Thursday, 12 September 2013

Campaigning against the Bedroom Tax - next steps?

It is hard to think of a recent political issue which has encountered more widespread and diverse opposition than the Bedroom Tax.  Scotland’s two largest political parties oppose it (though they continue to disagree on who opposes it most and best).  Trade unions and local campaign groups oppose it – through their own actions and as part of larger coalitions such as the Scottish Anti-Bedroom Tax Federation, No2Bedroom Tax and of course, the STUC. 

In a letter just published, a large range of community sector, faith and equality groups have made a powerful statement against the measure; outlining how, through exemptions, it can be effectively nullified and arguing for action in Scotland to mitigate its effects.

In another really important development ‘Bin the Bedroom Tax’ including Glasgow and West of Scotland Housing Federation and the Scottish Tenants Organisations has targeted the LibDem conference this Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Glasgow.  Shelter Scotland’s Bedroom Tax monster has been prowling in Holyrood over the past few days too!

Such an array of campaigns and organisations is testimony to the strength of feeling, but it can also be confusing.  United by opposition to the Bedroom Tax and agreeing that it should be repealed, there is nevertheless a difference in tactics and priorities – some of which is driven by the different functions of the organisations involved. 

It can also be confusing to consider that, short of immediate repeal, there are so many things which can be done to reduce the number of people affected, reduce the levels of debt and to ensure that evictions do not take place. 

Here is the STUC’s position.

·        Let a thousand campaigning flowers bloom.  Work together where that is possible but don’t undermine the efforts of other if you disagree over tactics.

·        Continue a clear focus on campaigning for repeal.  Get to the SECC on Saturday, Sunday and Monday – or all three days – and make sure that when the Liberals vote on Monday it is against the Bedroom Tax.

·        Identify a range of additional exemptions which would make the reality of the Bedroom Tax disappear for the vast majority of tenants.

·        Celebrate the successful campaign  to get the Scottish Government to commit £20million for DHP but make the case for DHP to be transparent, accessible and available equally across Scotland and for exemptions to be equally applied.

·        Campaign for additional Scottish Government funds to be made available to completely mitigate the Bedroom Tax and make illegal evictions for Bedroom Tax arrears.

·        Continue to highlight the actions of housing providers where they take unreasonable steps to pressurise those in arrears.

·        Press for an emergency conference of all housing providers to be organised by the Scottish Government to ensure all possible opportunities to mitigate are implemented and to pursue a common anti-evictions position.

Next stop LibDem conference on Saturday!