Which Lembit story will you read about today?

by Stephen Tall on July 14, 2008

Will it by any chance be this one on the BBC News website:

Cheeky Girl singer Gabriela Irimia is taking a break from her Lib Dem MP fiance Lembit Opik – but the couple have not split up, her mother says.

Magrit Irimia Scmal says the pair have not spoken for at least two weeks, but denied their engagement was off.

Or will it be this one:

£200m tenant tax is scandalous – Öpik

Figures obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that the Government is planning to keep nearly £200m of council tenants’ rent this year.

Every year, the Treasury decides how much local authorities need to spend on new homes and maintaining council houses. Those it deems to take more in rent than they need to spend pay a ‘negative subsidy’ to the Treasury, which is then redistributed to authorities in greater need.

However, this year the Treasury is collecting £195,816,938 more than it is redistributing. This extra money will remain with the exchequer and will not be spent on council housing.

Commenting, Liberal Democrat Shadow Housing Minister, Lembit Öpik said:

It is scandalous that when council tenants are finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, the Government is pocketing £200m of their rent. After the 10p tax debacle, higher road tax on older cars and now a massive tenant tax, it’s clear that this is a Government that is prepared to take from those who can least afford it just to balance its own books. The tax on tenants is preventing councils from investing in their housing stock, and crucially, building new homes for the 1.67 million families on social housing waiting lists. It’s time to scrap the tenant tax.”

Chances are, it’ll be the story about Lembit and Gabi being ‘on a break’. Why? Because it’ll be judged more newsworthy by every single media outlet – including the BBC – than Lembit’s revelation about the Government keeping £200m of council tenants’ rents. Which is the very definition of scandalous.