Socialist Worker

Ten reasons to axe the bedroom tax

Poorer tenants and their supporters across Britain are fighting the Tories’ hated bedroom tax. Here are just ten reasons why you should join them

Issue No. 2345

1 It snatches from the poorest

The bedroom tax hits people in council or social housing who claim housing benefit—more than 650,000 households.

They will lose 14 percent of the benefit if they are deemed to have one spare room, and 25 percent for two or more.  

Households affected will lose an average of £14 a week and many will lose much more—well over £1,000 a year. Some tenants will be forced out of their homes.


2 The rooms aren’t ‘spare’

David Cameron has four bedrooms in Downing Street and another ten in Chequers—all at our expense. But he begrudges poor families every bit of space.

Some people will lose money for having tiny box rooms.

Children will be expected to share with siblings regardless of gender until they are 12, and siblings of the same sex until they are 16. 

If their parents are separated, children will have to sleep on the couch when staying with one parent.


3 There’s nowhere to move to

Some 4,700 tenants will be hit by the bedroom tax in Hull. But there are only 73 smaller council homes in the town.

Tory and Labour governments have spent three decades getting rid of council housing and not building more. 

Now they are punishing tenants for having nowhere to go.


4 It hits disabled people hard

There are disabled adults in more than two thirds of the households that will be hit by the bedroom tax and disabled children in more.

Disabled people are more likely to need their own room and to need benefits. They could lose homes that are specially adapted to suit their conditions.

The government has put in place just £30 million to help disabled claimants adapt—a tiny fraction of the money it is taking away from them.

Under pressure, welfare minister Iain Duncan Smith has “clarified” that councils can make exceptions for some disabled children. But the pressure will be on councils to refuse to do so.


5 They are already retreating

Iain Duncan Smith has been forced to make two embarrassing concessions. Some foster carers will be exempted along with some of those serving in the armed forces—if they meet strict conditions.

It shows we can force them back. 

But around 99 percent of those who would have been hit by the tax still will be—so we need to keep fighting.


6 It deepens the housing crisis

There are more than twice as many rooms in Britain as there are people. Welfare minister Lord Freud has three spare bedrooms in London plus a whole spare eight-bedroom mansion.

The bedroom tax will push more people out of council housing and make it easier for councils to sell the homes off.

This will shift even more housing stock to private landlords—and the chaos of the market.


7 It will make landlords richer

The government claims the bedroom tax will raise £500 million. That’s less than the £607 million than bailed out bank RBS gave its top bankers in bonuses this year. 

The real winners will be private landlords. 

Many tenants forced into smaller homes on higher, private rents—and be forced to claim more in benefits as a result. This will go straight to the landlords.

Rent controls used to keep landlords in check until Margaret Thatcher abolished them in 1988.

We should fight to get them back.


8 It’s part of a wider attack

The Tories plan to slash council tax benefits from April and replace Disability Living Allowance with the stingier Personal Independence Payment. 

Hundreds of thousands of claimants will be “re-assessed” by money-grabbing firm, Atos.

Most working age benefits are frozen below inflation.

The Tories’ Universal Credit will cap benefits and mean hundreds of families won’t be able to afford to live in London.

Children have already been pulled out of schools in London and sent to the north of England.

Beating the bedroom tax can help to thwart the Tories’ benefits blitz.


9 Councils could block the tax

Some housing associations have reclassified bedrooms as boxrooms so they won’t be classed as “spare”. Dundee council has voted to say it won’t evict anyone who can’t pay the bedroom tax.

Councils and landlords will be expected to evict poor tenants from their homes when they fall behind on rent. But they can be put under pressure to say no.


10 Workers can stop evictions

In Spain unions of locksmiths and firefighters voted to refuse to evict people who can’t pay mortgages. The firefighters’ slogan is, “We rescue people, not banks”.

This is the kind of movement we have to build against the bedroom tax and benefits cap.


Real cost of bedroom tax

The bedroom tax is based on the number of “extra” rooms and the rent. 

Someone with two or more “extra” rooms in areas such as Battersea, south London, will lose £30 a week.

In many cases those hit by the bedroom tax will have other benefits, such as council tax or Disability Living Allowance (DLA), slashed too. Millions will have to pay council tax for the first time.

One disabled woman in Bishop Auckland worked out that she will be left with less than £18 a week to live on—or £2.53 a day.


Don’t panic, don’t move

Protests and non-payment by millions overturned the hated poll tax in 1990 (above). The bedroom tax can be beaten too.

If you’ll be hit by the bedroom tax, don’t rush to move or get a lodger. Get in touch with your local anti-cuts campaign, tenants group, trade unions or Socialist Workers Party branch and become part of a collective movement to resist.

Get involved in the fightback—go to benefitjustice.wordpress.com

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Article information

Features
Thu 21 Mar 2013, 15:42 GMT
Issue No. 2345
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