THE BLOG
30/09/2013 07:08 BST | Updated 27/11/2013 05:12 GMT

Ed Is Right - Bin the Bedroom Tax!

Last week Ed Miliband pledged to bin the Government's Bedroom Tax if Labour win in 2015. This policy came into force in April, and since then working-age tenants who rent from a council or housing association and have a spare bedroom have had their weekly Housing Benefit cut by an average of £14.

Last week Ed Miliband pledged to bin the Government's Bedroom Tax if Labour win in 2015. This policy came into force in April, and since then working-age tenants who rent from a council or housing association and have a spare bedroom have had their weekly Housing Benefit cut by an average of £14.

My constituent Maurice is one of the 660,000 people affected. He was so incensed that, when the Prime Minister said that people should write to him if they were having real problems, he did. The reply he got was that 'Discretionary Housing Payments' had been made available to local councils.

So he applied, and was refused.

He then appealed, and was refused again.

Like other councils, Edinburgh has only been given limited extra money to cover many applicants. An additional means test is being applied, over and above the one which makes people entitled to Housing Benefit in the first place. Income like Disability Living Allowance - which is paid to help people meet extra care and transport costs - is being counted, so now people are faced with using it for rent instead.

Maurice is recovering from cancer and has three sons who stay with him every weekend, one of whom has a learning disability. Moving to a one bedroom flat would mean the boys could not visit, or perhaps at best take turns. In any event just this week a one bedroom flat in his area has had nearly 300 people applying for it. Officials tell me that in a 'good week', there are only around 20 Council or Housing Association homes of that size available over the whole of Edinburgh.

Tory and Lib Dem Ministers claim that this is about creating parity and fairness between those in the private rented sector - where size criteria have been in place for some time - and those in council and housing association properties.

But what they fail to acknowledge is that people have always viewed this kind of housing - social housing as it's generally referred to - as more permanent. Tenants will have invested time and money into their homes, and will often have family and friends living nearby.

Maurice is trying to pay some of the money but has already run into arrears. Although the council has promised not to evict anyone who has only Bedroom Tax arrears, it's still a debt around his neck. It's a big problem for councils and housing associations because where tenants are having real problems paying, that's less income to go towards repairs and improvements.

But the greatest folly of this policy is that if tenants are evicted then they will likely end up in temporary or private rented accommodation, which is even more expensive and will cost the Government more in Housing Benefit payments than it saves.

The Bedroom Tax is both unfair and doesn't save money. Ed Miliband is right to pledge to bin the Bedroom Tax if Labour win in 2015.