Bedroom Tax – Tory Policy to cull the Working Class

Having moved to Peebles in 2002, ‘Stooriefit’ Bosco Santimano gives us his own take on what he feels is the hot topic of the day. This week it’s the “The Bedroom Tax”.

Since the Tories came to power at Westminster in 2010 led by David Cameron winning the largest number of votes and seats but still 20 seats short for an outright majority, they formed a coalition with the greedy power hungry Liberal Democrats and systematically went about dismantling the benefit system in this country by introducing Universal Credit. This policy was the brainchild of Ian Duncan Smith. The Tories and their Lib-Dem partners used the benefit system to balance the books which took a hit due to the recession, which in fact was caused by the financial institutions. Since many of the Tory supporters and donors are from rich backgrounds they did not dare go after these individuals but turned their guns on the weak, vulnerable and poor in our society who for no fault of theirs were made to pay a heavy price. The general public were made to believe that people on benefits were the cause of the financial crash and the Tories went about destroying the foundation of what was a carefully planned financial support system to help those in need when they most needed it. The gullible public once again fell for the lies of these two parties in government.

One of the main problems with Universal Credit was the introduction of what came to be known as the Bedroom Tax! Under the Welfare Reform Act 2012 the Tories/Lib-Dems voted to bring in policy changes under this reform to remove any subsidies received by social housing tenants for any spare bedrooms. Plus any two children under the age of 16 and of the same gender were expected to live in one bedroom as are two children under 10 regardless of gender. This meant families were hit with a triple whammy of having to pay more rent while the benefits were simultaneously cut to reduce the burden on the state and no affordable housing to move into or relocate. To make matters worse Lord Duncan Smith used his position within The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) to set a target of 30% social housing tenants affected by these draconian changes to move home by 2017! Displacing thousands of families across the country. Many organisations, think tanks, human rights groups and even the United Nations have objected to this policy and called for its instant removal.

Coronavirus has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable and ethnic groups in this country as they were more likely to work in industries that saw the biggest fallout of the pandemic like the NHS and lived in overcrowded accommodations due to the bedroom tax. Having no recourse to an extra room meant that these groups of people were left exposed and vulnerable to the virus. The Scottish Government has been mitigating the bedroom tax since 2013 through funding Discretionary Housing Payments for those affected and has announced it intends to use its powers under the Scotland Act 2016 to abolish the bedroom tax for those on Universal Credit. But politics and Brexit have put people in this precarious situation were lives are being lost due to an avoidable policy put in place by the Tories.

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 21st August 2020.

Food vs iPads

 

This week Bosco Santimano founder and executive director of social enterprise You Can Cook, shares his thoughts on Covid-19’s devastating fallout on the world’s  economy, food and people.

What has Covid-19 taught us so far? I have been researching and reading lots of articles and opinions by experts in the field of science, environment, food, health and well-being, poverty and social justice since this pandemic began and the devastating impact on the most vulnerable and poor amongst us. Many governments around the world have been supportive of their citizens in terms of offering financial support to keep people from going hungry and making sure they have a roof over their heads. Overall Western economies have given a lifeline to businesses and employees through financial stimulus packages never before seen on such a massive scale. In the UK austerity had propelled mass economic hardships on millions of families through a Tory ideology that made the poor, disabled and disadvantaged suffer for the chaos caused by the rich bankers and financial institutions since the 2008 recession. People that are paying with their lives are low waged, zero hour contract workers in this gig economy, where people are forced to take up work that benefits big corporations through tax breaks and other subsidies offered by politicians to their donors in exchange for either a peerage or directorships after losing elections or resigning; whichever comes first.

As a community interest company we have always looked at innovative solutions to tackle food poverty and highlight the underlying issues that are often overlooked by governments and local authorities in this country.  Since March this year child poverty has increased exponentially across the board with more families falling into economic hardship due to job losses or claiming benefits that are not fit for purpose in this day and age. We as an organisation have never shied away from pointing the finger at the real culprits in this avoidable saga i.e. our elected representatives, whether it’s our local councillors, MSP’s or MP. What can we do now to reverse this trend and abolish food poverty across the country? Councils across Scotland should be making more land available to local communities for converting to allotments and having a healthy supply of local food made available for all seasons. Weekly Farmers markets should be organised and subsidised by local authorities and government to encourage and inspire locals especially young people to look at growing food as a career option. Big landowners should lose their subsides for not growing food which we the tax payers pay for every year.

Growing food organically should be the norm and edible gardens should be made compulsory for all schools where growing methods are taught and pupils trained in this subject as part of the school curriculum. We were instrumental in building the first organic training garden in Scotland on school premises, right here in the Borders at St. Ronan’s Primary school, Innerleithen. This edible garden is still up and running and has a bright future for the school pupils, teachers and community. The legacy will live on for future generations of pupils to enjoy and learn new skills in farming and growing food with no reliance on corporations to supply their expensive fertilisers and pesticides which poison the environment and indirectly has a negative long term impact on the health of communities across Scotland and the world.

This pandemic has already increased food prices by over 40% and also taking into account previous increases of up to 35% since the Brexit vote, you get to see the bigger picture of millions in this country not able to buy good, affordable nutritious food.

Is it too much to ask our council to spend on educating young people in skills that will actually help save themselves and this country from starvation in any future global event? £15 million was made available for iPads and costs will keep mounting as the corporation that needs to feed its shareholders will only get hungry every year for more money and contracts. What is our priority as a society? Food or iPads?

You the people will decide.

Stay safe! Eat well!

Published in The Peeblesshire News on Friday 7th August 2020.