In February I set up Labour Against The Bedroom Tax, a national campaign to highlight the real personal stories of victims of the bedroom tax on behalf of ordinary members all over the country who are horrified by this benefit change. I have gathered many thousands of names on petitions and have taken up hundreds of cases across the UK on behalf of victims.
Today I have called upon the Prime Minister to abolish the tax.
I have written to him to express my deep concerns about the policy after meeting several victims of the bedroom tax on doorsteps while campaigning.
I told the Prime Minister of two particular Thornaby residents I have met in recent weeks.
One was a young woman who told me she had already lost a stone in weight since the bedroom tax was introduced because she cannot always afford to eat.
Another, a few streets away, was a woman in her mid 50s who is disabled, on a long waiting list for a very scarce, adapted, smaller property and currently sleeping on the sofa as she cannot manage the stairs. She has applied to the discretionary housing fund which is the scheme the Prime Minister has repeatedly stated should pay the extra rent on behalf of people in situations like hers. She is currently struggling to pay an extra £25 per week in bedroom tax and council tax but has been offered only £3 per week from the fund and for a limited period. It simply isn’t working.
Both women are being penalised for circumstances entirely beyond their control. I have taken up their cases but I am not confident of success because the odds are stacked against them.
The bedroom tax has been proven not to work, smaller properties are not available, indeed were never built in any great numbers because the post war council housing programme was focused on 3 bedroom homes with gardens. It should be scrapped immediately.
I have also urged Ed Miliband to use his speech to the Labour Party’s annual conference next week to announce that Labour would repeal the tax if elected to Government in 2015.
This month a UN Special Rapporteur also condemned the policy saying it breaches the basic right to housing as there are not enough smaller properties for tenants to move to.