‘Punishing the poor’: Manchester anti-cuts protesters to march in honour of bedroom tax suicide victim

By Danielle Wainwright

Anti-bedroom tax protestors are planning to march across Manchester on June 1 to honour the memory of a 53-year-old grandmother who tragically ended her life after losing £80 a month from her benefits.

Stephanie Bottrill from Solihull, West Midlands, had an auto-immune system deficiency, and jumped in front of a truck after she could no longer afford the living costs to stay in her beloved home.

Organisers from No BedRoom Tax have set up the event in Piccadilly Gardens which will include an advice centre as well as music and poetry events, before the march begins at 1pm.

March organiser Mark Krantz is dedicated to helping the families who he argues will be pushed further into poverty because of the welfare change.

He said: “There are 13,265 low income families in Manchester who are affected by the bedroom tax; the poorest tenants are being forced to pay the minimum legal amount of £15 to £20 per week.

“This is a huge chunk of their money which is leaving a lot of them malnourished – at the end of the day we are living in Manchester where there is a lot of money, yet the poor are hit hardest.”

The march will be the fourth demonstration in Manchester since changes to the welfare were planned in 2012.

As part of government cuts people on disability benefit living in council housing with one spare bedroom will have their benefit cut by 14%, and those living with two spare bedrooms will have their benefit cut by a quarter.

The support for the march has been overwhelming and Mark is pleased that so many have rallied together.

“We have organised the march with police and are expecting between 500 and 1000 people,” Mark said.

“We are two months into the start of the bedroom tax and it is great that there so many local anti-groups in Bury, Salford, Stockport, Fallowfields, Chorlton and Moss Side.”

Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, is also against the welfare change and worries of the effects it may have.

He wrote on the Leader’s Blog: “We do need a progressive benefits system that does support people into work, but that’s not what we are getting with these changes.

“All we will get is something that makes already poor families even poorer, something that sucks money out of our poorest neighbourhoods with a consequence that there will be even fewer jobs around in those neighbourhoods.

“The publicity around these changes has thrown up the question of whether or not you can live on £53 per week. I don’t think I could.”

Mark added: “The government are trying to punish the poor in the economic crisis and want to demoralise and divide the working class.

“They want to portray people on disability benefits as scroungers and they are nothing of the sort – they can’t work and even if they wanted to they can’t get a job.

“We have a lot of support groups with members who are not disabled and not affected by the tax so we are marching with the people who are affected by it.”

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Picture courtesy of PotatoJunkie, with thanks.

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