‘Bedroom tax’ or ‘spare room subsidy’?
We cannot continue to offer benefits that shield recipients from the decisions that all other ordinary families have to make
I concede. A ‘spare room subsidy’ is not quite as visceral as a ‘bedroom tax’. Neither is it as catchy. It is, however, more accurate and more emblematic of the points that we should be successfully making.
The UK faces a pressing housing crisis and constituencies, such as my own in London, are at the forefront of that crisis. There are currently over 2,500 people on the waiting list in Harrow for a property with two or more bedrooms. These people are often families that have to spend two or three months living in one room at a hostel or a B&B.
These families have no proper access to a kitchen; nowhere to store their possessions; nowhere for their children to do their homework; nowhere that is conducive to conduct family life. It is these families that we must think of when Labour attacks this policy as a ‘bedroom tax’, and we should not be apologetic about making that argument.
We should also remind those critical of the policies about the realities faced by individuals not in receipt of Housing Benefit. Many working families rely on the assistance of their children to contribute to the family budget, once they are themselves working. If those children were absent from the property for an extended period of time, the families would not be able to afford to continue to run the household, and would be forced to move to a smaller property.
We cannot continue to offer benefits that shield recipients from the decisions that all other ordinary families have to make. This argument has been won with the introduction of a benefits cap and it is right that the Government should extend this thinking to other areas.
The argument for this policy makes practical and moral sense. We should therefore stop defending a “bedroom tax” and start arguing the merits of a ‘spare room subsidy’.
Bob Blackman is the Member of Parliament for Harrow East. Follow him on Twitter @BobBlackmanMP
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