Councillor Richard Mallander and candidate Katharina Boettge are among the Green Party people in this photo taken at Nottingham’s Anti-Bedroom Tax protest yesterday. Other party members were circulating, mingling and sharing leaflets about real alternatives to the cuts. Simon Hales and myself were stewards for the event, helping to ensure safety for those taking part. As this tax targets children and those with disabilities, young families and people with mobility and sight problems were in the crowds. People came in support of others. One little girl told me proudly that her Sylvanian family bunnies were ready to protest with banners against the bedroom tax she made for them herself. Nottingham Pensioners Action Group (NPAG) were out in force as people from different organisations and none joined to say ‘no’ to those least able to pay and least to blame for the financial troubles being expected to pay most. From the far left to centre, old hats and new faces stood shoulder to shoulder. Human stories were shared by a mix of speakers from all backgrounds and ages. Hundreds more local people joined in online, many with limited mobility or issues of transport and our crowded speaker’s corner. Many thousands more gathered across the country. Newscasters as far as Russia have picked up on protests.
‘Spare room tax’ is deceptive. Children of the same sex under 16 or different sexes under 10 would have to share rooms. This suggests a child’s bedroom is an unoccupied or ‘spare’ room according the government. Children, it appears, do not count as individuals. Public and inter-party pressure and rulings in which government plans have been found in contravention of basic rights set out by the Human Rights Convention, have lead to some concessions. These have been for the severely disabled, and foster families housing one vulnerable child, and for the rooms of those away in armed forces. Definitions of severely disabled are still contentious, particularly given the farce of ATOS reform. Many disabled children will still have to share rooms as will so many other children. People needing care assistance will still have troubles. Foster families offering sanctuary to more than one bedroom’s worth of children will still be penalised for their service to community. Bereaved families will still have to move or make further choices over such things as food or heating on their decreased income. Single parents often working part-time while supporting children will be under increased risk of homelessness. Calls for people to be moved to other areas for social housing I have heard from some quarters would further fundamentally undermine families, communities, schooling and the large parts of society and economy reliant on part-time employees and volunteers. Such actions would over-burden the jobs markets, resources and populations of some areas while devastating others, with the ridicule of empty homes and people without shelter.
Poverty and homelessness, particularly in families and young people, is already escalating at alarming pace. See charities and social enterprises like Shelter, Save The Children and Gateway for Families for further information, or follow BBC, Guardian and other media. This is before council tax changes and bedroom tax comes in. With virtually no smaller social housing properties and no rent control in private landlord market, this will be an expensive failure, resulting in more vulnerable people hungry, cold and increasingly without homes while costing ‘the tax payer’ more in housing benefit in unregulated private market, in adaption of new homes for those with mobility problems, in litigation for human rights violation and in decreasing ability to work in those thousands whose fragile physical and mental health is further threatened by these ‘reforms’.
Many people are called such offensive names as ‘scrounger’ or ‘sponger’ and a waste of good tax payers’ money. People relying on help from housing benefit include pensioners who have worked all their lives. They include many people who often do work but require help because they are also doing the vital work of raising children. They include carers. They include the vast swathes of people made redundant by public service cuts and companies shedding jobs despite multinationals remaining in profit and able to avoid paying tax. These multi-national corporations are often even further subsidized by government. The people affected by this tax and other cuts include vulnerable people temporarily or permanently unable to work through accident or illness. In those people’s eyes who see spongers as the norm among those facing poverty,a waste of all the good tax payers’ money does not seem to include the tax breaks for millionaires, the billions in bonuses still given to high level bankers for making the same risky transactions that played a great part in the present economic insecurity, despite our taxes bailing out those banks. Waste of good tax payers’ money does not appear to include the taxes used for second and third homes for MPs, often costing in the millions, sometimes under 20 miles from each other. Good tax-payers’ money to some seems not to be wasted subsidizing billion dollar oil companies or financing more weapons of mass destruction. To these misguided individuals wandering into the fog of derisive and divisive anti-poor or undeserving poor rhetoric, it is a waste of all those good tax-payers’ money to ensure a child has their own bedroom, that pensioners are warm and well, that families have homes, that people with disabilities have the basic care they need for human dignity, that students can go and learn to be the next doctors, scientists, economists, artists, thinkers, leaders of enterprise etc with a room at home to return to as they pay back huge loans for fees. They cannot see that such taking away of basics for survival means there are those coerced to stay with abusive partners by this tax. Domestic abuse, depression and indeed rates of suicide are on the rise.
Economically, it makes better sense to tax people who can actually pay. Socially it makes sense to ensure there are enough proper long-term living wage jobs for people ( not including zero hours contracts or enforced unpaid labour) before blame is thrown at those without paid work. Ethically it makes sense to honour the work of parents, of those in the voluntary sector and others making a contribution to society not directly measured in pounds and pence. The Green Party heralds economic and social strategy that places resilience, stability, sustainability and increased equality over the boom and bust cycle chasing growth at all costs. For those who prefer more conventional economics of chasing the next boom phase, I offer the damning recent Moody Report and the words of John Maynard Keynes: ‘The boom, not the slump, is the right time for austerity at the Treasury’. However, The Green Party distrusts GDP as the sole or primary indicator of wealth and well-being when it does not encompass measurements of gaps between the richest and poorest or of basic living conditions. Ultimately, subtracting more and more from people with the least leaves us all in the negative in every sector of society and economy. There is an alternative and The Green Party is part of it.
Photos from across the Nation of Demos yesterday:
Introduction to Alternative Economics; beyond the boom & bust:
http://www.greenparty.org.uk/news-archive/3493.html – Green Party and The Green New Deal
http://www.greeneconomics.org.uk – founded by Green Councillor Miriam Kennet
Examples of Human Rights Action taken Against the manner of Government Cuts :