Socialist Worker

Glasgow tenants ramp up pressure over bedroom tax

Issue No. 2348

Residents and campaigners gather in Yoker, Glasgow

Residents and campaigners gather in Yoker, Glasgow (Pic: Josh Brown)


 

Protesters targeted housing associations in the Glasgow region on Wednesday, demanding they stand by tenants who are being hit by the Tories’ bedroom tax.

And there were four more local meetings to organise against the tax in that evening. There have now been meetings in over 30 places in and around Glasgow. The first meetings in the Paisley and Yoker areas each brought more than 60 people together to hear speakers including veteran campaigner Tommy Sheridan.

“The bedroom tax is an attack on the poor and disabled,” said Sheridan at the Yoker meeting. “If this government really wanted to reduce housing benefits costs they would introduce a cap on private rents.

“This is about trying to divide the working class.”

Council and housing association tenants face losing between 14 and 25 percent of their housing benefit if they are deemed to have too many bedrooms. For many people this will mean being unable to pay the rent.

“I’ve been paying for bedrooms I didn’t want since 1995 because they wouldn’t move me anywhere else,” said one man. “I’m not going to pay this bedroom tax.”

Scottish National Party councillor Graeme Hendry explained that two bedroom flats cost basically the same to build as one bedroom flats, so the council had built more of them. Now the government is punishing tenants.

But there is time to fight back.

Tenants can appeal to their landlords not to hit them with the tax. And in order to appeal they can demand a “detailed explanation” of why they are to be taxed—one model letter is available at www.initiativefactory.org/index.php/how-to-appeal

Impossible

If everyone appealed in this way it will be almost impossible for the system to process. It would cost millions to implement. And if enough people refuse to leave their homes, evicting them all will cost millions more. Many councils have yet to decide their policies on evictions.

The most important thing is to stand together, to put pressure on councils and housing associations to stand with their tenants—and on the government to drop the tax.

The Yoker meeting agreed to set up a local group and to affiliate to the West of Scotland Anti-bedroom Tax Federation. This has helped campaigners across the region coordinate their activities, leading to the 8,000-strong march in Glasgow last month.

“It’s really important for local people to stand together and defend each other,” said Vikki, who had been a steward on the demonstration.

“I have two daughters and I bring them to all the Anti Bedroom Tax Federation meetings and events, and my mother is here as well.”

It’s not just happening in Glasgow. Meetings and protests are happening around Britain. Protesters were set to lobby Cambridge council tomorrow evening, Friday. And although the movement has been slightly slower to take off in London, this is starting to change.

More than 60 people came to a meeting in Waltham Forest, east London, on Tuesday of this week—including Labour MP Stella Creasy. And a “1,000 mothers’ march for justice” is planned in Tottenham, north London, on Saturday. It’s in one of the boroughs where the Tories’ benefit cap is being piloted next week.

The movement is growing, with more local groups being set up almost every day. And a national benefit summit in London on Saturday 11 May can help to bring them together.

“I can tell you about the power we have when we stand together,” said one woman at the Yoker meeting. “I’m from the Kingsway flats. We welcomed immigrants to our flats, and we stood together and stopped the dawn raids against them.

“Now we need to stand together again, against the bedroom tax.”

Sign up to the summit at benefitjustice.wordpress.com

If you enjoy Socialist Worker, please consider giving to our annual appeal to make sure we can maintain and develop our online and print versions of Socialist Worker. Go here for details and to donate.

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.