Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/762/16562
Organise to bin the bedroom tax
How our campaign can win
Paul Gerrard, Salford against Cuts
To charge tenants who are already on low incomes for having a room where people they are close to can stay is just about the meanest trick of a government which has a world-class reputation for mean tricks.
The government says: 'take a lodger'- but why should people share their homes with someone they hardly know, when they want to share their homes with those they are close to?
The government says: 'get a few extra hours work'. What planet are they on? Don't they realise that everyone is having their hours cut!
The government says: 'move to a smaller property or a cheaper area'. Where are all these one-bedroom properties? They don't exist. And why uproot yourself to a new area, away from schools, contacts, support networks?
The bedroom tax is an outrage, and that's why people are getting angry. Half the people signing petitions against the tax aren't even hit by it, but they know people who are affected - family, friends, neighbours - and they think it stinks.
Protests are taking off - not just demonstrations but targetted protests at Labour councils who, for all their 'campaigning' against the tax, will implement it to the hilt, and against housing associations who are busy taking on more 'enforcement officers' to 'deal with' the tenants who fall behind on rent. That's why we need to build street networks and 'telephone trees' to quickly respond to threats by bailiffs.
- No evictions of tenants who fall into rent arrears as a result of austerity cuts. Organise local campaigns to oppose the tax and defend our homes, and link them to existing anti-cuts groups
- Stand candidates against councillors who try to evict us. Build a new mass workers' party that draws together workers, young people and activists from workplaces and anti-cuts campaigns, to provide a fighting, political alternative to the pro-cuts parties
- Cap rents and build homes. Invest in a major programme of council house building and refurbishment to provide affordable homes for all and decent jobs
- End low pay! If workers are paid a genuinely living wage they would not need to claim housing benefit
- Fight all the cuts. Trade unions must build for a 24-hour general strike as the next major step in the campaign against austerity
- For a socialist alternative to cuts and capitalism with a democratic socialist plan of production based on the interests of the overwhelming majority of people - not the 1%.
One thousand march through Leeds
Over 1,000 people marched on the Hands off our Homes-organised demonstration through Leeds city centre on 20 April against the bedroom tax
Bedroom tax and room sizes
Many council and housing association tenants rightly question whether their box rooms should be counted as bedrooms. But for the purposes of bedroom tax a 'bedroom' can be of any size.
The government deliberately did not include a definition - instead they've said that a bedroom is a bedroom if the social landlord letting it says it is. They may come to regret this.
Already some councils and housing associations are renaming small bedrooms as studies and two-bed flats as one-bed - meaning no bedroom tax for the tenants and therefore less rent arrears to chase.
Online there have been rumours that rooms smaller than 50 square feet (sqft) or 70 sqft cannot be counted as bedrooms in law under the Housing Act 1985.
Part 10 of this Act, which defines statutory overcrowding, specifies how many rooms a home must have for various numbers of residents. Spaces under 50 sqft are excluded from being considered as rooms at all.
Rooms under 70 sqft are counted as suitable only for a child over 12 months and under ten years. However, under these rules all rooms are counted, not just bedrooms.
Incredibly a home with a living room, a large kitchen and one bedroom is legal for up to five adults!
These overcrowding rules are so limited that households being charged bedroom tax will not qualify as statutorily overcrowded.
Anyone sleeping in a bedroom under 50 sqft could just be told to sleep in the living room instead! Also, there is no suggestion in the Housing Act that 50 and 70 sqft are legal minimum room sizes - rather it appears they apply only to the issue of assessing statutory overcrowding.
The absence of any room size criteria for bedroom tax will of no doubt be challenged in court. The bedroom tax rules assume that one bedroom is sufficient for a couple, or two 15 year olds of the same sex.
This ignores the fact that some bedrooms are only single rooms and too small for a double bed or two single beds. Some small rooms have nowhere for bunk beds to be sited without obscuring the window.
Tenants with a small room should ask for the bedroom tax deduction from their Housing Benefit to be reconsidered.
Campaigns should put pressure on their local council and housing associations to redefine small rooms as studies as well as demanding the council not evict tenants for bedroom tax debt.
Sharron Milsom, Sheffield
In The Socialist 24 April 2013:
Socialist Party NHS news and campaigns
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party workplace news
The Socialist; readers' comments