Councillors Against Cuts: Now is the time for Council policies of ‘No Evictions of Bedroom Tax Victims’

Councillors Against Cuts are a new network of local councillors formed to support the fight against cuts. They believe that instead of implementing the Coalition’s cuts, councils and councillors should refuse to do so and help workers and communities organise in resistance. 

Statement by Labour Councillors and other anti-Bedroom Tax activists;
http://councillorsagainstcuts.org/2013/10/01/labour-councils-should-be-clear-in-opposing-bedroom-tax-evictions/

Please repost this statement on Party and campaign websites and circulate all to every Labour council and Party organisation

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 councils 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 at 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 concerns either financial or 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 in Councils to block the Bedroom Tax could conceivably make this measure so unworkable and unpopular that the Tories may be compelled to withdraw it, as they did the Poll Tax, for fear of even wider electoral damage.

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

We are calling on all our councils to refuse to evict those put in arrears accumulated because of the Bedroom Tax.

A ‘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.

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.

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.

Current signing councillors
Kingsley Abrams, Lambeth Council
Steve Barber, Broxtowe Council
George Barratt, Barking & Dagenham Council
Kevin Bennett, Warrington Council
Emma Corlett, Norfolk Council
Richard Doran, West Lindsey District and Gainsborough Town Council
Waida Forman, Harlow Council
Josh Jones, Birmingham City Council
Len Junier, Middleborough Council
Gill Kennett, Hull Council
Nina Killen, Sefton Council
Dean Kirk, Hull Council
Greg Marshall, Broxtowe Council
Mary McGuckin, Broxtowe Council
Nathan Morrison, Aberdeen City Council
Wayne Naylor, Leicester City Council
Andrea Oates, Broxtowe Council
Patrick Vernon, Hackney Council

Also signed by
John McDonnell MP
Clive Lewis, Labour PPC, Norwich South
Nick Palmer, Labour PPC, Broxtowe

Alan Wyllie, No2BedroomTax campaign
Pete Radcliff, Secretary, Councillors Against Cuts campaign

 

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Notts Bedroom Tax Campaign Plannning Meeting – Minutes 17/04/2013

1. FEEDBACK FROM THE MEETING IN THE MEADOWS
Feedback was very positive and that the meeting went well. It was also noted that Paula was warm, welcoming and very helpful and was a credit to the campaign. It was agreed that the future NBTC meetings should be held in venues in the areas where we have local groups set-up and as such the next meeting would be in the Meadows.
It was noted that a local group in Hyson Green had been established independently of NBTC and so links should be made them.
ACTIONS:
• Ensure that regular contact is made with Paula & to provide help and support where needed.
• Make contact with the Hyson Green group to see how we can help/support them.

2. AIMS OF THE CAMPAIGN
There was much discussion and it emerged that the main aims for the NBTC fell into 2 areas;
• To instil confidence, provide knowledge and give support to the people affected by the bedroom tax of what can be done to appeal and fight it.
• To campaign in Notts against the bedroom tax until it is revoked.

3. WIDER STRATEGY FOR CAMPAIGN ACTIVITY
It had been agreed that the campaign would take a ‘pyramid’ approach where there would be central Notts-wide co-ordination, with lots of underlying groups formed at a local level.

As this approach was being taken it was raised that there needed to be some form of ‘structure’ that the local groups could follow in their campaiging. This would be as a means to supporting them with their activities rather than something they had to follow rigidly.

It would be beneficial to locate WHERE social housing was in the city so we could help provide wider support and information. Initially the NBTC would be focusing on those areas where there are the higher concentrations of people likely to be affected – The Meadows, and St. Annes were identified.

It was also flagged that there will be many people in areas where the bedroom tax doesn’t affect many and thus will be feeling isolated and fearful, so it was hoped that the campaign could reach and support these people shortly.

The wider strategy for the campaign would be a multi-pronged approach and would include;

Objective

How / what format

Lobbying Councillors & MPs to

a)Re-designate housing to avoid BT (as done by NCH re high-rise flats)

b)Provide a ‘no evictions’ pledge over BT arrears

  • Petition – online & physical.
  • Arranging for representative to speak about the BT at council meetings wherever possible.
  • Nottingham City residents to submit written Q’s about BT at City Council meetings to be answered & which are formally recorded within their minutes.
  • Get public statements from councillors/MPs who oppose the bedroom tax.

 

Setting up of local NBTC groups, providing support & a ‘structure’ for their campaigning to follow.
  • Meadows group getting established – next to focus on forming a St. Annes group.
  • Local campaigning ‘structure’ to focus on SWAMPING the councils with paperwork via everyone doing the following;
  1. Sending requests to council for further information
  2. Sending appeals to council re BT decision
  3. Applying to the council for DHP
  4. Writing to councillors & MPs.
  • Use the flyer distributed in the Meadows as template for creating local groups in other areas.
  • Providing information to people at a local level to include;

 

  1. Outline of council’s procedures’ overview re rent arrears & evictions to alleviate the misconception that the council can just evict overnight.
  2. Templates of information requests & appeal letters

 

  • Local NBTC groups to attend any BT protests/rallies.

 

NBTC website as a co-ordinating hub for the campaign
  • Information on the website to include;
  1. Info/diagrams of what can be done by everyone (points a-d above)
  2. Template letters (info/appeals) on the website
  3. Council’s procedures’ overview over rent arrears & evictions.
  4. Contact details of the Law Centre for support on legal level.
  5. Testimonials of people through different media such as video – helps put a ‘face’ to the BT issue.

 

  • Possibility to provide a NBTC ‘hotline’ for people wanting to get involved in the campaign (cheap mobile to be manned via campaign
  • Encourage more NBTC people to contribute to the website.

 

Get local & national media coverage
  • Make contact and build relationships with local media
  • Regularly send press releases followed up by telephone calls to contacts.

 

Link into regional and national BT protests / campaigns.
  • Advertise any known BT events on the facebook page & NBTC website.
  • Send NBTC representatives to regional/national events wherever possible.

ACTIONS;

1. Source the locations social housing through existing contact or if not to research this information.
2. Draft wording for a petition to be circulated to the group for comments before being established.
3. Acquire some public statements from Labour councillors opposing the bedroom tax.
4. Outline the council’s procedures for rent arrears & evictions.
5. Put templates of information requests & appeal letter on the NBTC website
6. Council eviction process onto the NBCT website
7. Collect testimonials of people affected by the bedroom tax for the NBTC website.
8. Obtain media contact spreadsheet

4. HOW TO ACCOMMODATE THOSE NOT ABLE TO ATTEND EVENING MEETINGS

As the next meeting would be based at the meadows the time and date of the next meeting would be dictated by their availability and direction.

5. FINANCE
The TUC had so far covered the costs of the meeting rooms but it would need to be taken over by the NBCT group – so NBTC will need to appoint a Treasurer.

6. AOB
It was raised that Channel 4 were looking for people interested in taking part in a documentary about living on the benefits that would have been given in the 1940’s, if anyone was interested.

Date of next meeting – to be arranged to take place in the Meadows so time and date to be circulated asap.


Mansfield anti-BT stall

In Mansfield on Saturday 20th April there will be a stall petitioning and leafleting against the Bedroom Tax.

Starts 12:30 outside the library.

 


Leafleting the Meadows – report

Today a group of 25 volunteers delivered leaflets to homes in the Meadows district of Nottingham, as planned in an earlier post. Gathering at the Queen’s Walk Community Centre near Queen’s Walk (which is currently being dug up for the tramlines) we divided into groups and took different sections of the surrounding area each of which had their own pre-prepared map. We had all finished by just over an hour which seems very quick and we almost ran out of leaflets but the few spares were given to those who lived locally and could do other housing areas fairly soon. A photo was taken of the canvassers at the end and will be on the internet in a few days.

The weather was pretty good (still a little cold but sunny and dry) and the whole job was quite a pleasant experience. I saw more of the Meadows than I ever have previously I think, and my group was greatly helped by a local young lad who tagged along and who seemed to know who lived in each area. We may well have missed some properties to which the Bedroom Tax will apply but we tried to cover all the council and housing association estates we could find except those which we knew to be for elderly people (who are exempt from the charge).

Now we are just looking forward to the public meeting in the Meadows on Wednesday and hope that local residents concerned about the Bedroom Tax will turn up. You are welcome to come even if you don’t live in the Meadows; and if you want a copy of the leaflet and don’t have one you can find a downloadable one on the Materials page.

More campaigning soon! Would you like us to do your area?


Loughborough Bedroom Tax Protest

Saturday, 6 April 2013, 12:00
Loughborough town centre, ‘sock man’ (opp Town Hall)
Come and protest against this unfair tax on the poorest in our community.

Organiser Jen Miller says:

“The Bedroom Tax and abolition of council tax benefit are now in place but the fight against them is only getting bigger. If we come together we can change these unfair attacks on working class people. People are coming from Nottingham and Leicester to join us the protest in Loughborough to spread the word and gather resistance to these taxes on the poorest.”

Loughborough Protest against the Bedroom Tax


Leafleting the Meadows

On Sunday 7th April the Notts Campaign Against the Bedroom Tax will be leafleting homes in the Meadows to which the Bedroom Tax may apply. The leaflets, maps and other details are all in hand and we already have 10 volunteers. If YOU would like to join us to do something about the evil Bedroom Tax meet in the parking lot of Queens Walk Community Centre (Queens Walk, The Meadows, Nottingham, NG2 2DF) at 2pm. It will probably last a couple of hours and will go ahead whatever the weather.

We will not be aiming to talk to residents on this occasion, just leaflet. In future we will be organising more leafleting, rallies, and most of all local meetings. Part of the purpose of this leaflet is to let residents know about an upcoming public meeting in their area to discuss the response to the Bedroom Tax. If you live in the Meadows and are concerned about it please help us spread the word and turn up to the meeting.

Facebook page to sign up to http://www.facebook.com/events/433524760066375/

Facebook group http://www.facebook.com/groups/433271280090704/

Email address nottsbedroomtax@gmail.com

Meadows map