Newcastle: Building resistance to the bedroom tax

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YHN hear us say! Can’t pay! Won’t pay!

On 25 July, local residents including FRFI supporters protested against letters threatening eviction sent out by Your Homes Newcastle (YHN), the arm’s length management organisation that manages the council housing stock. Protesters picketed the YHN ‘Working it out’ day in St James Park football stadium and staged a banner drop. The YHN event was targeted at tenants who have fallen into arrears and promised that ‘our staff along with many other organisations will be on hand to give you advice on how they can help and the support that is on offer. This isn’t just an information event, you will find out how to save money, learn about job opportunities.’

Inside, YHN offered face painting stalls, guidance on how to eat healthily on a budget, and free condoms. A fine display from the same landlord that has been issuing ‘Notice of Seeking Possession’ letters for rent arrears as low as £70, an act of intimidation designed to frighten tenants into paying up rather than feeding themselves. Opposing this harassment, Newbiggin Hall Action Group and East End against the Bedroom Tax have picketed local customer service centres, handed in letters of complaint and also letters of appeal against the council’s unlawful decisions on bedroom tax liability.

For many residents, paying the bedroom tax simply is not an option. As Alison, an activist with the Newbiggin Hall Action Group, explained:

‘I work part-time, 25 hours a week as my husband used to have a full-time job until his accident. Now he can’t get a job or benefits (he is a scaffolder and has been for 40 years) and it’s not through the lack of trying either. This means I have to keep him now on my small wages of £160 a week. If I include the full bedroom tax we are left with just over £5 between us for food and everything else. This is why I have been unable to pay, as £5 a week is not enough for two people to feed themselves on. We have paid over £100,000 in rent during our time as council tenants and well over £20,000 for rates for a home which can be taken off us without any help.’

In fact, as many are unable and unwilling to pay the bedroom tax, Tyne Tees News has reported that local councils are now owed more than £500,000 in unpaid rent. In implementing the bedroom tax on top of council tax benefit cuts and £100m in local service cuts, Labour-led Newcastle council has shown no qualms in attacking the living conditions of many working class people across the city. A campaign of non-payment and local work supporting residents to appeal against the bedroom tax could make the bedroom tax unworkable.’

Smash the bedroom tax!

Sam McGill

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 234 August/September 2013

 

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