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From The Socialist newspaper, 19 February 2014

Time to strike the bedroom tax a killer blow

Glasgow demonstration against the bedroom tax, photo Jim Halfpenny

Glasgow demonstration against the bedroom tax, photo Jim Halfpenny   (Click to enlarge)

Elaine Brunskill, Newcastle

Across Britain the implementation of the bedroom tax has created seething anger.

A survey by the National Housing Federation (NHF) shows that since its introduction last April, a staggering two thirds of homes affected by the policy have fallen into rent arrears.

One in seven families hit by the tax are being put under enormous stress as eviction risk letters drop onto their doormats and they face the possibility of losing their home.

The report also highlights that an estimated two thirds of the 413,000 people in England affected by the bedroom tax are disabled.

Yet, according to disability charity Papworth Trust, many disabled people have been refused emergency financial help, and are struggling to pay the tax by cutting back on food and household bills.

In Newcastle one woman told us that on a recent visit to her mother, who is affected by the bedroom tax, she was appalled to realise that her mother had no food in her cupboards!

Con-Dem ministers, living in their mansions, have said people facing the bedroom tax have the choice to move into a smaller home or pay.

This is a lie! There are not enough homes with fewer bedrooms for people to move into.

A BBC news report revealed that housing estates across the country now have larger family homes lying empty because tenants in receipt of housing benefit cannot afford to move into them. The boarded up houses are dragging down housing estates.

Local residents in Carlisle who want to move into smaller properties were angered when single bedroomed flats were demolished, to be replaced by two and three bedroomed houses. At the local anti-bedroom tax meeting they asked: "Where can we go now?"

The defeat of the bedroom tax in Scotland has given a welcome boost to campaigners in England and Wales.

This is coupled with the revelation that a loophole in the government's welfare reforms means that the bedroom tax does not apply to tenants who have lived in the same property for more than 17 years.

It has been estimated that around 50,000 people have been wrongly held liable by this shambles. This loophole is causing havoc as it seems most councils will not have kept records dating back to 1996.

Another loophole has been highlighted by the Bolton Upper Tribunal which has judged that a bedroom is "a room furnished with a bed or used for sleeping in".

So if the room is used for another purpose, such as for storage, it should not be subject to the bedroom tax.

Loopholes such as these are to be welcomed, and appeals should be lodged. However, the Con-Dems will undoubtedly attempt to rectify these glitches with new regulations.

It is therefore imperative to step up the campaign. Alongside public meetings and protests, local anti-bedroom tax groups should consider standing in May's council elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC).

The Con-Dem government has been put on the backfoot. Now is the time to strike a killer blow on the hated bedroom tax.

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In The Socialist 19 February 2014:


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