- Posted by: Joyce Watson MS
- Categories: Blog, Feature
Margaret Thatcher left her mark on our society in many ways. The fierce debate about her legacy will rage on because it is as much about the present and future as it is the past.
What do I mean? Well, take the issue of housing and the ‘bedroom tax’, which came into effect from the 1 April. We can trace a clear line from Margaret Thatcher’s decision, 30 years ago, to sell off council houses without replacing them to today’s bedroom tax, which seeks to re-allocate our insufficient stock of social housing.
Social housing tenants in Carmarthenshire affected by these changes face the decision to either move or lose a sizeable proportion of their income. But move where? Under the changes, one bedroom is allowed for each of the following:
• a couple
• a person who is not a child (aged 16 and over)
• two children of the same sex under 16
• two children who are under 10
• any other child, (other than a foster child or child whose main home is elsewhere).
• a carer (or group of carers) providing overnight care
If you have a computer, try out the ‘waiting time calculator’ on the Carmarthenshire County Council website, like I did. I searched for a two bedroom house in Dafen, for example, to learn that there are 414 applicants already on the list for 56 properties. By my search, the estimated waiting time was over 5 years. I didn’t submit any ‘housing points’, but it gives an idea of the scale of the challenge facing individuals, families and local authorities.
The harsh reality is that lots of people will stay put and be poorer for it. Meanwhile, those already on housing waiting lists will continue to pay high rent prices in the private sector.
The real problem, then, is the lack of housing, particularly social housing. The Welsh Government, with its programme to renovate empty homes, build more affordable housing and improve standards in the private rented sector, is on the right track. But these things take time and the effects of policies like the bedroom tax are felt generations down the line. That is why people, supporters and opponents alike, will continue to argue over how to remember a former prime minister.