Bedroom tax: Can’t pay – determined to stay!

The ‘Bedroom Tax’ has sparked fury over people being forced out of their homes by this hated government.

Thousands have protested and campaigns are being organised in communities and workplaces. We must make the bedroom tax unworkable with thousands of appeals and delays.

Everyone affected is sent a letter from the council saying by how much their benefit has been docked.

Tenants can ask the council to “look again” at this decision and, if they don’t like how they “look again”, go to a tribunal.

Every tenant can apply to the “discretionary housing payment” fund, a small pot of money held by councils.

Tenants in arrears can potentially make an agreement to pay their arrears in very small amounts, such as £1 a week in cash.

Many campaigns have produced facts and figures, detailed advice and model appeal letters. For example, the legal minimum size of a bedroom can be varied by councils, but according to parliament cannot be smaller than 50 square feet or 6.5 square metres (Housing Acts 1985 and 2004).

A spokesperson for Leeds council explained why they are planning to ‘re-designate’ flats as smaller than they are: “The council will benefit from this scheme through the savings that could have been associated with the additional resources such as legal costs and additional staff that come with chasing rent.”

Leeds expects 10,000 new rent arrears. Shelter, the housing charity, estimates each eviction costs councils close to £6,000.

Stop evictions

Community networks must be organised to stop evictions related to bedroom tax arrears. Eviction notices can only be issued once arrears reach a certain level so there is time to prepare.

Brighton council says it won’t evict anyone due to arrears from the bedroom tax. Demands must be made on every council to adopt such a “no evictions” policy and demand housing associations follow suit.

Campaigns should lobby and request speakers at council meetings: massive pressure must be put on councils to refuse to implement the tax and call on central government to reimburse them for losses.

Councils could use reserves and prudential borrowing powers to, at least temporarily, waive the tax.

Labour claims to oppose the bedroom tax. But why isn’t the Labour leadership pledging that if they win the next election they will reimburse councils that take a stand? Only six Labour councillors in Labour-led councils have voted against the cuts – and they have faced expulsions and disciplinary action.

Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to maintain Tory cuts under a Labour government. Labour MP Helen Goodman announced recently, ‘they would keep the bedroom tax’.

We need working class fighters as councillors, not career politicians who follow the Con-Dems’ orders. That means building a new mass workers’ party.

The Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) is a step in this direction and is backed by the RMT transport union, other trade unionists, community campaigners and socialists.

TUSC is contesting May’s elections – anti-bedroom tax campaigners should stand against councillors who refuse to defend us.

The bedroom tax is one attack among a blizzard of cuts. The TUC is currently considering submissions from the unions on the question of a 24-hour general strike general strike against austerity.

The TUC must urgently set the date for such a strike. This could most effectively channel the increasing anger into a movement capable of kicking out this hated government.