Swansea Council Bedroom Tax Lobby
14th April 2013
Following a noisy and lively lobby of Swansea (City and County) Council, the full council meeting debated a resolution previously agreed at a Labour Group meeting. The details of what was agreed have now been published.
The Council resolved to "..take all legal and financially viable measures.." to protect the people of Swansea from the "worst" of the impact of the Conservative/Liberal Democrat benefit cuts.
That must leave victims of the bedroom tax confused and frustrated. What measures are the Council going to take and when are they going to take them? People are struggling to pay the tax now and have been for the last two weeks; they need to act immediately. For many of the poorest households in our communities, paying the bedroom tax isn't, in the Council's words, 'financially viable' - they simply can't pay, not and put food on the table. They need to know whether the Labour Council intends to evict them.
Swansea Anti Cuts Campaign demands:
1. We want the Council to re-classify properties where households will be affected by the charge reducing the number of rooms to a level where the household will not have to pay the bedroom tax.
2. We want the Council to give an immediate clear and public commitment that nobody in Swansea will be evicted from Council properties over non-payment of the bedroom tax.
When challenged on the lobby by Alec Thraves, of the Socialist Party, to give specific answers to the demands of Swansea Anti-Cuts Campaign, the leader of the Council, refused to make any commitments. This resolution doesn't make the picture any clearer.
If anything, it seems that the Labour Council has accepted that they will 'reluctantly' implement this Con-Dem attack on the poor. An attack they themselves describe as "repugnant".
For those of us with long memories, that's reminiscent of the poll tax struggle when Labour councils came out against the poll tax and then 'reluctantly', or not so reluctantly in many cases, pursued non-payers through the courts (aided by Cheri Blair who wrote helpful guidance on how to effectively harass non-payers).
Swansea Socialist Party members will be arguing that Swansea Anti-Cuts Campaign steps up the pressure on the Council to come out and say exactly how they will protect their tenants from the effects of the bedroom tax. If they won't as a minimum, offer those that can't afford to pay it a guarantee of no evictions then we should continue to lobby hard, including at councillors' surgeries. The Council can protect tenants, their constituents, from the bedroom tax if they chose to. We've only asked them to implement measures being carried through elsewhere.
The Labour resolution outlines what the effects of implementing the bedroom tax will be on their constituents
"In Swansea these cuts will affect the young and the old, families, lone parents and single people, those in work and those seeking it, those chronically sick, those disabled. They will almost certainly lead to homelessness, increased levels of debt, increased ill health and disruption to communities.
We want to stop those things happening not just blame somebody else for them when they have the power to do something about it.
The Socialist Party wants to work with all those who want to stop this happening to some of the poorest households in the city.
But we also want to go further and provide a political alternative to the consensus on making cuts which seems to be embraced by all parties with varying degrees of enthusiasm. We think the bedroom tax exposes the terrible shortage of affordable housing available because governments and councils of all political complexions have failed to provide new council homes. We would be in favour of a programme of building and renovation to provide the homes people need. To do this requires electing councillors who defy Tory cuts not carry them out. Elections to the Council may be some way off but 'left' Labour councillors, particularly those with large numbers of constituents in social housing, should ponder on the fact that if you won't protect people from the bedroom tax and other Con-Dem cuts then there are socialists and trade unionists in TUSC willing to do just that.