Tory bedroom tax minister Lord Freud was far from welcome in Manchester last week.
Housing association bosses grilled him at their annual Chartered Institute of Housing conference, while 100 protesters lobbied outside.
A coachload of protesters came from Liverpool. There were more from Birmingham, Leeds and across the north west of England including many disabled activists.
They were joined by striking teachers and construction workers protesting against blacklisting by some of the companies sponsoring the event.
Freud had to be sneaked in through the back door, and only spoke to a select group of delegates.
But even there the whole session was taken up by hostile questions about the bedroom tax.
Mark Krantz is coordinator of the Greater Manchester Against the Bedroom Tax group. He told Socialist Worker, “The protest was big and very angry, and it boosted the confidence of people inside to challenge the minister.”
The bedroom tax has put housing associations under huge pressure. They face a storm of protest if they evict tenants who can’t or won’t pay—on top of costly legal proceedings.
But if they don’t they sink into financial crisis through lost rents. And many fear the Tories will use this an excuse to transfer more housing stock into the private sector.
They are caught between a rock and hard place—unless they stand with their tenants to beat the tax.
Edinburgh conference vows to defy evictions
Campaigners met at a conference organised by the Scottish Trade Union Congress in Edinburgh last Saturday.
Around 300 campaigners, some facing eviction, discussed the best way to end the tax. Leading trade unionists, MPs and MSPs spoke.
Many tenants reported that their landlords had formally adopted no evictions policies, but were seldom clear what that meant. Some reported housing officers putting pressure on them to pay.
One campaigner from Glasgow said that landlords were waiting to see who would evict first before following suit.
Tenants threatened with eviction by North Lanarkshire council were going to burn the letters outside the council office to show they would not be intimidated.
Politicians were heckled as they failed to offer any winning strategy.
Hackney lobby challenges councillors
Around 50 tenants and residents lobbied Hackney town hall, east London, on Wednesday of last week against the hated tax.
A dozen residents were invited into the council to demand the council commits to a “policy of no evictions”.
Activist Mavis McGee said, “The tax on our bedrooms is an attack too far. We pledge to continue fighting until this wicked tax is defeated.”
Adam Di Chiara