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Posted on 22 April 2013 at 13:06 GMT

Victims of bedroom tax are 'up for a fight' in Waltham Forest

Sarah Wrack

Last week's issue of the Socialist reported that Waltham Forest Anti-Cuts Union (WFACU) had sprung into action against the bedroom tax.

At our initial meeting we met Alan, a resident on the Avenue Road estate in Leytonstone, who is threatened with the bedroom tax.

Less than a week later, we were meeting again - this time on a street corner on the Avenue. We had been door-to-door petitioning and leafleting three times that week.

As we did a final round of putting leaflets through doors on the morning of the estate meeting, we saw that people had used the leaflets to stick in their windows and one person stopped us in the street to say she would be coming along.

Seven new people came to the meeting. Six will be affected by the bedroom tax - some losing more than 70 a month.

The other, Linda, said she was there because her sister, who lives in a neighbouring borough, is being hit by the tax.

Several other people stopped to listen and sign our petition as the meeting took place. All were women, some disabled, some carers for disabled relatives or children.

'Most vulnerable' targeted

When they explained their personal situations, it was glaringly obvious that the government is targeting the most vulnerable, the sick and the disabled, in the hope that their isolation means they won't fight back.

But it also showed that this couldn't be more wrong, they were up for a fight. Some said that they might be able to scrape together the money to cover the loss - but after all the other cuts they've been hit with, they simply don't want to.

Two people had come after getting a leaflet that morning while attending an event giving financial advice to people affected by welfare changes, organised by Ascham Homes, the Arm's Length Management organisation that runs council housing in Waltham Forest.

They had driven from an estate on the other side of the borough to say they want to get involved, giving WFACU a new estate to start work on.

All who attended were at their first political meeting and all bought copies of the Socialist.

Plans

The meeting agreed a two-pronged approach. Firstly we have to keep spreading the word, going door-to-door, telling friends and neighbours about the campaign, organising street meetings and helping individuals with the process of appealing, and eventually defending against evictions. We agreed a time every week when we'll meet to do this work.

Side-by-side with that we have to have a broader political campaign against the tax. We agreed to organise a lobby of the surgery of the council cabinet member for housing and to ask the tenants' federation to organise a tenants' meeting.

We also discussed that in the future, if and when the local Labour council refuses to stand up for local people against the bedroom tax, that we would need to stand anti-bedroom tax candidates as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

A WFACU activist pointed out that Labour Party leader Ed Miliband had said on a recent visit to South Shields that he can't promise to reverse the bedroom tax (because he doesn't know what the economy will look like in 2015). We all agreed that we're not waiting until 2015 to find out!


This version of this article was first posted on the Socialist Party website on 22 April 2013 and may vary slightly from the version subsequently printed in The Socialist.

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