the bedroom tax...
By Richie Venton
Thousands are expected to march against the Tory Bedroom Tax in Glasgow on Saturday 18th May, determined to bring about it's downfall.
This march, rally and family fun day has been called by the No2BedroomTax campaign, which initiated and organised the huge 30th March demo. And it's been backed by the Scottish trade union movement, in the form of the STUC conference, as well as UNITE Community union.
Unity between different sectors of the working class is critical in resisting the vicious onslaught of the Westminster millionaires' razor gang.
Cameron and Clegg have systematically tried to divide and rule working class people on behalf of their class of parasites.
For months they talked of 'shirkers and workers' as they capped benefits at one per cent for each of the next 3 years - trying to bury the fact that 65 per cent of those hammered by this one cut alone are people in work - facing cuts in Working Tax Credit, child benefits, housing benefit and the likes.
They demonise the sick and disabled as they hire multinational outfits like ATOS to drag people through assessments on their fitness to work, conducted by ill-trained staff, hounding people off marginally higher rates of benefits by declaring them fit to work.
No wonder ATOS' headquarters in Glasgow has been dubbed 'Lourdes', such is the miracle cures they perform, declaring very sick people well as they leave the building!
But it's no joke - vast numbers have died within weeks of being declared fit by these profiteering hitmen for the government.
But perhaps the most consciously divisive of all the Tory-Lib Dem cuts to benefits is the Bedroom Tax. They thought by picking on 105,000 Scottish households they could isolate them from the rest of us. In vain!
People joining the marches are often there on principle, not directly affected themselves. The most common expression used by the thousands who have stopped and signed Scottish Socialist Party street petitions is "It doesn't affect me, but...".
This crude theft of incomes from the poorest sections of the working class - in part designed to pay for the bankers' bailout and the millionaires' recent tax cut - has infuriated tens of thousands and given them the chance to lash out at a government they detest for all it's other attacks.
Unity between those directly affected and tens of thousands of others is growing.
People on the streets condemn a Tory Tax that tells disabled people they are not allowed an extra room for lifeline disabled facilities, or for sleepovers by carers unless they are getting 24/7 cover from registered carers.
They are appalled at multi-millionaires like Lord Freud - government Welfare Minister, who has 11 spare bedrooms in his two luxury mansions - telling separated parents they face the punishment of the Bedroom Tax for having a bedroom for their own kids to stay in several nights a week.
Likewise with grandparents who share in the upbringing of their grand-kids, or couples who need an extra bedroom to get a night's sleep because of severe health problems such as COPD.
The term 'daylight robbery' arguably arose 450 years ago when King William introduced a Window Tax and people avoided it by bricking up their windows. This is daylight robbery 21st century style. It is depriving children, parents, grandparents and disabled people of their human rights. It is stealing £500 million a year off the poorest to give to the richest, from the neediest to the greediest, from the millions to the millionaires.
The Bedroom Tax is now well known for stealing 14 per cent of housing benefit off over 80,000 Scottish households, and 25 per cent cut off nearly another 25,000.
Robbing an average of £14 a week off people often on weekly incomes of £71 is of course what the Tories exist to do: they are the party of the millionaires and multinational capitalists.
Stay put and fight
But this might as well be called the Disability Tax, or the Single-end Tax.
In Scotland, 8 out of every 10 households hammered by it have at least one family member with a registered disability. And when they tell people they need to uproot themselves - often after decades in the family home, or in the immediate aftermath of their partner's death - because millionaires living in mansions dictate they have 'too many bedrooms', they are trying to drive people back to the overcrowded conditions of past generations.
Why should people have to uproot themselves from the home they have invested time, money and memories in, or from the neighbours whose friendship and solidarity they depend upon for a decent life?
People should stay put, refuse to budge, and join the fight to scrap this vicious tax.
Struggle or starve!
Whilst millionaires were rewarded an annual 'pay' rise of £107,000 through tax cuts last month, the same government's own civil service calculated that 42 per cent of the households hit by the Bedroom Tax were literally unable to afford to pay it from day one.
People in this rich nation have already suffered the choice of heating or eating. Now they are confronted by the impossible choices of heating, eating or paying the Bedroom Tax. With Food Banks trebling in number over the last year, we are well and truly traveling back to the Hungry Thirties or even Victorian times.
The choice is blunt: in the words of one of the main slogans of the working class movement of the 1930s, we either "Struggle or Starve"!
People in abject poverty being robbed by the Bedroom Tax is a recipe for evictions - which is why the anti-Bedroom Tax movement is so important.
The campaign is determined to help people appeal every housing benefit cut decision - on time, within a month of the authorities issuing the letter of decision. This can be on grounds ranging from upholding clauses of the Human Rights Act to Children's Acts to challenging what the so-called spare bedroom is actually used for. Several legal challenges are in the courts, and if any succeed, those who have submitted written appeals could win concessions or exemption.
Alongside individual appeals, the pressure which campaigners, including the SSP, have put on councillors, Housing Association bosses and the Scottish government to outlaw all bedroom tax evictions is critical - and has already reaped important dividends.
Protests at Council meetings, street campaigning and fighting demands in local media calling on these people in power to declare there will be no evictions has forced them to sit up and listen.
In a number of Councils - including South Ayrshire, Edinburgh, Renfrewshire, Highlands and Dundee - they have taken at least a faltering step in the right direction, pledging there will be no evictions for at least the next year.
After a series of big SSP public meetings, which went on to organise several protests at council meetings - pounding those in power to outlaw all bedroom tax evictions, reclassify houses so as to avoid rooms being eligible for the tax, and to demand the shortfall in rents from the Scottish government - North Ayrshire Council has gone further than any other so far in Scotland.
The SSP led local people in demanding they follow the example of Knowsley and Nottingham councils and reclassify rooms. Under this pressure, as well as declaring no evictions for at least a year, the Council has now said they will reclassify two-bedroom houses with a small room to become one-bedroom and a boxroom.
Also, to make their one-bedroom houses available to all ages, not just the elderly; and to give those asked to downsize an extra 50 housing points so as to increase their chances of getting rehoused.
Partial victory - keep fighting
This is a partial victory for the SSP-led campaign in the area, which has been ferocious and persistent.
But it's still only partial; we are stepping up the pressure on councillors to reclassify ALL their housing stock, and importantly to launch a campaign alongside tenants and council workers for funding off the Scottish government to fill the gap left in rental income by people simply being unable to pay the Bedroom Tax.
Failure to do this could lead not only to cuts in jobs and services, but also to the threat of evictions by another route in the future.
People who don't pay because they can't pay will end up in arrears. Unless the pressure is sustained on the politicians in charge, they could then decide such tenants face eviction procedures because they did not "take all reasonable steps to avoid getting into rent arrears" - the clause adopted by every single council and housing association that has so far pledged 'no evictions for at least a year'.
Some of these tenants may already be on a repayment Pre-eviction arrangement, and if they now get clobbered by the bedroom tax, they could be driven by poverty into defaulting on their payments and face eviction procedures.
That's why the No2BedroomTax campaign and the SSP will keep building local networks of people ready to form human walls of solidarity against any evictions, as well as demanding local Housing Association bosses and the Scottish government come off the fence and outlaw evictions.
That is why the campaign needs to sustain the demand for funding off the Scottish government of the guesstimated loss of £53m this year in rent to social landlords. Otherwise some local Housing Associations will declare cuts and redundancies - one in Glasgow has already issued redundancies and cut the pay of longstanding staff by up to £5,000 a year.
And some of them might even go under, which is an added motive behind the Tory Bedroom Tax; to drive people into the private rented sector to be exploited by profiteering shark landlords who are subsidised by public funds through housing benefit - and to even drive weaker ones into the clutches of the banks and the profiteering private sector.
No excuse for cuts
The SSP will unite with anyone prepared to resist the Bedroom Tax. But we do not share Labour's view that it should just be reformed and applied differently. Labour's aspiring future government Minister Helen Goodman has blurted out they would keep it but only apply it if a tenant is offered a smaller house and declines it!
The SSP is not out to reform or amend the Bedroom Tax, we are out to scrap it, to help build a movement that makes it unworkable and forces the government to abandon it.
And we will never tire of exposing the fact there is absolutely no excuse for introducing this, or any other benefit cuts.
The government peddles the lie that cuts are unavoidable due to the national debt and annual deficit in public spending. But the figures for these were consistently higher than they are now for most of the past century - including during the decades when the NHS and welfare state were built, millions of council houses were built, and unemployment reached an all-time low.
The cuts to benefits are based on ideological dogma, opposition to social provision and universal benefits - something which the Tories and Lib Dems share with New Labour! - as well as a crude drive to divide the working class and make it easier to carry out a wealth transfusion to the very richest away from the rest of us.
Tax the rich
There is no excuse for these savage cuts to living standards given the fabulous wealth of the nation. It's not a problem of the wealth available, but its outrageously unequal distribution.
Last year, the tiny elite richest 1,000 people in the UK - making up a miniscule 0.003 per cent of the population - increased their wealth by £35billion. That's more than the entire budget spent on DLA, ESA, JSA, care allowances and similar benefits! It would pay, twice over, for the £18bn cuts to the benefits bill implemented so far.
And the bloated rich - individuals and big corporations - systematically dodge £120bn a year in tax, which is 240 as much as their Tory-Lib Dem political representatives are robbing off the poorest through the Bedroom Tax.
Socialism, not savagery
There is no excuse for these cuts. And there is an alternative - socialism.
The SSP is fighting to scrap the Bedroom Tax, halt all benefit cuts, and for the Scottish government to stand up to the Westminster dictatorship by refusing to carry our their butchery, demanding back the stolen £billions that could expand jobs, services and incomes.
Contrary to the SNP leadership's message, the Scottish government don't have to choose between protecting the NHS, education, council services, council tax payers and tenants battered by the Bedroom Tax. They should mobilize all these and more in a Scottish rebellion against the Westminster thieves, demanding back the £billions stolen by them, that could be deployed to massively invest in jobs, services, housing, pay and benefits.
We are campaigning for an independent Scotland with the power and political willpower to abolish the Bedroom Tax.
We are fighting for a socialist Scotland where by taxing the rich and taking vital services, natural resources, energy, construction, banking and major industry into democratic public ownership, we could guarantee a well-paid job and apprenticeships for all those fit to work; a living income for those unable to and the retired; and decent, affordable social sector housing for all needs, built to the highest environmental standards.
Unite through No2BedroomTax campaigns to fight for the abolition of one of the most vicious attacks in a whole package of savagery.
Build a mass movement to evict the Tories, not tenants.
Join the SSP for an independent socialist Scotland where the wealth of the nation is owned, controlled and used for the benefits of the millions, not the millionaires.