LAST week's big news was the UK Government's budget, which introduced the bedroom tax for many tenants in social housing. It's something that's been coming up more and more in recent casework surgeries over the last few weeks, as people have begun to worry about the impact it will have. Over 9,000 families in Gwent are affected, so whilst it is hitting a minority of people, it's a large one.

The bedroom tax is a cruel and poorly thought through policy. Housing associations and councils have pointed out that there just aren't enough smaller homes for people to move to, and Shelter Cymru has warned that even if all those affected moved it may end up costing the taxpayer more money if tenants move to the private sector.

There are examples from history of unfair and unpopular taxes which have much wider consequences than the government expected. Going back a few hundred years, the Window Tax led to great resentment and many people bricking up windows to avoid it. In more recent history of course many of us will remember Margaret Thatcher's Poll Tax, and the massive protests that led to which helped to end her time as Prime Minister.

I know directly from my casework that this is going to cause families real hardship, and has already caused many people a lot of stress. It feels worse knowing that at the same time the UK Government has cut income tax for millionaires, by slashing the top rate of income tax.

Two figures stand out from this last week: the average family affected by the bedroom tax will be £728 worse off. The average millionaire who gets the tax cut will be £100,000 better off. That is surely wrong.


Minister for Culture and Sport

I am very pleased to have been appointed Minister for Culture and Sport by First Minister Carwyn Jones in the recent Welsh Government reshuffle. This is a very exciting role in Wales, with responsibility for increasing physical activity and the nations health, preserving our heritage, and promoting cultural events and sport. I'm very lucky to have a role that is both challenging and demanding and I look forward to encouraging much more walking and cycling, together with participation in, and appreciation of, our arts and culture.