Tag Archives: Bedroom Tax

Housing Association In Wales Offers Free Creme Egg To Bedroom Tax Tenants

An outstanding example of the capacity of bureaucracy to patronise and offend in a seemingly effortless manner. I understand that if any of their tenants are unfortunate enough to be struggling with the Bedroom Tax AND diabetes, the compensation is increased to SIX creme eggs.

Isn’t life grand??

Same Difference

Readers, you couldn’t make this letter up.

Full details here.

I don’t know whether to be patronised, or let out the laughter I’m struggling to hold back.

So I’ll ask you to help me send this viral and give me a sweet treat!

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The Bedroom Tax is Dead here’s why

Bedroom Tax Dead??

If you’re affected – appeal NOW!! You have 13 months from the original decision, so time is of the essence.


There IS a legal definition of bedroom for bedroom tax purposes

Very interesting case-law development on the Bedroom Tax. Anyone affected should appeal, quoting CH/140/2013. Take advice, or simply contact your Local Authority, quoting that reference. You should act BEFORE MARCH 2014 to ensure you don’t run out of time. ACT NOW!!

Bedroom Tax Claims Its First Confirmed Victim

Stephanie Bottrill: No Hope

Stephanie Bottrill: No Hope

Stephanie Bottrill was a 53 year-old grandmother who had lived in her terraced house in Solihull for 18 years, bringing up her children as a struggling single parent, nurturing the cherished back garden which was her pride and joy. Here she’d buried the pet cats she had loved; here was the area of calm she called her “special place”, where she could feel at peace. Then the Bedroom Tax bill arrived, and Stephanie knew she would have to pay £20 extra a week or find somewhere smaller. So, she sadly packed her bags ready to move, but nowhere suitable could be found. Resigned to her lack of options, Stephanie Bottrill sat down and wrote notes to all her family, dropped her house keys through a neighbour’s letterbox and walked down to Junction 4 of the A6 motorway where she stepped into the path of a northbound lorry and was killed instantly. She had become the first confirmed victim of Iain Duncan-Smith’s ill-advised and hated Bedroom Tax policy.

The notes that Stephanie had left behind were notes of love for her family, beseeching them not to blame themselves for her decision to end her life. She just wasn’t strong enough to carry on, she explained, and nobody was to blame but the Government. Her family have reacted with despair and disbelief that anybody could be driven to such lengths. But really, this tragic event was to be expected. A government that formulates a policy that leaves its most vulnerable citizens with nowhere to turn, no options to lead their lives in peace and security, must expect an outcome such as this. Realistically, as appalling and dreadfully sad as Stephanie Bottrill’s fate may be, she will almost certainly not be the last person to give up on life, to snuff out their own life. In the face of this Government’s callous and uncaring determination to visit all our economic ills on the heads of the poorest and least able to pay, it is horrifyingly likely that the death toll will rise, unless those in power can be persuaded to wake up, and smell the coffee.

It is difficult to imagine a more ill-conceived and irresponsible policy than this notorious and discredited Bedroom Tax. It is a policy that places those least able to cope directly into a Catch-22 situation. Unable to find the extra money levied each week – £20 is a frighteningly large amount out of a meagre weekly income. Unable to move either, because of the lack of suitable smaller properties. What is one to do? Discretionary payments can be applied for, but the budgets for these are laughably small; in practice only those with the very severest of disabilities in the most deprived of circumstances will have any chance of qualifying, and then only for a limited time. Maybe a move to the private sector rental market, but there is no security there, rental contracts are for months, not years. You are simply existing from month to month, or if you’re lucky, from year to year; you’re not living in your own home. Do the politicians who draft these measures, and who live in mansions and never worry where the next meal is coming from, have any real idea of how this might feel? The heat or eat dilemma? The pain of having to move out of a place where your children grew up, somewhere you’ve invested years of your life to make a house a home? Do they have the remotest clue?

It’s equally difficult to speculate as to what the reaction will be of Cabinet Ministers hearing news like this. Will they feel the pangs of conscience? Will they allow doubt to enter their educated and sophisticated heads as to whether these policies are really right? There is absolutely no sign of any such response. The issues confronting the poor, the dilemma of those faced with paying up or shipping out when neither is a feasible option – and there are thousands of people in precisely that situation – are a closed book to people who are in power and yet completely out of touch with the nitty-gritty of everyday life for the most vulnerable in society. That much we can say with confidence; the evidence for it is irrefutable. But an even more worrying question is: do they even care? Does anyone in this Government actually give a damn?

Stephanie Bottrill seems to have concluded, in the face of all the information available to her, that – in undeniable fact – nobody in Government does care. Nobody was prepared to lift a finger to help her in her no-win, zero-options situation. Most of us – fortunately for our peace of mind – cannot imagine the despair, the desperate loneliness and lack of hope that goes hand-in-hand with a conclusion like that. We can only accept that Stephanie’s state of mind, as she made her solitary walk to a death she felt was her only way out, was of a resolve born of her absolute conviction that the Government had abandoned her, careless of her fate, indifferent as to whether she lived or died. She made the awful decision to act on that conviction, alone and with her own indomitable brand of courage. Stephanie chose to abandon the world she felt had given up on her.

Can any of us say with any confidence that she was wrong?

Tories Need to Learn That Carrots Sometimes Work Better Than Sticks

Peter Lilley

Ex-Cabinet minister Peter Lilley has unwittingly put his finger on a possible answer to the “spare bedrooms” issue, which has been used to justify the iniquitous Bedroom Tax. Interviewed on BBC Radio Five Live, the former Social Security Secretary attempted to defend savage cuts to Housing Benefit by remarking that his constituents are always complaining that they’re overcrowded in their one-bedroom social housing units. Why then, argued Lilley, is it fair for other tenants to “under-occupy”, and have one or two “spare bedrooms”?

The problem is, of course, that as in all its dealings with the poorer end of society, the Coalition has decided that the bludgeon is the most effective instrument of Government. Hence the rightly-hated Bedroom Tax; ill-conceived, improperly thought-out, poorly presented and unfair to the nth degree. No account is taken of whether there is a genuine option for people affected to move to smaller properties, nor of whether the cost of this undertaking is feasible for them. Any consideration of the distinct needs of the disabled, which may medically justify the use of separate bedrooms for couples, has been specifically ruled out.

A possible answer – a fair, practicable answer at that – lies within the rhetoric of Lilley’s attempted justification of the unjustifiable. If, as he says, there is still a big problem of people suffering from overcrowding, and being in need of larger properties currently under-occupied by smaller families – then why not simply engineer some means whereby these two groups can be made aware of each other and thereby facilitate property swaps? A large part of the reason why the “under-occupiers” won’t be moving is the lack of availability of smaller properties. If “swaps” could be facilitated, on a large enough scale, then we could have a mutually satisfactory solution to the problems of both groups. It would be necessary of course to incentivise such a plan – perhaps a transitional payment and/or financial assistance with removal costs and other formalities. It’s a question of square pegs in square holes – the solution should be neat and simple. But the Government don’t see it that way, because they’re instinctively suspicious of the motives of the poor, who they see as wishing to hang on to their “something for nothing” at all costs, and they are therefore determined to hammer these unfortunates who have no scope to either move on, or pay the rent arising out of the imposed cuts in Housing Benefit.

The whole issue comes down to this Government’s pathological preference for the stick over the carrot. They are bolstered in this instinct by the leanings of their natural supporters, Mail readers and the like, who wish to see “the smack of firm government” applied to anyone who has been sufficiently demonised by a press that seems intent on disseminating Tory propaganda. The ultimate aims of the Bedroom Tax haven’t been all that well clarified either. We hear about the “unfairness” of under-occupation, but it’s being acknowledged that a primary goal is to save on the Housing Benefit bill, with half a billion pounds being mooted as a first year economy. How does this help get larger families into larger properties? Cutting the income of the “under-occupiers” is hardly the best way of persuading them to incur removal costs to move to a smaller property, possibly in the private sector at a higher rent – because all the over-crowded families are in the one-bedroom social housing properties. It’s a real mess, round pegs in square holes, square pegs in round holes, and no strategy to facilitate any sort of reversal to mutual advantage.

Iain Duncan-Smith

Ministers right now are in a full state of alert, ready at the drop of a hat to respond to annoying and inconvenient criticism from the likes of church organisations, fully primed to do their best to defend the indefensible, as Peter Lilley was clumsily attempting to do. To this end, they are prepared to come out, bare-faced with the most unconscionable rubbish. Iain Duncan-Smith, a man who recently claimed £39 expenses for one breakfast, has asserted that he would be able to live on benefit subsistence levels of £53 weekly. Utter nonsense, of course, but this is a symptom of desperation in the face of a tidal wave of opposition, for a government that will brook no alternative. The problem these ministers have is that they are increasingly aware the measures they’re being asked to speak up for are bad policies, and – much, much worse for any mid-term government – bad politics. The current administration are wide-open to charges of callousness, misrepresenting salient facts about poverty and an abject failure, indeed refusal, to listen to any source – however well-informed – that doesn’t unswervingly endorse their chosen path. That’s the kind of leadership that got Thatcher removed – and David Cameron, if he hasn’t already given up hope of winning the next election, increasingly looks in dire need of a Plan B.

Practically, I believe that what I might be tempted to term “The Lilley Plan”, allied to sensible investment in the construction industry, could go a long way towards solving the conflicting issues of over-crowding and under-occupancy – as long as it would be properly funded and incentivised. It’s still a matter of trying to get people to move out of homes they may have lived in for years after all; which is still uncomfortably close to social engineering. But if carrots are tried, for once – instead of the endless battalions of Tories wielding sticks – then maybe some progress could be made, and there would be benefits too for the wider economy of more investment in construction; jobs, taxes raised, housing options created, growth – that sort of thing. They’re all distant and unattainable dreams for the Coalition at the moment, but maybe, just maybe, a little more of an imaginative approach to government might reap some reward.

But it is the Tories we’re dealing with here, and they’re brought up from the nursery to think they know best so – you know – don’t hold your breath.

The Waste Land (A Land Laid Waste by Gideon’s “Reforms”)

The Waste Land

A paraphrased adaptation – with apologies to T S Eliot.

This variation was written to coincide with the first day of the UK Coalition Government’s so-called “Welfare Reforms” which will savagely cut into the income of the very poorest, at a time when millionaires will benefit from massive tax cuts. April 1st, the starting date of Gideon Osborne’s main assault on the most vulnerable members of society, quite aptly also marks All Fools’ Day.

The Waste Land

April is the cruellest month, raising
Bedroom tax out of the disabled, mixing
Malice and discrimination, stirring
Tory hearts with millionaires’ tax cuts.

Winter kept us cold, covering
Doormats with higher fuel bills, feeding
A few of the poor from distant food banks.
And we were frightened.

What are the roots that clutch, what branches grow
Out of this Tory rubbish? Son of man,
You cannot say, or guess, for you know only
A heap of broken promises, while the Sun bleats,
And the Coalition gives no shelter, the government no relief,
And Parliament no sound of explanation. Only
There is despair under this evil regime,
(Come and feel the despair under this evil regime),
And I will show you something different from either
Your shadow at morning striding behind you
Or your shadow at evening rising to meet you;
I will show you fear in a handful of “reforms”.

Shantih, shantih, shantih.