‘We’ll march until this cruel charge is abolished’: Manchester Council’s bedroom tax threats slammed

By Ben Butler

The council are not doing enough to stop Manchester residents from being evicted from their homes, an anti-bedroom tax campaigner claimed yesterday.

Mark Krantz, Campaign Coordinator of NoBedroomTax, accused the Labour-led council of ‘allowing’ the poorest families to be threatened with eviction letters, whilst sitting on the boards of housing associations.

The allegations come in the wake of a petition set up by the protest movement which called on the council to adopt a policy of no evictions due to rent arrears resulting from the bedroom tax, which cuts the amount of benefit people can get if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home.

A spokesperson for the council, a strong critic of the bedroom tax since its widespread introduction in April, said: “There have been no evictions whatsoever for bedroom tax.

“The last thing we are doing is sitting back and allowing some of Manchester’s poorest people be swallowed up by this unfair legislation – that’s only going to get worse when universal credit finally rolls in and the benefit cap finally takes hold.

“There are people across the council and housing associations working incredibly hard to support people and families hit by the bedroom tax.”

However, the council could not promise that there would be no eviction letters, saying it is ‘completely unsustainable’ for housing association business models.

Under an agreement with housing associations, tenants who were and are in heavy arrears regardless of bedroom tax will still receive enforcement letters – as will people deemed to be ignoring the welfare reform if they do not seek advice.

Mr Krantz, who has marched in a number of demos against the bedroom tax, hit out at the council claims.

On his website he stated: “Poor people did not cause the economic crisis- rich people did.

“When millionaires get richer and richer – poor people are summoned to court for not paying a new tax they cannot afford.

“We will march until the legislation for this cruel tax is abolished and money taken from benefits repaid.”

No Bedroom Tax insists the council is charging £82 court costs to residents charged with a £56 council tax bill.

The campaigning group also say 3,000 people have been summoned to court with an expected collection for one day of £247,000.

Mr Krantz added: “Our demand to the council is to stop sending court summons to people who they know cannot afford to pay the council tax, call off the bailiffs and charge no costs in court.”

Council figures estimate 12,000 across Manchester people have been hit by the tax since its widespread introduction in April this year.

The bedroom tax requires housing benefit claimants to downsize and move house, whilst the government has given a finite pot of money to councils to help the worst cases affected.

The government introduced the changes as part of the 2012 Welfare Reform Act to make the benefits and tax credits system fairer.

In recent months, the council has been hugely critical of the tax, consistently calling for its abolition.

Last week, the council met with UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing Raquel Rolnik, whose recommendation the tax should be suspended, was met with fury from ministers including Grant Shapps, the minister for Housing and Local government.

Cllr Nigel Murphy, Manchester City Council’s executive member for environment, said: “The bedroom tax is putting unnecessary pressure on some of Manchester’s most vulnerable people.

“Those people who have the least, now have even less, and the money they do have is being used to pay the shortfall in their rent and not on basic human requirements like food and heating.

“In light of Ms Rolnik’s visit, it is now time for the government to rethink this unfair and unsustainable tax.

“We would also urge anybody who is facing financial hardship because of the bedroom tax, please speak to your landlord – they are there to help.”

Since its introduction, campaigners have launched the petition ‘Repeal the Welfare Reform Act 2012’, attracting 16,713 signatures.

A number of rallies are planned for No Bedroom Tax, most notably the national demonstration ‘Axe the Bedroom Tax, march against the Tories’, on Sunday September 29 on Liverpool Road, which will attract a coalition of protests from as far north as Scotland.

Four demos have been held in Manchester since the bedroom tax was introduced, attracting up to 1,000 people.

Picture courtesy of potatojunkie, with thanks.

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