Saturday, 14 July 2012

Double whammy on the way

At the end of last week, the media was focused on Wimbledon’s Murray-mania. It resulted in the biggest ever TV audience, nationally and internationally, for a Wimbledon final.

Less surprisingly, the media almost totally ignored Sheffield’s Jonny Marray who became the first Briton to win the Wimbledon men's doubles title for 76 years after victory with wildcard partner Frederik Nielsen. Congratulations to Jonny. I hope local people will celebrate his success and that steps will be taken to recognise his incredible achievement.

Meanwhile, the government slipped out the latest details of the double-whammy it has planned for low-income working households next year.

First, low-income working families could face a 30% cut in council tax benefit from April 2013. The government is forcing each council to cut its council tax benefit by 10%, but as pensioners and the single-person discount are excluded from the equation, the cuts will hit working households hardest. [See Council Tax Benefit, 29 June 2012 below.]

Now, the government has revealed that its proposed ‘bedroom tax’ will hit harder and deeper than it had previously claimed. The ‘bedroom tax’ is designed to cut the housing benefit of working-age tenants if they are deemed to have a spare room.

Basically, a single person or a couple is allowed one bedroom, two children under 10 – regardless of gender - are expected to share a bedroom, and two children under 16 of the same gender are expected to share. Any bedrooms above that are deemed to be excessive and subject to a ‘tax’ which removes part of the housing benefit.

So, if a single person or working-couple live in a 2 bedroom flat, or a couple with four children (say a boy aged 8, a girl aged 9, and boys aged 14 and 15) live in a 4 bedroom house, their housing benefit is going to be cut  by an average £14 per week. An estimated 40,000 single workers are set to lose all their housing benefit as part of the 660,000 households nationally which are going to lose out.

The very hardest hit are likely to be couples under 60 in a three-bedroom house, whose children have now left home; on average, they will lose £25 per week and possibly more.  They will now have to make the choice between a big cut in income and having somewhere for their grand-children to stay.

The government says it is doing this to encourage people to move to smaller and less expensive accommodation and to create incentives for working-age people. However, the government admits, that in many areas, there isn’t enough smaller accommodation for people to move into.

Bankers get bonuses; low-income working people get berated and battered. Nothing better sums up this Conservative-Liberal Democrat government’s real values and policies.