Stand up in defence of victims of the Bedroom Tax

Councillors against cuts, a grouping that is trying to mobilise Labour party councillors to fight the cuts, is asking councillors to sign up to the following statement.

The Bedroom Tax has so far created many tragic stories of suicides of those fearing being evicted because of rent arrears or being moved away from the only communities they have. Many of those stories have been covered in the media but there are tens of thousands of other untold and terrible stories of despair and anguish as a result of this Tax

Already the Bedroom Tax has made debtors out of 50,000 council tenants, virtually all of whom are very poor and many of them disabled. The Tax has outraged anyone in the general public with even the slightest compassion.

At the time when the act was passed there was considerable denunciation of it by Labour councils and councillors. But after that, whilst very little was said at a national level, not enough has been done by our Labour Councils. Some councillors have reclassified rooms other than bedrooms. A few councils in Scotland and a very few in England & Wales have made clear and unequivocal commitments that none of the tenants they are responsible for, will be evicted for going into arrears because of the Tax.

We know many councillors have felt that they cannot persuade their full Labour groups to adopt such a measure and have attempted to get their councils to be as sympathetic as they can to Bedroom Tax victims.

But sympathy expressed in Council Chambers or Labour Group meetings will not relieve the fear of homelessness.

Many tenants may not hear of their council’s sympathies – overzealous council officers may be driven by other ‘targets’.

The discretionary payments fund can only answer a fraction of the requests for help.

Councillors may have been concerned of getting out-of-line with national policy. Indeed, for many months it was uncertain whether there would be a firm commitment from the Labour Party leadership to repeal this act. But now there is a clear commitment from Labour to remove the Bedroom Tax when it gets in, as it must, in 2015.

Councillors may have been worried of the loss of revenues from uncollected rents. But even if one ignores the moral aspect of burdening the poorest sections of our community with the task of balancing Council housing budgets, the fact is now, even where threats of evictions remain, the debts are already huge and growing. The threat of eviction does not help councils balance their books: it only brings unbelievable and unnecessary distress to hundreds of thousands of the poorest people in our communities.

There cannot therefore be any serious financial or concerns about Party unity that can sensibly be used by councils against the no eviction position.

What other concerns might there be? Damage to Labour’s electoral standing? The opinion poll response to Ed Miliband’s statement on the Bedroom tax shows that many of those who we need to persuade to vote Labour are fiercely opposed to this Tax.

An even clearer stand by Labour, both in Councils and as a potential government to block the Bedroom Tax could conceivably make this measure so unworkable and so unpopular that the Tories may be compelled to withdraw it, as they did the Poll Tax, for fear of even wider political damage.

Our campaign asks all councils and councillors to reconsider how they respond to suffering caused by the Bedroom Tax.

We will be asking for a clear call to all our councils to refuse to evict those put in arrears accumulated because of the Bedroom Tax.

Refusal to evict is not illegal, it can only do damage to the Tory and Lib Dem government – it’s the only decent thing to do – Let’s just do it.

If you support this argument, especially if you are a Labour councillor, activist or affiliated trade unionist, please contact the Councillors Against the Cuts campaign.

Let’s work together to stop the dreadful consequences of the Bedroom Tax. Let’s get rid of it and the government that is responsible for it.

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