Over the last few weeks, Hands off our Homes, the anti-bedroom tax campaign in Leeds has managed to help tennants win two reprieves from possession orders been sought by the Labour-led Leeds City Council. These have come about by being prepared to challenge at every step the vicious implementation of this policy by a supposedly ‘compassionate’ council.
Iain Dalton, activist in Leeds Hands off our Homes
From the outset of the campaign we have distributed leaflets and held public meetings explaining the need to fight this attack tooth and nail, and informing people of the avenues they could persue to avoid being forced out of their homes, including applying for the inadequate Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) as well as challenging the council’s decision. We also supported people facing court due to being unable to pay the council tax benefit shortfall that the council’s application of the cuts has created, many of whom face this as a double whammy with the bedroom tax.
Recently, activists from the campaign have made efforts to get in contact with those facing eviction. We’ve made contact with people from more traditional means such as phone calls and going door-to-door as well as through our facebook group. So far we’re two for two with the council being forced to give people more time to apply for DHP as well as being chastised for the way they have treated their tennants.
At the same time as this, activists from the campaign have produced a document on the impact of the bedroom tax in Leeds to be submitted to the UN special rapporteur Raquel Rolnik based on case studies from people met during the campaign (The report can be downloaded from http://handsoffourhomes.org.uk/2013/11/07/the-impact-of-the-bedroom-tax-on-the-right-to-adequate-housing/). The report highlights how 50% of affected council tenants in Leeds are now in rent arrears due to the bedroom tax and how 75% of those affected in Leeds have one or more disabilities. So much for the council protecting the vulnerable!
It is under the pressure of such campaigns that Labour leader Ed Miliband has been forced to come out in opposition to the bedroom tax, and that despite her first comments on being promoted to Shadow Secretary for Work and Pensions being how she would be tougher on those on benefits that the Tories, Leeds West MP, Rachel Reeves, has come out in the Sunday People promising that, “In the first few days of a Labour government the Bedroom Tax will be gone.”
Whilst campaigners welcome commitments to abolish the bedroom tax, we can’t wait til May 2015. Reeves has said nothing about the local Labour council summonsing her constituents for evictions and applying the bedroom tax in a brutal fashion, nor any other the other Labour councils carrying out similar policies.
Whilst Labour may perhaps scrap one brutal austerity policy, they have no alternative to this crisis ridden capitalist system which will lead them to implement many other attacks on the living standards of ordinary people. That’s why the Socialist Party and others are preparing to stand a wide slate of candidates under the banner of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition to oppose all cuts and fight to subject the key sectors of the economy to public ownership under democratic control so we decide how the wealth of society is used to benefit all, not just a few at the top.