"We've now got the Bedroom Tax coming in and a £14 a month rent increase to live in a slum."
We're sat in the café at the Langworthy Cornerstone, and part time worker Paul Hudson is listing the extra money he's going to have to find in a few weeks time, thanks to welfare cuts by both the ConDem Government and Salford City Council. It's horrific.
"…Well there's £14 a week Bedroom Tax…that's £56 per month…plus a £14 per month Salix rent increase…that's £70…and I've lost most of my Council Tax benefits too because of the amount that I earn, so I will have to probably find the remaining £42 per month to pay… that's a total of…
We're running out of fingers…
"…£112 per month" he decides "I only earn £125 a week."
"At the moment my part time work pays for myself and helps me tick over, barely, but I can't afford to pay that" Paul explains "This will leave me with a few pounds a week to live on. At this point in time I don't know how I'm going to cope.
"I did say to a man from Salix the other day that I could see myself going to food banks in the near future to eat, because once I've paid gas, electricity and everything else I really don't know how I'm going to buy food. That is the real honest truth of the matter" he adds "At the end of the day you can go and buy the food but you can't cook it because there's no gas or electricity, or you can have gas electricity but no food. It can some weeks, literally, be one or the other."
The shocking thing is that Paul has done everything he's supposed to do to get out of poverty. He's fought his way off the dole and into part-time work. Yet he's still getting shafted from all sides, with the Bedroom Tax the biggest blow…
"Having a spare bedroom and working part time I'm going to be expected to find an extra £14 a week out of my part time earnings to pay for that supposed bedroom" Paul says "If I wasn't working it would have been taken out of my benefits but with me working it doesn't get paid to Salix, so I'm going to have to find that £14 a week out of my wages to pay direct to them.
"Yet I didn't ask for a two bedroom property ten years ago, when I moved in; I would have been more than happy with a one bedroom" he explains "But ten years ago there was a distinct lack of one bedroom social housing in Salford and that hasn't changed. It's steadily got worse."
Paul has asked to be moved into a one bedroom flat but, because he's got rent arrears, through being in poverty, Salix Homes, he says, won't help him… "and the other answer they gave was that there is a lack of one bedroom social housing properties within Pendleton and the Salford area anyway."
What is more, the flat that Paul is living in at Spruce Court is, as he describes it, a damp and draughty "slum" that doesn't meet the Decent Home Standard. Spruce Court was supposed to be refurbished as part of the Pendleton PFI regeneration but it's way behind schedule and, as the Salford Star revealed last week (see here), it has stalled again…
"If the wind and rain are going the wrong way it can be damp and draughty and horrible, and if I was to heat the property the way I want to heat it, it would probably cost me £50-£60 a month" Paul explains "At the moment I spend around £30 a month heating it, and that allows me to have the heating on for two hours a day.
"I've got an extra duvet but it's something I've got used to" he adds "Every year you're told `Next year it will be sorted out'… and now, ten years on, nothing's happened. And we've now got the Bedroom Tax coming in and a £14 a month rent increase to live in a slum."
While Salix Homes is telling its tenants that there are no one bedroom properties, three huge towerblocks, Peach Tree, Apple Tree and Pear Tree Court, are lying empty, full of one bedroom flats, awaiting demolition as part of the Pendleton PFI scheme - which will demolish more social housing properties than it is aiming to build.
"It does seem ludicrous" Paul agrees "What they're saying is that the ones they are knocking down are not fit for purpose - but we fought to keep three concrete towerblocks [Sycamore, Mulberry and Magnolia] that they've done up; they're structurally sound and they're fit for purpose. Why couldn't that happen with the other three blocks?"
Salford Council is trying to blame all Salford's woes on the ConDem Government but Paul's case, in particular, shows that's it's a complicated poverty web that all public bodies have spun.
"Salford Council will say they are doing something by not increasing Council Tax like other councils but they've just increased the rent instead" Paul argues.
Meanwhile, Paul is stranded in a two bedroom flat waiting to get hit at the end of next month by Bedroom Tax, a Council Tax Benefit cut, a rent increase and escalating heating bills for a non-decent flat. And he's in part time work…
"To me it's an expensive job being a poor man – a very expensive job!" Paul decides "I said many months ago, when the riots happened in Salford, that it was the wrong time to protest and in the wrong form. I've come to the conclusion that the only thing left to me now is to protest and take to the streets - and I shall be doing so on March 16th at Albert Square in Manchester.
"It's a case now of the Government not listening to civilised comment about this any more, so it's time for people to say `Enough is enough!'" he concludes "In my eyes the Bedroom Tax is David Cameron's Poll Tax."
See also previous Salford Star feature on the Say No To The Bedroom Tax speech at Saturday's rally against the cuts - click here