(Political rant warning. But hey, its MY blog, and I am angry…)
I was in a meeting in Argyll fairly recently in which a presentation was made about the likely impact of the bedroom tax (whereby council tenants are lose benefit for under-occupying homes deemed too large for their needs) on the people of Argyll. Two things stick in my mind- firstly the description of the number of people likely to be affected by the bedroom tax, next the number of available one bedroom properties for these folk to move into. The first number exceeded the second one by about 4 to 1.
The next thing that I remember was a Councillor raising a point of order with the chair because of the use of the term ‘bedroom tax’. He rightly pointed out that it is actually called the ‘under occupancy penalty’. You can guess that he was a supporter, but also that he was wasting his breath as the ‘bedroom tax’ label is here to stay.
This and the mess of other largely punitive changes brought in by the Welfare Reform Act 2012 should be a cause of shame on our government. Why are we allowing them to punish parts of society directly impacted by the greed of those who are currently profiting from austerity?
Where are the voices of opposition?
There have been a few raised by the Church, but too few.
Step forward the United Nation’s rapporteur on housing Raquel Rolnik, over here on a visit to examine the impact of our social housing. This is what she said;
In her preliminary report, Rolnik broadened her attack on the bedroom tax first revealed by the Guardian, to other concerns, including the effect of benefit caps and fears that decentralisation of planning laws in Northern Ireland might lead to “increased sectarianism and discrimination”. She warned that housing benefit caps would make moving to the private rented sector increasingly difficult for those on low incomes, and complained that homes were now allowed to stand empty in London and elsewhere because they had been sold to international buyers as financial assets.
The system for helping the poor in Britain had been weakened by “a series of measures over the years, notably by having privileged home-ownership over other forms of tenure”, said Rolnik.
She cited the government’s “help to buy” scheme and failure to replace homes removed from social housing by two decades of tenants’ right to buy their council homes. “It is possible to stimulate the economy and construction industry if you provide more social housing and affordable housing,” Rolnik said, adding that such a recommendation would be made in her final report.
She also warned over increasing stigma being shown toward Gypsies, Travellers and Roma struggling to find accommodation. She had concerns too about provision for refugees and asylum seekers. Rolnik did say Britain had set an example in the way it had renovated old social housing estates and praised its mixed communities and lack of segregation.
From The Guardian
The government is furious- calling (with no small irony) the report ‘scandalous’. They have since tried hard to attack Rolnik personally, suggesting she comes from a country where millions live in poverty, and somehow implying that her report is rogue and goes further than it ought to have done.
The truth is that when a government has to deal with the United Nations questioning the negative impact of its own policies towards the most needy members of its societies surely it ought to feel shame.
And surely we, the citizens of the country should hold to account that government?
In this age of fractured splintered self interest, perhaps it takes a Brazilian to look into our country and see things the way they are.