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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 June 2013

We can beat the bedroom tax - Supplement to the Socialist, issue 770

Know your rights sheet

We can beat the bedroom tax, graphic by  Socialist Party

We can beat the bedroom tax, graphic by Socialist Party

The bedroom tax has sparked fury. Thousands have protested against people being forced out of their homes or robbed of 14% or 25% of their housing benefit by millionaire Con-Dem ministers, many of whom have spare houses, never mind spare bedrooms.
But we can stop this attack! Twenty years ago a mass campaign defeated Thatcher's hated poll tax. Led by the Socialist Party's predecessor, Militant, a mass campaign of non-payment made the poll tax unviable.
While the bedroom tax is different in many ways, one thing is clear - if we get organised we can defeat it.

Click here for pdf of the We Can Beat the Bedroom Tax supplement


Can't pay - will stay! No evictions!

"I've cut back on every little thing I have. I'm eating one meal a day and not putting the heating on, all so I can pay this tax. 12 a week is everything when you can only afford 30 a fortnight on shopping before paying the bedroom tax."

The bedroom tax's impact on people's lives has been devastating. The case of Stephanie Botrill, who killed herself after losing 20 a week from her housing benefit, illustrated the human cost of the bedroom tax.

Stephanie wrote to her son before committing suicide: "Don't blame yourself for me ending my life. The only people to blame are the government."

The bedroom tax affects 660,000 of the poorest households in Britain, many of them already suffering as a result of other Con-Dem cuts. 500 million is being stolen from housing benefit, with the tenant responsible for making up the shortfall.

How is it possible for people already living in dire poverty to pay? It is not and the figures prove it.

Anti-eviction army

Housing Associations revealed in May that thousands of their tenants had immediately fallen into rent arrears as a result of the bedroom tax.

In Liverpool the Riverside Group said 50% of their 6,000 affected tenants have not paid anything in bedroom tax.

Only a quarter paid the full amount in the first month. Wakefield in Yorkshire said 42% had underpaid their rent. In Glasgow 66% of Housing Association tenants have under paid.

What these figures clearly show is that the bedroom tax cannot be afforded. Moreover, many tenants who have tried to pay will not be able to sustain payment.

We need to build an anti-eviction army which will oppose tooth and nail any attempts to evict tenants as a result of bedroom tax arrears.

Just as the 'bailiff busters' successfully prevented thousands of attempts by bailiffs to take poll tax non-payers' goods, we can build a mass campaign to prevent evictions.

Build mass campaigns

But threats of eviction by councils and Housing Associations for bedroom tax arrears are still at an early stage.

There are many things tenants can do to defeat the tax now. All tenants should know their rights and how they can disrupt the process of their own housing benefit being cut, but this must be supplemented by building mass campaigns to scrap the bedroom tax for all.

This guide briefly explains your rights as a tenant and gives suggestions on how to build an anti-bedroom tax campaign in your area.

We demand:


Q&A: Bedroom Tax

How do I set up a campaign?

Book a room in a community centre, school or local pub for a public meeting. Print some leaflets and go door-to-door in areas where there are lots of council or housing association homes.

Put up posters in the local shops. Contact us if you would like a speaker or help with leaflets.

At many local meetings people have come along ready to help organise. If this is the case ask for volunteers for a steering committee to organise the campaign.

Contact us for details of other local groups in your area. You can then come together to organise town-wide work - including organising mass lobbies of your council. See contact details below.

What happens now?

Everyone affected by the bedroom tax has been sent a letter by the council telling them by how much their housing benefit will be cut.

Tenants can ask the council to look again at the decision. You need to do this in writing within one month of receiving the 'benefit decision notice' which says that your benefit is being cut.

If you are still not happy after the council has looked again, you can appeal the decision. Again, this should be done in writing within one month of receiving the council's response to your request for them to look again.

This is free and you have a legal right to do it. Model appeal letters are available from us or from your local anti-bedroom tax campaign.

Longer than a month since you received your benefit decision? It is still worth writing a letter of appeal, explaining why you have not done so earlier (you have been ill, away, in distress, you didn't realise you could appeal...).

While no guarantee for success, some common reasons for appeal include:

Should I apply for the "discretionary housing fund" for help?

Yes. This is a small pot of money that councils have to help tenants. You should apply regardless of whether you think you will get it.

An application for a payment can be used as evidence that you have tried to gain access to money to help with the bedroom tax - this can also help delay eviction proceedings.

Should I move to the private sector?

In general, no. This is even more expensive than most council or Housing Association properties, tenancies are usually short-term and insecure, and housing is often of poor quality.

If you genuinely want to move to a smaller council or Housing Association home ask your landlord to put you on a list.

However, councils and HAs simply don't have the smaller properties available to house people affected by the bedroom tax. For the vast majority it's a case of Can't Pay - Will Stay.

Should I take out a Direct Debit to the council or social landlord?

No. A Direct Debit allows the council to increase the money it takes from your account to cover your bedroom tax and you will have less money for food, bills, etc.

What can my landlord do to pressurise me to pay bedroom tax?

Initially, councils and Housing Associations are phoning, writing to and visiting tenants who cannot pay all their rent as a result of the deductions from their housing benefit.

If your landlord arranges a visit to your home, ask other anti-bedroom tax campaigners to come round and support you.

Landlords are hoping to apply pressure on tenants to make a payment arrangement to prevent a big loss in rental income.

Social landlords need to understand that people cannot pay the bedroom tax - and we are not the enemy. They should stand by their tenants and demand the scrapping of the bedroom tax.

It is worthwhile explaining to your landlord why you cannot pay the bedroom tax, that your income and expenditure leaves no room for the bedroom tax to be paid.

It may be worthwhile putting this in writing to your landlord (make sure to keep a copy of the letter). This explanation can help later on if the landlord attempts to push for an eviction.

What happens if I can't or won't pay the bedroom tax?

Letters will be sent telling you that you are in rent arrears. Don't ignore these letters - contact the council and your local Welfare Rights team and Citizens Advice Bureau, community legal teams, etc.

Even if you can't access legal advice, don't ignore the letters, write to your landlord and tell them you can't pay and the reasons why.

If you can't get an appointment, or they give you bad advice (ie telling you that you just 'have to pay') make sure you get in touch with your local anti-bedroom tax campaign.

Keep all letters you are sent, and copies of any replies you send to your landlord. These can be very important if you have to argue your case in court.

Councils and Housing Associations can also try for a deduction of benefit for rent arrears. There is a standard practice of a deduction for rent arrears of around 3.65 a week from benefit.

We demand all bedroom tax debt be written off and that the Con-Dem government bails out councils who refuse to implement it, including refusing to chase arrears that arise from austerity cuts.

Will I be evicted?

Court proceedings: At a certain point court proceedings can be used for debt recovery. However, councils and Housing Associations almost always have to do a number of things before they can take you to court.

They have to:
Remember: It costs an average of 6,000 to evict someone. That is more than 200 weeks of bedroom tax rent arrears. For this reason, and also because it would be so unpopular, councils and Housing Associations are hesitating to take this road, a mass campaign can stop them from doing so.

What should I do if I get a letter saying my landlord is going to take me to court?

If you are threatened with a court hearing get in touch with us or the local anti-bedroom tax campaign immediately.

We can give you advice but also, if you wish, organise protests against court action being taken. This is the best way to prevent evictions.

During the poll tax battle mass protests at courts hearing poll tax cases helped make the court system unworkable.

If councils try to take tenants to court we need to mobilise a similar movement against evictions.

In other words, a request for an eviction by a landlord is not a straightforward process and can be stalled or overturned.

The campaign can and will ensure that no one goes to court on their own. We will seek legal advice to give guidance and support for you as well.

Above all, even if an eviction order was granted anti-bedroom tax campaigners would mobilise to physically prevent bailiffs from removing a tenant from their home as a result of being unable to pay the bedroom tax.

How do we fight this?

Join the anti-bedroom tax campaign today. Massive pressure must be put on councils and Housing Associations to write off all debt arising from the bedroom tax.

We will continue to lobby, protest and demonstrate to demand the politicians act to stop these attacks on the poorest.

This is a fight we can win. If we stick together we can defeat the bedroom tax, all the cuts and bring down this rotten government of the rich.

See socialistparty.org.uk for regular reports and updates on the anti-bedroom tax campaigns


What can councils do?

Councils can refuse to implement the bedroom tax and demand that all Housing Associations in their area do the same thing. We call on councils to:

■ Refuse to implement the bedroom tax!

■ Use their borrowing powers and any reserves to assist tenants while working with the campaign to build a mass movement to defeat the tax.

■ Make a clear pledge not to evict any tenant in arrears due to the bedroom tax or as a result of austerity.

■ Demand that Housing Associations in the area (which often have councillors on their boards) pledge never to use Ground 8 to force through evictions, and pledge not to evict tenants for bedroom tax arrears or other arrears as a result of austerity.

■ Write off bedroom tax arrears and/or 're-designate' properties as having fewer bedrooms to prevent the effects of the bedroom tax.

■ A number of councils and Housing Associations have carried out some of these measures. Nine councils - mainly in areas where bedroom tax campaigns are strong - have promised no evictions for a year and several landlords - including Leeds council - have promised to re-designate homes.

These partial measures show campaigning works, but we need to keep the pressure on councils to do more. Labour claim to oppose the bedroom tax, yet Labour councils are implementing it. If they all refused to do so the tax would be unworkable.

Anti-bedroom tax campaigners should stand for the council

Labour claims to oppose the bedroom tax but Labour councils are implementing it, and Labour nationally have refused to pledge to repeal it if they win the general election. We need councillors who will really stand up for us.

Next May the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition will be bringing together campaigners against cuts to stand as many anti-cuts candidates as possible in the local elections.

Standing candidates in the local elections is an effective way of building the campaign against councillors that are implementing the bedroom tax.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is an electoral alliance that stands candidates against all cuts and privatisation. It involves the RMT transport workers' union, leading members of other trade unions including the PCS, NUT and POA and socialist organisations including the Socialist Party.

www.tusc.org.uk


Join the Socialists

The bedroom tax is only one attack in the blizzard of cuts bombarding working class people. Reductions in council tax benefits will force more people onto the breadline in Foodbank Britain.

But while most of us tighten our belts a few households and families are gorging on a feast of riches.

The combined wealth of Britain's richest 1,000 people increased by almost 5% to 414 billion in 2012! Those households and major corporations have all been given a generous tax cut - helping them to get even richer. No question - this is a government for the millionaires not the millions.

But potentially we have the strength of millions to stop them! The bedroom tax makes it clearer than ever - the trade union movement must urgently set the date for a 24-hour general strike against austerity.

This would be the most effective way of channelling the burning anger at the government into a movement capable of stopping the cuts.

If you agree with us - join the socialists! We stand for a different way of running things - where the wealth of society is used to provide people with the things we need - decent homes, jobs, a good education and NHS.

We want a society for the 99% not the 1%. That is why we stand for a socialist alternative which is based on a democratic plan of production to meet the needs of all.

What the Socialist Party stands for:

The Socialist Party fights for socialism - a democratic society run for the needs of all and not the profits of a few. We also oppose every cut, fighting in our day-to-day campaigning for every possible improvement for working class people. The organised working class has the potential power to stop the cuts and transform society.
As capitalism dominates the globe, the struggle for genuine socialism must be international. The Socialist Party is part of the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI), a socialist international that organises in over 40 countries.

Our demands include:

Public services

Work and income

Environment

Rights

New workers' party

Socialism and internationalism


The Socialist will be carrying regular articles on the bedroom tax. Subscribe via website. Send us your stories to: editors@socialistparty.org.uk

Get in touch for campaign resources including leaflets and posters:
info@socialistparty.org.uk
020 8988 8777

Socialist Party organisers:

Eastern 07905 167 703

East Midlands 07737 978 057

London 020 8988 8786

Northern 07841 144 890

North West 07769 611 320

Southern 07833 681 910

South East 07894 716 095

South West 07759 796 478

Wales 07891 547 900

West Midlands 07929 395 884

Yorkshire 07706 710 041

Why not click here to join the Socialist Party, or click here to donate to the Socialist Party.


In The Socialist 19 June 2013:


Socialist Party news and analysis

Cuts can be beaten!

Why we're going to the NSSN conference: Coventry communications workers

Fight the Tories for right to a decent education system

Student loans threat: Action needed on student debt mountain

Lowest living standards in a decade

Sir 'sell-out' Brendan

Them & Us


Fighting the bedroom tax

We can beat the bedroom tax - Supplement to the Socialist

Let's axe the bedroom tax


International socialist news and analysis

Turkey: Eyewitness to Erdogan's state terror


Socialist Party reports and campaigns

Southampton byelection: Labour vote halved

Fire cuts - public will support strike action

Stopping the BNP from meeting

Home care: Cuts and outsourcing equal abuse

Wales campaigners fight for NHS

Socialist Party news


Socialist Party workplace news

Bin workers strike for seven days

NUT members strike to defend teaching assistant posts

Housing support workers say 'enough is enough'

Unison Local Government conference: Leadership faces delegates' anger

Support for socialist alternative to pro-cuts New Labour at GMB conference

Wales Shop Stewards' Network conference

Workplace news in brief


Socialist Party reviews

Budding trade unionists and passionate Chartists

BBC 'unbalanced' on Liverpool 47


 

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