The Bedroom Tax - a charge on 'spare' rooms in social homes, which has been criticised by housing associations and charities - affects thousands of people across Bolton.
Since the tax was introduced in April 2013 I have regularly heard from constituents who are coping with serious issues as a result of this policy, and who cannot see any justice in what is being asked of them.
Social housing tenants are being asked to pay more unless they move home, only to find that there are no homes available so they have no choice but to try and find the extra money or fall into arrears. The policy is driving people into debt, it is failing to tackle the housing shortage and it may actually increase the nation's Housing Benefit bill.
I spoke out against the Bedroom Tax at a public rally in Bolton in September 2013, and became one of the first Labour MPs to call on the leadership to pledge to axe the Bedroom Tax.
I was extremely pleased that Ed Miliband has listened to the stories of terrible hardship that are taking place all over the country and has pledged to end the bedroom tax if Labour is elected in 2015.
To ensure that the Bedroom Tax can be reversed without any additional borrowing, funds have been earmarked from:
- Reversing the tax cut for hedge funds announced in the Budget 2013;
- Reversing the Government’s shares for rights scheme which could lead to £1 billion being lost to the Exchequer according to the Office for Budget Responsibility;
- Tackling disguised employment in the construction industry.
I have continued to campaign against the Bedroom Tax and have spoken about it in the House of Commons.
We have tried several times to use Parliamentary time to abolish the bedroom tax, but have always been outvoted by Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. Only a Labour majority in the Commons will allow the bedroom tax to fall. We have the Bill ready to pass, we just need the MPs to support it.