Let’s co-operate to fight the bedroom tax

Bedroom tax protestPublished on Friday 12 April in The Scotsman

The article about “bedroom tax” (10 April) was a thoughtful, well-written piece and I would urge Alex Salmond and Johann Lamont to give careful consideration to Andrew Burn’s plea for the two main parties to work together to fight what is undoubtedly one of the most blatant examples of social engineering ever to be perpetrated by any UK Government.

It is also apposite, following the death of Margaret Thatcher, to consider the links between her policies and the impact they had on available housing stock which will have further significant pressure put upon it by this iniquitous policy.

The great irony about the bedroom tax is the fact that it is addressing a massive problem created by the policies of a Tory government now held up as a paragon by the British Right.

We now know Thatcher’s flagship “right to buy” policy resulted in a massive increase in the cost of housing benefit, funnelling billions of taxpayers’ money into the private rented sector, while social housing provision remains in a constant state of crisis.

 

The cost of ploughing billions into the hands of private landlords, many of whom buy-to-let specifically for this purpose, has, perversely, allowed this government the political space to punish those most in need.

In Scotland in particular there is a chronic shortage of one-bedroom flats in the social housing sector – yet the idea is created that these undeserving people are enjoying some kind of luxury status by having an extra room.

The partial U-turn by Iain Duncan Smith shows this is a policy devoid of common sense and is simply a punitive measure to remind thousands of ordinary people that, at least in the eyes of 
our current rulers, poverty remains a sin. The anger and anxiety aroused by the bedroom tax bring to mind the feelings of rage created by the poll tax, and we must hope that, with enough concerted opposition, ultimately this policy will go down the same route to oblivion. It’s hard to imagine it being retained in an independent Scotland.

Some of us might be tempted to ask how much “striving” the current front benches at Westminster have done to get where they are. Almost all of them hail from privileged backgrounds.

Of course this does not apply to Margaret Thatcher, but in many ways, though she did not come from that background, it was where she always aspired to be and, ultimately, like the present government, she became the prisoner of the same kind of far right ideologues like Keith Joseph, and with all the “modulation” and coaching she ended up a caricature.

At the Caledonian Foundation we think that a decent home is the most important building block for creating sustainable futures. We are pioneering a unique method of home ownership which removes the burden of debt from tenants to provide homes for homeless people or people threatened by repossession or eviction due to the kinds of circumstance which will accrue from the bedroom tax.

Douglas Turner

Chairman,

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The Caledonian Foundation is a registered charity in Scotland
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