Growing unease over bedroom tax
THE basic principle of any rule is that it should be fair. But there is growing uneasiness across Plymouth that the Government's under-occupancy rules, dubbed the bedroom tax, are unfairly penalising poor families and the disabled.
It is a stark fact that we have to make the best use of our country's limited housing stock. There are thousands of people in need stuck on waiting lists while some people are living in houses far too big for them.
But the arrival of the bedroom tax appears to be a sledgehammer to crack a nut – and the splinters are already being felt.
The concerns of social campaigners about the unfairness of the new rules were echoed today in a letter from the leaders of the city's biggest social housing providers.
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The letter pulls no punches. It says the people who will be most badly affected are ordinary families on low incomes and people with disabilities.
It underlines the crucial question which the Government appears unable to answer: Where are the smaller properties people are supposed to move into?
The properties are simply not there. So families have no choice but to lose an average of £500 a year in housing benefit simply because they have a 'spare' room.
Those affected include service families, separated parents who need another room to care for vulnerable children and disabled people who have spent years adapting a room to make it easier for them to get around and to look after their health.
Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith makes a forceful argument for the stringent application of the spare room subsidy.
He advocates families take in lodgers to fill spare rooms and says local authorities have been given extra cash to help disabled people and their carers.
The social housing providers do not believe this 'hardship fund' will meet the huge demand.
David Cameron is standing firmly by the new rules and says it is 'only fair' that people in social housing should pay the same as those in private rented accommodation.
The Prime Minister may be confident about the fairness of his reforms.
Many in Plymouth, and across the country, will take far more convincing that the reforms are not deeply flawed and give no consideration to the genuine needs of real people.