Rt Hon Ed Miliband MP, Local Government House
Leader of the Labour Party, Smith Square
House of Commons, London
London SW1P 3HZ
We are heartened to hear reports that Labour might commit to scrapping the Bedroom Tax at Party Conference this week. We are writing to offer you our support in making that commitment.
As Leaders and Mayors of Councils we know how hard people are being hit by rising bills, frozen or cut wages and cuts to the services they rely on. We know how hard the Government’s benefit cuts are hurting the most vulnerable in our society. We also understand the difficult financial constraints a future Labour Government would have to work under. We know that Labour will not be able to get the economy on track straight away, that the cuts will continue to bite and that the welfare reforms will continue to hurt people long into a Labour Government. As leaders we know that difficult and unpopular decisions sometimes have to be made. And we know that you will have tough messages to give our supporters in the months to come. But people need hope
That is why we are writing, to ask you to announce at this year’s conference that if Labour wins the next General Election it will scrap Bedroom Tax at the earliest opportunity.
Our Party’s current public position is that Labour wants the Government to scrap the Bedroom Tax, but as we won’t say what we will do if we win the next election our position seem disingenuous. It gives space to our political opponents from parties who are not in Government to attack our party for a policy we oppose, it is demoralising for our activists and most importantly it allows our potential supporters to say that there is no difference between us and the Conservatives. 2
Announcing our position on this now will galvanise our activists, give us a real dividing line for the European and local elections and most importantly give the people who are being hurt by Bedroom Tax something to believe in.
We know that rightly you want to make sure that our Party has a strong reputation for financial responsibility. We all know that the Government has never made a proper financial analysis about the hidden costs of bedroom tax. Forcing people to move from a socially owned property to a privately owned property costs more in housing benefit. Chasing people for small debts can cost a lot more than it brings in. Evicting people for not paying rent and rehousing them is very expensive. Some councils and housing associations are no longer able to let out three bedroom properties and this is hurting our rental income and our ability to finance more property building.
We will supply you with whatever cost information you need be we also know that whatever financial argument we make for the abolition of the Bedroom Tax the Conservatives will not listen to it and they will go on the attack.
For us the finances are not the main issue. This is an argument about principles, the true costs of the bedroom tax are human and are far worse.
We know that that the Bedroom Tax is disproportionately hitting disabled people, 420,000 people who need space for carers, washing space and equipment are being affected by it. People are getting into arrears which is causing them anguish. They are forced to move out of their neighbourhoods and away from their support base because there is a shortage of one bedroom properties - a situation that has built up because councils listened to governments of all parties and built properties big enough for families. We know that the Government gave local authorities discretionary housing payments but that money only covers £1 in every £7 cut from the benefit changes and in many councils it has already run out. We know that many of our residents are not getting in to arrears yet because they are turning to pay day leaders and we know what the impact of that will be. The Bedroom Tax is forcing people who cannot work out of their homes and in to debt. The Bedroom Tax hits the most vulnerable in our society and it hits them hard. We cannot have a One Nation Britain while Bedroom Tax exists.
Committing to repealing the Bedroom Tax also sends an important signal to our supporters; We know times will be difficult but Labour will do things differently. Labour will offer hope.
We offer our full support in making your announcement and working with you to repeal the Bedroom Tax. 3