By Tommy Sheridan
Would you trust a motor mechanic to perform heart surgery on you? A bricklayer to apply a spray-tan? No of course you wouldn’t. So why on earth would anyone trust the millionaire toffs in the ConDem government to devise social housing policy?
These political space cadets wouldn’t know a council or housing association house if it fell on their swollen heads. Their cruel and economically illiterate bedroom tax proposal proves just out of touch with ordinary lives they really are.
With 23 members of the 29 member cabinet being millionaires what else do you expect? It is one of the most unrepresentative governments in history.
Make no mistake, these people are not cutting housing benefit to over 660,000 of the poorest families in Britain because they support or want to improve social housing provision. They have refused to build much needed new homes and now plan to turf poor families and the disabled out of their homes if they can’t find an extra £14 a week for one bedroom deemed too many. Children will be forced to share bedrooms in smaller houses or families face eviction.
To receive housing benefit you must prove you are poor. How then will these families be able to pay additional rent? It is a cruel and cold attack on the poor and over two thirds of those who will be adversely affected are disabled.
Families who use a spare bedroom to store dialysis equipment, wheelchairs and other disability aids will be guilty of “under-occupying” homes they have lived in for years.
Some Tory nuggets have suggested the poor take in lodgers. A reasonable suggestion if you live in the palatial mansions they are accustomed to, but hardly practical on the top floor of a 3 bedroom tenement where there is hardly room to swing a cat let alone share your toilet with a complete stranger.
Take one of the main architects of this bedroom tax proposal – David Anthony Lord Freud, a Tory Welfare Minister. He owns an 8 bedroom mansion in Kent but spends most of his time in the taxpayer subsidised 4 bedroom townhouse in London worth £1.9 million that he also owns. Taking in a lodger might seem reasonable in such surroundings, but is completely bonkers for ordinary folk in council and housing association homes.
Many families would love good one or two bedroom homes but they are just not available as councils and housing associations have been starved of funds to build them for years. Demand far outstrips supply and that is the problem, not under-occupying families.
This bedroom tax is part of the austerity assault on the poor generally. Despite playing no part in causing the economic mess we are in, it is poor and ordinary families who are expected to pay with reductions in wages, benefits and public services. Austerity is aptly defined as punishing the poor for the greed and mistakes of the rich. The ‘we are all in it together’ mantra from government is sick and dishonest.
As noted earlier, 23 of the 29 members of government are personal millionaires. What do they know about struggling on low pay or inadequate benefits? They are completely out of touch with ordinary life and live in a comfortable and subsidised bubble, as do the majority of MPs.
MPs receive a weekly Grocery Allowance of £160 a week on top of their £65,738 annual salary
Income assessed Job Seekers Allowance is £71 a week
Average pay across the UK is £26,500, with millions earning much less.
The Welfare Reform Act, which introduces the Bedroom Tax, caps benefits below inflation, scraps Disability Living Allowance, and attacks the poor.
It was the politicians and their banker friends who created the economic mess of massive debts and bank bailouts. Yet obscene bonuses are still paid to the bankers and MPs continue to fiddle their thumbs, and expenses, while the individual rich and multi-million pound corporations evade taxes with immoral ease.
Thousands are sick and tired of the rank hypocrisy of the Coalition Government. No bonus cap for bankers but benefit caps for claimants!
No mansion tax for the very wealthy but a bedroom tax for the poor and disabled!
From April 13,000 millionaires are getting a tax cut worth £100,000 a year on average, while over 600,000 households – including armed forces families, disabled people and foster carers – have to find £728 a year to pay the new bedroom tax!
A tidal wave of anger against what this government is doing to further impoverish millions of families is rising. You may not personally be affected by the bedroom tax, but you will know someone who is. Your own job, pay, benefits and wider community are under attack. We must resist. We must fight back.
The ConDems have to be forced to drop their bedroom tax proposal. Any individual family threatened with eviction for being unable to pay has to be protected by the wider community. Physical walls of human solidarity will have to be erected to prevent sheriff officers carrying out evictions. Collectively the anti-poll tax movement stopped poll tax warrant sales. Now the anti-bedroom tax campaign will have to prevent evictions.
We can win this campaign. It is not enough to get angry. We now have to get organised and get even. The SNP have said there will be no bedroom tax in an independent Scotland. That is welcome. But in the meantime the SNP government has the power to change the Housing Scotland Act to treat bedroom tax arrears as ordinary debt not rent debt. That small change would prevent evictions. They have to stand up for the poor and disabled now. Properly opposing the Westminster government’s bedroom tax is not only the right thing to do it would also convince more people of the just case for independence.
Twenty four years ago many of us got ourselves organised to fight Thatcher’s hated and unfair poll tax. We were dismissed as irrelevant at first but proceeded to deliver mass non-payment and melted the ‘Iron Lady’ and forced her into the political scrap yard into the bargain. Mass opposition is now required against the Tory/Lib Dem attacks on the poor and disabled. Successful resistance could get rid of that sorry lot of spivs and silver spooned brutes as a positive by-product of the struggle.
Mr Sheridan will be speaking at tomorrow’s ‘People’s day of Protest’ in Glasgow against the Bedroom Tax. Scots will unite tomorrow in Glasgow and Edinburgh to send a clear message.
The message organisers plan to send to Westminster is this: “We did not start this… We did not want this… The Government is attacking the most poor and vulnerable in our society. But they have made a massive mistake. They have woken Scots from their political slumber … and we are angry!
“There will be no bedroom tax! We will axe the bedroom tax! That vicious and evil policy will sink like the poll tax. And this Westminster Government will sink with it. They will sink because the people will unite and say NO to the Bedroom Tax!”
To the People of Scotland:
Come to the demo in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Unite with other Scots so that we can protect our community.
This is an opportunity for change. It is essential that local communities come together and the No2BedroomTax Campaign can help you. We have a support structure in place to help local communities stand together. If you do need support, contact the campaign team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Already there is a West of Scotland Federation against the Bedroom Tax. There is a planned ‘conference’ in Early May to ensure that the whole campaign is democratised and is always a ‘people’s campaign’.
The motto of our campaign is this: “If you will stand by me, I will stand by you. And I promise, I will stand by you.”
Info on demos can be found here: