Thousands turn out for Bedroom Tax protests – but what happens next?

MPs Andy McDonald and Grahame Morris spoke against the bedroom tax at the Middlesbrough demonstration.

MPs Andy McDonald and Grahame Morris spoke against the bedroom tax at the Middlesbrough demonstration.

According to the Daily Mirror, 26,000 people across the country took part in the 50-odd protests against the Bedroom Tax, all staged earlier today (March 30) – so we can reasonably assume the real figure is much larger than that.

According to Charlie Kimber on Twitter, at least 10,000 were in Glasgow, and the photographic evidence seems likely to bear that out, so my guess is that, for once, the Mirror had taken a conservative (small ‘c’) stance.

The Mirror article had crowds gathering in Trafalgar Square, waving banners and posters with the message ‘Stop bedroom tax’, wearing T-shirts carrying “angry” messages for David Cameron, Gideon George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith. The nature of these messages was not revealed but I think we can make educated guesses of our own.

Whitehall was closed to traffic as, chanting “Can’t pay, won’t pay, axe the bedroom tax,” the protesters made their way to Downing Street.

In Liverpool, the paper said, demonstrators declared an “uprising” during their march.

The Glasgow anti-bedroom tax demonstration. How many people do YOU think attended?

The Glasgow anti-bedroom tax demonstration. How many people do YOU think attended?

A BBC Scotland report reckoned the Glasgow demo attracted two and a half thousand people, including Bill Scott from disability campaign group Inclusion Scotland (in fact he was in Edinburgh), who was quoted as saying two-thirds of UK households affected include a disabled person – rising to four-fifths in Scotland.

And “disability rights activist” Susan Archibald headed up the Edinburgh demonstration. On Twitter, afterwards, she said, “I was so proud to lead the bedroom tax protest in Edinburgh today. I stood up for all people who were either too poor or ill to attend.”

I particularly enjoyed the IBS – did I say IBS? I meant IDS – quote the BBC Scotland article used:

“Mr Duncan Smith defended the reforms during a visit to Edinburgh on Wednesday.

“He said: ‘It is unfair on taxpayers, it is unfair on those in over-crowded accommodation and it is unfair that one group of housing benefit tenants cannot have spare bedrooms and another group are subsidised.'”

From that last sentence alone, we can only guess what goes on in a mind that seems, clearly, deranged. But let’s just juxtapose his comments in unfairness with another state subsidy, discussed in this blog yesterday:

“The government thinks it is more fair to deprive people of the money to pay landlords for their homes than it is to cap rents.

“The government thinks it is fair to take money from people who cannot move into smaller accommodation, more appropriate to their needs, because it simply hasn’t been built.

“But then, the government thinks it is fair for MPs like James Clappison (Conservative, Hertsmere) to have 24 homes and yet still claim £100,000 in second-home expenses between 2001 and 2009. That’s £12,500 per year. People on Housing Benefit get less than £100 per week, meaning less than £5,200 per year.”

Together we can smash the tax: People in Swindon show their support for the protest.

Together we can smash the tax: People in Swindon show their support for the protest.

The protests constituted a nationwide display of disgust at the Coalition government’s attempt to find yet another way for the poor to pay for the mistakes of the rich.

But what happens now?

Historically, governments don’t pay much attention to rallies and protests. The only real way to hit this lot is in the wallet. Look at recent history for a good example: the Poll Tax.

Mass rallies were held, with attendances far greater than those today. The government didn’t bat an eyelid. But when people refused to pay up, and were prepared to face court action, fines and even imprisonment for their principles… I think we all know how it ended. The tax was replaced and the then-Prime Minister was removed.

The trouble is, as you’re probably thinking, this time the government isn’t expecting the people to pay; it’s simply deciding not to pay the people. So how can you fight that?

Okay, try this:

  • If you’re in a council house, you probably got it after being on a housing list. Your council put you there. It is reasonable, therefore, to argue that your presence is due to a decision by your council and not your own choice – therefore it is the council that should be paying for any ‘extra’ bedrooms as defined on the government’s hastily fudged-together list. Take your council to small-claims court over it, the instant you get a letter of denial.
  • If you’re in a house belonging to a social landlord, why not tell them you’re perfectly prepared to move, but for reasons of your own choice – maybe you’ve got a local job, for example – it must be to a place near your current location. What do they have? My guess is, not a lot. Be difficult about the kind of accommodation you’re willing to move into. When you decide they can’t give you what you need, take the government to small-claims court. Clearly, you are occupying this property because there is no appropriate social housing within a reasonable distance, and that is because the government has not allowed enough such accommodation to be built. You are not at fault; the government is.
  • If you are disabled, inquire of your landlord about the cost of removing any living aids you have from your current residence and installing them elsewhere. Do they have spare buildings with disabled access? What if you are a person who must rely on particular routines – moving house will disrupt those, and therefore seriously impact on your standard of living. Appeal against any change that could affect your lifestyle adversely.
  • Whoever you are, if you have made any improvements to your home, seek legal redress for the cost of those improvements, should you have to move. You might not actually be moving now, but you want the money because you don’t know when you might have a chance to move, and it will be harder to prove what you’ve done if someone else is in there, making their own changes.

None of these – and they’re just off the top of my head – are likely to win any court battles, but that’s not the point. The aim is to tie up the government, local government, social landlords and anybody else involved in this nightmarish policy, in ever-more-convoluted legal shenanigans. These things will cost them money. If enough of you get involved, they’ll cost a considerable amount, in fact. Then there’s the question of manpower that will have to be diverted from other work to deal with it. That will cost – as will employing more staff to take on the extra burden.

Government departments are already straining under the burden of appeals against other so-called benefit reforms. Ministers won’t have much tolerance for dealing with these matters because they think they have better things to do.

But you don’t.

What could be more important than fighting for your home?

33 thoughts on “Thousands turn out for Bedroom Tax protests – but what happens next?

  1. Chrissie Mansfield

    My original council tenancy states that any improvements i made to my home ie new fitted kitchen etc then id be entitled to compensation should i choose to move …now they say they have no plans to compensate anyone surely thats illegal ?

      1. Thomas M

        That’s why they took the legal aid away, so most people either can’t go to court or have to represent themselves against trained lawyers.

      1. Mike Sivier

        I don’t understand what you’re saying, Junior. If Chrissie had it written into her contract that she’s entitled to compensation, any decision on only one side that this will not happen is breach of contract. Are you agreeing with that? It’s not clear.

  2. Bill Scott

    I spoke at the Edinburgh demo not the Glasgow one Mike and there were about 2,000 on it.

    1. Mike Sivier

      Thanks for that – I’ve amended it in the text so if anyone wonders why Bill is saying this, it’s because I didn’t know there had been a mistake until this!

  3. elle

    I’ve got to pay as I have a child in a residential unit and another of my children died, good eh, do I stay ?. …As a child I was in care, I’ve moved 35 times in my life, I came to my home from refuge after a dv situation…I have spinal problems, even packing my home up and moving would be impossible, do I move for three years and back again, so that I can house my elder child when she’s 18…Perhaps I should give up my property, the rent is £104 pw, I live near London so that rent is very low…should I get a private property at £800-£1000 pm…How would I pay the deposit, one month and one in advance would be nearly 2k….For some people a home means more than it does to others, as a child from the care system having my home threatened is causing significant depression…So MR Cameron, thank you, thank you for making me pay for my children that aren’t here..

    1. Mike Sivier

      Kick up a fuss about it. Contact your local news media and make the point that you’ve been victimised all your life and now you’re being victimised again (if you want to be anonymous they can find ways to achieve that without losing you any credibility). Say it’s impossibly difficult for you to move in your condition and threaten court action against the council for discrimination against you because you’re disabled, if you can’t think of anything better. See what happens then. The worst thing you can do is put up with it.

    2. Roy Davis

      Ask this question to your MP. And then ask your local council and then join as many support groups as you can. Black triangle, Dpac there are loads more and all have lots of good advice and support.

  4. celia

    I don’t understand how the government can on the one hand say that legally this is the minimum amount of benefit that you need to food, heating, etc but then make you pay rent out of it.

  5. clark

    well all the depressed people in their life are going to nget even more
    .does this cameron want people to kill themselves and people on the streets because they cant afford to live. food banks being empty he doesnt care hes living a living a life of luxury well goodbye cameron hope to see you after the banks podt offices people get robbed its all your fault

    1. pat

      everyone should also apply for a Discretionary housing payment as well, even though we know that most of us will be refused, it will clog the system up and create mayhem, at our local councils, who will have to cope with such a vast amount of enquirys, it will also piss IDS off, as he stated that the govt are only expecting 20,000 people to appeal, well let us all prove him fecking wrong

  6. John Mangan

    There is only one way we can fight these obscene NeoCon attacks on the least valued and most vulnerable. It is this. As soon as you get your letter from the council APPEAL. Don’t appeal on multiple causes, save them up so that as soon as they reject your first appeal (AND THEY WILL!) you slam in another appeal. If every person affected by this continues appealing the whole apparatus will jam up and the Government will either remove these unfair laws or it will ITSELF be removed. Pass this on. Diseminate it widely. make it go viral and, just like the way we destroyed the Poll Tax, we can successfully fight back.

  7. Dougie McPherson

    the worry about clogging up the DHP scheme though is counterproductive as it means that the genuine disabled and the most venerable you claim to be trying to help risk getting their applications lost in that mayhem your encouraging us to cause it’s the ONLY thing I disagree with.
    You have stated it’s unlikely that most will get DHP payments we all know this with a small fund having to go a very long way, and clear guidelines that it’s disabled mostly in adapted or specifically disabled homes that will get payments why make that task any harder than it needs be.
    Sorry but I think your being a tad unrealistic and not taking in the full impact of this action on those you seem to be trying to help given that almost 450,000 affected are known to be disabled.
    I concur not your best idea I’m afraid.

    Keep up the good work but please stop spreading clogging up the vital DHP scheme as a great idea as it’s simply NOT

    1. Mike Sivier

      … and you’re disagreeing with Pat, not me.
      Personally, I think the whole system, as it has been designed by the Tory-led Coalition, is intended to bring harm upon the user, including those who need DHPs; therefore they are fair game.
      It is the government that is doing the harm by foisting a half-baked scheme on us that will not be able to cope with the amount of pressure it is about to take (without anyone clogging it up, as you say), and that will therefore fail its users.

  8. Dougie McPherson

    our area has done it’s DHPs decided who they are paying they all knew LAST WEEK thus ahead of the game …. still don’t think it’s that clever it’s this page by whoever that’s suggesting you clog up the system not my words the OP words above Pat says “clog up the system and cause mayhem” yip as I said to the real needy that require the DHP payments it’s your page thus the buck stops surely with you for any post on it ….

    1. Mike Sivier

      If all the decisions about DHPs in your area have already been made, that means a huge number of people who don’t yet even realise they’re going to need the money won’t be able to get it. Doesn’t that strike you as just a tiny bit unjust?
      If it’s a bad system it’ll have to be brought down. Best way to do that is to show that it doesn’t work.
      By your own words, the real needy in your area won’t get the DHP payments they need.
      … Unless the authorities there are prescient?

  9. Dougie McPherson

    Mike – Could it not be possibly that our area knew who the needy were ie who their seriously disabled and in such housing that they couldn’t be moved from ? thus were able to fully target their share of the fund appropriately ? I fully support MOST of what you say don’t get me wrong and I AM wholly against this heinous tax don’t get me wrong, I remain of the opinion that “clogging any system that was clearly derived to assist the seriously disabled and such in our communities has to be misguided if not fundamentally flawed if not very wrong” even the Govs own guidelines on the way DHP’s should be used states this is the way limited DHP fund should be targeted so again I would argue that it’s verging on being ever so slightly misguided to suggest that tenants apply for something they were unlikely to of obtained from the beginning far less possibly sending smaller areas DHP decision makers into meltdown which can ONLY then further impact on the service offered and time taken to offer that service to the absolutely MOST needy in society remember the ones who CAN’T take advantage of the other routes out of BT by virtue of having adapted homes in the main where DHP payments have it seems to be used and indeed targeted as I say I’m NOT against you, what you generally state or suggest only the intended suggestion of what to do about DHPs that’s all it’s on your blog thus the buck stops with you buddy it would possibly help if you were to state this is maybe NOT a great idea or whatever but you haven’t thus you have by not doing so looked to be agreeing with the statement “clog up the systems to deliberately cause mayhem” please therefore rectify this situation and PAT I concur that I know what you mean but it was far from wise I’m afraid for all the reasons stated above.

    Again keep up the good work, just not spreading this kind of statement please …

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/btukhomewapnetwork – Supporting tenants affected by Bedroom Tax with advice guidance and support for over a year and a half now, the “original” Facebook group helping hundreds monthly, allowing them to in advance of BT make the right decision well ahead of it hitting us ……..

    1. Mike Sivier

      All opinions expressed on this page are those of the people posting them and not necessarily my own – as with most, if not all, pages like this.
      I still disagree with you about allocating ALL DHP money before most people know they are going to need it.
      And what’s wrong with people applying for a DHP if they think they won’t have enough to get by?
      If the system gets clogged, that will be because the system isn’t workable – not because people are at fault for trying to get the help they are told they may reasonably seek.
      Remember, people who are likely to get into financial difficulty are being advised to seek a DHP.

      1. Dougie

        I’m aware of the fact its not your opinion on this we do not disagree, however running many such pages myself as Authors\Admins we MUST take responsibility for what is posted im afraid, otherwise nothing will be accepted by any of us as true!!! if we dont this is how and where all the rubbish and misinformation\utter tripe appears from surely if NOT corrected by those that are supposed to know the facts

      2. Mike Sivier

        Opposing viewpoints are welcome in the comments column (as long as they’re polite, which yours are). But you’re not going to persuade me that I should take responsibility for all the viewpoints put forward – I have my opinion, but it differs with a fair few of those that appear here. My opinion is in the articles, and in any comments I make in response to others. I’m not trying to impose it on anybody; people make up their own minds (I hope).
        Look at the BBC website – I’m sure we all wish they would add, to the latest “A cabinet minister/government spokesperson said…” paragraph a few lines explaining the facts of a situation (which often differ fundamentally from what the government representative spouts). They don’t. To my way of thinking, that’s a much worse crime against journalism than anything that goes on here.
        I don’t think I have to take responsibility for what other people post in the comments column on grounds of truth. Opinions are opinions and readers will have their own thoughts about which of them are true.
        You have taken issue with me, here, over comments I’ve supported – and that’s fine. But it’s your opinion against mine, and it’s up to the reader to decide which of us is right, or if we’re both missing some alternative that may or may not be blindingly obvious.

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