The Tories’ hated bedroom tax comes into effect on Monday of next week. Thousands of people across Britain are organising to resist it.
Last week saw dozens of meetings on housing estates, as well as protests in places including Bury, Halifax and south London. And over 50 protests were planned for Saturday of this week.
The tax is going to hit some of the poorest people extremely hard. “It’s going to be an absolute disaster for me,” Honor Donnelly, a tenant in Wythenshaw, Manchester, told Socialist Worker.
“Right now I’m on £71 a week. I’ve already had to adapt my lifestyle to save money. I’ve had to change how I eat, and restrict my travelling.
“But my kids have grown up and I have a three bedroom house, so there will be £25 coming out of my income for the bedroom tax. Then there’s another £2 or £3 from the council tax benefit cuts.
“That’ll leave me £43 a week to live on. Then there’s the bills. Luckily it’s coming into spring so I won’t use the heating as much.
“But in winter I don’t have a choice, because the cold affects my arthritis so much.
“If I need to get out and about, it costs £12 a week just to travel on the bus—I’d have nothing left.
“I’d have to rob Peter to pay Paul with the bills. I’d have to keep borrowing money just to buy food. It’s going to affect my ability to pay the rent.”
The Tories and some housing associations have tried to paint tenants as living a life of luxury.
The reality is a world away from this rhetoric.
“It’s absolutely disgusting how they call us scroungers,” said Honor. “I remember the same language being used about unemployed people in the 1980s, when they were closing the pits. It’s a huge insult.
“We’re not scroungers, we’re doing our best. I’ve been to work. I’ve raised a family. I’ve volunteered my free time, I’ve been a school governor. Why should I have to give up my home and end up on my daughter’s settee?”
Wythenshaw has Manchester’s biggest housing estate. But like many others, it doesn’t have one bedroom properties for people like Honor to move into.
And so far her housing association has refused to follow the lead of Knowsley in Merseyside and reclassify people’s rooms as studies so they can avoid the tax.
But she is determined to defend her home—and encourages everyone who faces the tax to defy it.
“I was really encouraged by going to a campaign meeting,” she said.
“There were a lot of people there, from tenants who are affected directly to trade unionists and housing workers.
“It’s really good for people to come together. We can put massive pressure on housing trusts.
“And if it comes to evictions we can stand together and fight this every step of the way.”