Let’s axe the bedroom tax

Campaign stops eviction in Manchester

As the first evictions related to bedroom tax arrears are heard in the courts, campaigners are organising to beat them.

Eviction threats were defeated in Manchester and Bootle, Merseyside, on 12 June, breathing fresh confidence into the fight against the bedroom tax.

Laurence Maples of South Manchester Against Cuts (SMAC) reports on one victory. See socialistparty.org.uk for further reports.

A young mother and her son recently faced eviction under court proceedings by Southway Housing Association for rent arrears which arose due to failings in the benefit system and were compounded by the bedroom tax.

SMAC leafleted the estate where she lives, at a local school, in shops and at the library. A large group went with her to protest at the court.

The housing charity Shelter provided a solicitor and the case was adjourned for three months and an agreement made for the arrears to be paid off at £5 a week.

This partial victory was undoubtedly due to the strength of the campaign, launched only a few weeks ago.

SMAC has already leafleted the estate about the victory, generating a sense of solidarity in the community and inspiring tenants to fight back. Southway has been forced to meet us.

Trade unionists, Socialist Party members and community campaigners set up SMAC to fight austerity, focussing initially on the bedroom tax.

In just a few days we built for a public meeting which attracted 27 people. We have received tremendous support from local Unite and Unison branches.

SMAC now meets weekly, and is one of a number of anti-bedroom tax groups in Manchester, which will look to form a Greater Manchester Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation on 20 July.

Many of those involved in SMAC want to work with the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to stand ‘no cuts’ council candidates next year and at the next general election.

We are not powerless

Three months ago I was feeling very depressed about this government. I am a retired teacher and I subsist on a small occupational pension topped up with incapacity benefit.

I live in a two-bedroomed council house but my daughter, who lived with me, is now away at university so I was deemed to be ‘under-occupying’ by North Tyneside council. As a result I have lost most of the housing benefit I was getting.

I applied for one-bedroomed accommodation but I was told there wasn’t any and I would have to go private. I also appealed against the bedroom tax in February but have had no reply.

North Tyneside council’s attitude is that they “don’t accept the term bedroom tax” and “have no choice but to implement a government directive.”

It was my inability to do anything about this alone that initially led me to join the Socialist Party in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

I began by helping with anti-bedroom tax groups in Byker and Walker and realised I should be organising a similar group in North Tyneside.

Joining the socialists has made me realise that we are not alone and powerless against the bedroom tax and this blatant attack on the poor and vulnerable.

I am less depressed and more focussed on doing something positive with like-minded people. Joining the socialists was one of the best things I ever did.

Lynne Sample

Tell councils – you have a choice!

The Socialist Party calls for the bedroom tax to be scrapped. Councils can refuse to implement the cut, pledge not to evict people or to chase arrears that arise because of it, fill out their discretionary housing fund to cover people’s losses and put their resources behind campaigns against the tax. Here are three examples of action being taken:
  • Motion being put by councillor Pete Smith to Walsall council on 8 July:

Given that this council at a recent council meeting on 8 April 2013, unanimously expressed its opposition to the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ and resolved to call on the government to scrap the bedroom tax, this council now calls upon the Walsall Housing Group and other social landlords of properties in the Borough of Walsall to give assurances that they will take no eviction action against any of their tenants, solely as a result of arrears resulting from the imposition and impact of the bedroom tax.

  • Response received (from Councillor Greg Marshall) by campaigners when they asked for clarity on the position of Broxtowe council in Nottinghamshire on evictions for bedroom tax related arrears:

“The position of the council is unequivocal. At the full council meeting of 17 April 2013 there was a debate around the housing crisis and the bedroom tax.
As part of his contribution Councillor Milan Radulovic (Leader) stated that ‘there will be no evictions from council run properties if individuals’ circumstances alter due to welfare changes as a result of the bedroom tax’.
For the avoidance of doubt and to reinforce the position I seconded that position and stated how it set ourselves aside as a progressive authority. The statement/contribution was accepted without dissent.”

  • East Lothian Housing Association in Scotland has set up a scheme to cover the bedroom tax for any of its tenants it decides are unfairly hit. This is particularly where the Housing Association’s own policies prevent it from moving people to a smaller property where they would not be hit by the tax or where the bedroom tax reduces their income to less than £75 a week. For these people arrears are being written off. Martin Pollhammer, chief executive of the Housing Association said: “Trying to collect payments from people who patently have no means to pay them is a waste of our time, money and resources”.

New anti-bedroom tax campaign launched in Nottingham

On 4 June Nottingham defend council tax benefit campaign called the first meeting in the St Ann’s estate against the bedroom tax.

Around 20 local residents came to the meeting, either worried or angry about the attacks.

After each person explained what had made them want to get involved, an introduction was given on the council tax benefit cut and the bedroom tax by Gary Freeman, Socialist Party member involved in the campaign.

We discussed the need to slow down the system, advising residents of the council procedures and giving some advice for challenging them. See details of this in the pull-out in the centre.

People picked up information leaflets, discretionary housing payment forms and signed appeal letters and postcards to councillors (one of the local wards’ councillors is involved in implementing the bedroom tax and another is the council leader). People took postcards for friends and neighbours to sign.

Sign-up sheets were also provided to make a list of residents who are being hit by the attacks, and another of those willing to form ‘anti-bailiff squads’.

A date for the next meeting was agreed, and some left intending to arrange day-time meetings, especially for those with childcare issues.

Geraint Thomas, Nottingham Socialist Party