Around fifty angry local residents attending a public meeting opposing the ‘Bedroom Tax’ called by campaign group Leeds Hands Off Our Homes.
Iain Dalton, Leeds Socialist Party
The Bedroom Tax, the cutting of housing benefit for those inhabiting council properties which are ‘under-occupied’ is due to come into effect this April, with people losing between 11% and 25%, an average of £11 a week. This will affect somewhere in the region of 9,000 households in Leeds.
After a short introduction to the discussion the floor was opened up to contributions which included a number of people who related their own housing situations of ‘under-occupancy’, most often from children moving out – with one woman mentioning that her daughter had just moved out, and her worry if she downsized that her daughter could become unemployed, lose her house and not be able to move back in.
Whilst Socialist Party members were out in Armley earlier in the week to build for the meeting we spoke to people who’d had their homes modified for disabilities, have a carer orhave their kids or grandchildren to visit as weekends all of whom face losing their homes. We heard that a woman who’d been a carer for her mother for ten years, who unfortunately passed away recently, now faced eviction.
One local Labour councillor, turned up at the meeting, Alison Lowe. She started speaking by declaring that ‘the Labour group is totally opposed to this policy’, yet when later challenged as to why, if they are opposed to it, they don’t refuse to evict those who don’t pay and write off their rent arrears?
However, when confronted with this she replied that she has to represent all the interests of the 751,000 residents in Leeds – as if the only option was to move these cuts to hammer another service even more. Instead Cllr Lowe and the other Leeds councillors should take a leaf from the book of the Southampton anti-cuts councillors who have sought to oppose all cuts and build a mass movement in their city to do so. However, Cllr Lowe’s track record is such that we should hardly expect this.
However, the mood of the meeting was a determination to resist these attacks. GMB reps attending their meeting offered to help build the campaign and get funding from their union branch, an example other trade unionists should emulate. There will be a follow up meeting to discuss practical campaigning issues next Thursday 21st Feb from 7pm again at Dennison Hall WMC.
Hands off our Homes is organising other public meetings in a number of areas across Leeds – for more info see their website