Austerity in the UK affects the public sector across the board, whether it is the National Health Service, Primary and Secondary Education, Further and Higher Education, disability services, social housing, etc. The fourth event of the series The Age of Austerity about Nottingham anti-cuts campaigns by the local UCU association at Nottingham University on 12 June dealt with the Bedroom Tax. It affects people in social housing, who are deemed to have a spare bedroom. Becky Kent and her mother Karen Wood spoke about the Nottingham Bedroom Tax Campaign, the devastating impact the tax has on people as well as the attempts to resist the attack on some of the most vulnerable members of society.
The Bedroom Tax: a human perspective.
|Photo by Mwezibou|
Karen Wood, who had worked all her life until she became seriously ill, gave a powerful presentation on the human perspective behind the Bedroom Tax. Having already had her benefits cut by one-third due to the austerity agenda, she has now been hit by the Bedroom tax. Being asked to pay an extra £21 per week leaves her with £2.50 per week for groceries, toiletries, etc. The situation she faces is a choice between either paying the tax or continuing with her already very difficult normal life. But it is not only the harsh economic situation she is confronted with, it is the enormous stress resulting from the pressure to move, the general uncertainty about her future, as well as the daily worry whether another letter threatening eviction will be delivered by the post. It is the concerns for her severely ill son, which weigh heavily on her mind. He would have nowhere to go once he is out of hospital, if she had been forced to move out of a home, where she had lived for decades and brought up her three children. Listening to Karen Wood, it became clear why 53 year old Stephanie Bottrill saw no other way out than taking her own life, when hit by the Bedroom Tax (The Mirror). As Karen Wood made also clear, however, she does not see herself as a victim, because victims don’t fight back. She is determined to fight and defeat the tax.
|Photo by Alan Denney|
|Photo by Mwezibou|
|Photo by Joey’s Dream Garden|
A key aspect of the Campaign’s strategy is to lobby and put pressure on Nottingham City Council, which is dominated by the Labour Party, to declare a no eviction commitment in relation to people, who are in arrears with their payments as a result of the Bedroom Tax. Broxtowe Borough Council has already made such a pledge, although there is only a small Labour majority unlike in Nottingham. Especially prior to the national general elections in 2013, it would be important to put pressure on the Labour Party, Becky Kent argued, to declare its position on the austerity agenda and the local level is the best place to start in relation to the Bedroom Tax. In order to sign a petition to Councillor Jon Collins, Leader of Nottingham City Council, click on the Bedroom Tax Petition.
The Bedroom Tax is not the Poll Tax, Becky Kent concluded. Because it affects only a small part of society, unlike the Poll Tax back in the 1980s, it is much more difficult to mobilise widely. Support for the Campaign is therefore necessary and spreading information about this attack on vulnerable people remains a task of utmost importance. Ultimately, should it come to evictions in the end, the final moment of resistance will be to put up eviction pickets. Mobilisation for this clearly has to start now.
13 June 2013