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Edinburgh City Council vs The Poor

I read in the ‘I’ newspaper, yesterday, that Edinburgh City Council plans not to allow discretionary housing payments on the grounds of lifestyle choice. Essentially people who, on their application, say they smoke/drink or watch Sky TV (all the usual red flags) will be refused. DHP’s are the government’s sop to people adversely affected by the bedroom tax.  

Now quite why people would choose to admit to these things (though they aren’t illegal so why shouldn’t they, you might think) is another matter. Let us assume that somehow the council have the means to find out and that the forms you have to fill in warn that withholding information or lying is a crime (the usual thought police bollocks).

Obviously this is a ridiculous standard to set, particularly coming from a Labour council. They see fit to whine they have no choice and play the card Labour has been playing for the last year or two; when faced with tough choices they come down on the side of the policy and then claim their hands were tied. This is obscene scapegoating from people that should know better. We expect this of the Tories, not of the Labour party – or at least we didn’t used to.

However the real issue here is that these are lifestyle choices being judged in the present in a situation upon which they have no bearing. For example, someone could have paid for a Sky contract while in work, then been made redundant, and then hit with the bedroom tax. Do they deserve to be judged as living a feckless lifestyle? Upon what grounds; they paid for their Sky TV. They won’t get it refunded!

What about someone that smokes? You’ll note this approach, so typical of the moment, goes no way toward helping people give up smoking. Instead it just decides they should be punished for a lifestyle that they may well have been able to afford (bedroom tax victims aren’t all unemployed) that isn’t illegal. Instead they are told, when faced with an impossible situation (many people who wind up in arrears through the bedroom tax will not be able to move anyway because they are in arrears), to make do.

Why are we punishing people like this? What are they meant to do? Starve? Live on the streets? For the sake of a few quid to help them live in the wake of a ludicrous impossible policy they are being judged arbitrarily – probably by people that smoke, drink, or watch Sky TV and paid for out of the public purse.


  1. Why shouldn't people on benefits be entitled to some joy in their lives? Why shouldn't people who happen to be out of work (or even in work but still reliant on state support) be allowed an opportunity to de-stress with a drink, or a smoke, or even an hour in front of the telly? It's not as if people on very low incomes can afford to do much else is it, such as fine dining, or socialising. Often a six pack from the local Tesco represents the only form of luxury that is affordable to a lot of people - after all, benefits don't pay as well as parliamentary expenses, such as the £35 breakfast IDS slapped on his tab.

    But there is a deeper question, isn't there, and that is to what extent does a government have the right to dictate to its citizens how they live their lives. I've heard the argument from people to the effect that since the government (or the council as in this case) is paying people money it has the right to decide what they spend it on. That is a ridiculous argument, illustrated by asking anyone in work how they would react if their employer attempted to dictate how they should spend their wages...

    This policy represents another example of the scary, Orwellian nature of government in this country, with the DWP and their Universal Jobmatch snooping tool, and now local councils trying to decide for people how they spend their money. I can only wonder how far we are away from the tagging of all benefit recipients.

    1. Joy is the purview of the working. The unemployed must be incentivised to work by having everything taken from them: money, happiness, meaning.

      And what stress do the unemployed have? It's the real working folk that know stress - of course they should, since it's heaped on them by government and bosses alike all the time. Removal of rights, devaluing of work, lowering of wages and pensions, icnrease in workload.

      This is money that would go directly into the economy, and yet they can't tolerate even that.

      I don't think the government has any right to tell me what to do with my benefit - never mind that many bedroom tax recipients will have earned thei rmoney. Just not enough to live on.

      This is another instance of a labour council doing the dirty work of the government. Red in name, blue in deed. It's the nanny state when it suits them.


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