Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/764/16644
Tax bankers not bedrooms!
While people struggling to survive on low incomes are being hammered by pay cuts, bedroom tax, cuts in council tax support and other benefits, Tory Chancellor George Osborne recently slashed the top rate of income tax for himself and his millionaire chums.
In fact fat cats in the UK's top 100 companies have seen their 'fees' rise by 14% from last year, compared with average workers' 1.9% pay rise, lower than the rate of inflation.
Earnings of non-executive chairs of top companies now average almost £400,000. Of course that figure doesn't include lucrative share options and 'gold-plated' pension schemes.
People living in social housing could face eviction and homelessness due to rents arrears caused by the government's bedroom tax.
Yet Osborne, while talking tough about making the corporate fat cats pay their share of taxes in this age of austerity, has also seen fit to slash the rate of corporation tax down to a paltry 20%. In the 1980s the rate was around 50%.
Not that the likes of Amazon, Starbucks, Google and numerous other mega-companies pay any or much tax anyway - despite raking in billions of pounds in sales and making vast profits.
Many tax avoiding companies are also enjoying highly profitable government infrastructure contracts. Any government that has any sense of social justice would cancel these contracts, but not this government.
Now it has been revealed that the big accountancy firms (who earned more than £2 billion last year) not only exploit legal loopholes to help their corporate clients avoid paying tax but they are also employed by the government to write the tax laws. Talk about putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank!
Since the onset of the banking crisis and the capitalist recession both Labour and Con-Dem governments have spent nearly one trillion pounds of our money to bail out this rotten system.
This money, instead of underwriting the profits of the 'banksters' and corporate fat cats, could have been invested in jobs, social housing, services and decent living standards for millions of cash-strapped people.
It's clear that working class people have to stand together to resist austerity. We have to push the trade unions into organising a 24-hour general strike as a first step in this fightback.
What we need is not a bedroom tax nor any other government attack but a 'boardroom tax' on big business, along with other radical measures, to make the super-rich pay for their crisis.
Better still, let's take into public ownership the big corporations and use the profits and resources to create a socialist society.
Enough is enough - fight the bedroom tax
We won't pay for the bankers' crisis!
The Con-Dems' 'under occupancy' penalty has been dubbed the bedroom tax. It's a good name but not the most accurate.
More precise would be 'yet another way the poorest people pay for the crisis caused by the spivs and speculators' - but that would be a bit long.
It would also make it difficult to differentiate between the bedroom tax and all the other ways the 99% is called on to bail out the super-rich 1%: universal credit; benefit cap; public sector pay freeze; university fee hike; and so on.
Since 1 April around 660,000 households in the social renting sector, two-thirds of them including disabled people, have been told they will lose 14% of their housing benefit (HB) because they have a spare room.
In reality there has been a means test to establish which families have the least ability to pay - and then the bedroom tax, averaging £728 a year, is levied on them.
Knowing that the bedroom tax is unfair is not enough - we have to stop it! For people affected by the bedroom tax this attack is being seen as the straw that threatens to break the camel's back.
Until now they may not have been involved in the fight against the cuts - but now they are getting stuck in! Socialist Party members, many using their experience of fighting Thatcher's hated poll tax, are helping to organise meetings and protests.
At estate meetings, often outdoor and informal, the key slogans are worked out - the essence of which is 'can't pay and won't move'.
This is because people literally can't pay and don't want to move away from family and friends, jobs and schools.
Tactics are also being worked out. Some of those threatened with the tax have appealed the claim. Any way that frustrates the process is useful in the battle to make the bedroom tax unworkable.
Those who have been in receipt of 100% housing benefit should not sign up to direct debits - this will allow councils to take money whether you can afford it or not.
For future appeals tenants should keep a record of the amounts they have been unable to pay.
Tory ministers try to fob people off telling individuals in difficult situations they can apply for a Discretionary Housing Payment.
But if all those affected who receive Disability Living Allowance were successful in a DHP application they would get just £2.09 a week each. But mass applications will also gum up the works helping to make the tax unworkable.
Faced with mounting anger, councils bewail the difficult situations they face. A few have made limited pledges.
North Ayrshire and Edinburgh for example have said they won't evict those who fall into arrears because of the bedroom tax for a year - where households are trying their best to pay.
Nottingham city council has re-designated 1,000 two-bed properties as one-beds. Some housing associations have also taken this route - although many are moving into market renting and other commercial activities. Campaigners demand every council finds ways to not implement this crushing attack.
People could be forgiven for thinking Labour might be opposed to the bedroom tax. But are they? Labour leader Ed Miliband would not commit to reversing the bedroom tax when asked during the election campaign.
Fight all cuts
But the bedroom tax can be beaten. Demanding councils refuse to implement the tax will be a good start but can't be relied on.
Anti-bedroom tax campaigns should discuss standing candidates against those who help enforce this tax.
If it comes to it, evictions can be stopped - but lists of names and numbers should be collected from the off to build a resistance army should bailiffs approach.
Fighting the bedroom tax has also got to be linked to building a huge movement in opposition to the Con-Dems and all their policies.
That will require a new mass political voice, as Labour proves itself a determined defender of cuts and capitalism.
The case for a 24-hour general strike should also be made at every bedroom tax meeting to unite the mass opposition to cuts in action and reveal the power of the working class.
For many moving into struggle the idea of linking this battle to the need to change society along socialist lines will increasingly be understood.
- Under occupancy is a myth. These households use their rooms: for young people to study; for people with life-disrupting conditions, to store equipment, host carers or sleep alone; for children to visit separated parents; among other needs.
- Even where people try to cooperate there is nowhere for them to move to: the National Housing Federation (NHF) estimates that for the 180,000 households 'under-occupying' two-bedroom properties there is a shortfall of 95,000 one-beds. That's before the 970,000 people on the waiting list in England are taken into consideration.
- February's house-building figures showed an 11% decrease in the number of new homes started in the last year, down to just 98,280. The government's professed aim is to get people into work - a mass council house-building programme would provide much needed jobs.
- The Con-Dems are using the bedroom tax as a way to undermine the idea of social housing. They claim the bedroom tax is a way to reduce the £23 billion housing benefit bill. But if, as the NHF estimates, the 95,000 households denied one-beds in the social sector seek accommodation in the private sector, benefit claims could increase by £143 million a year. There is only one sure-fire way to cut the HB bill - cap rents.
- Replaces six benefits including: income support, HB, income-based JSA and ESA, child tax credits and working tax credit
- Pilot is underway with aim of rolling it out nationally from October
- Households with incomes of less than £247 a week and single-parent families will be hardest hit
- £4bn to implement with estimated 'savings' of £2bn a year
- Combined income from most existing benefits (including HB but not working tax credit) is capped at £500 a week or £350 for single-adult households
- Affected households can expect to lose an average of £93 a week
- Aim to spread it across UK by October from four pilot boroughs
- The government claims it will 'save' £110m by 2014/15
Benefit uprating cap:
- While food bills rose 2.9% on last year a 1% uprating cap has been imposed for three years
- By 2015/16 9.6m households will be losing £156 a year
For leaflets, posters and advice on campaigning in your area call 020 8988 8777
'It's not just rooms, it's our homes!'
Since the 1,000-strong demonstration on 20 April, the 'Hands Off Our Homes' campaign against the bedroom tax has been developing.
People have been getting in touch about establishing local groups in areas across Leeds which we haven't yet reached.
The campaign has been distributing model letters to residents, which they can use to challenge their benefit decision, with the bedroom tax withdrawn altogether for some people. That the council is taking a month to reply shows how unworkable the bedroom tax is.
But the council is desperate to collect the bedroom tax, hiring extra housing officers to chase the money and harass residents.
Many people fear losing their home and are desperately paying, but this will be impossible as other bills mount up.
In Little London and Woodhouse, the campaign has lobbied local councillors, asking them to support a policy of no evictions and to not implement the bedroom tax which they are currently doing.
In Armley, the local group is organising street meetings and is also preparing to make an appeal to Labour, ahead of a District Labour Party meeting where a motion from a union branch that supports the campaign will be heard.
Every local group should be putting pressure on Labour councillors in their area. If Labour councils implement this Con-Dem attack, anti-bedroom tax campaigns should prepare to stand candidates against them.
For more info about the campaign, visit handsoffourhomes.org.uk
Iain Dalton, Activist in Hands off our Homes
Around 65 people packed out the first Coventry Against the Bedroom Tax public meeting in Henley on 30 April to discuss how to fight this vicious attack.
Former Labour MP and Socialist Party councillor Dave Nellist spoke passionately attacking the government's welfare reforms and asking the council to support tenants.
Local residents shared stories of how the bedroom tax is affecting them - one couple wanted to downsize their house, but as they were in rent arrears the Whitefriars housing association wouldn't let them move!
Others spoke of the need to organise within their communities to defend people against evictions.
The mood of the meeting was passionate and determined to fight back - as one woman said: "it's not just rooms, it's our homes!"
Middleton and Rochdale
A packed meeting launched Middleton and Rochdale Against the Bedroom Tax on Thursday 2 May. The meeting was initiated by North Manchester Socialist Party following our tremendously successful campaign stall a couple of weeks ago, followed up with the distribution of leaflets across the Langley estate.
Salford Against Cuts secretary Kevin Corran explained how the bedroom tax can be smashed. The 23 people there heard Kevin outline how solid community organisation, mass non-compliance, organised defence of tenants and linking up campaigns can prepare a victory against this hated policy.
Kevin also explained how a socialist solution to the housing crisis would be to build one million affordable council homes, funded by nationalising the banking system and putting the resources to good use.
Debate from the floor ranged across the political situation to the involvement of more young people, to the legal struggle, to lobbying the Labour councillors, to the detail of developing a local campaign.
Young activists are drawing up a leaflet to be distributed at colleges, and other campaigners will plan lobbying the councillors, getting more local media attention, and contacting unions for support. In the future, links will be built with campaigns across Greater Manchester.
Get involved - www.facebook.com/events/559089884113017; email firstname.lastname@example.org or ring 07591 400 666.
The Braunstone population has a history of resistance. This is a community that occupied the then new Leicester Ring Road after their worst fears had been realised - a child had been killed.
Top county hall officials told an angry meeting that it takes months if not years to change the speed limit on a road.
After a week of blockading the road the speed limit was changed from 50mph to 30mph until an underpass could be built!
This is a community that convincingly saw off the bailiffs during the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign. After seeing the reception waiting for them they turned tail and never came back to collect poll tax debts.
Now this community has set up two anti-bedroom unions. Cameron, watch out!
Council houses are our homes. This point was driven home by a lady who was recently phoned by the council and asked if she would like to move.
She has lived in her house for 28 years and raised her children there. She has lived on the estate for 58 years as she was born there. Why should she move? It's her home.
It is for people like this that Tessa Warrington is standing for TUSC in the Leicester city council Abbey ward byelection on 9 May.
Labour currently has 52 out of 54 of the city's councillors, yet it is implementing the Con-Dem cuts - including the bedroom tax.
Tessa is the only candidate that will oppose all cuts.
Both by Heather Rawling, Leicester Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation steering group
In The Socialist 8 May 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
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