Protesters from Little Hulton and Walkden Against The Bedroom Tax demonstrated outside City West's housing office in the Little Hulton District Centre this afternoon, before taking the protest inside, chanting `Axe, Axe The Bedroom Tax' when managers wouldn't come out to meet them.
Organisers from the anti-Bedroom Tax group had handed in a short list of questions to managers yesterday, including `Why can't you re-classify properties? If not why not? Can tenants have a guarantee of no evictions if they fall behind with the rent?' And `What support are you offering for tenants in this difficult period?'
"We expected to get answers today as we gave them notice" said Paul Gerrard "But they've just ignored it completely. Instead they said they will meet any tenants next Thursday at a time and place yet to be decided."*
Little Hulton is the third hardest hit area in Salford for residents affected by the Bedroom Tax (see here) and everyone present on the protest had a story to tell about how the Tax would ruin their lives, including Gail Tyldesley, auntie of Coronation Street's Catherine Tyldesley…
"This Government should be looking after its people instead of picking on the vulnerable and the most needy, they're taking money off them" she said "I've been in my house 37 years and I'm not just going to move anywhere. We should be allowed to have our grandchildren to stay and not have to pay for it. Is Mr Cameron going to pay for all his spare bedrooms? I don't think so!
Gail has now been hit with a £22 a week penalty for having two spare bedrooms…
"I am looking for a smaller place but I looked on the Homefinder site last night and there's just five flats, like bedsits, that fit my category" she explains "So where are these places that people are supposed to go to? I want somewhere where my grandchildren can come and play if I can't stay in that house."
Jean Mellor attended the protest to support her friend Amanda Holland who was also present… "She's in a four bedroom house, has got three spare rooms and is being charged £29 a week. She's on Employment Support Allowance and only gets £64 a week to live on. It's disgusting. Where are they going to put everybody? It's ridiculous."
Another woman, Ms Hatswell, is also in a four bedroom house with one spare room as two of her four children have now moved out. She can't get anyone to swap a four bedroom for a one bedroom house…
"Who wants a four bed house?" she asked "I've asked them to move me plenty of times and it's been ignored because I've got arrears. They say `Look on the Homefinder site' but there's nothing there. I've got the arrears and now I've got to pay the Bedroom Tax as well, so how am I going to pay them both?"
Her sentiments were echoed by Alan Kenny… "We're all in the same boat and they should be thinking about the vulnerable people having to come out of their own home because of the Bedroom Tax. There's people on low incomes who can no longer afford to pay their way as it is. It shouldn't be the way."
Indeed, as the reality dawns people are getting more angry, that it's those least able to afford to pay more who are getting hit the hardest, rather than the bankers who caused the economic slump or politicians with huge tax payer funded homes…
"These are poor people who are the victims; they're trying to get on in life and are not bothering anyone – why are they picking on them?" said Mr English "I'm here because what is going on is out of order. At the end of the day there's people living in houses that they've lived in for years, and they can't be expected to give them up just because they've got a spare room.
"Places are hard to find now so why should they move out of places where they are part of the community?" he added "I've got an aunty who was working for years but injured her leg and she can't work. She's got a two bedroom house and they're telling her she's got to move. It's out of order and we have to sort this out ourselves."
The people who attended the protest in Little Hulton are just the tip of the Bedroom Tax iceberg, and all agreed that, as the reality of the Tax dawns on more and more people, the protests in Salford and beyond can only grow.
"We're here today because a lot of Salford is getting battered by the Bedroom Tax" said Terry Simmons of Little Hulton and Walkden Against The Bedroom Tax "City West are one of the main social housing providers in the city. We've asked them questions about reclassifying and evictions. If they don't give us positive answers we will fight them."
Those answers, positive or negative, will come next Thursday when City West will hopefully face up their tenants. However, tenants shouldn't get their hopes up.
When asked by the Salford Star whether the social housing company will reclassify homes, its spokesman stated "Reclassification of properties is one of a number of options that we have explored with our partners…however, we would only expect this to be viable in exceptional circumstances."
For full details see earlier Salford Star article `Will Salford Reclassify Homes?' – click here
UPDATE 27th April
* The meeting with City West tenants will take place at the housing company's office in Little Hulton at 1:00pm on Wednesday 1st May. All welcome.
Photos by Steven Speed