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

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Bolton at Home concocts ‘no homelessness’ policy for bedroom tax-hit tenants

On August 19th ‘arms length’ housing association Bolton at Home (BH) announced a ‘no homelessness’ policy to mitigate the impact of the bedroom tax on BH tenants. This would seem like a tenant-supporting move, but when John Dunn, assistant director of housing services at BH, spent 7 paragraphs in the Guardian bemoaning the ‘no eviction’ policies some housing associations (HA) have adopted –in effect arguing for the necessity of evictions- it becomes clear that the reasoning underpinning the ‘no homelessness’ policy are wholly economic.

According to BH’s ‘no homelessness’ policy, if a tenant is evicted over the bedroom tax they’re given the option of moving into “another” property. The tenant is given one re-housing offer only and if they turn it down they can basically fuck off somewhere else.

With 11,000 tenants in Bolton chasing 91 one-bedroom properties, it leaves the policy vacuous. With a shortage of properties to ‘downsize’ to, BH’s only option would be to shift tenants into the private rented sector. And this, it seems, is what BH intend to do:
“We will use some of the empty properties generated by turnover in our stock to re-house affected tenants, as well as making use of private-sector leasehold properties.”
also BH:
“…would work with the private rented sector and Bolton Council to bring in suitable accommodation where possible.”
According to BH, though, it all depends on what kind of tenant you are. The narrative that BH concocts is that they are protecting the tenant from homelessness and simultaneously other tenants who would be indirectly hit “if rent is not collected.” But, like all state-aligned institutions, BH tries to bring tenants into conflict with each other by dividing them into good/deserving and bad/undeserving:
“’No eviction’ policies do not differentiate between those who can't pay and those who won't pay. It is unfair on those who go on struggling to pay the bedroom tax if others choose not to.”
Dunn does not mention the possibility that tenants who “won’t pay” might also be struggling and can’t pay, preferring to use them as scapegoats for the failure of housing associations to act in genuine solidarity with all tenants.

Bolton News reported in august that:
“They [Bolton at Home] said the policy will not apply if tenants are evicted for arrears that are the result of other factors, such as deliberate non-payment.”
While Dunn has-a-go at folk for focusing on the ‘morality’ of the bedroom tax, he uses his own courtroom tactics to moralise over the decisions made by BH tenants, and principally how those pesky tenants, unable to afford the fucking rent and can’t/won’t pay, are damaging the “service standards”, “credit” and “capital improvement projects” of Bolton at Home. Well, whoopee-fucking-do!

Meanwhile, Dunn shows whose side he’s really on with this mucky little outburst: 
“A ‘no eviction’ policy also sets a precedent for landlords. How can they then argue that they are right to evict in cases where arrears are caused by other factors, such as government cuts to tax credits, welfare benefits, increases in non-dependant deductions, and so on?”
The chances are if you’re struggling with the bedroom tax then you’re probably, -whether you can’t or won’t pay- struggling with rent full stop, especially if you’re being threatened with eviction by your HA. So, what difference does it make if you come under the ‘no homelessness’ policy, or not, if you’re going to get shunted into private-rented property anyways? Fuck all.

By slapping the politically loaded term ‘homelessness’ on a mirage-of-a-policy BH merely, and most likely briefly, score some brownie points with the Boltonian electorate and council. If they were truly acting in the interests of their tenants, then they would have adopted a no-evictions policy that protects all tenants from reform and crisis. Instead, they’ve chosen to divide the Bolton at Home tenant community and concentrate on protecting their more important capital assets: bricks and mortar.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Combat the Bedroom Tax's Brief Guide to Direct Action

"Harpooned to the sides of capitalistic society it shall tear and bleed it until the shark turns the final somersault" - Émile Pouget

"Direct action may be the extreme of violence, or it may be as peaceful as the waters of the Brook of Shiloa that go softly." - Voltairine de Cleyre

Direct action is taking matters into our own hands

Direct action is not a boycott

Direct action is not dependent on approval from the state

Direct action is under the control of the participants

Direct action is not a letter to your MP

Direct action is chasing bailiffs off

Local residents prevent bailiffs from entering property in Liverpool

Direct action is not a petition

Direct action is not, nor never will be, lobbying the local council

Direct action is expropriation of food to feed your family

Unemployed take food from Mercadona and Carrefour in mass action in Andalucia

Direct action is not a foodbank

Direct action is a wildcat strike

Direct action is not a march from point A to B

Direct action is the Gulabi Gang
Direct action is not a symbolic protest

UKuncut activists outside Nick Clegg's House

Direct action is fighting for ourselves

Direct action is not about the media

Direct action is not civil disobedience

Direct action is sabotage

Direct action “subscribes to notions of freedom and autonomy”

Direct action is the "normal function" of working class resistance


Sunday, 11 August 2013

Merseyside Bedroom Tax Federation: After The Storm

Repost via Infantile Disorder:

During the spring, the Merseyside Federation of Anti-Bedroom Tax Groups was formed, following weeks of frenzied activity. Neighbourhood-based groups from all across the region sent delegates to meetings in Liverpool town centre, and amidst a buzz of excitement, an anti-oppression motion was unanimously agreed.

But the trouble began when it became clear that one local anti-bedroom tax group - based in Knowsley - had strong links to notorious local fascists. Knowsley sought to join the Federation, and anti-fascists tried to raise the alarm. But at the next Federation meeting, the Knowsley application was steamrollered through by the chair, who refused to allow antifascists permission to air their concerns. The next moment I received a tweet from a jubilant Knowsley admin, threatening to take me to court for my "lies" (I'm yet to hear anything further, by the way). Following this, the Federation Twitter account published statements attacking "the anarchists", aimed at covering up the chair's undemocratic actions.

At a special meeting called to look into whether "the Federation [had] been brought into disrepute", Knowsley's affiliation application was withdrawn, and no-one from that group has attended any further meetings. In the meantime, local groups have continued doing some excellent work, but the issue of what happened at the 1st June meeting has been the elephant in the room at a federal level.

Today, over a tense and very emotional hour and a half, delegates had it out. This was prompted by a motion from one of the local groups, which called for "The activists who have made public statements attacking the Federation" (a reference to those who had called-out the behaviour of individuals within the Federation) to "withdraw them". Further, "all groups agree not to make public statements attacking the Federation or members of the Federation", and later on, "concerns or disagreements to be put in writing and discussed at a full Federation meeting and to agree with the democratic decision at that meeting".

There was lots of back and forth about the merits or otherwise of what antifascists had written in their whistleblowing blog posts, but when one speaker described the motion as "top down", and another characterised it as "policing" what individuals are doing when "we're not the state", it was agreed to amend the resolution to the following:

"The Federation is to unite in practise whenever possible and assist all groups to become bigger and stronger in fighting the bedroom tax and cuts in welfare benefit.

"To agree to a Code of Conduct. Differences should be respected, and all members have a right to express their positions and discuss in a frank, open and respectful way.

"Members should not make personal attacks. The Chairperson to pull members to order when personal attacks are made and if the person persists they be asked to leave the meeting."

The amendment was backed by a majority of three, out of eleven voting delegates. While such a margin shows there are still tensions and suspicions within the group, there was a sense that the air has been cleared somewhat, and hopes that the Federation will be able to put the infighting behind us, so we can get on with the urgent work of challenging the bedroom tax. With fascists unable to spread their divisive poison anywhere near affiliated groups, we can proceed with some confidence.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Bedroom Tax Roundup: Ring of Steel & Wirral Rally

Reposts from Infantile Disorder:

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013
Merseyside Activists Face Down Thieving Bailiffs 

Despite heavy rain, a group of Merseyside activists got together at very short notice on Wednesday morning, to face down bailiffs intent on snatching and destroying a homeless woman's belongings.

The woman - who is in her fifties and a stroke survivor - had lived at the Knowsley Housing Trust property for many years. Her husband had been killed in an industrial incident, and her children had left home, leaving her home "underoccupied" in the eyes of the government, who hit her with the bedroom tax in April, and her arrears quickly grew.

Knowsley Housing Trust evicted the woman last week. At Saturday's 'Enuf Is Enuf' event in Liverpool city centre, her daughter described how she got on her knees to beg bailiffs not to throw her out of her home. These pleas fell on deaf ears, and she was informed that she had four weeks to remove her property from the house, which was initially left tinned up with pet animals trapped inside. However, on Tuesday the woman was told the bailiffs would be coming for her things today. It was at this point she made her first contact with local anti-bedroom tax activists, and they planned to form a "ring of steel" around the door of the building.

On Wednesday morning, with "ring of steel" in place, a Knowsley Housing Trust van drove past and drove on down the road, but the bailiffs did not call. Clearly, the woman at the centre of it all is still in a desperate situation, but she is receiving solidarity from people determined to help her.

Please let Knowsley Housing Trust know what you think of their behaviour: @knowsleyhousing; 0151 290 7000,

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
Wirral Estate Rallies to Oppose Bedroom Tax 

Outside the One Stop Shop. Photo: @
Around fifty people marched from the Woodward Road estate in Rock Ferry, Wirral, to the local council One Stop Shop yesterday lunchtime, in a display of defiance against the bedroom tax. A high concentration of people on the estate are affected by one of the coalition government's most vicious domestic policies, and with the possibility of evictions looming, tenants are organising themselves to defend their homes.

The demonstration began at a quarter to twelve, and walked just over a mile to the One Stop Shop, where several residents handed in their latest appeal forms, and signed a petition. The event was entirely self-organised and stewarded by bedroom tax campaigners, with no involvement from police. It was the first Wirral demo of any kind outside of Wallasey and Birkenhead town centre in many years, and all the more remarkable for taking place during the middle of a week day.

Maybe ten people from bedroom tax campaigns across Merseyside made the journey to Rock Ferry to offer their solidarity, but the bulk of the participants were from Woodward Road - an extraordinary achievement for a grassroots community organisation. Women, men and children all played their part to make as much noise as possible, and really announced their group's existence to the rest of Rock Ferry. Some held homemade placards and banners with pride, while others blew whistles and chanted.

One particular chant - so familiar to long-time campaigners - took on a poignant new meaning in the mouths of children on their first ever demonstration. "Whose streets? Our streets!" shouted young people on the streets where they have grown up, but from which they are now threatened with removal for the crime of poverty.

When the procession reached the One Stop Shop, speeches were made appeals were handed in en masse, with staff looking quite bemused and flustered at being greeted by a demonstration at work.

In the scheme of things, fifty people at a demonstration might not seem like a lot, and indeed one passerby who uploaded photos to the 'Wirral Talk' website described it as "Very Small Bedroom Tax March". But what the photographer probably didn't realise was that this was the work of just one estate.

While most 'left' parties focus their attentions on the small proportion of the working class who are unionised, the ruling class austerity onslaught is creating whole communities who have nothing to lose from fighting back. The tragedy is that there are many other Woodward Road estates where people have yet to collectively organise, and where individuals feel desperately alone. May the growing Woodward Road resistance inspire people around Merseyside, and throughout the whole country!