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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #94

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis is talking about the bedroom tax this week…]

Its been a bedroom tax kind of week hasn’t it?

I don’t mean in my house. I pay tax on every other god damned thing, I’m not paying tax on THAT as well.

Most of the housing news sites have been covering different angles on it and it would be lax of me not to point people in that direction and for a reason.

Ben states his position

I want to see this god awful government on the ropes.

Not because of their political philosophy, I couldn’t give a toss about politics myself, (I hold strongly to the belief that no matter who you vote for the government always gets in).

But because of their astonishing arrogance and disregard of the lives of ordinary people while their own inner circle continues to drop bank notes into each other’s coat pockets.

I have no idea what political party holds the best ideas and frankly I find the ins and outs of party politics, impenetrable and completely tedious. Although one poster on another site accused me of being a Trotskyite just for having the temerity to talk about tenants rights.

But there is a gathering storm that has the potential to be the straw that breaks the camels back and I want to do my bit, unashamedly and openly using my column this week to add a bit of straw to that hump and circulate the arguments doing the rounds, so more people know about it.

a bedroomBedroom tax – what is it?

For those of you who haven’t been paying attention, bedroom tax is actually a benefit deduction due to come in shortly whereby any social housing tenant who has a spare room will lose a certain amount of benefit, 14% of your total rent for one room and 25% for two.

The best explanation of the calculation was published this week by Hilary Burkitt on Twitlonger.  In terms of actual cash it is estimated to be between £11 and £16 per week for people with one spare room.

Where are they to go?

Government says that the purpose behind it is for people to downsize and free up larger properties.

However social landlords have spent years building family sized houses, so there aren’t enough smaller properties for people to downsize to.  So the people on benefits will be even worse off and in many areas just wont be able to get out of it.

Hammersmith & Fulham council have been putting their shoulder behind this dreadful idea saying it is “Morally right”.  Reported on Housing Excellence Mark Cantrell points out that of the council’s 824 tenants who will be hit by this, 48 have already downsized.

Great, only another 776 to go. Do H&F have 776 smaller properties I wonder?

Penny prophesies protest ..

Writing in the Guardian, Penny Anderson has an interesting piece titled “The bedroom tax could light the blue touch paper of protest”.

She points to various pressure groups looking to fight the scheme and quotes Lord Freud exhibiting just the kind of arrogance I talked about above:-

“Lord Freud told a woman on a Radio 5 Live phone-in whose son may serve in the armed forces that she should get in a lodger while he was away (even though she replied this is against the rules of her housing association) and he recommended a dad of three put his kids on a sofa bed when they stay.”

Of course Lord Freud won’t have to put any of his family on a sofa bed which makes it all the more of a mockery when George Osborne says “We’re all in it together”.

There is an episode of “The world at war”, the one about the blitz, where an old Cockernee ly-dy (insert voice of Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins here) , tells of Churchill visiting the East end in the middle of it all, giving his two fingered salute and saying “We can take it” to which another Cockernee ly-dy said “You aint F***ing taking it mister, we are”.

At least Churchill had the good grace to get in his car and slink off back to Chartwell for a brandy.

A government breaking issue?

Meanwhile over on Inside Housing, Jules Birch also had the same idea as Penny and told reported on the various pressure groups and lobbies calling to make the Bedroom Tax a government breaking issue.

Jules also points to ministers failure to answer direct questions being put to them about all this. Newport MP Jessica Morden asked Ian Duncan Smith for his views on the chronic shortage of smaller houses in Wales, only for him to criticise the behaviour of the previous Labour government and accusing Labour MPs of:-

“Shouting like a bunch of discombobulated monkeys bouncing up and down.”

Er you lost me there mate…..what has that got to do with a question about how the bedroom tax will impact in Wales?

Perhaps, like the poster who called me a Trotskyite the other week, he presumes that anyone raising an issue about how people might be disadvantaged by a policy are raving revolutionaries just for having concerns for our fellow citizens and wanting some answers.

Pensioners probably not exempt

Writing on SPeye, the ever diligent Joe Halewood, did what Joe does best and dug into the small print and figures being bandied about to expose the lies and deceits of government.

Unfortunately my ability with maths ran out after “Janet has 2 apples” so I rarely follow his arguments, tending to just nod thoughtfully and look to someone else to be the first to comment.

What I did pick up however was that despite government assurances that it wont happen, pensioners will also be affected by the cut.

Probably best if you link over and read the article yourself in case I get it wrong but what Joe clearly states is that 90,000 pensioners will be affected by bedroom tax where previously government said they would be exempt.

An investment opportunity?

If I was you I would take out shares in sofa bed companies, as there will be at least 90,000 of them being sold this year if everyone follows Lord Freud’s advice on Radio 5. and 760,000 of them by 2020 if Joe is correct.

A bizarre story

But lets break from all this misery and end with a frankly bizarre story reported on Planet Property about a multi millionaire Irish property developer who was kidnapped and released after an 80,000 euro ransom was paid and found wandering by the side of the road, wrapped in a plastic sheet.  With the word ‘Thief’ written on his forehead.

Kevin McGeevor had a long beard and fingernails and was barefooted. He had apparently been held for 8 months in a shipping container by a gang of men who never spoke to him but wrote everything down.

You can see the film script now cant you? Who do you fancy for the lead role? Liam Neeson perhaps? Tom Hanks?

I fancy Lord Freud, wrapped in plastic with the words “Arrogant bastard” scrawled in his forehead.

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About the post author:

Ben Reeve-Lewis

Ben is an enforcement officer for a London Local Authority, a housing law trainer, an author on housing law who writes for the Guardian & occasionally pops up wittering away on TV. He also runs Easy Law Training with Tessa & Graeme. Occasionally he sleeps. Find him on Google, and Journalisted. Any opinions expressed are Ben's personal views & don't reflect those of any organisations he may refer to.

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