Tonight I have just come back in to read an article from the well-respected Polly Toynbee in the Guardian about the bedroom tax. It is the most inept error-strewn piece of journalism I have read in years and is evidence of the ‘bedroom tax’ becoming the preserve of the professional journalist writing about this current zeitgeist without having a bloody clue what the hell they are talking about.
This article is deeply deeply offensive and I have chosen to cut and paste it below and comment using footnotes on just TEN of the offending aspects of it.
Note that the article has the sub-title “From Westminster to Hull, the bedroom tax is proving to be the ultra-sharp end of three decades of failure to build.” So…read on reader!
‘Accommodation in The Royal Eagle is second to none! Guests can enjoy a ‘Royal’ welcome and a relaxed atmosphere.” This well-heeled three star hotel charges £1,540 a week for a homeless family sent by Westminster council: ordinary punters pay a third less[i]. Why would posh hotels take in the destitute except at extortionate rates? What is comfortable for tourists turns to hell for a family crammed in one room with nowhere to cook or wash clothes.
Westminster expects 5,000 families to be evicted by housing benefit cuts[ii] – and it’s happening almost everywhere. Councils have no choice as they frantically search for cheap housing, often hundreds of miles away. In Hull the bedroom tax hits 4,700 families with a spare room, and only 73 small properties free.[iii]
Westminster’s housing cabinet member, Jonathan Glanz, supports the policy: “The cap on housing benefits means some of those who used to live in Westminster – one of the most expensive areas in the country – can no longer afford to do so at the taxpayers’ expense.[iv]“ The government senses public support – but people’s views change when they see families evicted after living there for generations. Social housing since the days of Peabody and Guinness created a deliberate mix, interleaving decent working class housing and affluent streets, so cities can thrive on a social blend where those who clean, cater and care live near their work.
But even those who agree with the policy in theory must be astounded at its expensive incompetence in practice. Puny savings from housing benefit[v] bulge into huge local council bills. Never mind the injustice of evicting 660,000 households[vi], wrenching children from schools, parents from jobs and families from relatives who provide childcare – if you tried to turn a housing crisis into a catastrophe, you couldn’t do better. Capping housing benefit equally everywhere, regardless of widely differing rents, means driving the poor and the unlucky into no-hope ghettos without jobs or school places. A third of those hit by the “spare room” tax are disabled[vii], with no exemption for divorced parents or foster parents with visiting children. Families in Hartlepool and Liverpool who have suffered the death of a child now face cuts for their empty bedrooms.
Nothing about housing policy makes sense. The government is right that spending £23bn a year on housing benefit is grossly wasteful[viii], but why punish tenants when most of it goes straight to landlords? They claimed these cuts would make rents fall, but instead they rise. At the same time, housing associations must[ix] charge an unaffordable 80% of market rent, which makes them “social” only for higher earners.
This is the ultra-sharp end of a national crisis, the fallout of three decades of failure to build – and Labour is just as much to blame. Gigantic bubbles inflated house prices to such a degree that Shelter estimates a chicken would now cost £51.18 if food prices had risen as fast. Forget David Cameron’s “Tory housing revolution”: building fell by 9% last year, while homelessness is a third higher. For the first time since the 1950s, home ownership is falling. Renting now costs more than a mortgage. Worse still, 37% of rented properties are substandard[x]. Labour’s promise of a national register of landlords and agencies will help stop slum landlordism. Just as welcome is its promise of five-year tenancies where rents can only rise with inflation.
The article goes on with other matters I have chosen not to comment upon and is not needed in this criticism of possibly the worst piece of journalism I have seen – and yes I am including the Daily Mail in that!!
[i] So make the point that B&B hotels are ripping off the taxpayer and the subsequent point that this government is doing nothing about it. Dear me I must be mistaken in thinking the bedroom tax has been stated by every coalition minister including the PM as a policy to get HB under control and reduced!
[ii] Be specific and you are conflating two separate issues. The slew of families made homeless are by definition NOT from the bedroom tax which doesn’t start until April, they are from the LHA caps applies in 2011 and 2012. Far more significantly the real surge in homeless families will be created by the overall benefit cap and far more so than the bedroom tax. A little knowledge truly is a dangerous thing!
[iii] The homeless diaspora is created by the LHA caps, at least in the first wave. The second a huge wave will be by the overall benefit cap and NOT the bedroom tax. The bedroom tax means social landlords have to evict and the case you are describing are private landlord evictions. Do keep up!
Conflation – the Hull circumstances are not the reason at all why councils are seeking to move people across the country (the homeless diaspora) Again that is the LHA caps and soon with fare higher numbers the overall benefit cap
[iv] Expose the hypocrisy of this statement. The taxpayer won’t pay and chooses to cut £160pw in HB for a socially housed family in a 3 bed house but WILL pay £340pw in HB if they are housed in private rented. Lazy sloppy and ignorant journalism!
[v] Have you any evidence this will save a penny to the HB bill? Excuse me being facetious with such a rhetorical question but many are of the view it won’t save a penny to the HB bill and in face will increase it. Yet you blindly accept it will but with no evidence – Sloppy
[vi] Evicting 660,000 families? Where the feck do you get that figure from you imbecile? You really do not a clue what the hell you are talking about do you? Nobody believes the bedroom tax will see all 660,000 affected made homeless by being evicted for rent arrears. Let me give you a clue. The worst cut is 25% of a week’s rent and so 4 weeks not paying the bedroom tax deduction = 1 week in arrears. Even if social landlords use Ground 8 – which they are inclined not to so and Pinnock may mean they may not be able to in any case – this requires 8 week rent arrears and so this is 32 weeks no-payment of the bedroom tax deduction. On 14% for one bedroom it would take 58 weeks to accrue 8 weeks rent arrears! You still want to maintain 660,000 will be evicted? And there was me thinking IDS was an ignorant buffoon!
[viii] Yes £23.6bn is wasteful when the figure was £20.8bn in May 2010 and in June 2010 the coalition promised to reduce it by £2bn to £18.8bn. It is now £4.8bn over that coalition target and has risen by £37.85 per second since the coalition took office (Yes that’s every second of every minute of every hour twenty fours per day 7 days per week since the election!) Why do you blindly ignore the facts? What is that on the Guardian’s masthead…facts are…yes scared!
[ix] Housing Associations MUST charge 80% of market rents? Really? Your paper would get an unclassified mark in a CSE paper it is so appallingly inept and strewn with errors. It is clear you know absolutely bugger all about this subject
[x] 37% of PRIVATE rented properties are substandard and fail to meet the decent homes threshold NOT 37% of all properties!
I chose only to highlight TEN stunning inaccuracies in this piece. Frankly because I couldn’t be arsed mentioning them all. The bedroom tax has now become the preserve of the professional journalist who doesn’t grasp the facts of the situation and exposes the woeful level of incompetence and knowledge of the subject at hand. This is probably the worst article I have read about the bedroom tax.
When you sub a piece with “From Westminster to Hull, the bedroom tax is proving to be the ultra-sharp end of three decades of failure to build” and set up an argument about the bedroom tax then confuse it with something else, conflate it with something else, litter the argument with huge errors of fact and ascribe and infer bull and bluster as fact and as givens, you lose the argument. If a Tory spin doctor has written this and published it under your (previous) respected name then I apologise. The Tory SPAD has done a wonderfully clever job of making argument against the bedroom tax the argument of the imbecile.
Anything this journalist writes is repeated by those of a similar political leaning and this article gives rise to thousands of sycophants restating the above bull. This isn’t just sloppy it is bloody offensive
Oh dear I have hit a few raw nerves haven’t I?
Interesting how the Queen Bee syndrome is emerging with journos queuing up to say what a fabulous article the Queen Bee herself wrote! Seems as long as youre a professional journalist you are immune to criicism and can write any old shite and get away with it…..because your’e a professional journalist and especially a doyen of that ilk!
Journos – who really should know better – saying there’s no inaccuracies in her article so all you HAs out there you MUST charge 80% of gross market rent. Yes the Queen Bee herself says so! Local Councils go and procure 660,000 new homeless B&B places as its going to happen as the Queen Bee has said so….LGA you had better start lobbying government for so much more money for your members to just assess the 660,000 new and additionl homeless applications you are getting!
Hey social landlord 37% of your properties are non-decent did you know! The Queen Bee says so and it must be true and the loyal drones are on the attack!!
I can’t understand the comments that have been made that Polly Toynbee opens up a national debate or sets the foundations for the same. I agree we need a national debate yet her foundations are made of sand and a three year-old can easily blow them away with a pea shooter and hence her inept and innacurate ramblings will simply see those who oppose saying the Queen Bee doesn’t know what she is talking about and cut the argument off at the knees ensuring the debate never begins.