LETTER IN THE CHURCH TIMES, THE IMMORALITY OF WELFARE REFORM AND A CASE HISTORY

28 March 2013

LETTER IN THE CHURCH TIMES, THE IMMORALITY OF WELFARE REFORM AND A CASE HISTORY

The following letter was published by the Church Times on the 28th March. I am showing below it a case history, posted on the TAP Facebook page, which helps to illustrate the immorality of setting poor tenants against the homeless people, while landlords and land vendors share the spoils of a chaotic housing market.

Our Facebook page reached 22,194 people in the week of the 11th to 17th March, it goes up down. It is on the way up at the moment from a dip to 18,208 up to 20,076; and we now have have 649 likes. Not bad from nothing a year ago!!.

Meanwhile very best wishes for a Happy Easter or if you don't do Easter then my best wishes for a relaxing and enjoyable spring break before we return to fiercely opposing the gross injustices of the coalition's welfare reforms.

Paul
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WELFARE CUTS; TAKING MR DUNCAN SMITH AND CANON TILBY TO TASK

From the Revd Paul Nicolson.

Sir, - Those of us who are highly critical of the Coalition's welfare policies are fully aware of the seriousness of the disaster that hit the UK in 2008. It is lain Duncan Smith's moral arguments, supported by Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 22 March), that have to be challenged.

The Zacchaeus 2000 Trust warned the Labour Government in 2005 that the increasing commitment, from 23 per cent to 72 per cent of GDP since 1980, to house purchase loans seemed unsustainable; furthermore, the increasing flow of demand-side subsidies were working to enrich landlords and land vendors, not to stimulate more housing output. More money went into housing, and fewer houses came out, for 30 years.

Mr Duncan Smith argues that it is unfair on homeless people for impoverished tenants to have a spare bedroom; and that it is unfair on taxpayers if high housing benefit is paid to poor tenants in areas where housing is expensive. We argue that that is the wrong ethical polarity. The deep unfairness is that landlords profited from rising rents, in a housing market in short supply, and therefore from rising housing benefit to £22 billion from the 1980s to the collapse in 2008.

But it is the poorest tenants who are paying a disproportionate price, and private landlords nothing. This is particularly true in London, where bankers with their bonuses and overseas investors are buying second and third homes and leaving them empty, while tenants' housing benefit is cut because they have one or two empty bedrooms, or because they were housed at those rents by the State while the housing market went berserk around them. Without any sign of a coherent affordable housing policy for all tenures, ownership and rented, it is likely to go berserk again.

Most of the clergy do not pay rent or council tax. They should be honest about how severe and unfair the welfare cuts are, which use up those parts of the benefit system needed for food, fuel, clothes, transport, and other necessities. They were never generous, and were always kept very low, to discourage the moral hazard of dependency. Housing-benefit caps are particularly responsible. It will get worse in April when the bedroom tax and the £500 overall benefit cap start to hit, and whatever income is left over is expected to pay 8.5 per cent to 30 per cent of the council tax. Food banks provide food for only three days, three times with intervals.

PAUL NICOLSON
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Posted on the TAP Facebook Page.

"They say it is unfair on the homeless for the poorest tenants to have a spare bedroom. They claim that homeless people are the victims of the poorest tenants." (A quote from the TAP post "The Emperor has no clothes")

That is appalling! And completely untrue. Many council house tenants would have been told what I was when I was trying to apply for one - in order to qualify for housing benefit help, you must take a property with THEIR definition of the correct number of bedrooms! i.e. as a single mother I had to take a property with 2 beds, or not receive any benefit at all, even though I told them I could manage with just one, and not only save them money but be in a slightly better position to pay my rent when I went back into work!

They create a trap where people cannot afford to stop claiming benefits as the money they would receive for low paid work is simply not enough to pay ever-rising bills for essentials like energy and food. Now I am faced with a reduction in HB as the COUNCIL RECOMMENDED property I am in is above the new (lowered) rates of LHA - so I have to find the significant shortfall from somewhere. £30 or £40 a month may not be much to these people in power but to people living on a budget like me (and many others who are affected by the bedroom tax), it is HUGE!

The govt/councils created a system to house people, and people with no other choice took what they offered, and now they are being penalised for decisions that were not even their own!! It is morally abhorrent and they should be ashamed of themselves.

Rev Paul Nicolson


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