Tenants and campaigners are organising across Britain against Tory attacks on benefits.
A coalition of unions, tenants’ groups and anti-cuts organisations is coming together to hold a national summit for Benefits Justice next month.
Local groups are putting the heat on their councillors not to implement the attacks.
Over 150 people crowded into Camden town hall, north London, on Thursday of last week for the launch meeting of the Camden United For Benefit Justice campaign.
That day the Guardian newspaper had highlighted that the cap on housing benefit could force more than 750 families out of the borough.
Many working class people couldn’t afford to live in Camden without housing benefit, and fear that the cuts could leave it as a haven for the rich.
And the Tories’ plans for a spare bedroom tax on social housing tenants could see many residents evicted.
“I have two bedrooms, and my two children stay with me at weekends and in the school holidays,” said one tenant. “Is it right I must pay the bedroom tax?”
Families who will lose more than £300 a week through the benefit cap talked about the growing desperation across the borough. One speaker told the story of an autistic boy who is regressing because of a forced move out of borough.
Andrea Butcher of the Rowley Way tenants association said, “At our last meeting, one tenant told us she will lose £130 a month from April. We need to get together across London to stop this.”
The audience was furious that local councilllors refused to say if they would implement Tory cuts and heckled them into silence.
Housing minister Lord Freud lives in Camden, and residents are planning a protest on Saturday 23 March to pile the pressure on him.
And the Unison union’s local branch has a policy not to evict tenants who fall behind on their rent thanks to housing benefit cuts.
It is demanding that housing workers are not disciplined for refusing to evict.
Liz Wheatley, chair of Primrose Hill Court tenants’ association and Camden Unison’s deputy convenor of housing stewards, spoke to Socialist Worker in a personal capacity.
“Housing workers don’t want to evict any tenant in arrears due to Housing Benefit cuts,” she said. “We need to build a campaign to make sure they don’t.”
On the same day the Hands Off Our Homes group held its second local meeting in Leeds against the bedroom tax in the Armley area.
“It was a great success, with about 50 people,” Liz Kitching told Socialist Worker. “Lots of locals were very angry, and said they’d refuse to move. Three reps from the GMB union came and said they’d help build the campaign.”
Meetings in other areas are planned, as well as a lobby of Leeds city council on Tuesday of next week.
Thanks to Eileen Short
Benefit Justice Summit 11am-4pm, University of London Union, Malet St, WC1E 7HY