Thousands of activists protested in 52 towns across Britain on Saturday demanding the government axe a new "bedroom tax". The 'tax' will cut the amount of benefit that people can get if they are deemed to have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home. This measure will apply from April 2013 to tenants of working age.
The power to do this is contained in the Welfare Reform Act 2012 and is commonly referred to as the bedroom tax, size criteria or under-occupation penalty.
Under the tax people may lose £728 a year. The size criteria in the social rented sector will restrict housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple living as part of the household, with the following exceptions:
- Children under 16 of same gender expected to share
- Children under 10 expected to share regardless of gender
The ConDem austerity measure is expected to affect 660,000 people (31% of existing working-age housing benefit claimants in the social sector) when it comes into effect next month, although exemptions were announced last week for approved foster carers and parents with "adult children" serving with the armed forces.
The exemptions announced last week by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, are seen by many as an attempt to defuse protests by making concessions which whilst important do not address the funadmental injustice of the measure.
The biggest marches took place in Liverpool and Manchester, with more expected in London, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Cardiff on March 30.
In Scotland around 200 trade union and community campaigners challenged delegates and party leaders at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference in Dundee to bin the bedroom tax.
STUC general secretary Grahame Smith faced up to Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie across the metal barrier at the rally outside the conference, telling him the policy was "iniquitous."
Mr Rennie claimed the tax was "tough but necessary."
In Saturday afternoon's emergency debate on the vile policy conference delegates voted overwhelmingly against imposing it. This was seen as a slap in the face for leader Nick Clegg and his Scottish crony Danny Alexander who had visited conference on Friday. As with other policies Liberal Democrat leaders are expected to ignore the opinions of their grassroots.
Pat Harrington, General Secretary of Solidarity, commented: "The bedroom tax is deeply unfair. It will hurt those who are most vulnerable. It is yet another example of how this cabinet of millionaires are detached from and unconcerned with the interests of ordinary people. I hope that the widest possible opposition will unite against the bedroom tax."