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Monday, 29 April 2013

Don’t just fight the bedroom tax, scrap it entirely!

It’s easy to say what you’re against. We do it all the time but it’s harder to say what you’re for. In terms of the bedroom tax many are against it in principle yet can we trust them? The labour party campaign against this tax yet Ed Miliband can’t decide if he supports it or is against it. To me we can never trust the labour party under any circumstances history tells us this. Labour were in words against the poll tax yet labour councils were some of the most vicious in implementing the tax. It is the same today labour councils will implement the so called bedroom tax and cry crocodile tears after. But things do not have to be this way. Politicians keep inviting us to feel sorry for them as they have to make tough choices - choices of whose jobs, whose terms and conditions, whose services to cut. That's not a tough choice as far as we're concerned. If you represent working class people you don't make cuts. People who do face real tough choices are those who live in the 660,000 households affected by the bedroom tax. They face choices like: "Do I try to pay my increased housing costs or put food on the table? Will I face the threat of eviction for being behind in my rent or will my family go hungry?" A large portion of the victims of the bedroom tax are disabled; 63% of affected households have one or more disabled person. Stephen Palmer of Merthyr is being charged bedroom tax but his 'spare' bedroom isn't empty - it is filled to the brim with his essential kidney dialysis equipment! The bedroom tax is supposed to be about maximising the use of existing social housing, by 'encouraging' people to downsize. If you are poor, receive housing benefit and in social housing, you now have no right to be secure in a home filled with family memories and part of a community, surrounded by friends and neighbours. If the size of your household changes through kids growing up, hospitalisation or even bereavement, you are expected to move or pay a huge penalty. Even if you don't mind moving, in many parts of the country finding smaller accommodation is impossible. According to Welsh local authorities, there are just 400 single-bedroom properties in social housing in the whole of Wales and four (out of 22) council areas have no single-bedroom homes available. And there's no help with the substantial costs of moving anyway. A month into the bedroom tax, thousands of people are finding they can't pay. It is perhaps the single most blatant attack on the poorest in our communities. It has to be fought along with the whole raft of Con-Dem cuts. To charge tenants who are already on low incomes for having a room where people they are close to can stay is just about the meanest trick of a government which has a world-class reputation for mean tricks. The government says: 'take a lodger'- but why should people share their homes with someone they hardly know, when they want to share their homes with those they are close to? The government says: 'get a few extra hours work'. What planet are they on? Don't they realise that everyone is having their hours cut! The government says: 'move to a smaller property or a cheaper area'. Where are all these one-bedroom properties? They don't exist. And why uproot yourself to a new area, away from schools, contacts, and support networks? The bedroom tax is an outrage, and that's why people are getting angry. Half the people signing petitions against the tax aren't even hit by it, but they know people who are affected - family, friends, and neighbours - and they think it stinks. Protests are taking off - not just demonstrations but targeted protests at Labour councils who, for all their 'campaigning' against the tax, will implement it to the hilt, and against housing associations who are busy taking on more 'enforcement officers' to 'deal with' the tenants who fall behind on rent. That's why we need to build street networks and 'telephone trees' to quickly respond to threats by bailiffs. No evictions of tenants who fall into rent arrears as a result of austerity cuts. Organise local campaigns to oppose the tax and defend our homes, and link them to existing anti-cuts groups Stand candidates against councillors who try to evict us. Build a new mass workers' party that draws together workers, young people and activists from workplaces and anti-cuts campaigns, to provide a fighting, political alternative to the pro-cuts parties Cap rents and build homes. Invest in a major programme of council house building and refurbishment to provide affordable homes for all and decent jobs End low pay! If workers are paid a genuinely living wage they would not need to claim housing benefit Fight all the cuts. Trade unions must build for a 24-hour general strike as the next major step in the campaign against austerity For a socialist alternative to cuts and capitalism with a democratic socialist plan of production based on the interests of the overwhelming majority of people - not the 1%.

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