In the past week, the Labour Party has launched its Labour Against the Bedroom Tax campaign nationwide, with its roots in Liverpool. It’s the usual Labour Party fare; sign a petition, display a poster. It offers no support for real action by tenants themselves and instead expects them to allow the Labour Party to lead them around by the nose. Meetings were called across the country without any contact being made with tenants groups or already existing campaigns.
The local Labour stooges in Liverpool can’t have failed to notice the momentum behind the Combat the Bedroom Tax campaign, a grassroots organization set up by tenants and their supporters following a mass meeting in the city in January. Indeed, the logo Labour’s campaign initially used was remarkably similar to one already in use by the grassroots campaign.
When the local Labour hierarchy were questioned by campaigners on their motivation for Labour Against the Bedroom Tax, why they had not bothered to contact the local campaign already in existence and where their logo came from, the party began deleting posts and banning people from their Facebook pages.
Their own post on their campaign Facebook page says it all really.
This is a cynical attempt by the Labour Party to capitalize on the anger and frustration of social housing tenants in order to score a few “progressive” brownie points and win some votes at the next election.
Liverpool Mutual Homes, a Liverpool housing association, has been complicit in the bedroom tax fiasco, only offering a token dissenting opinion after their city centre offices were occupied by angry tenants a couple of weeks ago. They admit that people who can’t afford to pay the bedroom tax will be evicted from their homes. Two Labour councillors sit on the board of LMH, Irene Rainey and Sharon Sullivan. How do they square their position on the LMH board and LMH’s eviction policy with their party’s “opposition” to a bedroom tax for which their party helped pave the way?
Liverpool mayor and class-traitor extraordinaire Joe Anderson continues to bang on about building new housing stock by 2015, including 5000 new “affordable” homes. But what does “affordable” actually mean? The government defines affordable housing as housing that is let at 80% of market rent. Under the government’s new Affordable Rent scheme, new or re-let social housing stock can be let for up to 80% of the average market rent. According to housing charity Shelter, 44% of social housing tenants have a household income of under £10,000 a year. If this new “affordable” stock is let at 80% of market rent, a social housing tenant will need to be earning over £12,000 a year to be able to afford a studio apartment, just under £15,000 for a one-bed property, £18,000 for a two-bed property, almost £19,000 for a three-bed property and upwards of £24,000 for four or more bedrooms. So who is this new “affordable” housing stock affordable for?
In the north-west, average social housing rent in 2010 was £68.46 a week. The average market rent per week for a one-bed property in Liverpool is around £110. When housing authorities are allowed to charge 80% of market rent, the average rent for these new “affordable” properties will increase to around £88 per week. Clearly, new “affordable” housing stock will be much more expensive than the currently existing stock at a time when both benefits and wages are under sustained attack. Social housing tenants forced to move to this affordable stock because of the bedroom tax could face having to pay more total rent than before they were forced to move.
The Labour Party, by attempting to bypass the tenant-led campaigns in the city and censoring and banning tenants who point this out to them on their social media pages are making clear their contempt for social housing tenants as well as the real motive behind Labour Against the Bedroom Tax. Their campaign has no validity as long as they see themselves as leaders of tenants rather than allies of tenants and I’m sure this will be made clear to them over the coming weeks and months as tenants begin to feel the bite of the bedroom tax while the Labour Party does what it does best and abandons the working class to the wolves.