Fight the unfair bedroom tax!

Tracey Farrell, Harlow Socialist Party

The Con-Dems’ bedroom tax, due to be introduced this spring, is not just another attack on the unemployed but also on working people who, like 93% of new claimants in 2010 and 2011, are forced through low pay and massive private rent costs to rely on housing benefit.

If you have the audacity to remain in the home that you have emotionally and financially invested in, where the child you have shared access to or your teenage children can live with you post secondary school, where your grandchildren and your guests can stay as you grow old, then be aware – they will literally starve you out. Research in Wales has found people planning to cut meals to cover the tax!

Under the new rules, from April council and housing association tenants who have one ‘spare’ bedroom will have their housing benefit cut by 14%. Those with two bedrooms will lose 25%.

A family will be punished for ‘under-occupying’ even where every bedroom in the home is in regular use. For example, benefit will be cut where under-16s of the same gender have been given their own bedroom, rather than being forced to share. Children under ten are expected to share regardless of gender.

Separated parents will be punished for keeping a ‘spare’ bedroom for when their children visit. Foster parents will receive a cut because, for benefits, foster children do not count as part of the household. Couples who sleep apart due to a medical condition are also under attack.

In my town Harlow, the council has offered tenants the following advice: if you are unemployed you should get a job, if you are employed you should increase your hours, or take in a lodger, or move to a smaller home.

What world does the council live in? Over 2.5 million people are looking for work. More than three million workers – 10.5% – are underemployed and want to work more hours. And locally, as the council has virtually no one-bedroom properties to move you to, it’s a box room in a shared private house.

Harlow Socialist Party has decided to take action against the bedroom tax. We urge everyone to fight this disgusting attack, and to galvanise anger and outrage against the coalition.