IHOOPS is calling on Islington Council to clarify any confusion about its eviction policies concerning the bedroom tax.
A 70-strong meeting agreed the call at the Walter Sickert Community Centre in Canonbury Crescent on Tuesday 19 March.
IHOOPS invited the public and community activists to debate how to resist the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition’s cap on housing benefits due to come in April.
Local campaigner speaks up at bedroom tax meeting
The call followed Labour’s Deputy Leader of Islington Council Richard Greening’s attack on the tax and promise not to evict anyone without an alternative home.
Yet, the meeting demanded to know whether the Council would evict anyone who refused the alternative.
An audience member said to Cllr Greening: “They’re asking people to move out of their homes when fat cats have dozens of rooms. I say to the council, we want to fight to defend our welfare state and if you want to stand with us, you’ve got to say you won’t implement the cuts. You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is and say no evictions.”
In response Cllr Greening said that the Council had to balance support for people in need with the need to raise money for vital services. He said: “You are absolutely correct to demand no evictions, we understand that, but we also have to find money to keep public services running. I’m not going to give you the answer you want. But I’m going to say that we’re with you in campaigning against this tax.”
Cllr Greening: Council needs rent money to fund services
Chair of Islington Trades Council and IHOOPS member Gary Heather warned against in fighting between people opposed to the cuts.
He said: “Richard Greening was invited by IHOOPS because IHOOPS wants to work with the Council. I think Richard was being honest when he said he doesn’t want to evict anyone. We mustn’t fall out with a council that is building council housing that is not implementing market rents. It would be a big mistake if IHOOPS led a movement that wasn’t going to work with the Council.”
IHOOPS’ secretary and chair of the meeting, Suzanne Jeffery, said the public could discuss this and other ways to resist the bedroom tax at the next IHOOPS meeting on 2 April at Islington Town Hall.
The meeting supported:
- creating a petition demanding no evictions,
- backing the defend London’s NHS demon on Saturday 18 May,
- opposing evicting people out of London and
- supporting a ‘mothers’ anti welfare cuts protest in Tottenham at Tottenham Town Hall, 11:00, 13 April.
Meeting supports call for clarity on eviction policy
Council support for vulnerable tenants
In his talk, Cllr Greening also said that the Council supported replacing willing tenants in under-occupied homes with households experiencing over-occupation.
He stated that the Council can make funds available to households facing difficulty due to the bedroom and it supports advice to tenants such as financing a new Citizens Advice Bureau in Islington. He warned that this Council’s funds would run out.
He said the solution to the tax was that the Tories should face a new general election because of a split with the Lib Dems.
He said: “We have to reduce the Liberal Democrats to a cinder and they should stop supporting the most right-wing government in my lifetime.”
Fair private sector rent
The meeting heard that the lack of social house building over 30 years resulted in serious shortages and that the Tory abolition of fair rent tribunals, allowed rents to escalate. The Con-Dem Government solution is to rob from the poor and not to cap the super profits of the landlords.
Islington MP, Jeremy Corbyn told the audience that the principle of a welfare state needs to be defended and people need to go on London-wide demonstration on the bedroom tax.
He said: “We have hundreds of families threatened with removal from this borough. I am meeting people all the time where they have been asked to pay £1500 a week from their benefits. That’s before the cap of £500 pounds a week. The worst case I’ve come across is an ex-council flat where someone is charging and getting £600 a week where the council flat next door is £100 a week. It’s disgusting which is why I have introduced a private members legislation to control rent levels in London. It’s high time we had a fair rent policy in the private sector. IF we don’t, we get social cleansing in central London as a start.”
Pilgrim Tucker of Unite’s north London Community branch spoke about her union’s efforts to organise those not in employment particularly to campaign against welfare and job cuts.
The PCS speaker Tony Reay described the cuts as revenge for the gains of the working class over many years. He wanted to see benefits workers claimants talking and united in the struggle against the Government. This call for unity was repeated by many in the audience.
Eileen Short from Defend Council Housing said giving advice was not enough. She said campaigns should unite, campaign against evictions by private landlords, publish a proper council budget, and that communities and councils should protest, occupy offices and show that the tax is unworkable. She said: “I don’t know why councils are not marching on Whitehall.”
Disabled people facing onslaught
Tracey Lazard from Inclusion London talked about inequality faced by disabled people that will be made worse by the bedroom tax. She said: “WE are facing an onslaught of attacks. Disabled people face systematic discrimination but it’s getting worse. Everything that disabled people and their allies have fought for over the last 30 years is at risk. If the government gets their way disabled people will be shut away in their own homes or in residential care.”
She pointed out that:
- disabled people are 5 percent of pop but are baring 29 percent of the cuts,
- disabled people set to lose £9bn in benefits,
- 73 disabled people declared are fit for work die a week,
- 420,000 disabled couples will lose benefit because they cannot share a bedroom,
- by 2018 607,000 disabled people would have lost disability living allowance,
- by 2018 there will be a 50 percent cut in social care funding for disabled people and
- scrounger rhetoric has led to increases in disability hate crime.
Tracey said that disabled people were fighting back and the campaign against ATOS has been working. There are legal challenges to the government over its consultation on disability living allowance and against Barnet Council’s privatization programme.
She went on say: “I might be naïve but I think we can win this. I think a majority of people do not want to punish the poor to give more money to the 1 percent.”
Eileen Short of Defend Council Housing suggested some courses of action, including publicising the discretionary budget so that it is claimed and seen to be too small, and campaigning for landlords, other than councils, not to evict. Other options of protest were also discussed.
Suzanne Jeffrey said last weekend there were anti-bedroom tax marches around the country including 900 in Liverpool, 500 in Manchester, 250 in Norwich, 250 in Durham, and 200 in Newcastle.