24th May 2019
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Bedroom tax is ‘cruel attack on vulnerable’, say protesters following rally

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The woman who initiated a Market Cross protest against the introduction of the “cruel” bedroom tax is appealing for someone to come forward to organise a further protest later this month.

Clousta woman Jane Leask was pleased with a turnout of nearly 40 people last Saturday, at only 24 hours’ notice, for a demonstration to tie in with co-ordinated lunchtime gatherings throughout the UK.

The imposition of the bedroom tax, or removal of an “extra room subsidy” as the government terms it, will leave over 170 people in SIC and Hjaltland social housing up to £20 a week worse off.

Ms Leask has started a petition urging the government to amend its welfare reform act to “repeal the changes to housing benefits, commonly known as the ‘bedroom tax’” and asking it to “rethink its plans to cut housing benefit for thousands of citizens”.

The petition will be presented to Northern Isles MP Alistair Carmichael, who is deputy chief whip in the coalition government.

Further nationwide protests are planned on 20th April. Because she will be out of the island, Ms Leask is hoping somebody else will take on responsibility for organising another rally.

Speaking at Saturday’s protest, she said the changes would cause more than £115,000 in benefits to be lost in Shetland alone.

Ms Leask, who works at the Community Alcohol and Drugs Support Service, criticised deputy prime minister Nick Clegg for jetting off on a skiing holiday to “rub shoulders with the super rich, the only winners in Black April as the top rate of income tax is slashed from 50p to 45p”.

She said: “This cruel attack on the most vulnerable people in society will lead to an increase in home­lessness and cost the taxpayer a fortune. It costs some housing associations £6,000 to evict and then another £20,000 to the council taxpayer in legal [and other] costs. This money will be taken from each and every one of us to make people homeless.”

Mr Carmichael has pointed out that funding has been provided to local authorities for “discretionary housing payments” to mitigate the impact.

But SIC housing chief Anita Jamieson said the council’s allo­cation of just over £22,000 this year would only cover a small fraction of the shortfall.

Such payments are time-limited and because of the limited cash available, only the highest priority cases will qualify.

Despite the isles’ comparatively tiny unemployment rate, nearly 1,000 council and Hjaltland tenants rely on housing benefit to pay at least some of their rent. The 170-plus households affected by the bedroom tax will lose between £8 and £20 a week.

Part of the government’s justifi­cation for the bedroom tax is its desire to ensure existing social housing is used more efficiently. The idea is for those with spare rooms to be moved in to smaller homes, allowing larger families access to a bigger property.

But Anita Jamieson said the policy was “not going to have that effect here at all” because social housing mainly consists of three-bedroom properties. Precious few smaller council houses are avail­able.

She said: “Like a lot of other places, we’re primarily geared to family accommodation because that was mainly the demand for the bulk of our stock being built in response to the oil industry coming here.”

Citizens’ Advice Bureau (CAB) branch manager Sylvia Jamieson provided two examples of local individuals badly affected by the changes. The bureau has assisted both in applying for “discretionary housing payments” and, in the first case, a complete exemption.

One, a female client with severe mental health problems, requires an extra bedroom for a family member to stay in when she becomes unwell because she is prone to suicidal feelings. She is facing a 14 per cent “under-occupancy” penalty.

A Lerwick-based man with mental health problems is separated from his partner with whom he has children. His house has been specially adapted for one child who has disabilities.

Sylvia Jamieson said the man had a good relationship with his former partner, who is classed as the main carer.

Depending on his health, his children come to stay for between two and four nights a week. Yet he faces a 25 per cent “under-occupancy” penalty. “This is causing him considerable stress and contributing to his mental health problems,” she said.

Local trade unionist Brian Smith was one of those who took part in Saturday’s protest.

He said: “It’s ironic that this government of millionaires who have multiple bedrooms should become exercised about the fact that people living in council houses might have one or two extra. As might have been expected, this is a tax on the poor because they are poor and is at the heart of the Cameron government’s project.”

Anyone who is concerned about the impact of any of the changes to welfare, including the bedroom tax, can contact CAB for further information, advice and assistance by phoning (01595) 694696 or by emailing sicab@shetland.org.


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  1. Well done for protesting. I’m in the process of legally challenging this abominably incompetent legislation that has been so poorly thought out it attacks the vulnerable and brings with it a whole host of unthought out consequences.

    Please write to your M.P’s and councillors as much as you can. Ill people, those with mental health problems are all affected. people are human they are not chess pieces. keep challenging the atrocious Government propaganda that is scapegoating the poor and trying to turn disgruntled poorly paid people in work against benefit claimants. The fact is benefits were higher in 1982 than now it is just that ” TRILLION has gone into the corrupt banks because politicians are in tow to them. Wake up Britain we are ALL BEING FLEECED by greedy politicians who have their fingers in all sorts of financial pies.

    WAKE UP BRITIAIN DON’T READ RAGS LIKE THE DAILY MAIL THAT PROPAGANDIZE FOR THE RICH START THINKING FOR YOURSELVES!! The welfare bill IS affordable – propping up the rip-off casino banks isn’t!!!

  2. Sandy McMillan

    Is it not time that our Political representatives namely Alistair Carmichael MP and Tavish Scott MSP, become more involved in there respective Parliament, so as to voice there concerns of the Orkney and Shetland Isles populate, beginning with Ian Duncan Smith Minister for Pensions, I don’t suppose he knows were Shetland is, if he does he must know the extra burdens we have to put up with, such as the cost of getting goods onto the Isles one way or the other, this is a considerable extra cost for Islanders, then there is the bedroom tax, surely if you are paying rent and council tax which has risen considerably in the last week, why then a another tax, After all the facilities the pensioners and all who pay council tax has all been taken away, such as grass cutting, skips, and uplifting large items, which is at a price, these costs I understood was items that came from the poll tax.we pay.
    When it comes to outcome of the destiny of the Shetland Isle, in the Autumn of 2014, Is it not time Tavish Scott MSP, was starting to bring us info on our destiny, all we get from the pair of them is there week in there respective Parliaments, this is not good enough we should be told what lies ahead for Shetland, surely Tavish Scott is in the best position, or place to find this out, If he doesn’t want to find out may be the Scottish LIB DEM Leader Willie Rennie may ask the questions at First Minister Alex Salmond question time, the SNP must know or does Shetland not feature in Alex Salmond plans for a independent Scotland, this i dont think

  3. ian tinkler

    £115,000 in benefits to be lost, does that not equate to £115000 divided by twenty pounds loss of benefit per bedroom (over 5000 empty bedrooms) on Shetland alone. A harsh move yes, but with so many single homeless perhaps not as evil as the polititikers claim. (forgive me if my maths is wrong, feel free to correct.

  4. Magnus Isbister

    The Bedroom Tax is a Better Together tax. Created by Labour in 2008 for folks living in private housing, extended by Tories and LibDems to social housing.

    Better Together my hairy ****! Vote YES in 2014.

  5. Jane Leask - Clousta


    According to the information I have there is a shortfall of £92k (102 – 1 bedroom, 37 – 2 bedroom) per year for SIC tenants and £23K (27- 1 bedroom, 7- 2 bedrom) for Hjaltland tenants. So it is an annual figure but basically £5 to £28 per week for 173 tenants. And as I was a housing officer dealing with homelessness and seeing the effects directly I an very aware of the homeless issue. But single people moving to small properties would not help the single homeless at all. So I have no idea where you got that from!

  6. Jane Leask - Clousta

    More changes to the welfare system start today with the introduction of PIP which will start to replace DLA. Criticisms include –

    PIP includes tighter eligibility criteria and a new assessment system which will see 600,000 disabled people lose £2.62 billion of support over the next five years.

    Under the DLA a claimant was entitled to the higher rate of the mobility component if they are ‘unable or virtually unable to walk’. Usually claimants are considered to be ‘virtually unable to walk’ if they cannot walk more than around 50 metres but under PIP this has been reduced to 20 metres.

    The Government is effectively abolishing ‘low rate care’ – PIP has just two rates (standard and enhanced) whereas DLA had three (low, middle and high).

    The assessment does not take into account most of the reasons why a disabled persons life costs more.


  7. ian tinkler

    Just how many empty bedrooms are there in Shetland Council houses? Can these be not better used? I am not endorsing the Bedroom tax, however I know of many, some profession people whom live in Council accommodation and clearly waste space. Pun intended. I also no several people whom would love to rent or share accommodation but are unable to afford Lerwick private rent. Why not allow a room to be sub let? It would seem a sensible option.

  8. Harry Dent

    One of the most vicious things about the bedroom tax is that there are insufficient smaller properties for people to move to.

    Consider a single person occupying a three-bedroom semi after divorce (or death of his/her partner), and after the kids have flown the nest.

    Such divorcees or widowed people will find themselves forking out extra cash they can’t afford for rent, but will have virtually no prospect of finding somewhere smaller.

    Unless, of course, they can find something in the private sector which tends to be much more insecure and much more expensive, all of which rather defeats the object, if saving money really is the object.

  9. Stewart Mack

    So Ian, are you advocating making people who live in accomodation take in homeless to fill their “empty” bedrooms are you? Thats certainly what it sounds like! What utter tosh! And who exactly is to be responsible if one such arrangement goes horribly wrong?? By the way – Are you going to invite the homeless to come stay with you?

    The fact of the matter is the main social landlords on Shetland dont have enough smaller properties or people would move to them.No one should be penalised for successive governments lack of investment in social housing

  10. Ian Tinkler

    I am not advocating any such thing Stewart, but we are running out of money. SIC has wasted so much as did our previous government that we all have to cut back. Empty rooms in council houses should and can be used, wherever practicable. Sad as it may be renting rooms out has always happened. In private property it is normal. I had to take in a tenant when a single parent. It was no great hardship; the tenant became a friend, and often helped with my children. If we have a pool of empty rooms some could and should be used for social needs. Why ever not? As for social spending cut backs, if the economy does a Greece on us we ain’t seen nothing yet, whatever the colour of government Red, Green, Blue or Yellow, UK, English, Scottish or Viking.

  11. Jane Leask - Clousta


    Rooms can be sublet with the agreement of the SIC or HHA.
    However, the agreement is between the individuals and that can be hard to manage. Also if you have young children in a household there is no way to get a disclosure check done to reassure yourself that the individual is not a risk to them. If you disabled or have mental health problems – do you expect these individuals to sublet too? There is not an easy answer to this problem but the cause is clear, it is due to the welfare reforms and the most vulnerable are the ones that suffer most.

  12. george williamson

    wouldnt have a problem with this tax if it was charged to people who refused to move but charging people who have no option other than the street to avoid paying it is crazy

  13. JohnTulloch

    Dead right, George. Although the rights and wrongs of each side are clear and probably insoluble, to put somebody in accommodation and then turn around and shift the goalposts, taking their money off them, when you don’t even have accommodation with the rooms you have decided are “plenty for them,” to offer those willing to move, is iniquitous.

  14. David Spence

    The Bed Room Tax as well as the Personal Independence Payment (abolishing DLA Benefit) is nothing more than this Tory Government (The only good Tory is a ********* Tory) changing one benefit to another and reducing the rate in which that individual receives the new benefit.

    People are stupid enough to believe this Government spoon feeding of the previous Government borrowing too much, hence the drastic cuts to Local Authority Services and changing of Benefits having to be made to justify what they are doing.

    Come on folks, the Tories are Capitalists….and they are Liars, Deceivers, Thieve’s, Con-Artists, Being Dishonest, Exploiting, Cheating, Robbers, Killers (Arms Trade) and Greedy, to give a few descriptive words. ALL the NEGATIVE aspects of HUMAN NATURE Capitalism promotes. Best of example of this is our Banking System……as past experience has proven.

    Before anybody says, NO, I am not apologizing for what I have said as in the majority of cases, it is very much the truth. As the Bibles says ‘ For the LOVE of MONEY is the Root of ALL kinds of EVIL ‘.

  15. ian tinkler

    In answer to the points Jane raises. Firstly I find it unfathomable why disabled people should not be able to sub-let. They are not in any way compromised from such an action and I can see companionship from a tenant as nothing but an advantage. Most care in the community mental health compromised individuals is likewise not in any way barred from sub-letting or compromised from the same. To suggest they are would indicate a prejudice from a past era which is wholly unworthy! The suggestion about disclosure and young children is somewhat spurious. If young children are in the house I cannot see that there would be an empty bedroom present in the house in any case. Likewise as before in the private sector young children do not bar sub- letting, with or without disclose.
    I cannot help but feel this protests are motivated by some, as purely political axe grinding and although this bedroom tax is unpleasant, if it saves money and also reduces those homeless be enabling and encouraging more sub-letting of empty rooms it is not wholly inequitable.

  16. ian tinkler

    How well David confirms my point about political axe grinding!!!

  17. Rachel Buchan

    1) I fail to see how mentioning that people with mental health problems may be unable to sublet in any way implies any prejudice, whether from attitudes which unfortunately are still unpleasantly prevalent today or from prejudices from a past era.

    2) I am not subject to the “bedroom tax” currently, but will probably be so in the future.

    3) I have mental health issues which, if not resolved by the time I become liable to pay bedroom tax, will exclude me from subletting. This would be due to my state of mind, and not due to any external prejudice.

    4) I do appreciate that not everybody with a mental health issue would be averse to subletting. However I do only feel qualified to comment on my own personal circumstances.

    5) On a general note, I feel very strongly that the bedroom tax, and new PIP rules, are cruel and unfair.

  18. David Spence

    How well David confirms my point about political axe grinding!!!

    Well Ian, given this Tory Government’s long term agenda, I very much do have an axe to grind against this Government because they are putting at the head of their agenda profit and the privatization of all state run services.

    As well as this, they also plan to create a greater division between people by the introduction of a Universal State based Credit System where people on benefits will not receive financial help but this of tokens for food and other amenities. In affect, the creation of the 3rd class citizen.

    This Governments agenda is not based on supporting the people in greatest need of help, but to treat them nothing more than commodities or consumers for the newly privatized services, where profit, greed and shareholder prevail in the structure of our society. The minority rich dominating the majority. A system which dominated people prior the Industrial Revolution.

    Is there any specific good in a capitalist system…..well, you only have to look across the pond to see, in many cases, it is most definitely not.

  19. ian tinkler

    No doubt you mean Cuba (across the pond), David, how many defections to the USA last month, over half of the leaders of the Cuban national ballet. Strange how a socialist utopia like Cuba has so many defecting to wicked capitalist USA. Just how many died on the Berlin wall escaping socialism. Strange the passage was all one way, and only the socialists shot to kill anyone defecting. A bit like the Vietnamese boat people and countless others who died trying to escape the socialist dream you hold so dear. I wonder why we let our people go unhindered if they so wished to join the Soviets. Perhaps because few sane people wanted to. If you hate capitalism why not go to Cuba, I am sure they would love you.

  20. Jane Leask (Clousta)

    Thank you Ian. Again by virtue of your highly superior Brains you have solved another of Shetland’s problems (can’t think why a character from the Wizard of Oz keeps coming to mind – but that is my stuff).

    So once YOU have let out YOUR spare room/rooms and prevented someone becoming homeless then please let us know how it is going for you.

  21. ian tinkler

    Jane. Flawton, my home,has two bedrooms. Three adults live here. I thought you were aware of that, as a past visitor and a Clousta resident. Even with my superior brain moving a homeless person in would be problematic.

  22. David Spence

    Ian, as you know, most social structures incorporate both ideals of Socialism and Capitalism, no matter what country (certainly within Europe) you go too. However though Ian, if we are to take the model of Capitalism as represented in the USA, then you will more than likely come across a social environment that is so divisive, unequal, highly expensive and totally and utterly prejudice to the ‘ not so well off ‘.

    As well as being highly competitive in its nature, bringing out corruption of the highest order, this mind set has also been installed into the nation as patriotism, where the countries ideals and philosophy is preached on a daily basis via the national anthem as well as those perpetual words, which is rather an oxymoron if you look at the principles of what capitalism advocates, ‘ God Bless America ‘.

    On a background of being brought up with such nationalistic principles, based on business principles, it is not surprising that the USA is looked upon by most other countries as arrogant, ignorant and totally selfish in how it runs its affairs, whether internal or internationally.

    This is the model the Conservatives want to incorporate into the running of the country, where competition, greed, profit and selfishness are the basis and foundations of our society.

    The only real reason the US was a Super Power, was not because of its economics and its produce, but moreover its military might and support of other countries. Whether it was controlled by a dictator or not, it is what it could gain from those countries in terms of natural resources, cheap labour or expansion of US Business (in many cases the Arms Trade) Military or expanding and installing its principles on how a country should be controlled and run, at the cost of human life in most cases.

    If you care to analyse the basic structures which shape society, the USA’s performance is nothing to be admired. If you look at education, health, production, social infrastructures etc etc they are, in many cases, well behind many other countries in its development and technological advancement.

    Ian, there is no division in you are either a capitalist or a socialist (as both ideals are, as mentioned, incorporated in most societies) it is a balance between a country supporting its citizens or putting profit, greed and selfishness ahead of any other moral principle.

  23. ian tinkler

    David Spence,Just when bid the wicked capitalist USA impose Iron Curtains and Berlin walls to subjugate and imprison its citizens. Annex and permanently try and occupied countries, Hungary, Poland and Czechoslovakia Shoot and intern any citizens whom voiced discontent. David if your extreme political views were expressed in and Soviet or Communist regime would have you shot, or worse (Gulag). Of course without a free press you would have already been well muzzled. Capitalism is far from perfect; socialism has proved itself far worse. The extreme right and left are both wicked; Capitalism is neither under a democratic regime. Not perfect but infinitely better than the alternatives. Take your lessens from the past 100 years.

  24. Jane Leask - Clousta

    This is interesting and anyone who is affected by the bedroom tax should be encouraged to read it.


  25. John Tulloch

    The population of the US has increased by 20% in the last 20 years, mostly from Central and South America and they keep on letting them in. Presumably, those people think they are better off there as most of them stay.

    Like most countries, the US has plenty of faults however low tolerance of immigration isn’t one of them and unlike many currently powerful countries which have ageing populations who won’t tolerate high levels of immigration, the US is likely to be rewarded for its open policy in time to come.

  26. David Spence

    John, it will be interesting if such numbers entering the USA can be sustained in terms of the usage of that countries resources before more drastic measures are taken to reduce the problem of legal or illegal entry into the USA?

    I believe, at present, the USA population is around 315,000,000 with the USA using around 30% of all global resources and producing 25% of global pollution. As far as I am aware China, has taken over as the worlds largest polluter?

    Any way, based on the above figures (not that I am saying Capitalism is selfish) I cannot see how such a ‘ life style ‘ (if it can be described as such) can even be remotely sustainable for a population of over 7,000,000,000 (world). Something will have to give, so to speak.

    Interesting times ahead I think?

  27. Jane Leask (Clousta)

    I delivered the petition to Mr Carmichael on Monday and went to see him last night. Please would anyone who has examples where the bedroom tax (Housing benefit reduction) is unfair please let me know as I would like to pass on as many examples as possible. jane@rockytoon.plus.com

    I didn’t leave feeling much better but he did listen and I was able to clarify some points with him.

    If you are affected by this change and would be prepared to see him face to face then I would urge you to do so.

    Thanks for those who have been supportive.

  28. Jane Leask (Clousta)

    Following on from my last comment – I will be away until 23rd so please do not be offended if I do not acknowledge any e-mail before then as I will not be checking them while I am away.

  29. JohnTulloch


    According to the article on the following link world population is already almost 7 billion however the UN is predicting it will soon begin falling towards 6.2 billion by 2100 due to falling birth rates.

  30. David Spence

    John, I wouldn’t be surprised if this figure is even higher in terms of falling populations if the evidence of Global Warming is accurate. I think around 60% of people reside on or near to the coastline, and if the information regarding the rise in sea levels (upto 6 meters or more within the next 50 or so years) this will have a massive impact on many area’s and countries around the world, involving mass migration or movement of populations to other parts of the country or even the world. As well as this, if the, if the science is to be believed, the ice at the north polar regions disappears this will have a significant impact on ocean currents and subsequent thermal currents around the planet, thus making the UK and Europe colder rather than being warmer. Whatever the affects may be, it will certainly have a big impact on the population and possible distribution of resources thereafter. Time shall tell……as they say.

  31. Sandy McMillan

    Most folk keep a spare room for visiting family and friend, my understanding is you pay Rent, Council Tax depending on the size of your property, as the government has capped poll tax,The Bedroom Tax is there way of getting there Council Tax recovered, it is just another con by the Tory/Lib Dems to con the poorest of people in the Country.

  32. JohnTulloch

    Yes, Sandy, and that visiting family or friend might well be helping to shore up a desperate situation saving expense for councils, NHS, etc.

    David, “as wis wi” Brian Smith, your description of global warming/climate change “is inaccurate from beginning to end” and if you are worried about rising sea levels, see my comments elsewhere e.g. https://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2010/10/11/da-laird-and-da-meenister

  33. David Spence

    lol Yes John, I do find what you have written quite convincing and, to a degree, controversial……if not amusing in regards to our faithful, righteous council (note the sarcasm lol).

    However though John, where does one draw a balance between human activity causing pollution to this of ‘ natural events ‘ contributing to global warming? If the evidence of global warming is based on ‘ greenhouse gas emissions ‘ (the planet Venus being a classic example of CO2 gone crazy in its affect upon the planet as well as temperatures hot enough to melt lead and an atmospheric pressure enough to crush you into a pulp (roughly 90 more than our own atmospheric pressure of 14.71lbs/inch)) then one must take into consideration the impact human activity (and lets no pretend human activity has no affect whatsoever) and the un-natural way in which we are contributing to the pollution of the planet. Yes, we can stick our heads in the sand and do nothing…….but at what price do we pay before something catastrophic happens as a consequence of our ignorance? As mentioned, to plead ignorant to say we have no impact on the atmosphere and the climate is just as dangerous, if not more, than to admit that it is happening and to try and do something to reduce the affect it will have on our species as well as many other species…..which, by the way, by the year 2050 we, as in us humans, will be responsible for over 30% of all mammals becoming extinct as a result of ‘ our acvtivity ‘. What impact on eco-systems as well as the environment will this have…….or do we plead ignorant again?

  34. JohnTulloch


    The atmosphere of Venus – 96 percent CO2 – is very different from Earth – 0.04 percent CO2 – and we are a lot farther from the Sun.

    Last month in Britain 5000 people reportedly died of COLD(!!!), something which, given the “bedroom tax” and soaring fuel poverty due to so-called “green” taxes and subsidies for uneconomic so-called “green” energy, will be of much greater concern to those hit by welfare cuts than the pseudo-intellectual fantasy of “Thermogeddon” which has filled the pockets of and regaled many a dinner-party of 20th century “bourgeoisie.”

    Once again, if you want more I would suggest you take a look at http://vinlandpublishing.blogspot.co.uk/2010/04/climate-change-article-shetland-news.html

    My e-mail address is in the link so if you want any more, drop me a line.


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