Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/757/16342
Axe the bedroom tax!
Tax the corporate fat cats
Mass house-building programme now
Mary Jackson , TUSC mayoral candidate, Doncaster
Around Britain, there have already been many protests against the so-called 'Bedroom Tax'. This is one of the coalition's most blatantly anti-poor policies and it will certainly be even more hated when it comes in on 1 April.
David Cameron and his multi-millionaire family have four homes, mansions in reality. Tory welfare minister David Freud, who is bringing in this law, owns an eight-bedroom mansion and a £1.9 million London home. These well-housed millionaires want council house and housing association tenants to lose 14% of their housing benefit if they're deemed to have one spare room, 25% if they have two.
We think that 4,822 households in Doncaster will be hit by this spiteful tax, over 3,000 of them with at least one disabled person. The bedroom tax will hit the poorest, low-paid workers, sick, disabled people, pensioners and the unemployed. The government says people should move in to smaller properties but they haven't done their sums.
In Doncaster, it would take an estimated 16 years to re-house those affected... but only if no other households move into that category, if no grown up children leave home, no one dies, no one joins the army. This can only lead to increasing poverty.
Many people just 'can't pay'. Doncaster, like many other areas, already has mass unemployment and deprivation. With 11,521 people on the waiting list for social housing there is a crying need for affordable housing. Rents must be capped, not benefits. We need a massive council house-building programme which will create much needed jobs and would actually cut the housing benefit bill.
There are things councils can do. There's a huge pot of money from the sale of council houses. Ring-fenced, because of legislation brought in by Margaret Thatcher and not repealed during three terms of a Labour government. And nationalising the banking system under democratic workers' control would free up more resources.
I am standing in an election to be Mayor of Doncaster. One of the first things I will do if elected is to look at a legal challenge to release this money to build the houses needed.
But what we need most of all is a campaigning policy of mass resistance. As with the battle that brought down the poll tax it will need organisation to ensure that no tenant is evicted just because she or he is poor and to convince councillors they should refuse to implement the tax, or replace them with those who will fight instead for a mass house-building policy to meet the needs of the people.
Fight the bedroom tax - the battle begins
From April the 'bedroom tax' will mean that social housing tenants with spare rooms will have their benefits cut.
This will hit 660,000 households including many disabled people and low-paid workers. Tenants are faced with an impossible choice of moving from their family homes or being left with a much smaller income.
This situation will only get worse in October when benefit caps are introduced under 'universal credit'.
What we need are not benefit caps but rent caps and a massive programme of affordable house building.
Scotland is getting organised
On 13 March over 100 people packed into a Glasgow public meeting to build for the 30 March demonstration against the hated bedroom tax.
The meeting, bringing together people from across the West of Scotland, agreed to launch a West Scotland Federation of Anti -Bedroom Tax campaigns.
Well-known socialist campaigner Tommy Sheridan gave a rousing account of his experience of how millions of working class people "melted the iron lady", Margaret Thatcher, by defeating the poll tax through mass non-payment.
The lessons of that struggle, Tommy said, can play a vital role in mobilising resistance, and winning the struggle against the bedroom tax today.
Socialist Party member and Unison activist Nicola Crawford outlined her experience of building a campaign in Shawlands and Pollokshaws in Glasgow.
After a successful public meeting, street meetings of tenants increased the spread of the campaign and gave confidence to more benefit claimants to get involved.
Nicola called for a national campaign to build mass resistance to evictions and raised the demand for a council house-building programme.
The meeting agreed a resolution calling for the scrapping of the bedroom tax and for a massive programme of council house-building to provide affordable homes for all.
The campaign's demands include:
- Scrap the bedroom tax
- Support those who cannot and will not pay this austerity tax
- No evictions for rent arrears. Build an army of anti-eviction campaigners to stop evictions
- Councils should rule out eviction for bedroom tax and fight the cuts
- Write off all debt due to the bedroom tax. Demand compensation to councils and housing associations as part of a mass campaign to win back the money stolen from public services by the Con-Dems
- For a major programme of council house-building to provide affordable homes for all
Dundee - stop this theft from the poor
The impact made by the campaign in Dundee was shown when the council's ruling SNP group passed a motion committing it not to use eviction to recover rent arrears for a "transitional period of one year."
However, this was under the condition that tenants "do all they reasonably can to avoid falling into rent arrears." What this means is unclear.
Almost all tenants facing the imposition of the bedroom tax will be unable to pay from day one. There is no "doing all they reasonably can" under this tax. Other measures of debt recovery will be used by the council, including court actions.
The Con-Dems have told 3,300 households in Dundee living in council and Housing Association accommodation, all of them already receiving housing benefit, that they have too many bedrooms.
So from 1 April these tenants will lose 14% of their housing benefit for being deemed to have one extra room and 25% for those with two or more.
That's £2 million stolen from the city's poorest families - who are told to make that up from already meagre benefits.
That's £2 million stolen from the poor to give to the rich. This cannot be allowed to pass.
'Barbaric, immoral, discriminatory' - Alan speaking at the Runcorn protest (see above)
"This tax is barbaric, immoral and discriminatory. Lord Freud and Iain Duncan Smith who are forcing this through, have blood on their hands.
"Look at the Atos assessments, the suicides after benefits have been stopped and being told you're fit for work.
Where is this supposed work and where are the supposed properties to downsize into, who is going to pay for us all to move as the Social Fund has been abolished?
The NHS is being privatised, and all the money is going straight into the pockets of government ministers who have links with the private medical insurance companies we will have to go to.
We are being f...ed over every way you look at it, the last three governments Thatcher, Labour and now Con-Dem have systematically dismantled what made this country great."
Protests around the country
The 200 people at Bristol's initial bedroom tax protest on 16 March heard defiant speeches from threatened tenants who resurrected the 'Can't Pay - Won't Pay' tradition from the days of the Poll Tax in the early 1990s.
NUT member Sheila Caffrey and Bristol Anti-Cuts Alliance spokesman and former Bristol Anti-Poll Tax leader Robin Clapp mapped out an immediate strategy for the fightback.
This meant no evictions, councillors to refuse to implement the tax, expose and picket compliant Housing Associations who try to enforce it, prepare to swamp the courts if eviction procedures are begun, chase the bailiffs back to their ratholes if they try to carry through evictions and build an army of workers, trade unionists and community activists to ensure the tax is stillborn.
Loud cheering accompanied these fighting words from most of the crowd, especially when we underlined that we oppose all cuts, whichever party is making them.
Saturday's protest in Runcorn against the bedroom tax drew 150-200 people, mainly organised through social media.
Activists from Halton Trades Council had initiated the protest but it had also been taken up enthusiastically by new, younger people via Facebook.
Michelle, one of the main speakers, said she'd never spoken into a microphone before "except when I was drunk singing I Will Survive!" It didn't matter, she spoke excellently as did Alan from St Helens who denounced the injustice of the bedroom tax in no uncertain terms.
It was the first political event many people had been to, but the Socialist got a very friendly reception and I sold all the papers I had with me.
It reminded me of the early days of the poll tax, with working class people coming together, determined to be no longer bullied, walked over and taken for granted.
An anti-bedroom tax rally/demonstration in Birmingham attracted around 200 people. We handed out literature, explained the Con-Dem government policy and the Socialist Party's views on it.
Full credit to the organisers for what could be the first of many protests against this vicious policy.
Our call for house-building and rent caps, not benefit caps was preaching to the converted in the 100-strong march in Carlisle as we tried to keep up with the queue of people wanting to sign our petition.
One woman, a widow, told us that when rent and other costs were subtracted she had little over £3 for groceries.
The mood is there for a serious anti-cuts movement, starting from below but linking up to challenge the government on a clear programme of opposition to every cut.
Organised entirely on social networks, around 50 people turned up in Hanley to demonstrate against the bedroom tax.
Over 240 people signed our petition calling on the government to axe the bedroom tax and to build affordable social housing'.
In The Socialist 20 March 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party NHS campaigning
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news
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