UKIP’s Magnus: ‘People who fought to extend the vote were probably doing the wrong thing’

Richard Osley

Magnus2

MAGNUS Nielsen has been the guy from UKIP in the north of Camden for what must be going on for at least ten years, maybe for as long as UKIP has been a thing. I’m not offended, but every election he introduces himself to me like we’ve never met before and tonight he insisted his party really were the ‘new kids on the block’ for next week’s council elections. No longer alone, a row of UKIP supporters were among those in the Emmanuel School hall for well-attended hustings organised by the West Hampstead Life website. For those who hadn’t seen Magnus at work, this was a vintage performance to start off with. His answers were so unlike all the other voices that his answers were capable of unifying the candidates from the other parties in a shared level of bemusement.

The strange thing is, that despite the fact he now…

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I forgive you Iain.

duncansmith

OK, Mr Iain Duncan Smith, I just wonder if you could clarify a few little issues I have with you about the the under occupancy charge that came into effect on 1st April this year otherwise known as the Bedroom Tax (yes I know you don’t like me calling that but I like calling it that and this is my blog and I shall do I please) The Bedroom Tax has been justified by yourself and your Government colleagues using a number of different arguments all of which strike me as being, at the very least, unconvincing so let’s just go through them one by one:

1) You have stated that the bedroom tax is fair because it addresses the issues of overcrowding and will help those people waiting on the housing lists to access homes by freeing up properties that are under occupied. Well that can’t be the real reason can it? There are no where near enough smaller properties for folk to move into and anyway your own department has clearly stated “We expect that most claimants affected by this measure (the Bedroom Tax) will find ways of making up the shortfall themselves, in order to remain in their existing home.” Oh, and the bedroom tax makes overcrowding mandatory by forcing children to share rooms so that bit must be wrong to. And of course there are all those exempted pensioners who are the largest proportion of under occupiers. If you were serious about reducing the HB budget then you surely would have made them subject to the Bedroom Tax. Core voter more important than the state of the public finances perhaps? Surely not. So I think we can fairly conclude that when you make this argument you are obviously having a bit of an off day and not thinking quite clearly. I can understand that, can happen to anyone, lets move on.

2) You have claimed that there is a huge Housing Benefit budget being funded by the taxpayer and the bedroom tax will help reduce this by encouraging people to move to smaller properties where they will have less rent to pay. Well that argument is pretty much scuppered by the points I made above and there is also the fact that if people seek to avoid the bedroom tax by moving from social housing into the Private Rented Sector they will pay higher rents so the Housing Benefit budget will go up.  But perhaps you were badly briefed on that one Iain. Civil Servants can be a pain I know. Never mind, lets look at the next one.

3) You assert that you are only bringing Social Housing tenants in line with the Private Rented Sector. It’s not fair, you say,  that tenants in Social Housing have bedrooms subsidised by the state when those in Private Rented accommodation do not. The trouble is you are not comparing like with like here. Social housing is a national asset. It is for the most part good quality, well maintained, affordable housing and provides the basis for the establishment of safe, secure and settled lives in stable communities. Housing Benefit paid to subsidise rents in Social Housing goes back into maintaining the properties and into funding new building. It is a not for profit social enterprise. In the Private Rented Sector tenants have very little security of tenure or control over the condition of their property. This is left to the whim of the Private Landlord who can provide whatever support he considers necessary, can charge whatever rent he can get away with and can evict with little difficulty. Tenants expect to move around a lot in the Private Rented Sector and they do. On the other hand Social Housing is allocated on the basis of need and with the presumption that it will provide for a housing need in the long term. Over the years many tenants have been offered properties, and taken them in good faith, by local Authorities and Housing Associations,  and are now deemed to be over occupying by retrospective legislation. They are being asked to leave, or pay a penalty for, what they thought of as their secure homes in which they have invested their time and money, brought up their families and built up their memories. They are being asked to leave their communities, move away from their friends and support networks or pay a penalty for staying. What’s that you are saying Iain? Oh, you are totally committed to families and family values and didn’t realise  that this would be the effect of your policies. Well that’s OK then. Anyone can make a mistake.

I forgive you Iain, just scrap the fucking Bedroom Tax and we’ll leave it at that.

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The Bedroom Tax and Basic Morality

Putting aside all the political arguments about the Bedroom Tax may I just say this. It is surely the duty of any democratically elected Government in the UK to protect its citizens where it can from events or circumstances that cause distress, fear and despair. It must also be beholding on said Government not to deliberately force any of its citizens into poverty. It is difficult to imagine any decent person disagreeing with these statements.

It took me few minutes on facebook to find these comments by people affected by the Bedroom Tax:

“I’ve just got my letter and I have to pay 16.48 a week I am severely disabled I have carers coming in daily but no over night care this is such a worry I don’t know which way to turn.”

“I’ll be left with about £45 after council & bedroom tax are paid. May as well start making a noose now, feel so very desperate….”

“How am I going to find this money? Should i stop feeding myself and my daughter?? It gets me in tears everytime I think about it”

“So as well as having to pay the short fall on my rent I have to pay the bedroom tax,as well as that I’m being told to find a job,but I’m trying everything I can to solve this but the only thing I can think of doing is jumping off a very tall building because that’s all I’ve got to give. Boy the World sucks at the moment and as a fella who’s job is to solve things I am totally stumped by it all….God give me strength to get through this [and I’m not religious]”

“I get £69 sick benefit and I have 2 spare room and will loose £27 a week.”

“….fed up ive will have to pay for my dinning room 19.80 a wk plus ct workrd it out will have nothing for food,i give up.”

“I got a letter this morning from my h/a confirming that i have got to find £30.83 a WEEK!!!! In b/tax, i am on income support and dla low rate. I will stand and fight this awful tax that penalises the sick and vulnerable. In the past i worked hard i even worked nights when my children were small and now that i am older and need peace of mind like many more of you we are faced with this worry! I go to bed thinking of it and when i wake up (thats if i get any sleep!!!) its the first thing that pops into my mind.”

“Out of my 50 quid, I have to find the bedroom tax ( 25 pounds ) and the council tax has been lowered so there is another 12 pounds to find. This leaves me with just 12 pounds a week for food and clothes. The housing office told me to get a lodger. AS IF I would invite a stranger into my home, no way. I walk in the house with a stick. Too Vulnerable. Cant afford to live and cant afford to die.”

If these were the only individuals in the country to be so adversely affected by the imposition of the Bedroom Tax I would personally be persuaded that there is a profound injustice occurring. There are of course many thousands of others experiencing the same suffering. There is no excuse and no amount of political posturing and spin should be allowed to obscure the truth.

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The Outrageous Bedroom Tax

This shameful and shambolic Bedroom Tax is about to throw thousands of the working poor and unemployed people further into impoverishment and cause untold anxiety and misery for no other reason than they live in their own homes. Two thirds of those hit by this tax are disabled, cannot move because of a chronic shortage of suitable adapted properties, and will therefore be forced to pay more for their housing needs. Only a heartless and brutal Government would force families and individuals that were offered and accepted tenancies in good faith to move away from familiar neighbourhoods, where they may have lived for many years, and from family, friends and support networks.

Where are the 670,000 households (or to put it another way, 1.6 million adults and children)  supposed to move to, given that most Local Authorities and Housing Associations are reporting that they have nowhere near enough smaller properties to meet the need? Families who cannot move will be forced even further into poverty by the bedroom tax because it will leave them needing to pay the same housing costs but with considerably less money?

If many of these so called under-occupied households are forced to move into the Private Rented Sector, where property rents are on average nearly twice as much as in Social Housing, the Housing Benefit budget would actually increase.

It is clearly stated in the DWP’s own Impact Assessment, and reiterated by Lord Freud in his speech at the CIH Housing Conference, that one of the main aims of this tax is to “improve work-incentives for working age claimants”, ie by effectively reducing the amount they have to live on, so would it not have been much more effective to just to slash the rates of Jobseekers Allowance and Income Support in an effort to starve the poor into work?

Is it wise to force or even advise an individual or family to invite strangers to live in their own home against their wishes and will, say, a single mother with young children not be put at risk if she chooses such an option.

The extra Discretionary Payment Budget of £30 million is a drop in the ocean. It is likely to help only 1 in 16 of those affected by the tax. In other words 94% will not get help.

The Government cites overcrowding as one of the issues that this tax is supposed to address but the tax will make overcrowding mandatory by forcing chldren to share a bedroom. The Government refuses to provide guidelines as to what size constitutes a bedroom so children will inevitably be forced to share small, unsuitable rooms. Is it right that in a modern society children under 16 should be forced to share a bedroom? Does this not go against their Human Rights to privacy, choice and healthy environment?

Why is this Government targeting social tenants in ‘subsidised’ housing, when only 10 per cent of social tenants under-occupy and the proportion for private tenants is 16 per cent and for owner-occupiers 49 per cent and while a single person who lives alone in an eight-bedroom house will get their council tax reduced by a quarter. In other words, under-occupation by home owners is not penalised but rewarded by, on average, £361 a year?

Steve Webb was completely wrong when he said that working two or three hours extra a week will cover the cost of The Bedroom Tax and the truth is that someone working part-time for 16 hours a week earning the minimum wage would have to work an extra 32 hours (three times as long) to fully compensate for the impact of the tax.

The cost to the taxpayer of the likely evictions and homelessness that will result from this tax will be huge. A typical eviction costs £6000 and a typical homelessness case costs £24,000.

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Mr Shapps & The Bedroom Tax.

On BBC Radio 4’s the World this Weekend program……

Mr Shapps said: “Labour have very cleverly deemed this to be a tax; of course it’s exactly the opposite to a tax.
“It’s a spare-rooms subsidy, that’s being paid through the benefits system, on a million empty bedrooms in this country, which makes no sense.”
He continued: “We’re not using the housing we have in this country in a proper way.”
The Conservative Party chairman concluded: “What we can’t continue to do, and we can’t afford to do, is pay for a million empty rooms whilst we’ve got a waiting list that doubled under the previous administration and with so many people in desperate need of a house at all.”

First of all, Mr Shapps, a million empty bedrooms is not a million empty households. Many of these under-occupied properties will have two, three or more bedrooms. And even if it were the case that there were a million under-occupied properties with just one bedroom and they all down sized that would not result in a million unoccupied properties. It is a sideways shift. The number of properties available remains the same, it is a finite number.

Secondly, Mr Shapps, as you well know, a very great number of under-occupied properties are lived in by pensioners who are exempt (to a certain extent) from The Bedroom Tax.

So to argue that this legislation is about solving a problem of under-occupancy is about as disingenuous as you can get. If you are so concerned about the waiting list for housing then why not use legislation to impose a similar punitive tax on those who own and under-occupy their own homes or even more preferably on the homes and second homes of MP’s that are under-occupied.

Buckingham Palace has 240 bedrooms. I wonder how many are unoccupied.

The Bedroom Tax is about one thing only; saving money.

 

 

 

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