Local Tories back The Bedroom Tax – How they have fallen since the day of MacMillian

Last night I presented a motion on behalf the Labour Group to Council calling for the immediate repeal of the Bedroom Tax.

The Bedroom Tax affects 481 households in Slough with the average household being fined over £1,200 a year for the crime of being deemed to have a spare bedroom.The motion carried, but in a bizarre first act as Conservative Leader, Cllr Strutton lead his group in proposing the council support the bedroom Tax.

The Bedroom Tax is a devastating part of the government’s housing and welfare policies – policies whose impacts both the national and local Conservative party are blind too.

We know organisations like the CAB are busier than ever, we know our foodbank is busier than ever, we know Universal Credit is coming and will reintroduce cuts to the disabled, reintroduce cuts to child tax credits, and to carers.

We really need to start asking ourselves what kind of country the government is trying create – and are we happy with it.

Going beyond the actual policy we need too to examine the structural reasons why a policy like the Bedroom Tax could ever be implemented – how did we get here?

Housing used to be a right for people in this country – after the war Conservative Harold Macmillan, then a housing minister, pursued a mass council housebuilding programme that delivered 300,000 homes a year.

Then we come to the Thatcher government who in expanding home ownership by selling off council stock with generous discounts while keeping the receipts and failing to invest in new stock allowed the dream of ‘property owning democracy’ to wither under her successors.

Its this change in thinking from building to selling that shapes our housing reality today. Its consequences have forced millions into the unregulated private market, caused housing prices to spiral out of control and private rents to rise by 37% in the last 5 years alone.

This withering of supply and increasing demand has caused the state to divert billions of the welfare budget to subsidising private landlords to fill the gap where council housing once was. The government spends more today on this then it does on house building.

So from this high standard of 300,000 homes a year through years of deregulation, privatisation and rolling back of the state we can see how far the modern day Conservatives have drifted from these lofty ideals of the 1950s.

Affordable house building at a 24 year low, homelessness has doubled and 200,000 less homeowners. Not to mention an end of lifetime tenancies and an agreement on money for housing for local councils ripped up with control lost and debt piled on.

Of course, in Slough we hold ourselves to higher standards. In the last 5 years we have delivered 465 affordable homes and in 2015 promised another 250 more by 2017 – a promise we are on track to keep.

We have introduced the Slough Living Rent and Slough Affordable Rent which links rental prices to local incomes and we will ensure that at least 25% of our new building council housing will we set at traditional rents.

We have also set up our own housing companies which will make high quality affordable homes available to local people who cannot access the housing market at our new rates linked to local incomes.

So plenty of action, but we can do more, and we will do more as you will see in the coming months.

Let me know what you think of housing policy in general, our local Tory councillors backing the bedroom tax, it’s always good to hear your views.