Karen, commenting on my last post, asked if I'd write about the bedroom tax.
So - taking a deep breath - here I go. Those of you in the UK with probably know all this - I'll be interested to see what you think. I shall try to be impartial - well, I'll try to present the reasoning that underpins the wretched tax, and then its unintended (but predictable) consequences. All this without using the word 'ludicrous.'
Here in the UK we have, since 1945, tried to provide social housing for those who, for whatever reason (generally poverty) are unable to buy their own homes nor afford rents in the private sector. This is meant to ensure that everyone is adequately housed, has access to clean water and sanitation - that sort of thing.
Then along came Margaret Thatcher who decided it would be a good idea if people who lived in social housing had the opportunity to buy their own homes, at reduced rates, thus allowing them to join the property market - founded on a belief that private ownership is good and social housing is inferior. Significant numbers took up her offer - thus reducing the number of houses available for those who need them.
Our current government, anxious to reduce public spending, noticed that some people living in social housing have a spare room. Sometimes this is because children have grown up and left home; sometimes it is because they are disabled and need space for specialised equipment; sometimes they are foster carers leaving a room free for emergency placements.
Not good enough, said the government - there are people who need these houses. They are right - the waiting list for social housing grows and grows. Families linger in unsanitary conditions waiting for houses to become available. So surely, if people with rooms to spare could move somewhere smaller - then this would free bigger homes for bigger families? But no one is asked politely to move, for the general good. No - everyone with a spare room MUST move to somewhere smaller (no, there can be No Excuses), or lose some of their benefits that help towards housing costs - effectively taxing them for having a spare room.
Which might be fine if there were flexibility - for the elderly who have lived in their homes for decades, for grandparents needing a spare room for children to return home, for those with offspring in their twenties who come and go for years before finally setting up their own homes, for the disabled ... On top of that, even if people agree to move, there aren't enough smaller properties for people to move into. Because Margaret Thatcher thought it was such a good idea to sell them.
So how are people managing:
Some are turning to food banks, or payday loan companies, or going without meals or heating, and trying to pay the tax.
Some are simply unable to pay, and are evicted. But the Council have a responsibility to help them, so they are moved into Bed and Breakfast accommodation - which is more expensive than any tax that was saved - until smaller properties become available.
Which, to me, looks totally bonkers. But what do I know? (Karen - I'll be interested to hear what you think?)