Over 1000 people marched on the Hands off our Homes organised demonstration through Leeds city centre on Saturday 20th April. They were protesting against the latest attack on the working class by the ConDem coalition government.
Matt Booth, Leeds North Socialist Party
The recently introduced “Bedroom Tax”, part of the Welfare Reform Act currently being implemented, could decrease housing benefits available to council or housing association tenants with a spare bedroom – people that the government have labeled ‘under-occupiers’ – by up to 25%, leaving many simply unable to pay.
The fact is that the number of smaller council houses available for the estimated 9000 ‘under-occupiers’ in Leeds to move into is severely insufficient. With the national waiting list for council houses now more than a million names long, and a complete lack of intention to build new affordable council housing, the government cannot possibly expect us to believe that they have the best interests of the people at heart.
The government defends this change with talk of savings – the welfare bill will be reduced significantly they say – but these are well thought-out lies designed to divide the unemployed and the working poor, leaving themselves with the political space to carry out further attacks.
At a time when Tory attacks of the past are particularly fresh in the mind, it is clear that this new measure is not just the latest example of the ConDem’s (flawed) insistence that austerity is the only solution to the current economic crisis but a continuation of the effort towards the privatization of as much of the state structure as possible, which was initiated by Thatcher and continued by politicians of all colours ever since.
Speakers at the rally included empasioned speeches by those affected by the tax such as Liz Kitching and Carole O’Keefe, both of whom are leading activists in the campaign, and unaffected but sympathetic community members, as well as GMB, Unite and PCS trade unionists. Rita Harrold from the Campaign Against Home and Water Charges, and a member of the Socialist Party’s sister organisation in Ireland urged people to stand together in a campaign of non-payment, just as was done in the face of the Poll Tax, which could put an end not only to this outrageous tax but to the very government of the coalition at the same time.
The atmosphere of the march itself was one of great unity and will not only provide significant encouragement and confidence to those already campaigning against this vicious tax but will also help to create an awareness throughout the whole community as to the true nature of the Bedroom Tax, something which we can unfortunately not rely on the mainstream media or the Labour opposition to provide.