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Bedroom Tax ruling: The fight to scrap it must continue
Cathy Meadows, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Scrap the Bedroom Tax, Defend Council Tax Benefits campaign
Words alone won't get rid of the bedroom tax. "I'm registered disabled - will I still have to pay bedroom tax?... Is the bedroom tax illegal, now?"... "Has the bedroom tax been stopped?"
Some of the questions desperate people (struggling to survive after nearly three years of the tax) asked me after the Court of Appeal recently ruled that the bedroom tax unlawfully discriminated against two households.
I had to tell people that the bedroom tax is still here and even if the government loses an appeal, the ruling only affects two specific groups - severely disabled children needing overnight care, and victims of domestic violence living in specially adapted accommodation.
Not only that, until the households in that group prove they are exempt, they will still be liable for the bedroom tax.
The process of proving exemption is usually time consuming, stressful, may have to involve social services and other agencies as well as advice agencies and/or solicitors. What a waste of time, energy and peace of mind for some of the most vulnerable in society.
The bedroom tax does not address the causes of the housing shortage (lack of social and affordable housing being built), and neither does it address the increased housing benefit bill (caused by landlords' exploitation of housing shortages and poverty).
Instead it creates poverty and debt, affects people's mental health, and has even led to suicides.
When I heard that Jeremy Corbyn and the leader of our Labour-run council were only "calling" for the bedroom tax to be scrapped, my heart sank. Where's the fight? Where's the urgency? Does anyone seriously believe that you will get the government to do a u-turn on the bedroom tax by "calling" for it, or even by hassling the prime minister in Parliament?
Words without action are ineffective and can give people false hope. If Labour is serious about getting rid of this bully's policy, Labour-led councils have the power to do it.
Just imagine if all Labour-led councils announced a 'no evictions' policy and non-pursuit of people in rent arrears because of the bedroom tax.
This would be an immediate massive relief for households currently having to choose between fuel, food and bills. It would also empower them to begin a non-payment campaign.
If councils also mobilised community groups, campaigns, homelessness organisations, women's groups, disabled groups and trade unions to support the campaign, any shortfall in their funds caused by non-payment could be demanded from the government. This is the kind of strategy needed to get rid of the bedroom tax now.
A cruel and vindictive tax
Frances McCormack, facing eviction the next day due to the bedroom tax, hanged herself in the same room where her son had committed suicide in 2013, an inquest was told.
Beside her body was a handwritten note which addressed Tory prime minister David Cameron on the hardship caused by the tax.
Introduced in April 2013 by millionaire Tory minister Iain Duncan Smith (who lived rent free), low income social housing tenants lose housing benefit if they are deemed to have a 'spare room'.
As a result many vulnerable tenants have faced eviction and homelessness. And far from reducing the housing benefit bill as the government claimed, the overall bill has soared as low income people are forced into the hands of private landlords.
In The Socialist 3 February 2016:
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