This blog cannot and does not speak for the myriad autonomous anti-bedroom tax groups across merseyside and the UK.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Housing Association goes on ‘don't blame us' offensive after being targeted by Combat the Bedroom Tax

financial incentives to coerce tenants to pay by direct debit

After being rattled by protests yesterday at its head office, Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) have gone on the offensive today to dissociate itself from the introduction and implementation of the bedroom tax. Chief media interface for LMH, Angela Forshaw, has been proclaiming the bedroom tax as unworkable in Liverpool —well done, it isn’t. And that goes for the rest of the country. But it’s the rhetoric on LMH's campaigning that reveals the duplicity of telling tenants one thing whilst scheming behind-closed-doors to claw their rent rate back.

'Perversely', Housing Associations (HAs) have been fucked over by the government as well as tenants, but that’s what they get for dancing with Capitalism in the pale moonlight. Rather than side with tenants in an all out attack on the bedroom tax, they decided to regurgitate, parrot-fashion, government advice and coerce tenants into coughing up the shortfall by setting up direct debits.

Here in Liverpool, LMH have been bankrolling advice sessions across the city, where they get to offer tenants “advice on fuel debt, budgeting, opening bank accounts, training and work opportunities”. To a tenant who sees HAs as trusting institutions, this may seem like a laudable initiative but behind the scenes HAs are frantically attempting to secure their rental income in the face of a potential mass non-payment campaign, all with a caring smile.

When we talk about Housing Associations being complicit in the implementation of the bedroom tax, they have to be to survive and this will be despite the chaos dealt upon tenant’s lives. It’s no coincidence that a Liverpool housing association stopped referring to itself as an ‘organisation’ and started referring to itself as a ‘business’ as the reality of welfare reform kicks in.

And it’s no coincidence that tenants are now being separated by HA’s into ‘can’t pays’ and won’t pay’s. When people say it’s ‘unfortunate that tenants are pointing the finger of blame at housing associations’ they so badly miss the point. Usually, they’ve been working in housing for so long it’s conditioned them to the point of absurdity. And accusations of falling into the government’s divide and rule strategy also misses the point.

If HAs hadn’t sided with State, Capital and self-interest in the first place we could have blown the bedroom tax out of the water. But they didn’t, they played by the rules of government and paid the price —except they aren’t paying the price, because out of self-interest they have thrown the ticking bomb at tenants who will now suffer as a consequence.

So when we now hear housing associations like LMH say “[w]e have done our best to inform them so they can be prepared” and “[o]ur job has been … to campaign against the policy”, it smacks of deceit. Moving to distance themselves further they speak of “digital inclusion and financial initiatives as well as offering employment, training and apprenticeship opportunities.” —this from a business considering unpaid labour, workfare, for tenants hit by the bedroom tax.

Behind closed doors HA’s are preparing for a wave of bedroom tax protests, to the point where (a source confirms) they are going to use scare tactics to get tenants to cough up the short fall in rent. The Liverpool Echo also revealed today that social landlords are ‘anxious’ that if the bedroom tax revolt is widespread, “the resources needed to prosecute those who refuse to pay the shortfall would be critically stretched.” HAs have chosen their side.

As tenants we cannot take yet another attack as if there is nothing we can do. We can do something: we can fight. Combat the Bedroom Tax started in Liverpool from one public meeting. Within the space of a month we have a network being set up across the city for tenants. This can be replicated across the country. The  criminalisation of the working classes should never have happened. The tide is turning and it’s time we stood up and took matters into our own hands as tenants, friends, neighbours, communities and families.

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