Are there Green red lines? – You bet, its time to fight the bedroom tax!

Introducing Howard Thorp

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Howard Thorp Follow @hgthorp, Cheshire, United Kingdom

I am a member of the Green Party, and the Green Party Campaigns Coordinator.

I believe in social justice, the importance of living in harmony with the environment and the economics of need – not greed. We can have thriving businesses without damaging the environment and without exploitation of working people. I believe that public services are best delivered by the public sector without the profit motive. Views expressed here are my own.

Since the general election in 2010 the Coalition government has been waging class war against the people of the UK. In his ’emergency’ budget in 2010 Chancellor George Osborne inflicted £81 billion of austerity cuts on the poorest and most vulnerable people in our country, including the low paid, the unemployed and disabled people. Women have been disproportionately hit by these cuts and 700,000 public sector workers have lost or will lose their jobs as a result. And all this after those very people helped to bail out the banks and financial capitalism with their hard earned taxes.

We are told that the purpose of the austerity cuts is to ‘reduce the deficit’ and save the economy. But that is a lie, and austerity hasn’t reduced the deficit. The real aim of austerity is to use the economic crisis to destroy the welfare state, and privatize the NHS and public services for the benefit of capitalists and their corporations. Austerity is working, and working very well for the richest, who are gaining wealth whilst living standards for the rest of us have fallen. Austerity is class war. Those who have read the book ‘The Shock Doctrine’, by Naomi Klein, will know that, in times of crisis, capitalists and their tame politicians use the crisis to roll back the social and economic gains made by the 99% by imposing ‘free’ market ‘policies’ such as welfare cuts, privatisation and deregulation.

In the UK, the Coalition government has tried to deflect blame for the cuts by making councils impose them at a local level. Councils have already had to impose cuts but we are now at a stage where some of the most savage cuts in benefits are being introduced, including changes to council tax and the so-called ‘bedroom tax’, affecting the disabled, unemployed and low paid. I have always opposed all of the government’s austerity cuts but now, as more and more people are becoming aware of the brutal nature of the cuts, we have reached a stage where it is possible to launch a real fightback and make the ‘bedroom tax’ into this government’s poll tax.

As far as the Green Party is concerned we have opposed the cuts from day one, and we showed in our 2010 manifesto how the crisis could be resolved without privatization or cutting public services. Our Green council in Brighton and Hove has worked hard to do its best for the local people in very difficult circumstances and has been supported by the Party. The question is – are there any red lines for our councillors? When do we reach a point where we can no longer impose austerity cuts on the poorest? The answer to that has to be now, with the advent of the ‘bedroom tax’ in a months time.

We need to resist the bedroom tax with all the peaceful democratic means at our disposal. We need to learn from the successes of UKUncut, by using protest action and direct action, including supporting victims of these benefit changes whom councils try to evict. We also need to look at all the measures that councils can use to mitigate the effects of the bedroom tax, including the re-classification of rooms in social housing. Its heartening to see that a recent meeting of B&H Green Party passed a motion on the bedroom tax, supported by our MP Caroline Lucas, which stated: “The Green Party of Brighton and Hove therefore resolves to:

1. Publicly condemn the ‘Bedroom Tax’ as an ideologically-driven attack On the least well-off in our society.

2. Request that the Convenor of the Green Group makes a clear public statement that no household will be evicted from a Brighton and Hove City Council owned home as a result of rent arrears accrued solely as a result of this cut to Housing Benefit

3. Request that the Chair of the council’s Housing Committee instructs officers accordingly.

4. Publicise this position, externally and in our own publications and websites.”

Its time for our councillors to grasp the nettle and lead the fight against this pernicious bedroom tax. If they fail to do so we will lose credibility as a Party nationally. Parties which support austerity get rightly punished by the electorate as recent elections in Europe have shown. As a Party, we have to make a breakthrough to make a real difference in UK politics. We can only do this by leading the resistance to further cuts and providing people in England and Wales with hope for the future with our positive alternatives to austerity.

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