By Socialist Worker reporters
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Bedroom tax protests: Reports from across Britain

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Issue 2346
Thousands joined the protest in Glasgow

Thousands joined the protest in Glasgow

Thousands of people took to the streets today, Saturday—just days before the bedroom tax hits social housing tenants that have what the Tories call a “spare room”.

“We had a three-year battle to get a place where my autistic 12 year old son could have a room of his own,” Nikki Donovan, told Socialist Worker in London. “Now they’re saying we can’t have it, he’s supposed to share with a two year old.”

Nikki and other parents have been told that if they can’t cope with the cuts, the offer is there to take the children into foster care.

In Glasgow one housing association has been calling tenants in to advise them on adjusting their budget. Luxuries to give up include shopping at Asda and owning a mobile phone.

The bedroom tax will hit more than 600,000 households deemed to be living somewhere bigger than they deserve. But after years of selling off council houses, local authorities don’t have anywhere smaller to put them.

“I have multiple sclerosis, so even though my children have grown up they do stay over in their own rooms to help sometimes,” said Christine from Grays, Essex. “I’ve tried to downsize, but the only one bedroom rental they could offer me was in the private sector. It’s £35 a month more than where I am now.”

There were more than 60 demonstrations around Britain.

By far the biggest demonstration was in Glasgow, where around 8,000 people packed into George’s Square, followed by a mass meeting of the West of Scotland Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation.

There have been meetings in more than 20 areas around Glasgow in the weeks running up to the demonstration.

“I’ve already told the Queen’s Cross housing association I can’t pay,” said Charles O’Neill from the Possilpark area. “And they can do what they like to me but I’m not leaving. This room is not spare, it’s for my daughter when she comes to stay.”

Another tenant, Marion Nisbet, added, “I really think this could be Cameron’s poll tax.

“If we get out and knock on doors, speak to people and build unity in action, we could actually force them to bin the bedroom tax.”

Some 300 people marched in Cardiff and around 1,000 in Edinburgh.

Cardiff was one of many other towns and cities to host sizeable marches

Cardiff was one of many other towns and cities to host sizeable marches

Around 700 people turned out in London, chanting, “Can’t pay, won’t pay. Axe the bedroom tax,” as they marched down Whitehall. People hung “the shirts off their backs” on the railings opposite Downing Street.

There were a similar number in Liverpool, where feeder marches from the north and south of the city merged in front of St George’s hall.

Manchester’s march was smaller than on the previous day of action as a section of the Labour party stayed away. But Labour councillors who did turn up pledged to put a motion to the council calling for no evictions.

And it wasn’t just the big cities.

“The campaign got into gear in Barnsley last week, when people braved the snowstorm for a meeting on the Athersley estate,” George Arthur told Socialist Worker. “They decided to call a demonstration today, and dozens of people came along. One woman’s daughter set up a bed in the high street to highlight the issue.

“Passers-by queued up to sign a petition calling on the council to guarantee it will not evict anyone who can’t pay, and to support council workers who refuse to issue eviction notices.

“Barnsley council believes that 1,800 people should move into one bedroom houses but only 80 are available.”

There were more protests in Leeds, Portsmouth and Norwich.

Even before today’s protests came to an end, many more had been planned.

Next week will see demonstrations from Newcastle to Loughborough. The week after the UK Uncut group has called for a protest at the home of an undisclosed “millionaire misery maker”, and there’s a “1,000 mothers march for justice” planned in Tottenham, north London.

Glasgow declared a day of protests outside councils and housing associations across Scotland on Wednesday 10 April.

And more reports of community meetings in new areas are coming in all the time, this movement continues to spread.

The national summit for benefits justice on 11 May will be a vital opportunity to coordinate it at a national level.

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