Last Friday in the House of Commons the Government was defeated on the issue of the Bedroom Tax.
Fridays are constituency days and it is very rare for me to be down in Parliament on that day.
It is the day when I can see constituents to discuss their issues and problems.
Besides, given that I live in Hartlepool and all my family are in the town, I like to be back home.
However, so many constituents contacted me about the vote on Friday – more people have contacted me on this issue than any other – that I decided to stay down and vote against the Bedroom Tax.
What I found really interesting about the people who contacted me about this issue was that it seemed to be everybody, not just those people directly affected by the Bedroom Tax.
Young and old, richer or poorer, people in the town from all walks of life got in touch with me about it.
I had a number of e-mails from constituents saying something along the lines of: “It doesn’t affect me but I think what the Government is doing is so wrong”.
The sheer volume of correspondence on this matter reinforced to me that fair-minded people in Hartlepool see this legislation as unjust and unfair.
In that regard, the Government needs to be careful: it could be David Cameron’s poll tax.
That sense of unfairness is why the Government was defeated in Parliament last Friday.
Over a thousand tenants are affected by the Bedroom Tax in Hartlepool, according to Housing Hartlepool, the largest provider of social housing in the town.
About sixty per cent of those tenants are now in arrears, a percentage that has doubled in a year.
There is evidence that tenants are struggling to afford to pay the Bedroom Tax and are having to resort to payday loans and doorstep lenders to borrow money at extortionate rates in order to pay their rents.
There are a number of reasons why the Bedroom Tax is so unfair.
First is the fact that tenants don’t really have the option to downsize to smaller properties, because the number of smaller homes being built has all but evaporated.
According to Housing Hartlepool, 44 tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax were able to be rehoused in smaller properties last year.
At that rate, it would take until 2039 to move all people affected to smaller houses or bungalows.
The other unfair matter is that the Government fails to take into account people’s individual circumstances.
The older couple who require an additional bedroom because one of them is now disabled and they need to sleep separately or store medical equipment.
The father who has split up from his children’s mother, wants to be a good dad and stay in his kids’ lives, but hasn’t got the available space to ensure that his daughter aged 11 and son aged 13 sleep in different rooms.
The woman in her 40s who came to see me at my constituency surgery and who sobbed when she said that in order to afford to pay the extra money for the Bedroom Tax she tends to avoid eating for two days a week.
These are the real life stories behind the Bedroom Tax.
With Friday’s defeat in Parliament, the Bedroom Tax is not yet dead and buried. I think it still needs to be scrapped altogether.
But it is a welcome move and I thank all the constituents who contacted me about this matter.