Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/777/17313
Carlisle - Building the anti-bedroom tax fightback
Brent Kennedy, Carlisle Axe the Bedroom Tax
Carlisle Axe the Bedroom Tax campaigners have really got the message out in the last two months.
In July we had a city centre protest, which attracted up to 100 people over the course of two hours and good write-ups in the local press.
But now we are concentrating on the housing estates and have covered most parts of the city.
There was a public meeting with the local head of Riverside Housing Association - who were handed 6,000 council houses for £2,500 each ten years ago.
We offered our cooperation if they would guarantee not to evict tenants due to the tax, and to fight for the repeal of the tax and reimbursement of losses incurred by public housing bodies after the next election.
We thought that this would go down well with the Riverside boss, seeing as he's a prominent Labour Party member, but somehow he declined. Funny, that.
After much detailed questioning, he finally admitted that severely disabled tenants in Carlisle who fall into arrears will be eventually forced out of their homes with no alternative accommodation and will then no longer qualify for social housing.
So we've adopted the Unite trade union's proposal to collect names and numbers for a phone chain of people willing to turn up to protect such tenants from the bailiffs, as well as mobilising their neighbours.
This has found a positive response from tenants and we are now building networks on their estates.
They will be looking to us to coordinate this work and give a lead. We can't let them down now, having urged them publicly through protests, leaflets and the press to fight back.
This is not about having a punch-up with bailiffs. It's about making evictions as difficult and costly - financially and politically - as possible.
Last week we held a protest and street meeting - well-reported in the local paper and on the BBC and ITV regional news programmes - which visibly exposed the lie that this bedroom tax is about sharing out housing resources.
The backcloth was formed by piles of bricks and rubble, framed by arching JCBs, where a week earlier 16 post-war, single bedroomed flats had stood. 400 residents of the Botcherby estate had petitioned to save and modernise the flats, but the two- and three-bedroomed houses which will now replace them will bring the "social" housing association more revenue.
Neighbours who want the option of downsizing to avoid the bedroom tax came to the meeting, asking "where can we go now?"
A Riverside spokesman later told the TV crews that they have "an abundance" of single-room flats - 1,700 out of 6,000 properties. We've sent out a search party but can't find them - have they secretly ended the 30-year drought of building social houses and built two new estates of single flats without anyone noticing?
A national survey shows that councils can only rehouse fewer than 4% of those affected by the bedroom tax, meaning that over 96% are trapped and being fleeced.
As we told the media: "this isn't about housing, it's just another way of getting more money out of working class and vulnerable people to pay for big tax cuts to the wealthy and big business."
Blame bankers not tenants!
Jimmy Haddow, Edinburgh, Socialist Party Scotland
Edinburgh Labour councillor Cammy Day, vice-convenor of the health, well-being and housing committee, considers that the council should deny emergency hardship payments to tenants affected by the bedroom tax if they spend too much on 'non-essential' items such as cigarettes and alcohol.
Edinburgh's Evening News reported this with TV's fictional so-called undeserving poor of the Gallagher family from 'Shameless'.
Rather than fight the bedroom tax, the Labour-SNP coalition council would rather stigmatise tenants and force them into poverty.
Edinburgh faces the loss of £107 million in housing benefit over the next five years. The share of bedroom tax-affected council tenants in rent arrears has risen from 27% in April this year to 72% by the end of May.
Edinburgh council should challenge the SNP Scottish government to change Section 16 of the Housing Act Scotland to rule out evictions for the bedroom tax and write off all debt accrued due to the bedroom tax using the £179 million government underspend from last year.
Sixty 'sleep outs' took place in towns and cities across Britain on Saturday 24 August in protest against the bedroom tax.
In Dundee, Socialist Party Scotland member Philip Stott said: "There has been an excellent turnout of not only members of our campaign, but also people we had not met before who came along to offer solidarity and support.
"We organised this event to highlight the brutal impact this austerity tax is having on over 3,000 of the poorest households in Dundee, who have had housing benefit stolen from them for the crime of having 'spare' bedrooms."
In The Socialist 28 August 2013:
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