Energy Bills And Bedroom Tax

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02 Oct 2013

Last week I wrote about the debates on issues of concern, such as energy bills and the bedroom tax, which had taken place at the Labour Party Conference.

I particularly welcome the announcement made at the Conference that were there to be a change of government at the next general election energy bills would be frozen until the start of 2017.
Many Rother Valley constituents write to me because they are worried about their energy bills, having to make a choice between heating their homes or buying food. As the nights draw in and winter approaches, people have been telling me they are anxious about how cold it will get and the choices they will have to make to pay their energy bills. Frankly I don’t think that is right. People shouldn’t have to make the choice between putting food on the table and turning on the heating.

Under this Prime Minister, Britain’s families are facing a cost of living crisis. Prices have risen faster than wages in 38 of the 39 months that David Cameron has been in Downing Street and energy bills have gone up by almost £300. His failure to tackle rip-off bills has meant that many people are struggling to pay their bills.
When the price of energy increases energy companies pass this on but when it drops consumers don’t see their bills fall. By breaking up the big energy companies we can all get a fair deal, saving a typical household £120 and an average business £1,800.

I also welcome the announcement made at the Conference that should there be a change of government in 2015 the bedroom tax would be repealed.

At a time when the Government is standing up for a privileged few by giving a tax cut to millionaires, it’s appalling that vulnerable people are being plunged into arrears and debt as a result of the Prime Minister’s bedroom tax.

This cruel tax hits over 400,000 disabled people nationwide, and over 50,000 people in Yorkshire & the Humber. For the vast majority of those affected, there is nowhere smaller to move to, hitting vulnerable people with an average bill of £720 a year through no fault of their own. Instead of reducing the housing benefit bill, there is now a real risk the bedroom tax will cost more than it saves, partly because those forced to move to the private rented sector will end up costing more in Housing Benefit. Housing associations say that tens of millions of pounds are likely to be lost through the build up of arrears.

The fact also remains that the bedroom tax does not deal with the problem that it’s supposed to solve, that of under-occupation. In fact, the Government’s costings on the amount raised from the bedroom tax explicitly assume that people do not move into smaller properties.

Under-occupation could be dealt with by funding local authorities who are able to help people with the costs of moving to suitable accommodation, using the funding set aside by the Government through Discretionary Housing Payments for dealing with the problems caused by the bedroom tax.

A repeal of the bedroom tax would be paid for by reversing government measures including the recent tax cut for hedge funds, the shares for rights scheme (which opened up a massive £1 billion tax loophole) and tackling tax scams in the construction industry. I think that most people will think these plans are sensible and fair.