Socialist meeting over bedroom tax

Gary Freeman from Nottingham Defend Council Tax Benefit Campaign, addresses the audience who met at the St. John's Church rooms on Tuesday night, accompanied by Jean Thorpe from the Socialist Party.

Gary Freeman from Nottingham Defend Council Tax Benefit Campaign, addresses the audience who met at the St. John's Church rooms on Tuesday night, accompanied by Jean Thorpe from the Socialist Party.

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CALLS for Ashfield District Council not to evict any tenant who cannot pay the ‘bedroom tax’ were made at a public meeting in Hucknall this week.

The meeting, held at St John’s Church Community Hall, was hosted by the Socialist Party and the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition.

Party member Gary Freeman welcomed an approach made by Ashfield Council to central government to ask if it could set up a hardship fund for people affected.

But he added: “We feel the council should take a principled stand and publicly say they won’t evict anyone unable to pay this tax.”

He pointed out that it cost about £6,000 per household to evict a tenant.

The ‘bedroom tax’ has Ministers argue that the changes will encourage people to downsize to smaller properties and, in doing so, help cut the £23 billion annual bill for housing benefit, free up living space for overcrowded families and encourage people to get jobs.

But housing charities and other critics say the ‘bedroom tax’ is leading to higher levels of rent arrears and greater homelessness.

Mr Freeman told the meeting: “Thousands are protesting against people being either forced out of their homes or robbed of benefit by mansion-owning millionaire ministers. It is yet another horrendous attack on working-class people through welfare reform.

“There has been massive opposition throughout the country, even from people not affected -- and that is because they think it is wrong.”

Mr Freeman called for support of a campaign to defend people from evictions, fight to axe the ‘bedroom tax’ and demand ‘decent, affordable housing for all’.

The aim is to put pressure on councils not to implement the tax and to call on central government to reimburse them for financial losses.

It is thought that councils could use reserves and prudential borrowing powers to at least temporarily cover the tax, possibly topping up the government’s discretionary housing payment fund.

Opponents of the ‘tax’ also want councils to ‘re-designate’ homes as having fewer bedrooms.