Thursday, October 10, 2013

Out of touch Hemming

At yesterday's full council meeting, the Liberal Democrats and Tories both wrung their hands as they attacked the implementation of the Bedroom Tax, yet when the vote came - they all wimped out. None of them had the courage of their convictions to support Labour's demand for the immediate scrapping of this vile and unjust tax.

And then today, up pops John Hemming, ever in pursuit of a soundbite to appease his Tory voters. 

Hit by the bedroom tax? John's got the answer. Again.

"There is also the option of taking in a lodger, even if it’s a family member. People in the private sector get a lodger if they are a bit short of cash. Well, right now the country is a bit short of cash. It’s an option."

We have been over this ground before, but let's be clear. Firstly, not all social tenants can take in lodgers (although those on Birmingham City Council secure tenancies generally can). Secondly, this isn't necessarily about having a truly spare room to rent out - many of those "spare rooms" being "subsidised" are being used as bedrooms or for other purposes right now. Perhaps it is used for an occasional carer, for medical equipment or because their partner can't sleep in the same room or bed as them. Perhaps it is kept there for a child away with the military or just in case their job falls through and they have to return to the family home. Perhaps they have children from another relationship that they would like to have to stay once in a while. There are many reasons why the badly phrased "under-occupancy penalty" assumes that a bedroom is spare when it isn't. 
There's 1200 people in Yardley district alone affected by this appalling tax. 
Comfortingly, as of yesterday morning, we had 40 one bedroom houses and 5 bedsits ready to let across the entire city. It wasn't even as good as the Birmingham Mail headline yesterday.
Unfortunately, not everybody has the same opportunity that John Hemming had when he faced a minor cash crisis in 2005. When John was a bit short of cash after his 2005 election, he "reorganised his finances as his income was going down" and remortgaged a flat in London that he already owned outright (he'd paid the mortgage off just prior to the election). That cash was used to pay down the mortgage on another property in Birmingham and John then claimed £30,000 in mortgage payment expenses from the taxpayer up to 2009. 
He also made sure that he claimed the maximum £400 food allowance every month - even when the House wasn't sitting, £4800 a year between 2006 and 2008. 
John's already blamed people for not taking action when they had eighteen months' notice of the bedroom tax. 
He's shown sympathy for the 600,000 public sector workers who have lost their jobs.
It's obviously very sad when people lose their jobs, but they need to understand why it's in everyone's interest" 

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