claudiawebbe1.jpg

Speech given by Cllr. Claudia Webbe at Full Council on 27th June.

Mr Mayor, Wednesday’s Comprehensive spending review showed us that this coalition government just doesn’t get it. While Osborne and his lib dem counterparts were patting themselves on the back for a job well done, millions of public sector workers were left wondering if they will be 1 of 144,000 due to lose their jobs as announced in the chancellor’s plans. 

But the coalition government’s contempt for public services doesn’t stop there. Not being satisfied with slashing local government department by 60% forcing councils like ours to make £120million worth of savings – they have now forced another 10% of cuts on us which is another £17million worth of cuts.

There are over 200,000 people in Islington that this council serves – that’s 200,000 people in our borough who the tory government are letting down. Current statistics show that of the 50 worst hit councils in the country, 42 are labour run authorities. This isn’t about the coalition striving for efficiency or bringing the deficit down Mr Mayor, this is their political game-playing at its worst.  

The disregard to Local government and the public sector shown by this government speaks volumes – they fail to understand the vital role that local authorities perform and as a result are jeopardising the future of our youngest residents.

As a school governor I welcomed the news the Pupil Premium will be protected. But this was followed by the announcement that it will be distributed using a new national funding formula from, which is likely to have an adverse impact on London authorities. As usual it’s the Tories giving with one hand taking with the other.

The Chancellor failed to mention in his speech that the Education Services Grant for central education costs will be cut by £200m that’s over 20% in the next 3 years. This 20% cut equates to an estimated cut of £500k for Islington, £500k that we cannot afford.

Colleagues, even worse news was that the capital funding envelope includes provision for up to 180 new free schools, setting a worrying precedent for setting up schools outside of local authority regulation. Mr Mayor I ask -  Why do we need these costly and unnecessary developments at the same time the government is taking half a million from our own schools? Osborne and Gove should concentrate their efforts in protecting the budgets for the hard working schools that already exist in our borough.

The CSR had scarcely any welcome news for the people of Islington. Chancellor Osborne and his coalition government have shown that their inability to reduce the deficit has once again hits inner city authorities like ours the hardest.

The Chancellor’s Spending Review Saw Islington Again Lose Out

Speech given by Cllr. Claudia Webbe at Full Council on 27th June. Mr Mayor, Wednesday’s Comprehensive spending review showed us that this coalition government just doesn’t get it. While Osborne...

kategroucutt.jpg

Cllr. Groucutt’s speech on legal aid cuts at full council on the 27th June.

Mr Mayor, we all assume that in our most desperate moments the British Criminal Justice System will be there for us.  We all assume that we will have the right to a fair trial, be considered  innocent until proven guilty, and that all are equal before the law.  These are phrases we hear time and again, phrases that I believed meant something because surely, Mr Mayor, justice for all is the cornerstone of a decent society?

But sadly Mr Mayor, if the Government’s ill-considered proposals go through these basic beliefs that we all hold true will be at risk.  There’ll be no access to free legal aid if people want to challenge an unlawful Government decision.  In Islington, we’ve seen local cases brought in relation to the bedroom tax and the benefit cap, crucial issues for our borough where we’ve been hit harder than almost anywhere else in the country.  Yet, if these changes go through, ordinary people in Islington will see that door to justice closed to them.

If you’re accused of a criminal offence, forget about choosing your own lawyer as that choice will be gone.  You might even end up with truckers firm ‘Eddie Stobart’ handling your case!  A stark survey by the Bar Council revealed that more than 70% of people think these government cuts are more likely to see people convicted of crimes they didn’t commit.  I fear we’ll see more miscarriages of justice with people being found guilty because of poorly prepared cases and innocent people being pressured into pleading guilty.  That isn’t just a personal tragedy for those people – it’s also a false economy because it only leads to higher costs in appeal cases and in locking people up who shouldn’t be in prison.

These changes will also see legal aid restricted to people who can prove they have been in the UK continuously for at least 12 months.  If you don’t have a passport, maybe because you can’t afford one, you risk being turned away when you desperately need help.  Imagine a vulnerable, homeless resident pleading for urgent, critical legal advice but without the documents that tick the right boxes.  Imagine a woman and her children with No Recourse to Public Funds suffering from domestic violence but unable to get out of an abusive relationship because she can’t get the help of legal aid.  And imagine a newly arrived family, at the mercy of unscrupulous private landlords and living in appalling conditions, with no power to do anything about it.

Mr Mayor, a fair society is one where everyone can access good quality legal advice, not just those with the most money like David Cameron and his ‘Cabinet of Millionaires’.  Legal aid is a vital pillar of the welfare state – and we can afford it.  The civil legal aid bill has already been cut by a massive £350m per annum.  The current system costs less than 0.5% of annual government spending.  That’s less than half of one per cent to defend our basic freedoms, tackle injustice and stand up for the rights of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. 

I believe that’s a price worth paying.

Mr Mayor, I am pleased that Cllr Greg Foxsmith will be seconding this motion and want to thank the work he, Cllr Catherine West, our two MPs Jeremy Corbyn MP and Emily Thornberry MP, the Islington Law Centre and local community groups have been doing to oppose these dangerous, ill-thought out plans.

I hope this Chamber can stand united tonight and send a message to this Government that basic justice is not for sale and must never be the preserve of only the rich and the privileged.

Why We Should Fight For Legal Aid

Cllr. Groucutt’s speech on legal aid cuts at full council on the 27th June. Mr Mayor, we all assume that in our most desperate moments the British Criminal Justice System...

Hundreds of local residents marched through Islington on Saturday 8 June to protest against the Mayor of London’s plans to close two fire stations that serve our borough - Clerkenwell and Kingsland.

The major march and rally from Highbury Fields to Clerkenwell Fire Station showed the strength of local opposition to plans that will mean every ward in Islington waiting longer for a fire engine to arrive.

 

Cllr Catherine West, Leader of Islington Council said: “We must not give up the fight.  Nothing is more important than people’s safety and cutting two stations that serve our borough cannot be justified.  Once again Tory cuts are putting our community at risk and hitting Islington people hardest”    

Emily Thornberry MP, who led the march, said: “Clerkenwell fire station has been serving Islington for more than 100 years and it is the most densely populated area in the country – we want to be properly protected”.

The march came at the end of a week where new evidence was revealed showing that residents in Islington will be among the worst affected in London by the cuts.
The London Fire Brigade evidence showed that under the Mayor’s proposals, over a quarter of all fire engine call outs in the borough will now take longer for the first fire engine to arrive than the recommended standard time of 6 minutes.  Based on the number of incidents in the borough for 2011/12 this would mean that 217 extra incidents would fall outside of the recommended 6 minute timeframe.

Islington Labour’s Fire Chief Cllr. Paul Convery said: ‘These figures are truly shocking. Every second counts when responding to fire emergencies and if well over 200 extra incidents fall outside the recommended response time the safety of Islington residents will be at risk. The LFB introduced standard response times for a good reason, and for so many extra call outs to fall outside this time is completely unacceptable.’    

The campaign continues.  Islington Council has submitted a formal response to the consultation, which you can read here, and Cllr Paul Convery has submitted a public question to the next London Fire & Emergency Planning Authority on 20 June demanding answers on third appliance response times.

 

Islington marches to save our fire stations

Hundreds of local residents marched through Islington on Saturday 8 June to protest against the Mayor of London’s plans to close two fire stations that serve our borough - Clerkenwell...

Cllr Barbara Sidnell and Islington Resident Champion Theresa Coyle MBE have set themselves a demanding eight week challenge at the Sobell Leisure Centre; improving their fitness whilst raising money to fund leisure industry training opportunities for local residents.

For every £500 raised by Cllr Sidnell and Mrs Coyle, Aquaterra will not only offer free gym instructor training for a local resident that will enhance their employment prospects, but will also match the funding and provide a second free place on the course.

Cllr Barbara Sidnell, Executive Member for Tenants, Residents & Communities said: “I know how important exercise is for staying healthy, but I don’t feel like I can promote it to other residents if I’m not doing it myself!  It’s a tough challenge but there’s no better motivator than raising money to help people into training – and hopefully into work.  I also want to get fit enough to take on the Race for Life next year”

A condition of the free place is that, once qualified, instructors will give back to the community by spending a number of hours promoting health and wellbeing to residents on the Andover Estate.

Starting on 8 June 2013, instructors Junior Telfer and Tony Lewis are providing a planned programme of exercise and weight loss for Cllr Sidnell and Mrs Coyle.  They are both hoping to lose at least a stone in weight.

You can sponsor the pair at https://mydonate.bt.com/events/8weekchallenge/

Councillor Barbara Sidnell uses fitness challenge to help residents into work

Cllr Barbara Sidnell and Islington Resident Champion Theresa Coyle MBE have set themselves a demanding eight week challenge at the Sobell Leisure Centre; improving their fitness whilst raising money to...

Alice.jpg

At last night’s Annual Council Islington Labour looked back over the past three years at how the Fairness Commission recommendations had been implemented. I have included a few of the highlights below.

Fair pay

  • All Council employees are now paid at least the London Living Wage
  • Over 90% of the Council’s contracts now also pay at least the London Living Wage, with plans in place to reach 100% over the next two years
  • Cutting the Chief Executive’s pay by £50,000 along with the increase in pay for those on lower wages has reduced the Council’s pay differential to a ratio of 1:10

 Dealing with debt

  • We opened a new  a new Citizens Advice Bureau in 2010 (the first new CAB in London in 20 years)
  • The Council’s Trading Standards team has mystery shopped payday lenders, gold buyers and pawn brokers to ensure they operate within the law
  • A Shop a Shark campaign was against illegal loansharks
  • We promoted the London Capital Credit Union – its membership rose from 2,866 in 2011 to 5,658 by March 2013

Housing

  • By 2015, Islington Labour have delivered  2,000 new affordable homes
  • Islington became the first council in the country to introduce a Rent Guarantee Scheme for tenants who downsize
  • 151 homes were recovered from illegal subletting and 139 empty properties were brought back into use
  • Islington Council’s pension scheme has invested £20m in new house-building nationwide

Young people

  • Islington Council gives Free School Meals to all primary school children
  • We offers school-leavers a £300 student bursary to replace the Educational Maintenance Allowance that the Tory-Lib Dem government has cut
  • We have established a Youth Council to guide the Council’s work with and for young people

A cleaner, greener environment

  • Islington has become London’s first 20mph borough
  • Local residents groups have been given funding to maintain their local open spaces
  • Islington Council has insulated over 16,000 residents’ homes to help tackle fuel poverty
  • We have built a communal power station to provide Bunhill residents with cheaper, greener heat

While there is still more to do, and times will get tougher with more giant funding cuts ahead, we have made a great start making Islington a better place for all its residents. Through our fairness agenda, Islington Labour is demonstrating the positive difference local government can make to our local community.

Fairness in tough times: implementing Islington’s Fairness Commission

At last night’s Annual Council Islington Labour looked back over the past three years at how the Fairness Commission recommendations had been implemented. I have included a few of the...

paulconvery.jpg

The fire brigade has revealed that its fire engines do not reach emergencies in Caledonian Ward within the target arrival time of 6 minutes. This will worsen under a cuts plan put forward by Tory Mayor Boris Johnson.

The fire brigade this week was forced to publish figures showing the current response times for every neighbourhood in London – and what the response times would be if the Mayor’s plan – to close 12 fire stations, remove 18 appliances and cut 520 firefighters across London – is carried out.

The fire brigade promises Londoners that a 1st fire engine will arrive at any incident within 6 minutes and a 2nd one, if required, within 8 minutes. The brigade admits that response times across Islington will worsen if fire stations are closed. They claim that the 6 minute average response time can still be honoured. But in 3 parts of Islington this will not be the case if fire stations are closed.

In Caledonian Ward, the fire brigade is currently not meeting the target – the average response time is 6 minutes and 9 secs. Under Mayor Johnson’s cuts plan, the average in Caledonian ward is calculated to get worse by a further 8 secs on average.

Johnson’s plan would close Clerkenwell fire station which is located on Rosebery Avenue opposite the Mount Pleasant post office. Fire engines from Clerkenwell regularly attend incidents in Caledonian Ward including high profile spots like Kings Cross. Appliances from Clerkenwell were first on the scene at the worst incidents in local history such as the Kings Cross tube station fire and the 7/7 bombings.

Caledonian Labour Councillor, Paul Convery, says “Homes and businesses in Caledonian Ward are already at risk because the fire service cannot currently meet the 6 minute target. Boris Johnson’s crazy plan to close fire stations will put our residents at even greater risk. Why? Because he is obsessed with cutting Council Tax by 7p a week.”

“But the Mayor controls a budget of more than £16 billion a year. The cuts he has demanded from the fire service amount to 0.4% of his entire annual budget. Surely he can find that through efficiency savings somewhere in his City Hall empire”.

The LFB document showing how these cuts will affect every neighbourhood in London are at http://www.london-fire.gov.uk/Documents/ward-impacts.pdf 

Boris Johnson’s fire brigade cuts will put Caledonian residents at greater risk

The fire brigade has revealed that its fire engines do not reach emergencies in Caledonian Ward within the target arrival time of 6 minutes. This will worsen under a cuts...

In Islington, we have a severe problem with late night drinking. It’s not unique but it’s worse than in most other London Boroughs. We have one of the highest densities of licensed premises anywhere in the country. And we experience some of the highest rates of alcohol-fuelled crime. The consequence of so much late night drinking is a huge cost in policing and clean-up. And, in tough times, it’s another financial pressure that puts great pressure on public services, especially the police and NHS.

Why has this happened? Over about 25 years the received wisdom in Islington was that the “night time economy” brought economic and social benefits to the Borough. Much of that remains true. And most of our residents enjoy having a wide, diverse range of cafes, bars, restaurants and entertainment places. But in 2005, when the last Labour Government handed licensing powers to local authorities, Islington adopted one of the country’s laxest policies. That resulted in a sharp rise in late night drinking. Almost 500 premises in Islington now have a license to serve after midnight and, in many cases, until very late indeed.

So, what to do about it? When Labour took control of the Town Hall in 2010 we promised to get a grip on late night licensing. The problem is not just pubs and clubs opening late, it’s also the epidemic of 24 hour grocery shops that have off-licenses. I often ask the question: who the hell needs to buy a bottle of vodka at 3am on Holloway Road? The answer is depressing – it’s normally people already pretty drunk who want to get even more slammed.

There is no one single solution. So Islington Council is using several regulatory tools.

First, we’ve adopted a new licensing policy which sets out a framework of closing times which are 11pm weekdays and midnight on weekends. This will apply only to new licenses or to premises so it’s going to take some time before the impact is felt widely.

Second, we’ve designated large parts of the Borough as “saturation zones”. Put simply it means no new licenses will be granted anywhere south of Angel or the areas along Upper Street, Essex Rd, Holloway Rd, at Nags Head, Finsbury Park and (for off licenses) around Archway and Tufnell Park.

Third, we’re considering something called the Late Night Levy. This is a new power which allows the Council to charge a little extra on business rates to places that sell alcohol after midnight. The Levy rules are strictly set by the Government so we have to abide by them. Smaller drinking places would pay £299 per year with the largest only £1,493 although this can rise to very big establishments which “primarily or exclusively” serve alcohol. The maximum that a mega club or pub would pay is just £4,500 a year.

This money would raise about £300,000 in Islington and, although that’s only a small part of the late night trade’s actual policing and clean-up costs, it will go some way to offsetting the burden. The people currently covering these costs are the general public who pay Council tax. Don’t forget, the Government and Mayor of London are cutting the Met Police budget by 20% and Islington Council by almost 40%. The law says that nearly three quarters of money raised by the Levy must be spent on policing. Islington Council would promise to ring-fence the remainder to offset clean-up costs and cut crime further.

Critics of the Late Night Levy say it will harm the licensed trade. In Islington, two thirds of premises will not pay the Levy because they don’t serve alcohol after midnight. And if we can financially encourage some pubs, clubs and grocery shops to stop serving at midnight, then they can avoid the Levy.

It’s time for the late-night licensed trade to step forward and take responsibility for the ill effects of excessive late night drinking. The Levy is a responsible and reasonable measure alongside other changes that Islington Council is taking to restore a more civilised eating, drinking and entertainment culture in our Borough.

Why we need a late night levy on our bars

In Islington, we have a severe problem with late night drinking. It’s not unique but it’s worse than in most other London Boroughs. We have one of the highest densities...

Cllr Richard Greening spoke in support of our fire stations at last night’s public meeting (Thursday 25 April), organised by the FBU. Here is a copy of his speech:

“Earlier this year we learned the full extent of the cuts planned to London’s fire services. The Conservative Mayor of London’s £45 million worth of cuts over the next 2 years mean that 12 Fire Stations are set to close, 18 Fire appliances are being de-commissioned and 520 Fire Fighters will lose their jobs.

For Islington this means the loss of two fire stations which proudly serve our borough: Clerkenwell and Kingsland.

Nothing is more important than people’s safety. That’s why we pay our taxes so that we have a fire service to protect us when we need it. Cutting our protection to make a 0.4% saving in Boris’s budget cannot be justified.

You can’t slash 12 fire stations, 18 fire engines and over 500 fire fighter posts without jeopardising public safety – and in a borough with over 200,000 people, Islington is set to suffer.

None of these proposals were announced during Mr. Johnson’s election campaign, and Londoners are rightly furious that they have been betrayed.

The recent helicopter accident in Vauxhall showed the importance of having a properly-funded, well-resourced fire service in the capital, and it is worthy of note that the first crew at the scene was mobilised from a station – Clapham – earmarked for closure, and arrived within four minutes. Under the Mayors proposals this would not have happened.

This council is on the side of our residents and we have passed a unanimous motion to publically oppose the Mayor’s plans. Our council leader, Catherine West has written to the Mayor to convey our serious concerns about the impact on the safety of Islington residents. We took a delegation to city hall on the 25th February to hand in our petition against the closures. We are organising in conjunction with the FBU a protest about the closure threat to Clerkenwell on 8th June.

Islington is the most densely populated borough in the country and many of our residents live in high rise blocks of flats, particularly in the parts of the borough served by Clerkenwell. The draft London Safety Plan admits that response times will increase in Islington, but real response times for residents living in tower blocks are much longer than the six minutes target in the plan. If a fire appliance arrives at the bottom of a tower block in six minutes, it can take twice that time for a crew ascending to an upper floor to actually reach the incident.

Unlike residents in street properties, residents in tower blocks cannot easily escape to a place of safety, so the risks for them are much higher.

The Lakanal House fire in Southwark demonstrated the dangers of fires in tower blocks and it also highlights one further issue. 18 fire appliances attended the Lakanal House fire, the same number that Boris is proposing to remove. So his plan has the same effect on the rest of the fire service as having to cope with a permanent major incident on the scale of Lakanal House.

Our fire fighters do a fantastic job keeping us all safe, now it’s our turn to repay that gratitude by making sure they have the resources needed to do their jobs.

The Labour council in Islington is determined to create a fairer borough. Fairness must include equal protection against the risk of fire for council tenants living in high rise blocks as it does for residents living in street properties

The mayor’s proposals put our residents at risk and all because he is so incompetent that he can’t find a 0.4% saving elsewhere in his budget. He needs to change his priorities. He needs to start supporting ordinary Londoners and the fire fighters that serve them.

Our council stands shoulder to shoulder with the FBU in opposing these dangerous and unnecessary cuts and we will continue our campaign until we have saved not just Clerkenwell and Kingsland, but all the stations, appliances and jobs which are under threat.”

Save Clerkenwell and Kingsland fire stations

Cllr Richard Greening spoke in support of our fire stations at last night’s public meeting (Thursday 25 April), organised by the FBU. Here is a copy of his speech: “Earlier...

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has been radically transforming local government. Many changes have not been for the better.

The Tory-led government has decimated local government funding. They have vigorously pushed their free schools and academies agenda, moving an increasing number of schools out of local education authority control. Ministers have vilified any cash strapped councils that consider raising council tax or altering bin collections.

Proposed changes to planning legislation undermine Councils and fly in the face of the Localism Act. Tory MPs have been depicting local government as obstructive and wasteful. Councils are portrayed as NIMBYs blocking economic growth when they raise objections to plans to sell-off forests or school playing fields or plans to build on the greenbelt.

So much for localism. Given the relentless attacks on local Councils, it is no wonder many Tory Councillors dislike Grant Shapps, Eric Pickles and Michael Gove even more than we do!

Shamefully though, it is local authorities in some of the country’s poorest regions that are being hardest hit by central government cuts. These councils are predominantly controlled by Labour. This Tory-led government cut the tax of the countries top earners while increasing council tax for the very poorest. This says it all really.

Not content with undermining local government, including the hundreds of Conservative run Councils, Tory Ministers have also been attacking Councillors, school governors and other hard working, community minded people who are the lifeblood of local government. Ministers have suggested Councillors should be volunteers “of independent means”.

Politics is for everyone and local politicians should reflect the communities they represent. Without modest allowances, local politics would become even less diverse than it is now. Perhaps this is a hard thing for the cabinet of predominately white, male, millionaires to grasp.

Given all this, who would want to be a Councillor? Politicians don’t have a great reputation right now. When I was thinking of standing in a Council by-election in 2011, a friend and Labour Party staffer told me “I must be mad.” “Why would you want to be a Councillor now, it’ll be rubbish. You’ll have to make all these cuts. People hate all politicians – being a Councillor is utterly thankless.”

I can see where he was coming from but he’s totally wrong. Being a Councillor is brilliant. Even now. We must beware negativity and fatalism. Local government still has the power to change people’s lives. In tough times, with the huge reduction in central government funding, Councils can still make a dramatically difference to their local communities.

There are many, many ways Councillors can radically improve the communities they serve. We can champion progressive planning policies that prioritise delivering more affordable family housing. We can ask that new developments employ local people as apprentices. We can use the section 106 money from developments to fund community projects and urban regeneration. We can use licensing to tackle obesity, alcoholism and anti-social behaviour. Our licensing team can work with trading standards to tackling rogue landlords. We can use our public health brief to address health inequalities and hold Clinical Commissioning Groups to account. Through progressive energy policies we can work to alleviate fuel poverty and lower our carbon emissions. We can lead by example and pay all our workers the living wage. We can insist all our contractors do the same. We can do so much. Local government leaders probably have more impact and influence than many backbench MPs.

Some Conservatives would have you believe that Councillors are merely competent administrators who commission services. Labour Councillors must prove they are much, much more than just administrators passively passing on government cuts. Labour Councillors must differentiate themselves through progressive policies that make a real difference to their communities.

Difficult decisions need to be made. Councils must set legal and responsible budgets. But Labour Councils can show they are much more than just a dented shield by enacting policies with fairness and social justice at their heart.

For many voters, particularly in areas with high levels of deprivation, the choice is not between voting Labour, Conservative or Liberal Democrat, the choice is whether or not to bother voting at all. What is the point if all politicians are the same? We need to demonstrate the real different we make in local government. We need to inspire our communities to come out and vote for us. We need to show them we are on their side.

If we fail, we can’t expect our voters to support us. If we succeed, and combine progressive local policies with positive campaigning, we’ll be on track to win the 2015 general election and build a better future for all.

This article was first published in the March/April 2013 issue of The Chartist

New Localism, New Britain

The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government has been radically transforming local government. Many changes have not been for the better. The Tory-led government has decimated local government funding. They have vigorously...

The country is in the grip of a housing crisis. Raising the deposit for a mortgage to buy a home these days is hard. Social housing is in short supply. And so people are being funnelled into a private rented sector that is too often insecure, indecent and unaffordable.

In Islington, the most densely populated and fourteenth most deprived local authority in England, our response has been to mount the second biggest affordable house-building programme in the country, behind only Birmingham (which is the largest local authority in Europe). We are on target to build 2,000 genuinely affordable new homes by 2015.

The Coalition government’s response? To oversee the lowest levels of house-building for a century, with annual completions at less than half the level we need. Instead, they are playing with the deckchairs, at the expense of those who can afford it least.

So, today’s Bedroom Tax means that if you’re a social tenant of working age and you have one ‘spare’ room, you’ll lose Housing Benefit to the tune of 14% of your rent, and if you have two ‘spare’ rooms, you’ll lose 25%. As of today, this new Bedroom Tax will affect 660,000 households nationally, each losing on average £728 a year, including 220,000 families with children. Over 3,000 of these households live in my community in Islington.

Yet the Department of Work and Pensions’ own impact assessment says that there are not enough smaller properties for those affected to move into, so it won’t actually address under-occupation; it will just make those who are already poor poorer.

And there certainly aren’t enough accessible one-bed flats for the two-thirds of households hit who have a disabled family member, many of them single disabled people in two-bed flats with a room for their carer. Because it is disabled people who will bear the brunt of this reactionary policy. People who need a room for a carer, but not every night; people who often need family to stay with them after a spell in hospital; people with a room for all their wheelchairs and other equipment; people who have had aids and adaptations fitted that make moving impractical; and people who have built up networks of support they can’t afford to lose by moving out.

And it won’t just be disabled people getting hit. Parents who have separated and have a room each for the child they share will also be stung. So, if your 12-year-old son lives with you, his dad, four nights a week, his bedroom is classed as ‘spare’.

And, in the end, will it save any money? Of course it won’t. To the extent that people do move, it will push them into the private rented sector, where rents are higher, and so the local housing allowance bill will rise. While for social landlords like councils and housing associations, it will mean rising rent arrears and all the cost and grief of chasing them.

In the budget earlier this month, George Osborne announced his Help to Buy scheme, which, as well as helping to blow the next housing bubble, will offer government support to existing homeowners to buy a second home. So, the message from the Tory-led government is this: “Existing owners, we’ll help you buy a spare home. But if you’ve got a ‘spare’ room in social housing, pay the Bedroom Tax”. The same Coalition government will, in a few days’ time, cut the income tax paid by millionaires in their second homes, while today it whacks disadvantaged and disabled people for £15 a week for having a second room. Danny Alexander, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury, calls them ‘bedroom blockers’. He should hang his head in shame.

The bedroom tax isn’t funny – and we’re not April fools

The country is in the grip of a housing crisis. Raising the deposit for a mortgage to buy a home these days is hard. Social housing is in short supply....

More Stories >

Welcome to Islington Labour