- Created: Friday, 17 January 2014 21:06
- Written by FRFI
This is an important update on the campaign against the bedroom tax in Newcastle. For the previous report see: Newcastle residents fight back against the Bedroom Tax - 19 December 2013
Supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and residents of the East End of Newcastle, directly affected by the bedroom tax, sent a delegation and held a protest at Newcastle Civic Centre on 19 December.
The aim was to get a meeting with representatives of the council's Environmental Health and Housing Benefit departments to demand that Environmental Health inspect all properties affected by the bedroom tax to investigate for health and safety hazards caused by the classification of rooms with less than 70sqft useable floor space as bedroom, and that the Housing Benefit department reviews all bedroom tax decisions taking this information into account. The 2004 Housing Act states that a to be classed as a bedroom a room must have at least 70sqft usueable floor space, otherwise using the room as a bedroom mayconstitute a Category 1 Health and Safety Hazard. It is also clear that it is the duty of Environmental Health to measure room sizes when requested by tenants (at no cost to the tenant) irrespective of whether the property is council owned or housing association.
Campaigners did not think setting up a meeting would be an issue as the Labour Party claim to be opposed to the bedroom tax and Newcastle is run by a Labour council, whose leader Nick Forbes boldly stated at the full council meeting on 2 October 2013 that he is 'leading the campaign against the bedroom tax in Newcastle'. All the council needs to do is act within its rights as a council and the laws laid out before them and they could stop the bedroom tax for hundreds if not thousands of the 5,500 tenants in Newcastle affected. However, campaigners were told that a meeting with these departments was not possible on the day as they were not available and an appointment could not be booked as they were unable to coordinate their diaries!
Campaigners were told that a request for an appointment needed to be put in writing. This was done on the day and the 6 January given as the deadline for a response.
6 January passed without a peep from the council. The anti-bedroom tax group decided to approach councillors to see if they would help get a meeting. On 13 January they went to the surgery of LibDem councillor Gareth Kane, who represents the Ouseburn Ward, an area of the East End of Newcastle. He spoke to the council's Housing Benefit department to arrange the meeting. He was told that the Leader's Office, which is Nick Forbes’ office and classed as the political leadership of the council, have stated that such a meeting is 'not to happen'. Councillor Kane has since spoken to the Leader's Office to ask them to lift the ban and is waiting for a response.
Nick Forbes' office has banned housing benefit recipients from meeting with the council's Housing Benefit department! Nick Forbes has complete contempt for the poor; as far as he is concerned he is the king of Newcastle and his working class constituents are just a bunch of dirty rascals.
The campaign will continue to fight to secure a meeting and put forward their demands.
We will not take this lying down! Smash the bedroom tax! Reverse all bedroom tax decisions now!
For future events and what you can do to help the campaign see: www.facebook.com/pg/FRFINE/events/