, with around 75 per cent of these households in the bottom two quintiles of the income distribution.

The average gain for this group, as they go back to work, is estimated to be £168 per month. For example a lone parent with one child will keep up to £8,812 of their earnings before their benefit begins to taper away, compared to £1,040 now.

The rise in the income tax threshold has meant 23 million people have had a tax cut, 71,000 specifically here in Calderdale. Over two million people on low incomes have been completely lifted out of paying income tax. It is a great achievement, and i'm proud to say it's a Lib Dem manifesto commitment that all parties are now happy to support.

I wish the government could do more to make work pay, and create jobs, but we are left with the harsh economic reality of Labour government leaving Britain with an unprecedented deficit in public finances, the second largest deficit in Europe. Equivalent to £22,400 for every man, woman and child in the UK. The former chief secretary to the Treasury, Liam Byrne, left a note in a desk stating, ''I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left". Despite this Lib Dems are achieving a

- A new £1 billion tax-free childcare scheme will double the amount of support available compared to the current employer supported childcare scheme, opening it to around five times as many families.

- Increasing the amount of childcare support available through Universal Credit by £200m to help improve work incentives

- Introducing the Pupil Premium to give extra help to children who have been eligible for Free School Meals at any point over the last 6 years

- Extending free childcare to 130,000 of the most disadvantaged two-year-olds from this September, rising to around 260,000 (40 per cent of all two-year-olds) in September 2014.

From S Norwood

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Defenders of welfare reform never want to talk about people with long-term illness and disability who are being harmed by their nasty policies. Yes Cllr Baker, people who are unable to work.

From Eleanor Land

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

I am afraid Councillor Baker's blame it all on the Labour government is falling on deaf ears now. They made mistakes, mainly in letting the bankers have free reign. Your best friend the Chancellor would have let them have even more freedom to gamble.

Labour did some good things, mainly the minimum wage which your Coalition is about to dismantle according to rumours. Unfortunately they were tainted by New Labour, an invention of that slimey snake oil salesman Blair, a very similar character to Cameron, Osborne and Clegg.

The reason people need tax credits is because of the unscrupulous employers your Coalition encourage, who pay their employees a pittance on Zero Hour Contracts. This will not improve our economy just fill the pockets of tax dodging companies and no doubt Tory Party coffers.

I am afraid at the next election your government will be judged on it's economic record, which is one of complete failure to find growth.

I find it rather ironic that whilst you continue with your diatribe about people taking responsibility for themselves, that your beloved leader Clegg thought it was appropriate to put two cake tins on expenses. No doubt he believed he was entitled to do this, because we're all in this together. Not.

From Paul Clarke

Thursday, 4 April 2013

We've had a contribution from a Warley councillor and one from one a Halfifax councillor but no reply yet from our Lib Dem Calder councillor.

So for the second time, I will challenge Cllr Battye to tell us if she supports the Bedroom Tax?

From Gary W

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Cllr Baker, here are a few facts for you:

  • Pensioners make up half of welfare spending. Why go after the disabled at the expense of rich pensioners when it comes to belt tightening?
  • Most benefits have far less than a 100% take up to the extent that underpayments vastly out way over payments
  • For those who are simply unable to work, this is an extremely worrying time.

Only the state lies between them and destitution. Your lack of regard for this group sends shivers down the spine. Only a fool wants the state to pay out to shirkers or the lazy, and only a fool panders to the 'dog whistle' and nasty agenda of the gutter right wing press.

Our welfare state needs supporting protecting and nourishing. We are still a very rich country, and we can still afford to look after the disabled and the sick; if we want to that is.

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Cllr Baker’s diatribes are nothing more than the familiar justification for the free market system he adores so much that has been trotted out by his kind since the industrial revolution. Poverty, inequality and unemployment, Councillor, are endemic to that system - it's in the DNA of capitalism.

The inherent economic contradictions of that system are characterised by periodic war and economic crisis- for which the poor pay.

Two thirds of our world population live in a permanent state of chronic want - it's a systemic necessity which has nothing to do with individual choice. The mass of people cannot possibly work themselves out of poverty and inequality – a market system is incapable of meeting even the basic needs of all and certainly can never deliver equality - but blaming the disadvantaged and the "culture" of welfarism and the like is extremely ideologically convenient isn't it? It neatly obscures where the real responsibility for economic crisis lies (and it certainly isn't with the poor) and encourages people to blame each other (strivers v skivers - or as the Irish journalist Eamon McCann likes to put it “tuppence ha’penny looking down on tuppence”).

So you will get those views on the doorstep Cllr –“look at the people on benefits living the life of luxury” – or the immigrants “taking our jobs” etc. The trouble is you perpetuate those views and reinforce them (just with fancier language) because you think it makes you electorally popular (think again) and it obscures the reality of your system from those who can change it – and we wouldn’t want that would we?

Wasn't it the greed, corruption and mismanagement of your millionaire friends - the wealth creators and the risk takers as you would no doubt have it - that caused the crisis? Indeed it was. Will you and your government make them pay? Of course not – it’s much easier to attack the poor and then blame them for their own fate isn’t it.

So instead, you introduce legislation like the bedroom tax - yes back to that.

Now what is the bedroom tax about? Cllr Baker claims it is about getting appropriate social housing to the people who need it most. A noble aim and one which everyone can agree with. That would, after all, be fair.
Unfortunately it is a lie, a damn lie. The DWP’s own impact analysis assumes that the vast majority of “under occupiers” will not move properties. This will not be because they are incapable of or unwilling to make the same “life choices” as those in work (and by the way can we stop assuming that the bedroom tax will only affect people who do not work – a huge number of HB claimants are the working poor) it is because for the vast majority there is nowhere to go.

The Government and Cllr Baker know this - they are not stupid (honestly). There is no in intention whatsoever for the Tax to help families in overcrowded houses it is purely and simply a way to claw back benefits from the most vulnerable in our society and force them to pay for the deficit –nothing more nothing less.

Except when you listen to the testimonies of those threatened with this tax, which Cllr Baker isn’t doing (perhaps he is too busy reading Marcuse) you realise how much more it means for those affected.

For it becomes a tax on those already on low or no income with severe mental health issues or a chronic disability, on children with ADHD, on adults dying of leukaemia, of mums and dads who want a room to grieve their lost children, separated fathers who want space for their children to visit or parents who want their grown up children studying or in the forces to have a room to come back too. And it is forcing these people into desperation - terrified that they will be forced to choose between eating or keeping warm and going into arrears and being evicted or, for others, facing the “choice” of uprooting themselves from their neighbourhoods and families and schools and trying to find accommodation elsewhere.

Not the problems Cllr Baker’s millionaires face when they go to sleep at night in one of their multiple choices of bedrooms is it?

Listen to those people Cllr Baker - then tell me you can support the bedroom tax and care. I’m going to get on with fighting it.

From Simon Hayles

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Let's nail this lie about 'helping people into work' once and for all.

There an average of 2.5M people claiming jobseeker's allowance and according to the government's own website there's an average of 0.5M vacancies. Research has shown that of those 500,000 vacancies just over 100,000 are full-time.

In reality, there are around 25 jobseekers for every full-time, living-wage job.

So, Cllr Baker, where is all this 'work' you're so keen to 'help' people into? Is it doing your garden? Washing your car for you? Not so easy to do it's roof from a wheelchair! Do you seriously expect me to believe that taking £14 per week (or possibly much more as the DBLA has also gone) from nearly half a million disabled people will actually help them to find work?

It will just make them unhappy and possibly even ill from stress.

From Cllr Dave Draycott

Thursday, 4 April 2013

I have been reading the thread on Hebweb with interest having previously engaged Cllr Baker on the issue on twitter.

I think Jenny B hits the nail on the head:

'Factor in the additional costs of care and support arrangements falling apart, people in hospital unnecessarily, schooling disrupted, people losing jobs in the moving about, broken families and all the other possible costs down the line and you'll be lucky to make thrupence-ha'penny out of this scam.'

The fact is that the housing crisis in this country has one cause James: we do not have enough houses. This is not rocket science, but instead of addressing the issue and repairing the housing deficit this government has thought up the bedroom tax (let's get used to the name because that's what everyone calls it.)

So instead of building houses we have a Byzantine system imposed on some of the most vulnerable and poorest in society. There is clearly resentment that some in social housing have a spare room, often a box room whilst we have Councillors who cannot afford that luxury! These proposals lead to disrupted lives, with children's schooling disrupted for example. But hey, that's the price you pay for not being able to afford to be an owner-occupier. Not a part of the 'contributing society' as David Telford so nastily points out. Of course plenty of people in social housing work and why should those who cannot be sneered at.

If fairness was the issue maybe the government would have built some single bedroom flats 'before' implementing this measure.

Cllr Dave Draycott
Labour Sowerby Bridge

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 4 April 2013

I agree with Cllr Draycot that we need to build more houses. The coalition has tried to make it easier to build houses with a major shake-up of planning legislation. It has sadly been dubbed a 'developers charter' and there is often much local opposition to house development sites when they are proposed.

Councils have also been allocated an additional £236.4 million of new homes bonus funding in 2013/14 to deliver more than 160,000 homes. This brings the new homes bonus total to £1.3 billion.

Hopefully more can be done to build new houses to help home people, and also bring the millions of empty homes in the country back into use.

I do talk to disabled people and vulnerable people regularly. It is possible to do this and also read books Allen. If anyone in difficulties approaches me I will support them, and help them apply for the extra discretionary housing payments that have been secured. In my ward around 91 properties are affected by the spare room subsidy. So far one person has contacted me with concerns about rent.

As to Allen's predictable rant of 'It's all capitalism fault'. I'd far rather live in a capitalist society than a theocracy, dictatorship, socialist, feudal or communist state. Thankfully most people agree with me, and enjoy the benefits that of living in a free society where we can buy what we like, live where we like, and work where we like.

It's very easy to knock the current system, and it isn't perfect (too often corporate and state interests align to screw over people, some people don't get a fair start in life etc) without considering how awful some of the alternatives are. Let's take a look at some of the deaths under communist regimes, as taken from the Black book of communism:

65 million in the People's Republic of China
20 million in the Soviet Union
2 million in Cambodia
2 million in North Korea
1.7 million in Africa
1.5 million in Afghanistan
1 million in the Communist states of Eastern Europe
1 million in Vietnam
150,000 in Latin America (mainly Cuba)

If you have a way of building a better society then good luck with it. As I said I support people who are prepared to put their money where their mouth is and go out and build different business and economic models.

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 4 April 2013

How ironic that Cllr Baker views capitalism as a system where we can "live where we like" - isn't that precisely what the bedroom tax denies people?
I don't suppose those who do not "choose" to live somewhere they don't like but have their benefit cut instead will be able to "buy what they like" either -like food for their children.

So much for your "free" society.

Deal with the issue Cllr Baker - how will your bedroom tax enable a fair distribution of social housing? And stop pretending that the £30m safety net of discretionary payments will make any real difference -there are already countless reports of people not being able to access this support.
The money available is tiny and temporary - it wouldn't make sense to pay back everyone who will lose out would it - because then you wouldn't be able to steal people's benefits which is what you, to your utter shame, are doing.

From David Telford

Thursday, 4 April 2013

Allen, James is correct. We are able to live where we like, dependant on our ability to pay.

We are talking about housing that is either entirely paid for by the state or at a state-subsidised rate. Given the fact the state is making a contribution, then surely, it is only fair that the state should seek to get the best value for money.

Yes, there is a shortage of some housing and this shortage is different depending on the area. The starting point is to ensure that people are in the smallest available housing for their needs.

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 4 April 2013

We know what Cllr Baker (and his supporter) think. We don't know what Cllr Battye or other Lib Dems think (still waiting Paul?) and we know what Cllrs Draycott and Timbers think (and well done them). All quite predictable.

My question to Labour councillors is this -what are you doing about the bedroom tax?

We should be hearing from every Labour councillor from the rooftops about the bedroom tax and the welfare "reforms" generally.

But we also need action - not words.

I assume it is possible for Calderdale to refuse to apply the bedroom tax to its tenants?

Will Labour campaign for this?

From Graham Barker

Friday, 5 April 2013

I imagine we’re not hearing alternative proposals from Labour councillors because they know that welfare reform is (a) electorally popular, even among Labour voters and welfare recipients, and (b) hellishly difficult for any government to get even approximately right.

In context, the bedroom tax is just another dropped ball from a government increasingly unable to handle anything competently. When George Osborne has to cite Mick Philpott as an argument for welfare reform, you can almost smell the desperation.

But once the dust settles, the effect of the bedroom tax on both society and the cost of welfare will probably be marginal. As Tim Swift points out, most households will take the hit and stay put, and even if they move the outcome will be higher, not lower welfare costs. And James Baker may be right about its sideshow status when he says: ‘In my ward around 91 properties are affected by the spare room subsidy. So far one person has contacted me with concerns about rent.’

To identify the really pernicious effects of Coalition welfare cuts, reread S Norwood’s comments. It’s the sick and disabled, with a rapidly diminishing choice in anything at all, who most need sparing from cuts in services and benefits. Labour ought to be on safe ground in promising improvements in their lot, but I’ll be surprised if even that happens. They won’t have the guts, because for the time being compassion is out of style.

From Eleanor Land

Friday, 5 April 2013

What on earth has the Communist Black Book got to do with the Bedroom Tax Councillor Baker? We have never had nor will have a communist regime in this country. I am beginning to think after reading your latest lecture that some politicians live in a parallel universe to their constituents, no wonder so many people don't vote.

From Cllr James Baker

Friday, 5 April 2013

We know what Labour would do their MP and Shadow Cabinet member Helen Goodman has said:

"We've said the bedroom tax should only apply if people have been offered a smaller place to live and turn it down"

"It is better to use the housing stock more efficiently"

"we would reduce the rates that were paid to housing benefit in the private sector"

So for all the bluster the reality is the difference in party policy of all three main political parties is very small.

Private tenants have already got the 'bedroom tax' , when Labour introduced Local Housing Allowance in in 2008 it only pays for the rooms you need, and tenants have to make up the rest of the rent themselves. Notice how there was no howling moral outrage from the Labour party then.

From Paul Clarke

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Eleanor, I think you have seen through Mr Baker's bizarre logic that if you have any concerns about capitalism then you are somehow an apologist for lunatics like Pol Pot, Stalin or Mao. It is as daft as saying if you slavishly support free market capitalism then you are somehow condoning mass murder by the likes of Pinochet.

Sadly systems - right and left - are all too often perverted by lunatics.

Anyhow, back to the real world and I thought I'd share with you what Helen Goodman said to the Guardian about the bedroom tax which seems at odds with what Mr Baker has so kindly shared.

The government says it is introducing the bedroom tax for three reasons – to move people from homes that are "too big" so people in overcrowded accommodation can have more space, to "balance the books" and to cut the cost of welfare.

The basic problem is that there aren't homes for people to move to. In my constituency over 1,000 people will pay the bedroom tax but there are fewer than 100 places they could move to. The government knows this and it shows how cynical it is – its calculation of savings assumes people don't move, but do suffer a fall in income of £10 to £20 per week.

This leaves people with an impossibly small amount to live on. So I have constituents who after electricity, coal, water and non-food essentials are left with just £18 to live on.

This is why I am trying to do just that for a week. Of course a week isn't a lifetime, but even so it's clear you can't have a healthy diet or five fruit and veg a day, let alone indulgences like a drink or chocolate. You can follow my progress on YouTube here. The best way to cut the benefits bill is to get the economy moving and get people back to work. The extra costs of benefits for people out of work is £13bn, well above the bedroom tax saving.

The bedroom tax, which cuts housing benefit from 660,000 of the poorest people, comes in on the same day as the cut in the top rate of tax from 50p to 45p, helping out thousands of millionaires. It really couldn't be more unfair.

I think the last sentence makes Helen's position clear.

All worth noting that we have had the views of cllrs from Warley, Halifax and now Sowerby Bridge but still not a peep from our own Cllr Battye.

From S Norwood

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Cllr Baker, why should a person undergoing chemotherapy treatment for cancer, living on a tiny income, have to apply for a DHP? What suggestion do you have for such a person when the DHP pot has run out? Why were regulations not drafted to protect people with long term illness and disability?

Please don't blame the other parties. I'm not interested. You came on this thread to defend the policy. Please do so.

From Allen Keep

Saturday, 6 April 2013

I'm not at all interested in what shadow cabinet ministers have to say. I've never expected a lead on anything from the hierarchy of the labour party and they have not disappointed me yet. I am interested however in what local Labour councillors have to say and do (and apologies for omitting Cllr Swift in my earlier post) and indeed Labour party activists on the ground.

Meanwhile, Cllr Baker still has some explaining to do. Last year I distinctly remember repeatedly challenging him on his position on the privatisation of the NHS. I don't think I ever got an unequivocal answer. I seem to remember him saying something to the effect that for a councillor in his position national issues were not really what he should be concerned with - rather he was more interested in speeding, dog poo in the parks and the like.
On this occasion, Cllr Baker has not only commented on the Bedroom tax he has nailed his colours to the mast on this national issue and
is unrepentant (for he has been given the chance) in his support and promotion of this vile legislation.

Fair enough. But the question I asked, Cllr Baker, and one you have avoided is a simple one. How will the Bedroom Tax bring about a fair distribution of social housing?

From Simon Hayles

Monday, 8 April 2013

Thank you, Allen, for focusing the issue. I second your question.
Councillor Baker, how will the Spare Room Subsidy bring about a fair distribution of social housing?

From Cllr James Baker

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

It will bring about a fairer distribution of social housing by encouraging people in larger houses with spare rooms to move into smaller houses.

This will mean people on the waiting list with families will be able to access those houses. It seems fair to me to allocate available housing stock on a needs basis.

Increasing the housing stock is another obvious thing that should be encouraged. Although this often meets local opposition from people who don't want land near them built on.

The Local Housing Allowance introduced the 'bedroom tax' for the private rental sector in 2008. I can't remember the outcries from Labour then.

Regarding health I think the most important thing is a universal service regardless of income, race, sex, status etc. To put it bluntly I'd probably be dead if I lived somewhere like the US where poor people can't access healthcare.

However I don't particularly mind what type of provider delivers that universal service as long as it is of top quality. I think there are merits to consumer driven systems such as the Swiss health care system. What worries me about some of the current reforms is they are not being driven by patient/consumer demand.

From Paul D

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Instead of just the usual whine at Labour at least the coalition is now introducing its own policies, but what it terms welfare reform (reform being something they think is difficult to disagree with) should really be seen as part of the wider radical restructuring of the post-war social contract. This is anything but 'reform' as in improvement of the existing, it's purposefully creating disincentives for certain patterns of occupation and targets quite specifically those dependent on state support, often through no fault of their own.

It has been said but is worth repeating that the greatest fraud in housing is being committed by those private landlords inflating their rents for tenants on benefits. The buy to let sector played a huge role in the banking crisis, our current lack of affordable homes has a lot to do with the proliferation of housing portfolios gained on 80 or 85% loan to valuation deals. Where social housing is a crisis of underinvestment, the private sector is still ensconced in a speculative bubble fed by banks and being slowly addressed by stealth; through the nationalisation of the bad debt. So, while social housing isn't being built, the Tories need to find ever more creative ways of forcing people into the private sector to support the otherwise worth less (not worthless) property portfolios of its supporters. Keeping air in the housing bubble prevents all those who took risky loans or made risky investments from having to deal with the consequences, until one way or another the state picks up the tab. And of course protects weak or bankrupt private companies like banks from having to accept that they are - that their loan books are packed with rancid buy to let debt.

So, as has been said, this really is all about the failure of capitalism and the failure of capitalists to play by their own rules i.e. you live or die by the market. Now you make a mistake and you pass on the cost to the state, shareholders of bad banks aren't wiped out, no, they pass on all the bad debt to bad banks, share value is artificially inflated until they offload them or hang in their and keep the profits as the state floods the sector with cheap money. Private landlords can now rely on their friends in office to print cheap money that spins the state funded money-go-round ride for another turn, then another, allowing them to profit and keep on going until they choose to jump off. The joke is of course the term welfare - it's just the greatest redistribution of public funds to private sector corporations ever known.

The 'public bad private good' nonsense ignores the fact that the latter sucks the blood of the former to survive. There really would be no private pharmaceutical companies of any note in the UK without the NHS, but don't let that economic reality get in the way of attacking the weak. Subsidies are only subsidies when they apply to the poor. The billions of 'soft loans' or outright payments to overseas companies to set up in the UK are not subsidies, it's essential wealth creation for er... private shareholders. No tax on their bedrooms that's for sure. Well just no tax really.

So, this bedroom tax is not a moral tale it's an economic one, the current market model is amoral and that amorality morphs into political and individual immorality when unchecked by the public, it leads to a visceral greed that has no care for the needs of the weak, they are units of income to be exploited to the full. Indeed the poorer are weaker and thus easier to exploit. The bedroom tax may raise little, but it redresses the ideological balance in the favour of capital. It's another turn of the right wing ratchet. It's an idiocy that will only exist if we let it, so dulled to the suffering of others we've become, so quick to harangue the unfortunate for the misfortunes foisted upon them, we probably will.

The bedroom tax is about our society and about how we value those in it. For the Tories it is perfectly legitimate, they are the party that allows no limit on greed. For anyone who would prefer a market that played by market rules, or a market that was forced to take account of the social consequences of market activities, or would even prefer to replace the capitalist system altogether it's truly objectionable. Defending it is fine, it just lets everyone know where you are, which is in a very nasty place indeed. So welcome back - to the nasty party.


From Allen Keep

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Thank you Paul D for that superb contribution. What a contrast between your piece and the latest response from Cllr Baker.

It seems that asking the latter a simple question was fruitless. His response reminds me of the experience one often has when buying something in Dixons or somewhere (other electrical outlets available). When you ask a simple question like what does it do?, how does it perform?, how does it compare to the one next to it? etc the salesperson invariably reads back to you what you have already read on the card next to your prospective purpose. Informed but none the wiser.

So here is Cllr Bakers answer.

"It will bring about a fairer distribution of social housing by encouraging people in larger houses with spare rooms to move into smaller houses.
This will mean people on the waiting list with families will be able to access those houses."

That's the equitable distribution of social housing sorted then, don't know what the fuss is about. Only I was wondering how it would work in reality rather than hear that it will work because the government and Cllr Baker say it will.

I suppose if you only have a lie to rest your case on you rather than say, evidence or a plausible analysis you might as well just repeat it over and over again.

I do love however the double speak of which any Stalinist state would be proud. Cutting peoples benefits and terrifying them is now known as "encouragement"

From Simon Hayles

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Councillor Baker, you say that "It will bring about a fairer distribution of social housing by encouraging people in larger houses with spare rooms to move into smaller houses."

Ok, but can we just break that down a bit?

From Calderdale's website:
"The Strategic Housing Market Assessment report suggested that 641 affordable homes were needed each year in Calderdale... ...There is a demand from households across all property sizes but with the greatest need for 1 and 2 bedroomed properties" so those forced to move would have to go into private housing.

As 2/3 of those affected have disabilities they have probably had their current home allocated (bungalows) or adapted (walk-in baths, stairlifts &c) to suit their needs, it is very unlikely that private sector homes will be similarly equipped. How much will it cost to make these adaptations to their new homes? Will private landlords be agreeable to allowing such adaptations to their property anyway?

You yourself say that more social housing needs to be built. Surely you can see that until this has been done the bedroom tax will do nothing but cause suffering and distress to those affected by it? Most cannot move because there is nowhere suitable for them to move to. How can this be called encouragement? Surely It can only force them into debt or deprivation?

From Paul Clarke

Friday, 12 April 2013

I've been on my hols for a week so was expecting that Cllr Battye would have enough time to answer my two requests as one of her constituents as to whether she supports the Bedroom Tax.

Not so despite her taking the time to post in another thread.

So for the third time I am asking her if as the Lib Dem member for Calder and Deputy Leader of the Council does she support the Bedroom Tax?

We have heard from Warley, Sowerby and Halifax cllrs but not a peep from our Todmorden based councillor.

If I don''t get a reply then I will have use my three strikes and you are out rule and assume she does support this awful tax, but doesn't have the courage to tell us.

I hope some of the people who voted for her last year are now suitably embarrassed by her failure to answer a simple request.

From Allen Keep

Friday, 12 April 2013

I notice our free and democratic society is spending around 50% of what it has granted the poor in discretionary housing payments on glorifying the leader (without a discussion, vote or mandate) while using state radio to ban the munchkins.

Sound a bit like North Korea I'd say.

From Simon Hayle

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Councillor Baker? Shall I take your lack of response as your tacit agreement that the bedroom tax is inherently unfair?

Since you chose to enter this debate, please answer the question many of us have now posed:

Into what accommodation will those people forced to downsize by the under-occupancy penalty move?

The answer is of grave importance to 91 homes in your own ward and around 1500 homes in Calderdale as a whole.

I see it this way: If you are merely a political mouthpiece, you will keep quiet - you've 'spread the word' - your work is done. If you are a worthy representative of your constituents and a worthwhile member of the council, you will answer the question posed here, even if only to say you were mistaken. Which is it to be?

From Allen Keep

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Paul is quite right to pursue Cllr. Battye. We have a right to know what she thinks about the bedroom tax and the Lib Dems need to be held accountable for their appalling collaboration with this craven Government.
But there is another question which I have asked and which is, I believe, much more important in the context of actually fighting this disgusting legislation and to which I haven't had an answer either.

What of those who we know oppose the bedroom tax? What are our local Labour councillors going to do about it? A fair point. No?

From Cllr Susan Press

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

This has been a long thread so I will keep it short. Last Thursday I attended the excellent meeting called by Calderdale Against The Bedroom Tax campaign.

It was not the 'usual suspects' but overwhelmingly comprised of people at the sharp end of this inhumane and appalling attack on the poorest and most vulnerable.

We need our councillors in Calderdale to do their damndest to support them - and state their support for a 'no evictions' policy. We also need them to put pressure on Pennine Housing.

It beggars belief that affluent politicians and people who have never known what it is like to survive on low or no income lecture us on 'fairness." There is nothing fair about this policy and I hope it triggers the collapse of this wretched Government as the poll tax did for Thatcher. It surprises me not one jot that Coun Baker supports it. Does anyone still have illusions in the Lib Dems? Please support the campaign.

From Joe Ridley

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

If a refuse-to-pay protest doesn't work maybe those that are forced to pay this "wicked tax" could withdraw their labour.

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 18 April 2013

I have no idea what Joe Ridley is trying to say but it sounds like a rather unpleasant jibe at those forced to make a "choice" between having their benefits cut and finding somewhere to live when there isn't anywhere to go. Nice.

Back to those who would prefer to defend the poor and vulnerable rather than attack them and therefore thanks to Cllr Susan Press for her support.

Sue raises an important point about our councillors supporting the victims of the Bedroom Tax and putting pressure on our social housing providers not to put people out on the street because they can't pay it.
Further to this aim, and following the very successful public meeting last week, Calderdale Protest Against the Bedroom Tax and Calderdale Save Our Services are calling for a lobby of the council at the next full meeting 24th April from 5pm - Halifax Town Hall.

To their credit, Labour have a motion to the meeting opposing the Bedroom Tax and calling for housing associations not to evict their tenants.

The greater the number of people supporting this motion both outside and inside the building the better and I hope people will put pressure on their councillors where they can and come and join us on the lobby.

At the meeting a petition was launched for Calderdale residents to register their opposition to the bedroom tax and calling for no evictions. The petition is on line here and we hope as many Calderdale residents as possible will sign it.

From Cllr James Baker

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Simon I don't read HebWeb every day. I've been busy helping someone apply for discretionary housing payment, working and looking after my family. I have more important things to do than respond to every post immediately. Although at least your latest attack on me is not as bad as being called a Stalinist,condemned to hell or criticised for reading books when mentioning Marcuse.

In cases where there are no houses to move to I would support a waiver of the under occupancy penalty until properties became available. Julian Huppert MP was in favour of that, and I agree.

Have you got an analysis of availability in the private sector? There are flats and smaller properties available last time I looked. Adapted properties I agree should be exempt unless there is another smaller adapted property available.

Cllr Press not all politicians have no idea what it's like to live on a pittance. I lived in a caravan because I couldn't afford rent. I went out and stacked shelves and did odd jobs to save up the deposit for a private flat (which was extortionate in Brighton at the time).

From Joe Ridley

Thursday, 18 April 2013

The point is Allen, as you well know, the changes made to the benefit system regarding bedrooms is not a tax. You and the Labour Party are being disingenuous to keep banging on about a tax.

It is we the taxpayers who pay tax. Benefits recipients use our tax payments to live. They receive, or have received, free healthcare, free schooling, free police services, free fire services, free waste collection, free council services, free housing etc etc.

Stop referring to this as a tax. It is ridiculous and misleading to do so.
As for your planned protests; I'm sorry I won't be able to attend because I'll be working.

From Charles Gate

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Here is a submission from the 'Airport Group', a collective of northern England Housing Associations who made this submission over two years ago to Central Government on how the Bedroom Tax would affect tenants, their families and their communities. This is their conclusion on the proposed changes to benefits.

  • Financial hardship;
  • Risk of growing debt amongst an already financially excluded group of people;
  • Impact on quality of life and detriment to health;
  • Higher level of evictions and people finding themselves homeless.
  • Moving frequently as family sizes change;
  • Moving to the private sector, but potentially paying more for a one-bedroom flat than they would for a two-bedroom in the social sector.

Much more can be found here.

Pennine Housing 2000, the largest local social landlord, is party to the above. In the document they are known as ‘Transpennine Housing’ and today may be known as part of the ‘Together Housing Group’.

From Simon Hayles

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Cllr Baker,

The maximum that the council will pay in housing benefit (based on the LHA) is £250 per month for a 1 bedroom home and £290 for 2 bedrooms. Since April 2011, anyone under 35 will get less than this and be expected to live in shared accommodation.

My research today across several accommodation sites found a total of 24 private properties for rent throughout Calderdale which are priced at £300 or less per month. That's to share between 1500 applicants. Even then the lucky 24 will need to find £600 up front, assuming the landlord accepts benefits claimants (and most of them don't).

If I and others are attacking you it's because you are supporting, without any real evidence, a measure which very clearly and demonstrably causes distress to many already disadvantaged people throughout Calderdale and the UK.

This benefit cut can and must be reversed. I hope these figures will convince you to press for that to happen.

From Allen Keep

Monday, 22 April 2013

I'm glad Cllr. Baker is helping his constituent claim poor relief, sorry DHP. I think it’s only fair though to point out that on the assumption that he/she has been affected by the Bedroom Tax, his help would not have been needed if his government, with his full support, had not implemented it in the first place. Seems a bit like running someone over on purpose and then offering them a hand up.

I do hope Cllr Baker’s constituent gets their DHP though - but it’s unlikely given the puny amount spread around the number of people affected - and at best it will be both a small and temporary figure. Of course, it may have been more likely (by at least 30% and probably more) if the government had thrown in the £10m it chose, without mandate, vote or discussion to spend on the funeral of one person. But then, according to Cllr Baker, that is a sum of money that it would be mean to quibble about.

Cllr Baker has rather painted himself into a corner over the bedroom tax it seems and the only positive I can see, if I really try, is that he has at least had the courage to put his case (utterly misguided though it is) forward in a public forum - which is more than can be said for his fellow Lib Dems who are strangely silent on the issue.

Gamely blundering on, Cllr Baker makes the somewhat glib suggestion that the private sector may be the answer to the problem that although the bedroom tax coerces, sorry “encourages”, people to move there is nowhere for them to go. Well, that has been quickly and effectively debunked by Simon Hayles.

Even if it was the case that social housing tenants could find affordable and suitable accommodation in the private sector (particularly the disabled whom this tax hits disproportionately hard) the net effect would be to force people out of their homes and bump the housing benefit bill up even more.

This exposes the internal contradiction (which I am surprised Cllr Baker, as a reader of Marxist theory, hasn’t spotted) at the heart of the Bedroom Tax. The government can only save on the housing benefit bill if people don’t move and if they don’t move (which we all know is more likely the case the case because they can’t) there is no improvement in the allocation of social housing according to need. So, Cllr Baker’s claim that the Bedroom tax is about saving money and bringing fairness to social housing is entirely bogus.

The Bedroom Tax is about stripping benefits away from the most vulnerable. End of.

Now, after some thought, Cllr Baker plays his get out of jail card. Apparently he is in favour of the Huppert suggestion. Strange he hasn’t mentioned it before. Exempting adapted properties? Excellent. No benefit penalty until properties are found? – another more humane step at least (provided there are stringent safeguards for tenants in terms of what is seen as a suitable available property). Trouble is - it is pie in the sky as it doesn’t fit at all with the true purpose of the Tax.
So I do hope this is not a cynical move by a politician to point to something more favourable as his preference but which he knows is simply not going to happen and won’t be delivered as a means to divert attention from the question of his support or not for what is on the table.

On Wednesday at the full council meeting what is on the table for Cllr Baker and all Lib Dem’s is quite straightforward. A Labour motion will call for Housing Associations not to throw their tenants on the streets because that can’t pay the rent after their benefit is savaged by the Bedroom Tax and further that the council asks the Government to remove the Tax.

So will Lib Dems side with Labour or with the Tories?

In between working and looking after my family I attended the Leeds demonstration on Saturday which was large and vibrant. It was a reminder that there is wide scale and diverse opposition to this disgraceful legislation which will not go away. Many people were referring to the spirit of the revolt against the Poll Tax.

Tenants spoke about their experiences at the rally. A woman in a wheelchair who has a degenerative disease which will take her life spoke about being disabled but not disabled enough it seems to be exempt from the Bedroom Tax – and being terrified of eviction from a house that needs a hoist and a range of equipment she keeps in her “spare” room. Another woman spoke of spending time on the streets and in a refuge but is now housed in a 2 bed flat in a high rise - because no one else would live there - who simply can’t afford to take a cut in benefit and can’t find work. Another woman spoke of working and paying taxes for 30 years but is now too ill to work and wants a room for her grandchildren to stay and not to be uprooted from her community.
Why would we impoverish these people? Why would we scare and demoralise them? Why would we threaten to force them out of their homes? What have they done wrong?

One tenant asked another simple question - referring directly to the Lib Dems. Do they really have to do whatever the Tories ask of them? If the Tories asked them to do anything would they do so?

Lib Dem councillors have the opportunity on Wednesday to answer that question. Opponents of the Bedroom Tax will be watching with great interest and we shall be lobbying outside - 5pm Halifax Town Hall. I urge everyone who opposes this tax and would like their voice to be heard to join us if they can.

From Simon Hayles

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The council can by all means say that housing associations shouldn't evict, but it won't make much difference. As the report that Charles posted shows, those associations are as badly hit as the tenants themselves. They're losing cash-flow. They have the additional costs of maintaining empty properties between tenants, trying to recover ever-increasing arrears and so on. In the longer term, housing associations will be less able to develop new housing or renovate old, so the available stock will actually fall.

This doesn't just punish the poor of today, it punishes the poor of tomorrow as well.

Of course the council should protest this injustice to the government and call for repeal.

By the way, will the council debate whether or not to evict their own tenants?

From Dave R

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The council won't need to vote on the situation re their own tenants and possible eviction. Calderdale's council housing stock was sold off to Pennine Housing for handful of copper over 12 years ago.

From Allen Keep

Thursday, 25 April 2013

I attended the Lobby of Calderdale Council on Wednesday (which was excellent) and was in the public gallery with my fellow campaigners for the debate on the Bedroom Tax. Labour tabled a motion opposing the Tax and calling on housing associations not to evict those in arrears because of it.

An oppositional "amendment" (which began with "delete all and add" and therefore was actually an alternative motion) was tabled not by the Tories as one might expect but by Cllr James Baker (Lib Dem) - which may have surprised some as, at least at the time of the meeting(!), Labour and Lib Dems were in coalition on the council.

Preferring to attack his local coalition partners in favour of his national Tory friends and way out of the comfort zone of dog poo and speeding issues Cllr Baker stepped up to defend the indefensible. His two and a half minutes of fame focused rather a lot on attacking the last Labour government in between which he argued the Bedroom Tax was not actually a Tax (ouch) and that it was about "parity" as labour had done a similar thing to private tenants in 2008 (true). The parity argument (which makes it sound fair) is incredible. I imagine it is therefore "fair" for someone who burgles a house to rob the people next door too? (laughing in the gallery).

Cllr. Baker then happily trotted out the great government lie once more – The Bedroom Tax is about a fair distribution of social housing and for those who are unfortunately disadvantaged by it DHP payments will sort it out – also a lie. Interestingly, not a word in the written motion or in Cllr Baker's speech about the "Huppert" suggestions (see above) which I would have thought would have been a reasonably constructive amendment for a Lib Dem to propose.

Frankly, it was embarrassing and what followed next can only be described as a savaging from Labour. The Tories, clearly horrified by the oiks in the gallery (a Labour Cllr alleged Cllr baker referred to us as "rent a mob"!), offered pantomime support. I suspect they rather wished Cllr. Baker hadn't bothered - but it at least added to the comedy value.
What of Cllr. Baker's comrades in the Lib Dem seats? Another savaging (oh dear) from a Lib Dem Cllr from, I respectfully think, a generation of people which still has some Liberal values and principles left. Finally, Deputy Leader Cllr. Battye broke her silence and spoke (brief, vague, uninspiring) – in favour of Cllr. Baker's motion. There you are Paul C – Cllr. Batty supports the Bedroom Tax (you missed it!).

And then the vote. Tense. 22-20! Cllr Baker's amendment falls – Labour's motion is passed. Calderdale officially opposes the Bedroom Tax! Rent a mob rejoice, trash the gaff and leave (just kidding). Labour members retire to seriously wonder how they can continue to work with these people.

I'd like to thank Labour councillors, particularly those who spoke so well, on behalf of the campaigners for standing up to the Tories, attacking this obscene legislation and speaking out for the victims of it. I think it is also only fair to congratulate those Lib Dem Cllrs who voted against Cllr. Baker (there was a recorded vote so it will be a matter for public record how each councillor voted). They at least can answer the question the Leeds tenant asked last Saturday with some dignity intact. Did they have to do whatever the Tories asked? No. To their shame, Cllrs. Baker and Battye cannot say the same and I think the former at least should seriously consider crossing the floor of the chamber.

I can't speak for everyone who has worked so hard in Calderdale to raise this issue and oppose this tax but I am confident that none of us believe for one moment that, sweet and well deserved though this small victory is, it will really make a decisive difference to the future of this legislation.
I am absolutely sure however that we will continue to fight on, whatever the outcome, with even more determination and the certain knowledge that right is on our side.

From Simon Hayles

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

There was a very constructive meeting yesterday evening of various groups and individuals to discuss ways of reducing the harm done by this tax.

Two clear strands of action emerged;

The first was to offer sound advice and support to those affected and those helping them. Some of those attending were either directly affected or acting on behalf of those who were affected and it became clear that good advice and guidance was hard to find. Quote: 'Shelter's phone line is permanently engaged'.

The second was to find ways to express to the Council, to housing associations and to the Government our concern at this meaningless attack on the most vulnerable among us. Hats off to the Council for opposing the tax, but we need to do a lot more than that!

Decisions were made to organise advice sessions, to arrange events to publicise this injustice and give sources of help and advice, and to set up a website to offer advice and to coordinate opposition to this awful law.

There will be a further meeting on Tuesday 7th of May at 7.30 in the Trades Club band room.

From Simon Hayles

Thursday, 9 May 2013

I just read the Full Council minutes for their last meeting and I applaud the council for their sound judgement on this matter. I look forward to the Government's response to their appeal to repeal this law.

Nobody is benefitting from this law except a few private landlords. The tenants suffer, the housing associations suffer and the Council reviles it.
So for whose benefit is this law?

Our MP, Craig Whittaker, is having a street surgery on 25th May at Todmorden carnival (12.30 - 4.30).

Be sure to turn up and ask him!

Just a reminder from the HebWeb Forum guidelines: "Please develop the discussion by making good points and offering information or references, not by attacking a previous contributor to the thread. Thanks." - Ed

See also:

HebWeb News: Bedroom tax - fears that hundreds of local people will be affected (21 Feb 2013)