By John Millington
Anti-bedroom tax activists vowed to campaign to bring the government’s controversial policy to a halt, following a 100-strong demonstration outside Wolverhampton Civic Centre today.
Organised by trade unions and anti poverty campaigners through social network site Facebook, protesters took it in turns to slam the proposals due to come into effect on April 1st.
The benefit cut, dubbed the “bedroom tax” will see cuts in housing benefit for 3,000 tenants deemed to have a “spare bedroom.”
Under the government’s so-called “size criteria”, families will be assessed for the number of bedrooms they actually need.
The cut will be a fixed percentage of the Housing Benefit eligible rent. The government has said that this will be set at 14% for one extra bedroom and 25% for two or more extra bedrooms.
The government’s own impact assessment shows that those affected will lose an average of £14 a week.
Housing association tenants are expected to lose £16 a week on average, according to the National Housing Federation.
If tenants are deemed to have two or more spare rooms, the cut will be 25%.
Secretary of Wolverhampton Trades union council Nick Kelleher told the rally:
“Wolverhampton is not a rich place. We have the 2nd highest level of child poverty in the West Midlands.
It’s about Tories trying to solve the housing crisis in the South East.
This [the tax] doesn’t effect those in Tory boroughs. 100 of the constituencies worst effected, 93 are Labour.
Mr Kelleher urged people to build the campaign locally, by “leafleting the estates that the tax affects most” and “putting pressure on Labour politicians to not evict tenants”
Local Labour Councillors Mike Hardacre and Ian Angus were both present to support the protest.
Mr Hardacre said:
“We’re desperately unhappy about the bedroom tax. We haven’t got the housing stock to move people around.
“We’re completely committed to doing everything in our power to avoid evictions because we know that will cost even more money to put people in bed and breakfast accommodation and that is the economics of a mad house coming from London.”
Mr Angus added that the he had seen a “steady increase” in the numbers of people coming to his advice surgery worried about the impact the changes will have on them.
Other activists were keen to discuss the next steps for the campaign, identifying the tax as a political attack on the poor.
Veteran disabilities rights campaigner Bob Findlay Williams told the crowd to applause:
“Let’s not kid ourselves. We are in a class war.”
“Who is going to stand up? We need to get up off our knees. Up Up Up not down.”