UPDATE: 30/3/13: Well, FABTAG’s first action has been judged a success. As planned, pyjama party participants of all ages banged drums and made their presence felt at the council offices – the local press showed up too. The council, unsurprisingly, passed the buck to the housing associations rather than following the example of Scottish and Brighton councils by acting as a guarantor against eviction.
So does this mean that if people are made homeless, the council in its statutory duty to find temporary accommodation in B&Bs and hotels for these people, thinks it is better to spend a fortune in taxpayers’ money on this rather than £10 to £25 per week in topping up their housing benefit? FABTAG was informed that if it raises 800 names on a petition, the council will deign to discuss the issue in a meeting. Isn’t our democracy wonderful?
Here’s the statement handed to FABTAG on headed notepaper (presumably prepared in advance of the action): ‘A Forest of Dean District Council spokeswoman said:
“The new rule is due to be implemented as part of other welfare reforms brought in by the government this April. Housing Benefit entitlements will still be calculated on the actual rent payable but will no longer cover rent for that proportion of the property that is surplus to the tenant’s needs.
The council is no longer a residential landlord so if tenants in the social rented sector have difficulties managing on their new benefit level they need to discuss this with their Housing Association.”
Having made their point and received this inadequate response, but response nonetheless, the pyjama-clad troupe marched to the beat of a drum to the office of Wyedean Housing Association, a 10-minute stroll across town, where they were given short shrift.
Two Rivers Housing, by far the largest social housing provider (a charity which was passed on all the former council houses), is now in FABTAG’s sights, but their office is 10 miles away so they will be called upon on another time, and asked by FABTAG whether they will guarantee no evictions.
More news soon!
UPDATE: 20/3/13: A newly formed Forest of Dean branch of GABTAG, FABTAG is getting the ball rolling with this peaceful, family event… so come along, y’all. FABTAG are also urgently appealing for people with printers to help get posters and leaflets out, and help with distribution… oh and for people to put on their nightclothes and party on!
FABTAG (FOREST ANTI-BEDROOM TAX ACTION GROUP COMMUNIQUE #1
PYJAMA PARTY AT THE COUNCIL OFFICES… 11AM, THURSDAY MARCH 28, COME ON DOWN!
It’s a hard knock life for us poor folks without this Government of millionaires declaring war on us and making us take the rap for a financial catastrophe caused by their casino-playing stockmarket and banker friends.
But now push has come to shove. From April 1, for 450 Two Rivers Housing tenants (according to 2RH’s own estimates) in the Forest of Dean, life is going to get a whole lot harder. This is because the meanies in Parliament will be docking between 12 and 25% of these social tenants’ housing benefit, claiming that they are “under-occupying” their homes.
Never mind that smaller houses just aren’t out there, or that the householder may be disabled and need an extra room for special requirements, or not be classed as the main carer of their own children… people on measly incomes – both jobless and low-income working – will be expected to find £10 or more every week to top up their diminished housing benefit payments.
Many of the 450 households feel powerless and isolated, and wonder how they are going to manage all the necessities of living – food, heating, clothing and a roof over their heads. For many it will be an impossible task, but there are only so many Discretionary Housing Payments or Food Bank handouts they can claim. We have heard from some people considering suicide, as a result of this cruel trauma forced on them by politicians (who themselves claim from taxpayers thousands of pounds for two homes and weekly grocery allowances, among many other perks).
Forest of Dean District Council could have accounted for this deficit affecting the people they represent in their budget – but haven’t. But they CAN still follow the example of two councils so far – Dundee and Brighton & Hove councils have guaranteed they will ensure no social housing tenant will face eviction if they are unable to pay the bedroom tax.
A concerted group of us called FABTAG, with no party-political allegiance, are not going to allow politicians to destroy lives and deny people the basic right of a roof over their heads. Already, across Britain, people have taken to the streets against bedroom tax, and the protests will not go away – they cannot go away – until the government stops waging war against its poor.
Unlike these self-serving politicians – both local and national – we are not nasty and despicable. Therefore, we intend for our first protest to be nice and fluffy, to have fun and be creative.
From 11am on Thursday March 28 we will be occupying the open-plan office (which we council taxpayers were obliged to pay for despite austerity being visited on the poorest of us) in Coleford and raising awareness of the bedroom tax as well as – in a reasonable and friendly – manner calling on our council to set everyone’s minds at rest and GUARANTEE there will be no evictions as a result of non-payment of bedroom tax. We don’t think we’re being unreasonable when we say we won’t accept anything less than such a guarantee.
All – young and old, rich and poor – are welcome to put on their nightclothes, bring along their cuddly toys, and musical instruments, and have a jolly, fun time, while getting this most serious of messages across.
This is just the start.
UPDATE: Monday 11th March at the Brunswick pub in Gloucester, an informal meet-up around a table or two from 7pm to sort out the next move. GABTAG hopes to have at least a draft leaflet together by then.
UPDATE 18/2/13: At a meeting held in Gloucester GABTAG decided to organise a week of creative action from March 22 to 29, counting down to March 30, when a demo in London is being organised… Now wouldn’t this be great if this week of action happened nationwide?
31 March 1990: Thousands of people rioted in Trafalgar Square against the Poll Tax, a modern-day equivalent of the 1381 Peasants’ Revolt (also sparked by a poll tax). On November 22, 1990, the hated Margaret Thatcher handed in her resignation as prime sinister…
23 years on, Thatcher has been feted by successive Labour leaders (as well as her own party), we’re about to pay for her giant state funeral, and her prodigies David Cameron and George Osborne are spearheading a government that has even more audacity, a better oiled propaganda machine, and more millionaires and is going that much further, so some people almost feel Thatcher was a soft touch. It hasn’t helped that Labour sold out the people during its tenure…
30 March 2013, near enough on the anniversary of that Battle of Trafalgar Square, there is a planned demonstration against the Bedroom Tax at the same London location close to Downing Street.
What is the bedroom tax? A good potted guide can be found http://www.coalitionagainstcuts.org.uk/blog/2012/10/04/get-clued-up-on-the-bedroom-tax/
The riots that defeated the Poll Tax, historians now widely acknowledge, contributed significantly to the downfall of the Thatcher government (her successor John Major wasted no time in scrapping the poll tax and replacing it with council tax). In the year leading up to the riots, a massive campaign of non-payment and direct action against bailiffs swept the country, starting in Glasgow. Councils were left in dire straits by a mass refusal to pay.
Could history repeat itself with the Bedroom Tax? Could this be this government’s “Poll Tax moment”? We hope so, but it’s unlikely to happen spontaneously – it requires a lot of effort and organisation, and determination to refuse to pay,
At least 600,000 households will be adversely affected by the Bedroom Tax, and at least 450 in the Forest of Dean. It’s a case of CAN’T PAY WON’T PAY, or CAN’T PAY SO BECOME HOMELESS… given that if a council doesn’t renege on its obligation to give a homeless family a roof over their head, it can cost taxpayers £3,000 per week to house one family in a hotel… so the tax is not only unnecessarily cruel, it’s also stupid and senseless. Ignoring the thousands of empty properties owned by the rich, the Government wishes to force overcrowding on the poor recipients of housing benefit. Ironically, the one sector of the population whose homes will typically have spare bedrooms after their offspring have flown the nest are exempt from paying.
Perhaps you have a child or children from a previous relationship, and your kids stay over in the holidays or on weekends? That’ll be £20 or more you’d have to find from your meagre income every week to pay the rent… perhaps you have four children – there’ll have to share the same room from now on. Perhaps there are no one- or two-bedroom properties available. Tough. Perhaps you can’t afford the cost of a move. Tough.
As if those who claim housing benefit (and that includes people in work, on low incomes) don’t have it hard enough, they are being put under unbearable stress from April onwards by a bunch of rich millionnaires who don’t only seem to not care a bit about the poor and vulnerable, they want to actively crush them, while using the Sun, Mail and Express as Goebbels did the Nazi propaganda machine to sow seeds of discontent and get these poor folks to instead turn on those even worse off than themselves (or in as bad a situation) – immigrants and the unemployed.
The propaganda machine is evidently working – I’ve lost count of friends (now ex-friends) of mine who’ve started making racist and ‘anti-scrounger’ comments. Friends who were once merry and had a live-and-let-live philosophy ground down into making scapegoats of others.
And meanwhile, the relentless shower of shit from this government continues to rain on us. There are three choices – you either become a scumbag like the Sun wants you to be and start blaming certain groups of working-class people; you let yourself be rained on, perhaps complain a bit, but do and say nothing and keep consuming, hoping your umbrella doesn’t break; you fight against it.
Well, as far as the bedroom tax is concerned, GABTAG (Gloucestershire Anti-Bedroom Tax Action Group) is going to do what it can, depending on numbers. The first organising meeting is being held on Monday February 18 @ Barton Street Community Centre, Gloucester, from 7 to 9pm. Anyone who wants to help set up actions, protests and/or public meetings before and after the March 30 London protest is welcome to come along.
GABTAG is receiving tips and receiving help from already up-and-running groups in Leeds and Bootle, Liverpool.
Contact GABTAG by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/gabtag/ (also join your friends to it!)
Add yourself to the https://groups.google.com/forum/#!aboutgroup/gabtag
Check out the new website: http://gabtag.wordpress.com/about
The more of us getting involved in this, the better!