Fighting the Bedroom Tax in Newcastle: building resistance

Following the implementation of the bedroom tax on 1 April, many Newcastle residents have received threatening letters from their social housing providers. FRFI supporters have helped to set up local action groups in several working class neighbourhoods. These groups have provided space for people to organise and to raise other issues that are affecting them, as the government squeezes these communities without mercy.

The action groups include people like Maria, single and living in a housing association property in Byker, who will be £40 per month worse off because she has a box room; John in Walker, who has been fighting for 12 years for access to his children who live in Swansea, but will not be allowed to have them visit if he is forced to move to a smaller property; and Katrina, who needs to sleep separately from her husband because of his disabilities but has been accused by the council of lying about this.

The action groups have been studying lessons of past struggles, like the Anti-Poll Tax Campaign and Glasgow rent strikes, to prepare for the struggle ahead. Members of the action groups have gone round their neighbourhoods, knocking on doors and talking to neighbours to build a campaign of non-payment. The action groups have developed other tactics including regular protests and stalls outside housing offices, events where tenants submit their appeal letters collectively, community days that raise money for the action groups’ work and provide an opportunity for other residents to find out more and get involved, and a ‘pledge of resistance’ where neighbours of people affected by the bedroom tax commit to come out and support those under threat from the harassment of court proceedings and, if necessary, to fight evictions.

On 27 May Walker Action Group and Byker-Heaton Against the Bedroom Tax cooperated to hold a rolling picket of a number of housing offices across the East End, and on 28 May tenants and supporters from across the city joined together to protest at the board meeting of Your Homes Newcastle, the ALMO that manages council housing in the city. Robert, a resident of Shieldfield who has been in the same property for 25 years and is now living with dysarthria and physical disability following a stroke, summed up the mood in the action groups: ‘I won’t move. The government are determined but so am I!’ Resistance to the bedroom tax and austerity is just beginning – join your local action group, smash the bedroom tax!

Danny Merrick

Defend the right to challenge the cuts: Newcastle victory

Charges have been dropped against youth worker and anti-cuts campaigner Don MacDonald, who was arrested following Newcastle’s largest anti-cuts demonstration on 16 February, which he had helped to organise. At the end of the protest Labour council leader Nick Forbes made a surprise appearance. Don approached him holding two placards, and told Forbes that he had sold out the city’s residents. Six hours later, at 10 o’clock at night, police descended on Don’s home and arrested him, holding him for four hours before issuing him a fixed penalty fine for threatening behaviour. The placards he had been carrying were seized as evidence. Supporters gathered at the police station to demand Don’s release, and within hours a defence campaign was established. The defence campaign victory shows that such charges, which are entirely political, can and must be fought.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 233 June/July 2013


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