Forty attend first Moss Side bedroom tax meeting in Manchester

moss-sideOn Wednesday 10th April South Manchester Against the Bedroom Tax held its first public meeting in Whalley Range Methodist Church. The attendance of 40 people was promising, owing partly to some comprehensive leafleting of the Alexandria Park Estate over the weekend (where roughly 900 homes are administered by City South Housing Association), and demonstrated the concern and desire to resist among residents.

After an introduction from Colette Williams of Unite Community Union, Ryan Bradshaw provided details of the changes to the benefits system being introduced under Universal Credit alongside massive funding cuts to areas such as legal aid and the devastating effects these will have for huge numbers of people, including part-time workers, the unemployed, single parents and families, and people with disabilities. Moving on to the bedroom tax, Ryan explained how the punitive measures, which will effect between 660,000 to 930,000 tenants and threatens to cause mass destitution and homelessness, are being implemented and how we can resist them.

John Bowman of Unite Community Union and the Anticapitalist Initiative then talked about how the bedroom tax was an ‘attack’ by the government designed to destroy communities and coerce people out of social housing in order to affect a private sector housing boom using public funds. Pointing to the diversity of responses across the UK to the measures, John argued that we must seize the present opportunity to put pressure on the Housing Associations and local councils here in Manchester to take a stand against the government agenda by reclassifying houses and refusing to evict.

Most of the meeting involved an open discussion between everyone present where there was a strong sense of anger and concern, with some despondent remarks about the futility of taking on the government. However, this was outweighed by a majority of voices calling for community action and the necessity of combining local support with campaigning initiatives to counteract the impact on those affected by the government attack and to actively disrupt its realisation. People’s experiences with the council and housing associations indicated the lack of support or advice being provided and their intention to go through with evictions in case of rent arrears. This led to calls for the necessity of providing accurate information, especially on appeals procedures, and establishing a network dedicated to preventing evictions from being carried out.

Overall the meeting demonstrated the need and desire for a fight against the bedroom tax. There is a sense of urgency about this, with the financial impact due to hit residents at the end of April (unless the appeals go out) and the threat of eviction for people falling into rent arrears on the horizon, but also a realisation that this will be a long and hard campaign. There is the resolve there to see this struggle through and a feeling that if we organise and act collectively we can succeed. It will take more than marches and rallies in the city centre though, and we have to act now.

For more info, contact southmcr.no2bedtax [at] gmail.com.

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