The Court of Appeal ruled that the ‘spare room subsidy cuts’ – better known as the much hated ‘Bedroom Tax’ -was deemed to be discriminatory following legal challenges from two of its victims. This latest ruling shows the contradictions facing the Tories and the ruling class as they attempt to push through austerity.
At the end of last month, on the 27th January, the Court of Appeal ruled that the ‘spare room subsidy cuts’ – better known as the much hated ‘Bedroom Tax’ – was deemed to be discriminatory following legal challenges from two of its victims: firstly, a domestic abuse victim who requires a panic room in their house; and secondly, the grandparents of a disabled 15 year-old who requires overnight care. The ruling means that domestic violence victims in specially adapted houses and severely disabled children who require overnight care will be exempt from this reduction in their housing benefits.
The Tories, who at times are a caricature of a pantomime villain, have appealed the decision, and so the final decision will be taken by the Supreme Court.
David Cameron has said that it is ‘unfair to subsidise spare rooms in the social sector if we don’t subsidise them in the private sector’. Tories like MP Chris Davies, who have now suddenly become the bastion of the homeless, claim that subsidising these spare rooms is “wasting taxpayers’ money” as well as “denying so many other people a roof over their head”.
The statements of these esteemed gentlemen fly in the face of the facts provided by their own Department of Work and Pensions. A DWP report last year found that the majority of tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax will be unable to meet the increase in rent. Downsizing is not an option for these people either due to the chronic underfunding of social housing by past New Labour and Tory governments; therefore the only option for these tenants will be a choice between ‘heating or eating’.
The Tories, who defend the right of private property to the hilt, conveniently forget the hundreds of thousands of houses which stay empty, used solely as investment vehicles for the rich. The Tory MPs and their wealthy cronies, who own properties with plenty of spare rooms, clog up the streets of London with empty apartment buildings, which could be used to provide adequate housing for those who need it. But those who own such millionaires’ mansions will not suffer under these cuts, for they do not require housing benefits, whilst an actual tax on spare rooms would be a drop in the ocean for them.
The ruling from the Court of Appeal, however, doesn’t come from the kindness of the hearts of these judges (although no doubt some will sympathise with the plight of those suffering as a result of the Bedroom Tax), but is born out of the contradictions that the ruling class are increasingly finding themselves constrained by.
On the one hand, the government must carry out austerity, due to the crisis of capitalism; on the other hand, the Establishment are terrified of the social consequences of this austerity, which threatens to tear apart the fabric of society. The ruling class is therefore divided over how to maintain stability, thus providing an occasional safety valve for the accumulated anger of the masses. The situation is similar to that which caused the House of Lords to vote against tax credits cuts recently.
The Court of Appeal’s ruling only covers these two cases mentioned, and as a consequence many other vulnerable sections of society are still facing the damaging effects of these cuts. Legal rulings under capitalism only offer a temporary respite. As the crisis deepens, the ruling class will seek to strip away any laws that stand in the way of their attempts to resolve the crisis.
Only on the basis of a socialist plan of production can these currently empty houses be repurposed to provide a home for all of those who have none and guarantee specially adapted housing to those who need it.
- Scrap the Bedroom Tax!
- Expropriate all empty flats and houses used for speculative investment!
- For a mass programme of social housing, funded by nationalising the banks and the major monopolies!