TAP Letter in The Times – 14 August 2014 – AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS THE KEY TO WELFARE REFORM – MORATORIUM ON “DEPENDENCY”

TAP Letter in The Times –  14  August 2014  - AFFORDABLE HOUSING IS THE KEY TO WELFARE REFORM – MORATORIUM ON “DEPENDENCY”

Sir, May I suggest a moratorium on the word dependency in the context of the welfare debate (“Beveridge’s Bequest”, leader, Aug 12). In February 2013 there were 5.1 million claimants of housing benefits in the UK. Tenants in particular totally depended on that benefit to keep a roof over their heads. Come April 2013 and the poorest large families (£26,000 annual limit) and single people (spare room supplement) had their housing benefit cut, leaving rent unpaid and eviction threatening.

Low-paid single people, widows and widowers, around 50 to 60 years old, becoming ill or unemployed for the first time in a long, working, tax-paying life could no longer depend on the rest of us to keep them in their family home among vital community support. The policy is to force them to move to make a better use of affordable social housing. Large families with young children suffer the same fate just because they happened to be large on April 6, 2013.

A very small minority of benefit claimants might be dependent on benefits to such an extent that it is corrosive to the wellbeing of individuals. Most need them but wish they did not. Yet all are publicly branded and their incomes reduced, even though the fault lies with the lack of any governmental policy to provide enough affordable housing for many decades.

Rev Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty

Oppressive UK government forces unmanageable debts on poorest citizens then adds the costs of the bailiffs

This letter is published today ( 8th August) in The Tablet – The international catholic weekly.

GOVERNMENTAL ACTS OF INJUSTICE &

MORAL LINES OF CREDIT

A church policy of helping people to stop borrowing from high-interest lenders with the expansion of credit unions is entirely necessary (“Credit to the community”, 2 August). It is, however, a policy of leaving the stable door ajar while increasing numbers of horses are bolting. It will take decades even to stop the number of high-interest loans increasing while politicians continue to create unmanageable council tax and rent arrears for low-income households and enforce them against diminishing incomes with the addition of court costs and bailiffs’ fees.

Catherine Pepinster (2 August) cites Amartya Sen, who holds that we act with justice if we remove obstacles to living a valuable life; sadly British politics, by failing to provide a policy for affordable housing to rent or to buy, and then taxing working-age benefit incomes with council tax, creates the risk of an obstacle of unmanageable debt for around 12 million benefit claimants in work and unemployment.

The Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against Poverty,

Bedroom tax forcing poorest citizens into unmanageable debt DWP not only government department engaged in oppression.

LETTER IN THE GUARDIAN 18/07/2014.

Bedroom tax is forcing poorest citizens into unmanageable debt but DWP is not only government department knowingly engaged in oppression.

It is no surprise to read in Patrick Butler’s report (Bedroom tax has forced tenants to cut back on food, 16 July) that the Department for Work and Pensions now finds that 523,000 tenants have been unable to meet rent arrears due to housing-benefit caps. It was predicted in all the debates about the Welfare Reform Act 2012 in parliament but ignored by the coalition. For example, Lord Best, president of the Local Government Association, said: “A £500 cap will plunge a family with three children living in Hampstead into poverty, with only, in this example, £150 per week left for food, clothing, ever-rising fuel bills and the rest, instead of more than £300 as at present. It is not their fault that rents are so high in much of southern England.”

Additionally, since April 2013, 244 councils have demanded between 8.5% and 20% of council tax from the poorest households. Inability to pay the tax can lead to magistrates triggering the council’s powers to enforce the arrears, adding court costs of up to £125, and bailiffs may be sent in, adding their extortionate fees of up to £420. The DWP is not the only government department knowingly oppressing the poorest citizens of the UK with unmanageable debt. The Treasury, the Ministry of Justice and the Department for Communities and Local Government pile in with equal callousness.

Rev Paul Nicolson, Taxpayers Against Poverty

For the record Tottenham magistrates issued 18,571 liability orders to Haringey Council in 2012/13, and 22,152 in 2013/14, all at £125 a time, after they had imposed 20% of the council tax on benefits in April 2013. Applications are still being processed by the Tottenham magistrates 1000s at a time. Haringey sent 14,569 cases to the bailiffs in 2012/13 and 12,484 in 2013/14. I have asked Haringey to check these bailiff figures as I would have expected them to be the other way round. All this information is in answers to freedom of information questions.

The Zacchaeus 2000 Trust and CPAG launch Sam Ashton’s report on the new poll tax impact on the poorest Londoners.

I am am sure this analysis of the harsh policy of taxing benefits in London will find an echo throughout the UK.

Zacchaeus 2000 Trust – A new poll tax

 

LONDON BISHOPS AND CLERGY URGED SHOUT FROM COMFORTABLE ROOF TOPS FOR JUSTICE FOR TENANTS IMPOVERISHED BY “REFORM”

This letter is published by the Church Times this morning

JUSTICE FOR TENANTS IMPOVERISHED BY WELFARE “REFORM”

Sir, – I live on my pension in Tottenham. Thanks to Queen Anne’s Bounty, a generous laity, and taxpayers through Gift Aid, plus the skilled exploitation of a free market by the capitalist Church Commissioners, I am secure till the end of my life, paying 25 per cent of my gross pension to them for a two-bedroom terraced house.

The bishops and clergy of the diocese of London live in church property rent- and council-tax-free. We are surrounded by insecurity of tenure and the innocent suffering of the tenants of local councils and social housing. The injustice is self-evident.

Typical cases are a single mother with two young children placed in sub-standard private temporary accommodation in Tottenham; the flat is damp. The ceiling falls in on her child’s cot, mercifully not on the child. Her doctor tells the council that the family’s health is at risk from the damp flat. Haringey moves her to a flat in the borough of Enfield; it, too, is damp. She does not know that she has to reapply for her council-tax benefit; so Enfield charges her account with £900 of council tax. She is therefore in arrears; they summon her to the magistrates’ court, adding £70 court costs to the arrears for a liability order, putting her at risk of a very expensive visit from the bailiffs. She brings her child back to school in Tottenham every day.

Another single mother with two children has been in temporary accommodation since 2002. She has been moved eight times by Haringey Council in and out of the borough, twice into bed and breakfast in a hotel. She, too, has struggled to keep her children at the same school as their friends.

We should be protesting from our comfortable rooftops, if not on the streets. But there is a lack of formal public engagement, at every level of our Diocese of London, in the suffering of the poorest London tenants. It is created by the lack of both adequate incomes and affordable housing, as well as the unlimited access of national and international speculators to London property in short supply, which forces up land values and rents, and leaves properties empty.

There are no signs of any national or local policies, from any political party, that will improve the circumstances of the poorest London tenants. Inadequate incomes, unaffordable housing, council tax, and its enforcement are creating malnutrition, hypothermia, and debt-related stress. There is a known connection between mental-health problems and debt.

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus: “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19.39-40).

REV PAUL NICOLSON
Taxpayers Against Poverty