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Bedroom tax campaigning in Leytonstone, Birmingham and Newham
Diary of a bedroom tax campaigner
Ian Pattison, Waltham Forest Socialist Party and Waltham Forest Anti-Cuts Union describes a week of campaigning against the bedroom tax.
We type up all the names of people affected by the bedroom tax who we've met in the last week and their neighbours who are going to stand with them in solidarity, as they say in the Scottish campaign: 'I'll stand with you, if you stand with me'.
Like this time every week, some of us go out on the Avenue Road estate in Leytonstone, Waltham Forest, north east London.
We're taking people directly hit by the hated bedroom tax out canvassing with us for the first time. We sell ten copies of the Socialist in less than an hour.
We're advertising an estate meeting on Saturday. On the way back home we see our posters already plastered in windows.
3,000 people are affected by the bedroom tax in Waltham Forest. Tonight members are on the Wood Street estate in another part of the borough.
People are furious about the bedroom tax, but not just that - cuts, bankers' bonuses, everything!
We're searching Waltham Forest council website, getting legal advice, and talking to other anti-bedroom tax campaigners across London and the country for ideas on how to clog up the system.
Tonight's discussion at Waltham Forest Socialist Party branch is about the bedroom tax. One member sets out our strategy to beat it, another explains a socialist plan to solve the housing crisis.
We go leafleting on the Avenue again. We sell another three copies of the Socialist, with a big front and centre pages on the bedroom tax - even though we're not knocking doors, we're only sticking leaflets through letter boxes! We meet another two people hit by the benefit cuts who tell us they will come on Saturday.
I go to visit one woman who has been to every meeting (but isn't directly affected). She's bought the Socialist paper twice, she's angry about everything the Tories are doing, so this time I ask her to join the Socialist Party.
She's going to think about it and we'll discuss again. On my way back, I meet a bedroom tax victim who's seen our placards before, him and his daughter take model letters to challenge the council's decision, and our latest poster.
We hold our first Socialist Party stall in the Thatched House area (where the Avenue Road estate is).
People are surprised (but very pleased) to see us. We only get two bad responses. One woman is living in overcrowded accommodation, and hopes to benefit from emptied properties.
Once we explain the Socialist Party's demand for a massive house-building programme, she's soon won over, signs our petition, and buys a copy of the Socialist! The other heckler is a Tory councillor - they must be lost.
Ten new people come to our estate meeting, all angry, all women, but not all directly affected. Model letters to ask the council to 'look again', a form to record what bedroom tax they haven't paid, an explanation of how to apply for the Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP), and plenty of leaflets and posters are distributed.
Everyone agrees to support each other against evictions and stand a Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) candidate in the 2014 elections.
Birmingham: punishing the poor for being poor
About 30 anti-bedroom tax protesters lobbied the advice surgery of Birmingham council Labour leader Sir Albert Bore, held in the splendour of Birmingham Council House where over £100 million of cuts were agreed this year.
Bore would only let two people in at a time, then it was reduced to one person at a time. Eventually the protesters were told that the police would be called if they didn't stop 'obstructing the entrance'.
According to one of the protesters who managed to see Bore, he emphatically stated that Birmingham council will evict people who fall into arrears because of the bedroom tax.
The council here is being harder than some non-Labour councils. Councillors appear to be going out of their way to punish the poor for being poor.
It is vital that there is a strong showing of anti-cuts candidates at next year's local elections.
Clive Walder, Birmingham Socialist Party
Newham: bedroom tax will add to homelessness crisis
Ben Robinson, East London Socialist Party
It is estimated that Newham, east London, is the borough with the worst homelessness crisis in the country, spending £185.2 million on temporary accommodation since 2009.
However, with the introduction of the bedroom tax affecting an estimated 3,000 homes in one of the poorest boroughs in the country, this looks set to increase.
Newham Council is dominated by the Labour Party, but despite their formal opposition to the bedroom tax, it appears they are chomping at the bit to deepen the effects of this attack.
A recent council event to 'advise' those affected by the bedroom tax only advised people to apply to downsize or get more work.
This is despite the fact that among the people Newham Socialist Party met were families who had been waiting to move for eight years, and now, because of council inaction were faced with an extra charge they could not afford.
Not content with this, Newham council is also organising spot checks of social housing to check how many bedrooms people have, according to residents we met out campaigning. Pursuing this brutal charge shows the real anti-worker character of the Labour Party.
For more info on the local campaign see nobedroomtaxinnewham.wordpress.com
The chief executive of New Charter Housing Trust Group, the housing association which manages housing stock in one of the areas where Universal Credit is being trialled, has expressed concern over the effect of welfare reform on levels of debt for tenants.
The total amount of debt people have when they are referred to New Charter's advice service has increased by 19% in a year.
There has been a 338% increase in applications for discretionary housing payments since the bedroom tax was introduced.
Glasgow demo against the bedroom tax
Called by the All Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation
Saturday 1 June, Assemble 12pm, George Square
YouTube tip: search for "Coventry Against The Bedroom Tax - Bekir's Story"
In The Socialist 22 May 2013:
Fight the bedroom tax
Socialist Party news and analysis
Socialist Party feature
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
Socialist Party workplace news