More than 350 people from 74 organisations came together in London on Saturday to coordinate resistance to the government's attacks on benefits.
The second national Benefit Justice summit was supported by 37 local anti bedroom tax campaigns. It was also backed by trade unions and national organisations such as Disabled People Against Cuts (Dpac), Defend Council Housing and the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers.
“We have had enough,” said left wing Labour MP John McDonnell.
“People are having their benefits sanctioned and being left with literally no income whatsoever. There are families that literally can't afford to put food on the table.
“We need to form lines of defence. We need to frustrate the system at every turn. We need councillors to do their part—and that's why we're demanding Labour councils take a position of no evictions.”
Other speakers included, Chris Baugh PCS union assistant general secretary, Steve Clarke of the Welsh Tenants organisation, Sean McGovern chair of the TUC Disabled Workers’ Committee and Disability representative to Unite Executive Council, Ian Hodson of the bakers' union Bfawu and tenants who've been setting up anti bedroom tax groups in their areas.
“We're not going to be victims,” said Liz Kitching of the Leeds Hands Off Our Homes group. “We're going to stand up for ourselves and each other. We won't let them take away our babies' bedrooms.”
The meeting voted to set up a national steering group to federate the campaigns and coordinate further action—including a wave of protests on Saturday 1 June.
Jan Campbell was one of 19 people who attended from Barnsley, south Yorkshire. She's already in arrears from the bedroom tax on her daughter's old room.
“I'm hoping we can build enough of a movement to stop the bedroom tax like we overturned the poll tax,” she told Socialist Worker. “We're all really fired up after the summit. We're going to go back and protest against Iain Duncan Smith when he comes to Wakefield next week.”
Many delegates spoke about the need to stand up to the Tories' divide and rule rhetoric that scapegoats migrants. Others spoke about cuts to disability benefit, and the imminent capping of benefits that will have a devastating effect in London.
The EIS teaching union in Scotland voted to support the Scottish anti bedroom tax federation this week. Angela McCormick, and officer of the federation and an EIS member, told the summit “We can beat the bedroom tax—and that's the weak link that can open the door to stopping all the pernicious attacks on benefits.”