From this April, council tenants with a spare room will see vital housing benefits cut by an average of £15 a week. This will see those who are unemployed, on low incomes, or out of work due to sickness or disability, facing paying a huge chunk of paltry benefits towards keeping a roof over their heads.
Along with changes to Council Tax Benefits, and soaring fuel and water bills, some claimants could find themselves left with virtually nothing left at all to buy food. Amongst those hit will be parents whose children have recently left home, separated parents, foster carers and disabled people living in specially adapted properties. Around 660,000 tenants are estimated to be affected by the change.
The Government has demanded that tenants should just move if they have a problem paying the extra costs. Yet there is a woeful supply of one bedroom social housing meaning transfers to smaller properties in most cases will be impossible. This is likely to lead to an exodus of social housing tenants to the private sector – where rents are far higher. Not for the first time this policy seems to be more about attacking the very poorest and undermining social housing then actually saving money.
Tenants are now acting together to resist these changes, with news of meetings, campaigns and actions happening across the UK. Here’s a list, which is far from exhaustive, of some of what’s been organised so far. Please feel free to add details of anything that’s been missed in the comments.
Liverpool – A wide network has emerged opposing the bedroom tax with a ‘Ruckus at Mutual Homes’ on Wednesday 7th February at noon. Astonishingly the Chairman of Liverpool Mutual Homes proposed workfare for tenants to make up the rent shortfall. For details of the protest visit: http://www.facebook.com/events/472210886178901/
Several local planning meetings are being held around Liverpool in the next few weeks – for full details visit: http://combatbedroomtax.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/liverpool-tenants-meetings-housing.html
Glasgow – Groups including Black Triangle Campaign, Govan Law Centre and Glasgow Housing Action are all agitating against the bedroom tax with some form of action inevitable. A meeting has also been called by the Socialist Party Scotland on February 11th: http://www.facebook.com/events/615638345129882/ whilst Coalition Of Resistance have a meeting on the 13th.
Edinburgh – Similar mobilisations are taking place. A call has also gone out on facebook for a protest against the bedroom tax in Scotland on March 30th: http://www.facebook.com/events/369488576491663/
Leeds – A website is up and a meeting has already been held in Seacroft, with a further meeting being held in Armley on February 14th. Full details at: http://leedshandsoffourhomes.wordpress.com/2013/01/29/armley-stop-the-bedroom-tax-meeting/
London – A protest has been called on March 30th when campaigners will meet at Trafalgar Square then walk down to Downing Street to literally hand over the shirts off their backs – full details at: http://www.facebook.com/events/147409045413846/
A meeting in London recently took place in which a new network to fight all the welfare cuts was established including DPAC, Right To Work, Defend Council Housing as well as the PCS and UNITE Unions – more info at: http://www.dpac.uk.net/2013/01/campaign-for-benefit-justice-sign-up-to-our-statement-against-tory-attacks-on-the-poor/
And there is of course the inevitable petition aimed at scrapping the bedroom tax at: http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Paul_Higgins/
Finally worthy of a mention is the SPeye blog which has featured some of the best coverage of the bedroom tax, including revealing that despite Tory lies, it seems many pensioners will be hit by the tax.
Please tweet, share and spread the word about all groups and events. It’s early days yet and networks are still being formed and co-ordinated. If your group is organising a meeting, action or protest then please spam the fuck out of the comments below.
Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid