As regular Argus readers will know, in April next year, the Westminster Government will be bringing in major changes to a number of welfare support payments. Of all these changes, the one which is already causing some of the greatest concern and upheaval for many local people is the "bedroom tax". In a nutshell, it means that more than 1,700 households in the Newport area will either have to pay more rent for 'spare' rooms in their homes - or move. For many people in our communities, these are not people's houses, but their homes. The homes they have cared for and cherished, lived in for decades, brought up their children, cared for their grandchildren and full of memories of lost loved ones. But the bedroom tax takes no account of this, applying the same callous measure to every family and person affected.
That is why I took this issue to the House of Commons last week, having successfully bid for time for a debate to highlight the terrible effect that the Bedroom Tax will have on people in Newport and across Gwent. I used the debate to highlight the awful impact that the changes will have, hitting many pensioners and hardworking families. As well as seeing their income hit, many will be forced to move into smaller properties, with no thought to the lifetime they may have spent in their current home. Even more worryingly, as housing stock is at such low levels, families face the prospect of being uprooted from one part of the city and forced to move to another, tearing communities and families apart.
But this is only half the story. At a time when household bills are rising, with food, gas and electricity more expensive than ever, there is a real possibility of people sliding into ever deeper debt as a result of these changes. In desperation, people may turn to Pay Day loan companies with exorbitant interest rates or - worse still - fall prey to the Loan Sharks and money lenders that prey on the most vulnerable. It is a toxic combination of social upheaval, financial uncertainty and the splitting of communities.
The irony is that if the stated aim is to save money, the policy has no logic. In many areas of Wales with no chance of smaller social houses, the policy encourages tenants to move to more expensive accommodation in the private rented sector, which will increase housing benefit expenditure.
Though the Conservative / Lib Dem Government didn't offer any consolation during the debate, the media coverage has at least raised the issue with the wider public. As your MP, I'll do all I can to help people affected