Martin Hannan: War on the poor is the final straw

The controversial 'bedroom tax' has sparked protests. Picture: Robert Perry

The controversial 'bedroom tax' has sparked protests. Picture: Robert Perry

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Not the least of the lunacies of the Westminster Government’s war on poor people via the “bedroom tax” is that the tenants who are being forced to move out of their homes have nowhere to go.

The ostensible reason for the tax is to encourage people living in social housing to move to smaller properties. It’s not the real reason, of course, because what Cameron, Clegg and the posh toffs in the Cabinet are really up to is reduction of benefits by any means possible so they can appease Middle England’s desire to see so-called scroungers given a tough time.

Being people of not very much brain and no experience of what life is really like on the housing estates that are home to a great deal of the population, the Government is clearly unaware of a very salient fact – this British state is suffering an acute shortage of affordable homes and social housing.

If you want proof of that contention, just ask the managers of council housing departments and housing associations who will face an impossible task trying to get bedroom tax movers into smaller houses for the simple reason that there aren’t any.

In that respect, Edinburgh is no different from plenty of other cities across the UK. As Councillor Cammy Day said in the News, there are 150 bids for every council property that becomes available to let in the city. The picture is not much better for housing associations, and for those who can afford a house, prices are such that it will cost you an arm and a leg just to get a foot on the bottom rung of the property ladder.

The Scottish Government and the council agree that Edinburgh needs to see at least 16,000 new affordable houses over the next few years, and the council is devising a strategy to help bring about those new homes. But I fear it is much too little, far too late.

The crisis is now, thanks to the bedroom tax. We know already that stories are going to emerge of people having to leave their homes of many years because they simply cannot afford the new charges, and councils and housing associations will come under immense pressure from this draconian Government to use mean and nasty measures to force people in poverty to effectively make themselves even poorer.

Most Scottish councils have indicated that they will be lenient at first, and the Scottish Government has encouraged councils to help those affected by the tax, but no-one should underestimate the brutality of the Westminster Government should its vicious attack on poor people be thwarted.

MPs of all parties will find out in the next few weeks just what an idiocy the bedroom tax legislation is, when people start pouring into their surgeries with genuine tales of hardship. In fact, that may well be the only way that the Government will act to scrap the tax – unhappy MPs with a massively increased workload can make life very uncomfortable for ministers.

This bedroom tax and the other forthcoming attacks on benefits are not quite to Cameron and Clegg what the poll tax was for Thatcher, but they could be the beginning of the end for a disgraceful coalition Government.

Full ashes inquiry has to be ordered

Some weeks ago in this column, I predicted that the Mortonhall Crematorium scandal would spread out across Scotland.

I had heard reports and rumours that crematoria elsewhere had indulged in the same practices that have disgraced Mortonhall, and these reports have been proven right.

We now know that Glasgow and Aberdeen suffered the same problem, and parents have been devastated to find out that their infant’s ashes were disposed of without their consent or knowledge.

Public Health Minister Michael Matheson has set up an independent commission. It’s not enough. There should be a full public inquiry into this horrendous scandal.