To the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice DWP designed black hole of destitution into which poor debtors fall

22 September 2017

TAP submission to the IPPR Commission on Economic Justice 

The best way of helping the Commission as much as I can is to give you the links to the indices of two sets of blogs by distinguished authors on the TAP website which we have advertised widely on Facebook and Twitter. We were given a grant to do that by the Trust For London. They are 10 blogs on Affordable Housing and nine on Health Equalities. 
May I add a contribution of my own based on working with and for a vulnerable man in Tottenham and many other vulnerable households over the past 30 years.
With best wishes and many thanks to you all working on The Commission on Economic Justice. 

DWP has designed a black hole of destitution into which it forces an ever increasing numbe of impoverished debtors.  

It starts with a benefit sanction for a minor offence. The income needed for food and fuel is stopped for three monthrce. That is worse than a fine for shop lifting imposed by the magistrates; it has to be proportionate, which leaves enough money for food. Debts pile up while there is no income to pay them off. Meanwhile the local authority threatens eviction for rent arrears and prison for council tax arrears. The bailiffs call enforcing a fine for not paying a TV license. At the end if three months our now destitute friend is back on the Jobcenter treadmill trying to pay off the debts from £73.10 a week JSA. He is forced to take a zero hours contract. He is transferred to Universal Credit which pays £0.01 into his bank to last a month in which his employer does not provide work. The health and well being of the poorest UK tenants is being damaged by Acts of Parliament containing these serial abuses of power.

We urgently need a living unemployment benefit.

TAP focuses on the income after housing costs. 

We focus on income after housing costs because after the rent is paid the remainder has to pay for food, water, fuel, clothes, transport, and other necessities such as tampons. It has been losing value for decades.  What was left in unemployment benefits after housing costs for an single adult by 1979 was 21% of average earnings. It had fallen to 10.5% by 2008 according to Professor Jonathan Bradshaw's letter to The Guardian. The increases in all unemployment benefits were then frozen at 1% in April 2011. They have not been increased since April 2015. A single unemployed adult now receives a totally inadequate £73.10 a week JSA which equals £317 a month Universal Credit. It is the corner stone of the benefit system; children's, disability, housing and council tax benefits are added to it. When any benefit is cut by Welfare Reform the other inadequate benefits have to take the strain. . 

NPI reports that since April 2013 only 37 out of 326 council's in England have retained the 100% council tax benefit so leaving that £73.10 a week un-taxed. The rest have cut council tax benefit and  taxed the inadequate JSA with up to 30% of council tax and then enforced the inevitable arrears adding courts costs and very high bailiffs fees. £73.10 a week JSA (£56.70 aged 18-24 and £115 for couples over 18) is  paid to 3.7 million people (see ONS BEN01 Main out of work benefits1 2). Magistrates issue 3.5 million council tax liability orders to English local authorities every year. 

The under-occupancy penalty, branded as the  Bedroom Tax, requires 14% of the rent to be paid by single adults in social housing who have one spare bedroom and 25% for two spare bedrooms. Bedroom tax, the benefit cap and the local housing allowance all cut housing benefit, so increasing rents, on top of the cut in council tax benefit and on top of the diminishing value of unemployment benefits makes people hungry and ill. 

The ONS has reported an unprecedented rise in mortality and in infant deaths in 2015. The Queen might well ask again “Why did no-one see it coming?” and again the whole answer is neither the economic establishment nor the politicians have been listening. Government has commissioned and shelved major reports on the impact of low incomes, debt and inequality on health from Black in 1980, Acheson in 1998, Wanless in 2002 and Marmot in 2010. 



TAXPAYERS AGAINST POVERTY - We urgently need a living unemployment benefit.

No citizen without an affordable home and an adequate income in work or unemployment. 

The route to affordable rents

The crisis of unaffordable housing for the poorest renters in the UK has to be tackled from both ends - income and rents. Rents have gone up because the value of land in the chaotic UK market in land has escalated.  Affordable rents have much, much less to do with the cost of building than with the value of land.


The government ought to stop selling public land to private developers. Council housing pays for itself with tenants rents providing the inflated market value of land is not put into the viability assessments.

Councillors and MPs were proud to have built council homes and flats after the Second World War  when after the 1951 election Harold Macmillan built 300,000 council houses a year because Churchill told him to. 

All politicians should now be ashamed of the way a viability assessment can befixed to ensure the greatest profit for the land owner only if the fewest trulyaffordable houses are built for renters.


But the crisis for the poorest renters is now and some immediate relief is needed.  Their health suffers because their income is low and benefits are frozen; high rents and council tax drive them ever lower.

a)   Ending the freeze on benefit increases.

b)    Ending the cuts in housing benefit created by the bedroom tax, the benefit cap and the local housing allowance, all of which have increased the rent paid by the poorest tenants.

c)    Restoring the 100% council tax benefit for the unemployed.

d)    Linking affordable rents to income say at 33%. It is absurd to suggest that 80% of the local average market rent can be affordable because it goes (surprise! surprise!) up with the market.We urgently need a living unemployment benefit.


     The Institute of Health Equity has reported

a)  Low income and debt impact on healthIncome can impact on health in different ways.  Income impacts on health directly, for instance, because of insufficient money to heat your home or buy a healthy balanced diet. Cold homes increase rates of respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, excess winter deaths and mental Inadequate diets increase the risk of malnutrition, obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

b) In2010 it was estimated that inequalities in health accounted for productivitylosses of £31-£33 billion per year, and £20-£32 billion a year in lost taxes and higher welfare payments.  Additional NHS healthcare costs associated with inequality were estimated to be in excess of £5.5 billion a year.




Wed, October 18, 2017 9:00 AM – 11:00 AM Houses of Parliament, Portcullis House, 1 Parliament St, Westminster, London, SW1A 2JR View Map

Chaired by Debbie Abrahams MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Chair of APPG on Health in all Policies.  Taxpayers Against Poverty is co-hosting this event with the APPG on Health in All Policies and the APPG on Poverty.  

The speakers will include;

Fred Harrison, the Land Research Trust 

Professor Michael Edwards, The Bartlett School of Planning, UCL

Anna Minton, Author "​Big Capital; Who is London For?"

Ian Kirkwood, Scottish Land Revenue Group

Lindsay Judge, Resolution Foundation 

The people thrive with Land Value Tax in Australia, Denmark, Hong Kong, Harrisburg Pennsylvania and other US cities. The Land Research Trust will publish a short book at the seminar in which authors living in Denmark and the USA describe how it works in their countries.  





from the Reverend Paul Nicolson

Taxpayers Against Poverty

No citizen without an affordable home and an adequate income in work or unemployment. 

93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889