Socialist Worker

Heartless council bosses' greeting to tenants: 'Merry Christmas - You're Evicted'

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2384

The Tory bedroom tax and rocketing energy prices have made it impossible for thousands of poor council tenants to make ends meet.

But councils are hounding them with threats of eviction. Heartless council bosses in Sheffield covered the town in posters and even sent tenants Christmas cards as part of a “put your rent first” campaign.

One shows a woman carrying Christmas shopping and asks “Is it worth losing your home?” And Luton council sent out a list of things that are less important than catching up on rent. It includes food, electricity and gas.

Two thirds of people hit by the bedroom tax are now behind on their rent. And the number of notices to seek possession—a first step towards eviction—is up by a third since it was introduced.

Ed Miliband’s warm words against the bedroom tax are cold comfort to some of the poorest people in Britain. As long as Labour councils are hounding them for money they don’t have.


Tenants fear losing their homes to hated tax 

Thousands of the poorest people in Britain are living in fear of losing their homes to the bedroom tax in the new year.

The number of notices to seek possession—the first stage of eviction proceedings—sent by councils and housing associations has gone up by a third since the bedroom tax was introduced in April.

Two thirds of those affected by the bedroom tax are now behind on their rent. And the worst is yet to come, as the pressure of winter heating bills combines with the unfair benefit reforms.

Landlords are pressuring people already torn between heating or eating. And many of the biggest such landlords are councils run by Labour—a party that has pledged to abolish the bedroom tax.

In Leeds Labour MP Fabian Hamilton told residents, “I have been assured by council leaders that there will be no evictions as a result of the bedroom tax”.

But the council continues to bring proceedings against tenants. Activists report tenants with ill health who are now unable to turn on the heat or feed themselves adequately.

Protest against evictions outside Leeds County Court this month

Protest against evictions outside Leeds County Court this month (Pic: Steve Johnston)


Health

There was a 50-strong meeting on the Beckers Estate in Hackney, east London, last week.

Labour MP Diane Abbott said “I understand Hackney council won’t evict tenants who go into arrears over the bedroom tax. They need to make this policy known.”

But activist Imelda Messenger said the council had told her that there wouldn’t be a “policy of non-eviction”.

York’s Labour council was put under pressure by a protest of 40 people outside its meeting last Thursday. York Housing Crisis had collected more than 1,000 signatures on a petition for no evictions.

The council pledged not to evict anyone who cooperated with its debt reduction schemes. But this still leaves many tenants open to eviction.

Manchester’s anti-bedroom tax campaign is building up to a series of protests outside court hearings in January—in solidarity with tenants facing eviction.

One woman who’ll be dragged before the city’s courts is a disabled single parent, hit by the bedroom tax on rooms that are so damp they are uninhabitable.

The resistance of tenants has already turned the bedroom tax into a huge liability for the government. Tory magazine The Spectator has reported that ministers are already referring to it as “Lord Freud’s idea” in a desperate attempt to distance themselves from it.

But to defeat it will mean taking on the Labour councils who are still implementing a policy their party opposes.

As Diane Abbott said at the Hackney meeting, “The overthrow of apartheid proves no evil lasts forever. That is why meetings like this are important. The market in housing doesn’t work. We need rent controls and we need to build council houses.

“When politicians come knocking on your door for your vote in May’s council election ask them what they will do about the bedroom tax.”

Thanks to Gareth Jenkins, Hazell Gallogly, John Davies, Linda Charnock, Mark Krantz and Sasha Simic

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