Stop Bedroom Tax! End evictions! Unions must act!

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THE warning given over the weekend by the head of one of the leading housing associations that the bedroom tax will lead to mass evictions of tenants over rent arrears is just a foretaste of the ruination the Tory-led coalition is prepared to inflict on the working class.

The dire situation outlined by Mark Rogers from the Circle Housing Group is one where in recent weeks the group has seen a ‘new pattern of arrears developing’ a trend that he expects to be repeated nationally with 50% of tenants forced to pay extra for a spare room paying the charge in full, 25% part-paying and 25% not paying at all.

The crass justification from the Tory architect of this scheme, Iain Duncan Smith, was that it would ‘free up’ larger accommodation by forcing people on benefits or low wages to downsize to smaller properties.

From the very inception of the bedroom tax, councils and housing associations warned that such properties simply do not exist in anything like the numbers required, a point emphasised by Rogers who complained that there were simply not enough vacant smaller properties for people affected to move into to avoid the charge.

All these warnings and appeals to reason were dismissed out of hand by Smith and the government who reacted with unprecedented venom to criticisms of the bedroom tax made by a United Nations special investigator on housing, Raqueluel Rolnik, after she had called for the bedroom tax to be abolished.

For having the temerity of pointing out that cutting benefits, forcing people out of their homes and creating conditions where the unemployed and low paid workers are faced with the daily choice between food and paying the rent, Rolnik was vilified in the right-wing press (with one paper calling her ‘a dabbler in witchcraft who offered an animal sacrifice to Marx’) while Tory party chairman, Grant Shapps, made a formal complaint to the UN and demanded her report be withdrawn.

No chance whatsoever that the government was going to back down or retreat on cutting benefits to starvation level!

In the same way that appeals on humanitarian grounds are useless, so too are the economic arguments against the bedroom tax and the entire system of universal benefits.

Far from cutting housing costs for councils, evicting families will drive them into the expensive private rented sector, increasing the housing benefit bill.

Last year, before the bedroom tax was introduced, local authorities in 12 of the UK’s largest cities spent over £91m placing their homeless, many of whom are families, in bed and breakfast, this figure is set to rise dramatically now the tax is in place.

With government money to councils being cut to the bone the immediate prospect is one of millions of people being thrown out onto the streets by this government, and that no appeals to reason or humanity will make it retreat.

As far as bankrupt capitalism is concerned its entire future is dependent on driving the working class not just into the gutter but into the very sewers.

In its crisis it is forced to wage all-out war to destroy the working class, smash up all the gains of the past including every single benefit and every right to housing that workers have won.

This is the price demanded to keep the banks afloat.

The refusal of the trade union leaders to do nothing more than wring their hands in dismay at government ‘intransigence’ is treacherous, as is the Labour Party’s pledge to repeal the bedroom tax while keeping all the rest of the government cuts.

The immediate and urgent task is for the unions to join this class war by calling a general strike to bring down the government and replace it with a workers government that will go forward to socialism where every worker is guaranteed a decent home and job as part of a socialist planned economy.