Swindon South MP, Robert Buckland, writing in the Swindon Advertiser reckons that that tenants affected by the ‘bedroom tax’ will receive “slightly less” benefit. This is a letter in response. 

Writing in the Advertiser (“It’s a bit less benefit, not a ‘bedroom tax’”) Robert Buckland shows the extent to which he is out of touch with the lives of some of his constituents. He says that the  people affected will be receiving “slightly less” benefit. It may be a small sum to somebody on an MP’s wage, but to those who are supposed to survive on Job Seekers Allowance of £71 a week (£56 if you are under 25), paying 14% or 25% is a great deal. On top of that they will have to pay at least 20% of their Council Tax.

Does Mr Buckland think that people should be expected to live on less than £50 a week? For that is what some will have to do as a result of the cut. Even if a tenant has asked to move to a smaller property, if they are unable to because of the shortage of one bedroom homes, they will still have to pay. Does Mr Buckland think that is ‘fair’? Some people are already having to chose between “eating and heating” as one correspondent recently wrote, even before this cut.

On the very day when his government’s war on the poor is stepped up the government will introduce a tax cut for those on £150,000 a year. We now also know that a couple on a joint income of £300,000 a year will be subsidised to the tune of £1,200 a year for childcare. Thats round about the sum that some people will lose in their housing benefit cut. Does Mr Buckland think this is ‘fair’?

According to the government the ‘bedroom tax’ will save money and free up bigger homes. This is self-contradictory, since the only way that money will be saved is if people stay in their homes and pay the shortfall in their rent resulting from the HB cut. If they all moved then there would be no saving on HB.

In reality there are insufficient smaller homes for people to move into as Mr Buckland well knows. The government’s DWP admitted so in their “impact assessment”. The irony is that the ‘bedroom tax’ will mean that people on the housing waiting list will be stuck there longer because of the extra numbers from existing tenants who only ‘qualify’ for one bedroom properties. It would take more than 6 years for all those who ‘need’ a one bed property to be given one because of the shortage, so long as nobody on the waiting list is given a tenancy. If you add these tenants together with those on the waiting list (Bands A and B only) there are more than 5,000 households chasing after one bedroom properties. It would take around 50 years to accommodate them all, but only if the waiting list was closed down.

This gives an indication of the scale of the housing crisis which the coalition government is failing to address. Instead of policing tenants and bedroom numbers new Council house building is required to address the shortage instead of policing bedrooms and tenants.

As for the nonsense about people having home ‘bigger than they need’, consider how it will impact on families with children. The ‘bedroom standard’ on which the ‘bedroom tax’ is based takes no account of real life. For instance, a single parent or couple with two children who live in a three bedroom house, will have to ‘downsize’ to a 2 bed property if their children are under 10 (in the case of a boy and girl). Yet when one child reaches 10 they will be over-crowded and will have to be found a 3 bed house again. When the first child leaves homes, they will have to move to a 2 bed property once again. And finally, when the other child leaves home they the parent/s will have to move to a 1 bed property. From 3 to 2, to 3, to 2, to 1. Do you think this is ‘fair’ Mr Buckland? How are people supposed to live settled lives under such conditions?

What contribution to addressing the “acute housing shortage” will this iniquitous piece of legislation make? So far in Swindon 43 households have moved. That’s a massive contribution to cutting the numbers of the waiting list, isn’t it Rob?

Martin Wicks

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group