Link to this page: http://www.socialistparty.org.uk/issue/788/17742
Abolish the bedroom tax
As we go to press, a Labour motion calling for the bedroom tax to be abolished at once is being debated in parliament.
The bedroom tax penalises housing benefit claimants in social housing for having 'spare' rooms. It demands that two children under-16 of the same sex have to share a room. Two children under-ten of different sexes also have to share.
Many people hit by the bedroom tax have moved to more expensive private housing as a result. Few one-bedroom social homes are available.
However, if all Labour councils refused to implement the tax, with the national Labour Party promising to reimburse councils if it forms the next government, the tax would be defeated already.
Instead, as these reports show, Labour councils are among the most viscous in prosecuting for rent arrears.
We need no-cuts councillors. See Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition: We need councillors who refuse to implement cuts and www.tusc.org.uk
Sheffield's fake court summons
Sheffield's Labour-led city council called their first tenants to court for rent arrears due to the Bedroom Tax. Summonses were issued for possession (ie eviction) hearings to be held on 8 November.
Or so it seemed. In fact the council just wanted it to look that way.
Socialist Party member Tim had received a letter on court headed notepaper with a hearing on that date at 12.15pm.
Expecting that the council would have summonsed numerous tenants on the same day several of us turned up to support the tenants and protest.
But when we asked court staff about the times of the hearings we were told that there weren't any. No possession hearings listed that day.
Tim had lost his letter so we initially thought he'd got the date wrong. Two of us accompanied him to see the council to find the correct date of the possession hearing.
But they replied, 'Today. 12.15pm. Turn up at that time and there will be a council official to greet you and take you into court.
The staff at the court might not have got it listed'. This seemed odd; the court should know what is listed for that day.
Back at the court the mystery was solved. Reception had a list of people the council were to see that day. It wasn't a court hearing. Just a discussion to get an agreement to pay.
After Tim's own situation had been discussed the council officer was asked: "Don't you think holding these meetings here's rather intimidating?"
Her reply was that tenants who don't normally engage with the council do often turn up when it's held in court. In other words, it is intended to be intimidating!
Leeds anti-eviction army
Over the last few weeks, Leeds anti-bedroom tax campaign, Hands Off Our Homes (HOOH), has helped tenants win two reprieves from possession orders being sought by the supposedly 'compassionate' Labour-led Leeds city council.
We have distributed leaflets and held public meetings explaining the need to fight this attack tooth and nail, and showing ways people can avoid being forced out of their homes, including applying for the inadequate Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) as well as challenging the council's decision.
We also supported people facing court because they are unable to pay the council tax benefit shortfall. Many of them face this as a double whammy with the bedroom tax.
HOOH has submitted a report to UN special rapporteur Raquel Rolnik based on case studies from people met during the campaign.
The report highlights how 50% of affected council tenants in Leeds are now in rent arrears due to the bedroom tax and how 75% of those affected in Leeds have one or more disabilities. So much for the council protecting the vulnerable!
Iain Dalton, Leeds Hands Off Our Homes activist
Leicester bailiff busters
On 5 November, protesters descended upon Braunstone estate in Leicester to demonstrate to the Labour council that they would stand shoulder-to-shoulder to oppose the despised bedroom tax.
The defiant protest, a joint initiative of Unite Community and the Leicestershire Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, showed how people will mobilise in defence of their communities if the council continues down the eviction pathway.
By speaking to people door-to-door across the estate a phone-tree has been created and is being extended week-by-week.
This network of people willing to put their bodies between their community and bailiffs will then be mobilised at short-notice to peacefully resist any attempts at eviction by blockading threatened homes.
Over 1,000 signatures of Leicester residents have been collected, calling on the council to implement a non-eviction policy. The petition will be handed to the council in the coming weeks.
- Housing associations have said they'll demolish three-bedroom homes as the bedroom tax has made them unaffordable for tenants
- 375,000 children have been hit by the bedroom tax
- Tory welfare minister and bedroom tax pioneer Iain Duncan Smith said he won't attend the Commons debate on the tax
- The number of new homes available has fallen to its lowest point in a decade
- Over 50,000 council tenants are at risk of eviction due to the bedroom tax
In The Socialist 13 November 2013:
Socialist Party news and analysis
Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition
Socialist Party workplace news
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party reviews