Mr. Mayor, what can one say about the Bedroom Tax? Whatever we are likely to start with, it is unlikely to capture the full emotion and impact of what the people who will suffer on the end of this change will be thinking and feeling today. I hope my contribution lends weight to their voice in opposition.
However, I want to start, if I may at the analysis of the Department of Work and Pensions because that Mr. Mayor is at the heart of why this policy is not only inept, not only cold, not only vicious. It’s the wrong choice.
The Department of Work and Pensions admit that there are not enough smaller properties for families to move to, yet the Bedroom Tax will still hit households that don’t have the option to move. Instead, the government expects families to pay extra rather than to move house. This won’t solve under occupancy, but it will hit low income working families, disabled people and families of soldiers who are serving their country.
The DWP’s own impact assessment says that 660,000 will be affected by this policy losing an average of £728 per year. Over 600 properties in Stafford. This means Stafford is set to lose over £8400 per week from our local economy. Over £33,000 per quarter and over £120,000 a year.
Two thirds of the households hit are home to someone who is disabled, and 220,000 families with children will be hit – one third, not forgetting divorced parents whose kids come to stay are being affected.
Let me tell you about the story of one of my residents who spoke to me about the Bedroom Tax on the doorstep although thanks to this policy I do have many more:
A mother, who is working and caring for her elderly mother, has worked hard all her life and played by the rules. She lives in a three bedroom property and has lost her husband. Her son has gone off to work in the Armed Services abroad, but still lives at home. Now she finds out that the government’s plan is for her to be at the mercy of the Bedroom Tax costing her £28 a week she just hasn’t got.
One Stafford resident, last week at a meeting to campaign against this policy, advocated that those affected should refuse to pay and stand in solidarity against the Bedroom Tax. A tough choice for anyone to make.
But Mr. Mayor this isn’t about tough choices, this is about the wrong choices.
Local Government should be about responsibility. It should be about caring for the community, and it should be about protecting the vulnerable from the knife of this coalition government, and should be about evidence-led policy not attacks from this Cabinet of Millionaires.
This Council has a duty to send to a message to Government that we reject this Bedroom Tax. It is one thing to say that the intention of this policy is to force taxpayers to downsize and live within their means but it is another to realise the reality of this policy that it will take money out of the pockets of those who need it most – families and the disabled.
This is why I call on the Borough Council to use the full extent of its influence to prevent evictions. The Council should instruct Stafford and Rural Homes, work with all of the other Housing Providers within the Borough to keep people in their homes.