Notwithstanding the fact Owen Jones appears to be a 12-year-old unionist, he makes a good point:
Perverse, cruel, self-defeating, unjust: these terms could legitimately be used to describe a whole raft of Government policies.
But consider this leading contender on all four counts: the so-called “bedroom tax”, due to be imposed from April. All social housing tenants of working-age will have their housing benefit docked if they are judged to have a spare bedroom. For 670,000 households already struggling to pay bills and rent while feeding themselves or their children, that means losing an average of £14 a week, and up to £80 a month.
My main job in the UK was working for a social housing provider as research and policy manager. We kept a watching brief on all properties, and if you had the case of Mrs Jones living in a four bedroom house after all her kids had buggered off, she would be actively encouraged to downsize. As we covered some of the nicer areas in West London, this was usually done over a short period of time and she would happily move into a two bedroom flat so she had an extra room for when the grandkids came to stay in Acton. No problem.
Her old rental could then be offered to a large family in need of housing. Sorted.
This latest brainfart on behalf of the odd-ball coalition Government reminded me of a wee problem we struck. Social housing tends to focus on families in need. More often than not, thanks to the joys of childbirth, they would have at least a couple of kids. Looking at our housing stock one day, I realised that while we could shift a whole lot of Mrs Jones’ and free up some bigger houses and flats, we had a dearth of one and two bedroom properties to shift them in to – and no-one wanted to swap.
The Government of the day (gidday Tony, you pompous obfuscating twat) was keen to fund us to build or renovate larger family homes. There was little or no point in going through the eyeball-watering process of applying for central funding for little houses. So we didn’t.
This idea, whilst possibly looking good on paper, is completely redonkulous (that is a real word – a friend of mine who specialises in revising the English language has it set for publication in the OED next year).
What the Government should have done is put rent controls on housing association properties and reduced the housing benefit cost that way. Housing associations don’t need to make a profit. It is, after all, a social welfare benefit. Doing it this way is just going to heap more media shit on to David Cameron and his merry bunch….