Opinion Former Article

BFAWU: Bedroom Tax is "worse than anything Thatcher could muster"

Addressing union delegates on the final day of their conference in Bridlington Ronnie Draper – General Secretary of the Bakers Food and Allied Workers Union, urged the trade union movement to launch a robust campaign equivalent to the anti-poll tax demonstrations in the early nineties which helped force former Tory Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher from power.

Conference delegates representing 20,000 union members from every region of the UK and Northern Ireland, told personal stories of how they or their family have been affected by the bedroom tax.

One delegate spoke of her own grown up daughter who has two 15 year old disabled children who will now be forced to share a bedroom because the family home is deemed to have a spare room.

Cuts in housing benefit can be anywhere between 14 and 25 per cent and like many families they cannot afford to stay where they are.

The delegate pointed out that her daughter’s husband works but due to being on minimum wage and a zero hours contract, finds it impossible to make enough money to cover the housing benefit cap.

Another delegate spoke of her friend who has spina bifida – a chronic condition that causes leg weakness and paralysis.

The disabled woman who is in her mid-50’s has a partner with a similar condition.

They have been deemed to have a spare room, but the woman insists that she needs it to store her complex equipment which allows her to lead the most active life possible.

With again no possibility of being able to make up the loss in benefits, the woman and her partner fear for the future given the shortage of housing stock.

Speaking passionately about the effects of the bedroom tax, Mr Draper said the policy was “one of the most evil and targeted polices” he’d ever come across in 40 years in the trade union movement.

“Decent people with a modicum of morality would never ever have implemented this kind of policy,” he said today.

“As much as I hated Thatcher, who was evil to the core, I can’t even see her ever implementing this kind of policy.”

“Prime Minister David Cameron and the Eton boys implement it with smiles on their faces.”

Contradicting the myth that benefits are solely for people out of work, Mr Draper goes on to point out that the majority of those on housing benefit work for a living.

With the selling off of council houses making it even more difficult for families to find suitable accommodation, Mr Draper insisted that the Prime Minister should give up his residence at the publicly owned Chequers – one of at least three the Prime Minister enjoys, and have it converted into affordable flats for ordinary families.

Looking ahead to the next general election, Mr Draper urged Labour, if they win, to repeal the bedroom tax “as one of the first pieces of legislation of the new parliament.”

And he added that the labour movement as a whole must launch a mass campaign to “lobby councillors, attend rallies and to take direct action on the streets” against the bedroom tax.

“We brought down Thatcher. We can do the same with Cameron,” he added.

 

Notes to editors:

-          Bedroom tax: If council tenants are deemed to have a ‘spare’ bedroom their HB will be cut by 14%, 25% if they are deemed to have two spare rooms, pensioners are excluded from this cut but other vulnerable groups are not and lone parents and disabled people will be very hard hit.

-          The government’s own Equality Impact Assessment, published last summer, calculated that 660,000 households will be affected, 31% of all working age HB claimants living in the social rented sector; on average, they will lose £14 a week (one hundred thousand will lose more than £20 a week)

-          The other big group of vulnerable people who are disproportionately likely to to lose out will be disabled people (using the Disability Discrimination Act definition of disability): disabled people make up 56% of all working age social rented sector tenants but 63% of those who will lose out. 420,000 disabled people will have their HB cut.

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