After hearing the stories of several tenants affected by the tax and a brief overview of the campaign so far, the room heard what legal avenues are open to tenants in fighting the bedroom tax. This included the definition of what legally constitutes a bedroom, what information you should request from your local authority in the run-up to a challenge and how an appeal can be carried out for the best chance of success.
Following this, there were various suggestions from the floor on the different strategies that could be used in the fight. Encouragingly, the emphasis during this part of the day was on direct action, with occupations and pickets featuring. Various targets for such action were discussed, including housing associations, council buildings and bailiffs.
Then we heard the inspiring story of the rent strikes which sprung up in various places, most famously in Kirkby, in 1968, how grassroots tenant action won concessions during the introduction of the 1972 Housing Finance Act, and how some tenants’ movements were hijacked and misled by the Labour party. The emphasis here was on tenant-led action, non-hierarchical organization and direct democracy with direct action against bailiffs featuring strongly.
With time running out, a motion was put to the conference which resolved to establish a Merseyside-wide federation of anti-bedroom tax groups, with each group sending two mandated delegates to each all-Merseyside meeting and each local campaign group retaining its autonomy. The motion will be taken back to each local group to be discussed ahead of another Merseyside-wide meeting at some point in the next fortnight.
The focus on direct action and direct democracy is very encouraging. It’s vital that tenants retain control of this struggle and don’t allow themselves to be used by parties or unions for their own politicking. Where this movement goes next should be up to the tenants who are affected by the tax. The will to fight is there and soon the tools will be there too.