By Joy Macready
“Can’t move, won’t move!” Drawing on the historic chant against the Poll Tax, this is the rallying call for a new movement against the latest vicious attack by the Coalition against the poorest and most vulnerable.
The bedroom tax, which comes into effect in April, will see families, single mothers and disabled people judged to be “under-occupying” their council properties lose an average of £16 per week in housing benefit. People who are already on the poverty line will face being thrown out of their homes for having a spare room.
Speaking at the Benefit Justice Summit, WinVisible activist Claire Glasman recounted how Camden council cut off her housing benefit because she refused to fill out the bedroom tax form.
Launched by unions and campaigns including PCS, Unite, Disabled People Against Cuts, Defend Council Housing and Unite the Resistance, the summit attracted over 100 people to discuss the fight against the bedroom tax, workfare, cuts to Council Tax Benefit and the loss of the Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
Sara Newton from the Liverpool Anti-Bedroom Tax Campaign explained how two months ago only 10 activists called an initial meeting of over 100 people in Dingle. They discussed ideas ranging from lobbying to organised defence, with phone trees to mobilise against the bailiffs, taking inspiration from the Spanish eviction blockades.
At a second meeting, they agreed to support a march called by activists in Bootle and vice versa. Now there are plans to set up a cross-regional federation.
More than 250,000 PCS members are set to walk out on Budget Day, but the civil service union should also organize its to make implementing the bedroom tax a near impossibility.
Other unions should organise unemployed branches for the many longstanding union members tossed onto the dole heap, as well as the young people being forced onto workfare. They could educate a whole new generation of trade unionists by touring sixth-form colleges to explain what is or isn’t legal under the workfare scheme.
*Since this article was written, demonstrations took place in at least 57 towns and cities across the country, during the national day of action.