|Written by Socialist Voice|
|Thursday, 28 February 2013 05:29|
Stop the destruction of services and jobs – Axe the bedroom tax
Protests are beginning to increase as the government’s attacks deepen against the sick, the disabled, the unemployed and pensioners. Basic amenities are disappearing in the third year of cuts, and the NHS is being decimated into a privatised and tiered service. Spineless councils across the country are closing libraries, swimming pools, youth services and children’s Sure Start services to save money.
Millions of the unemployed and low paid are being hit with a triple whammy: bedroom tax, which will force some households to pay £600 a year for those with a so-called extra bedroom which will effect 660,000 social housing tenants; council tax benefits will be reduced by up to 30 per cent; and benefits kept at below inflation rates for at least another three years. On top of this many on benefit are facing sanctions and ATOS tests which are forcing thousands off benefits and into destitution, and into twenty-first century soup kitchens – ‘food banks’.
Despite government reassurances that pensioners would be exempt, 67,000 could be affected. The national council tax benefit scheme is to be scrapped from April so local authorities will be making their own arrangements with just 90 per cent of this year’s funding to cover needs. They are attacking people from all angles and in Liverpool 52,000 families will be told to pay bedroom tax with many more of the poorest also facing cuts in council tax benefit.
Parents of seven year old Becky Bell, a cancer victim in Hartlepool, were told they will be charged a bedroom tax for their daughter’s room. Becky’s ashes have been kept in her bedroom, which has been left exactly as it was when she died of brain cancer last January. The government define this as a “spare room” which means that they will be charged £56 a month from April.
Nationally 1.77 million households were on local authority waiting lists in April 2008. In April 2012 that had risen to 1.85 million. This shortage is being used to justify the bedroom tax but the reality is that this crisis can only be resolved with a building programme for at least two million social houses, which will also provide some much needed jobs.
In 2012 to 2013 the country’s highest earners received a £3bn a year tax cut and the UK’s top 100 wealthiest saw their fortunes rise to a record high. Robbery from the public purse is going straight into the pockets of the rich.
The working class is the target for this government, as pointed out by the Audit Commission, “councils in the most deprived areas have seen substantially greater reductions in government funding as a share of revenue expenditure than councils in less deprived areas.” So Hackney, Hastings, Newham, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle have taken a huge hit, but Elmsbridge, Winchester and Richmond-upon-Thames are protected.
Nationally twenty five Labour councillors from Hull, Southampton, Dagenham, Todmorden and other places have opposed the cuts. This group of anti-cuts Labour councillors say, “We are a new network of local councilors formed to support the fight against cuts. We believe that instead of implementing the coalition’s cuts, councils and councillors should refuse to do so and help workers and communities organize in resistance.”
Unions, communities and labour councillors must begin to demand the setting up of local authority needs budget and plan to spend the ‘reserves’ on the people who need it most. The problem is that unfortunately Labour councils do not want to mobilise a local, regional or national struggle against the devastation of the communities they represent. Their feeble argument is that the government would only send in their own people to impose the cuts. So what is their answer? Do the job for them, cut and destroy services, and devastate lives and communities.
This is a social war on behalf of the millionaires, the City of London and bankers against workers and the poor. Who can help build a national movement? Who can bring back outsourced council services into public ownership? Who will set a needs budget? We cannot rely on any council to achieve this, trade unions, anti-cuts campaigns and community groups need to work together to fight this and expand services, create jobs, and advance our communities by establishing a massive national social housing building programme. We have to build the fight, join us.