Bedroom tax cannot be fought on its own

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The introduction of the bedroom tax is a cruel and massive attack against workers. Designed deliberately to hit a massive section of benefit claimants and the very poorest sector of the working class - it has been deliberately built in as part of the austerity measures to reduce the welfare budget. As an example the minimum amount lost will be 15% for one extra bedroom, very often moving to 25% for those the state deems to have two extra bedrooms. Among those who will lose are:

  • those with a family member working abroad (except in the armed forces) who needs a room for visits;
  • sick or disabled adults who need an extra room for medical equipment;
  • those who need an extra room for visiting family members (children in separated families, parents);
  • couples with no children or children who have left home.

Overall, it is thought that this will affect more than 660,000 or 31% of working age benefit claimants in the UK, costing an average of £14 a week nationally, and £21 in London where accommodation is notoriously expensive.

Like all the measures in this round of austerity, the bedroom tax is designed to sow divisions among the victims. With so many in crowded or inadequate housing the government wants to be seen as ‘fair’, even ‘reforming’, which is absolutely not the case. With the lack of ‘social’ or ‘affordable’ housing, the lack of building of homes, this measure will do nothing but take money away from the poorest in society, whether working or unemployed, for the benefit of capital.

In addition, housing benefit is administered by local authorities, so it is an attack carried out at one remove from central government; at the same time, it is designed to push people to resist it on the basis of their own individual claims, unlike the poll tax in the 80s, when the Thatcher government made the mistake of attacking everyone ‘equally’. This makes it much more difficult to resist, although there have been a few scattered demonstrations against it, generally well-marshalled by the left and the unions.

Only by understanding this measure as one among many hitting all of us – employed, unemployed, pensioners, students – can we develop the solidarity necessary to begin to build resistance to any one of these attacks.

M and A, 11.5.13

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