To mark the first anniversary of the bedroom tax (1 April), the BBC commissioned an investigation.
It found 6% of tenants previously claiming (and now no longer receiving benefits for spare rooms) have moved. 28% of tenants affected have fallen into rent arrears for the first time.
The amount “saved” by the measure is at least £140 million less than predicted.
From the start it was obvious the bedroom tax was just part of a general assault on social housing and social security. There are a negligible number of one-bedroom social homes available, and so affected tenants have been forced into the expensive, unregulated private rental sector that costs more in housing benefit than any council or housing association equivalent.
The bedroom tax has become a byword for all that is cruel, arbitrary and vindictive in the government’s assault on the poor.
The fight back has had some clear victories: exemptions for the severely disabled, carers and foster parents had been dropped by the time the policy was implemented.
Since then some councils and housing associations have been forced to curtail or drop thousands of court cases.
The key fight, however, is to get councils and housing associations to adopt no-eviction policies. There have been some successes in this field but it requires the mobilisation of the labour movement in a sustained alliance with tenants. In Scotland this kind of pressure eventually yielded a no-eviction pledge from the Scottish government.
One key area of struggle is the Labour Party. Labour’s leadership did oppose the bill, but then refused to say whether they would repeal it. Relentless pressure forced Miliband into a firm commitment to repeal if elected.
However even though the Labour Party opposes the tax, Labour-run local authorities continue to enforce the policy, with few exceptions.
Saturday 5 April is a national day of action against the bedroom tax. Marches and protests are planned in many cities. We should also use these as an opportunity to discuss the next steps in the struggle and how to pressure councils and housing associations into adopting defiant no-eviction, no-implementation policies.
A start can be made by asking local Labour councillors to sign the “Councillors Against The Cuts” statement.
Victory on the bedroom tax is a real prospect if our movement gets serious about the struggle. Such a victory could turn the tide in the war being waged against the working class. Let’s make sure this policy doesn’t see a second anniversary.