SUNDAY, JANUARY 13, 2013
The mood at the meeting – which was organised by the Liverpool Claimant Network – was one of militancy and determination. The majority were from outside ‘the usual suspects’ left circles, and this is clearly an issue which has the potential to mobilise a lot of working class people over the coming months.
Things kicked off with a presentation from one of the main organisers, who gave a brief introduction to what the tax will mean. As the Solidarity Federation report summarised:
“As of April 1st this year, housing association tenants who have a spare room will be faced with a reduction in their housing benefit of between £40 and £80 a month (a reduction of up to 25%) as part of the government’s welfare reform plans. In Liverpool alone, 12,000 tenants will be affected. Nationally, the figure is around 660,000. Meanwhile, the Empty Homes Agency says there are 725,000 homes lying empty across the country, enough to house 1.8 million people.”
In the open discussion part of the afternoon, it was broadly agreed that ‘solidarity networks’ will be set up based on locality within the city, with all networks joining up through a central ‘hub’. People will go into their communities to rally support over the coming weeks, and direct action will be taken in the run-up to April, and as the powers that be try to wring out every penny from the working class.
Comparisons were raised between the Bedroom Tax and the largely successful resistance to the Irish Household Charge. The Kirkby rent strike of 1972 was also recalled. But perhaps most iconic is the local ‘can’t pay, won’t pay’ direct action campaigns which made the Poll Tax unworkable towards the end of the Thatcher regime.
Though the end of the meeting was necessarily chaotic, I left with the distinct impression that the grapes of wrath are growing heavy for the vintage, and 2013 could be an extremely difficult year for the coalition government.
The Combat the Bedroom Tax on Merseyside Facebook group can be found here.