This sounds like something from a Monty Python skit. Four months ago, a "bedroom tax" was approved for public housing tenants in England who lost up to 25% of their housing allowance just because they had a spare bedroom.
Predictably, this has led to a crisis as tens of thousands of families face eviction because the tax has made it impossible for them to pay their monthly rent.
More than 50,000 people affected by the so-called bedroom tax have fallen behind on rent and face eviction, figures given to The Independent show.
The statistics reveal the scale of debt created by the Government's under-occupancy charge, as one council house tenant in three has been pushed into rent arrears since it was introduced in April.
Figures provided by 114 local authorities across Britain after Freedom of Information (FoI) requests by the campaign group False Economy show the impact of the bedroom tax over its first four months. The total number of affected council tenants across Britain is likely to be much higher than the 50,000 recorded in the sample of local authorities that responded to the FoI.
At least another 30,000 people living in housing association properties have also fallen behind on rent payments since the bedroom tax came in, with potentially tens of thousands more also affected, according to separate research by the National Housing Federation.
Barrow in Cumbria was the worst-affected area, where more than three-quarters of all council-house tenants have fallen into arrears since the bedroom tax started. In Clackmannanshire, Tamworth and South Kesteven more than half of all affected households have fallen behind on their rent since the charge was introduced.
The shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne, said: "These appalling figures prove that while this government stands up for a privileged few, a debt bombshell is exploding for a generation of people.
"While the nation's millionaires get a huge tax cut, thousands more now confront arrears and eviction from which they'll never recover. This is final proof that the hated tax must be dropped now."
The bedroom tax penalises tenants if they have a "spare" bedroom by reducing their housing benefit by up to 25 per cent. As emergency funds from councils dry up, experts warn the situation is expected to deteriorate further over the coming months. The latest revelations are a further blow for the policy after a judge ruled last week that those with a smaller extra room would be exempt from the charge.
If parliament wants to cut the housing benefit, why not just do so rather than invent this stealth tax increase in the form of a loss of benefits due to a tenant possessing spare bedrooms? At bottom, most politicians are cowards and this is certainly a cowardly way to cut the budget. Besides, if parliament doesn't have control of how much rent a landlord can charge, they have no business cutting subsidies unless they can order a landlord to lower their rent at the same time.
Up next - a bathroom tax, or a TV tax, or maybe an easy chair tax. All we can be sure of is that governments are going to get more and more creative in separating a citizen from their money as budgets are squeezed and debt piles up.