Protest against bedroom tax takes to the streets of Bath
Dozens of protesters gathered outside the Guildhall in Bath this afternoon to express their opposition to the so-called bedroom tax.
Changes to housing benefit legislation due to come into effect from next month will mean people living in social housing who are deemed to have too much living space having their payments cut.
The Bath Bedroom Tax protest was organised by local residents Vicky Drew, Kath O'Connor and Sam Baldwin, and coincided with more than 30 others taking place around the country.
Around 75 people turned up to add their support to the campaign, holding up banners and signs and shouting slogans against the new legislation.
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Ms Drew said: “The Department for Work and Pensions itself has admitted that 31 per cent of social housing tenants will be affected, two thirds of whom will have a disabled family member living in the property.
“People are living in fear and dread of this cruel policy".
Tracy Marsden from Bath said she was now worried for the future and would have to drastically reduce her already tight budget in a bid to make ends meet.
“I have just lost some hours at work and claim a little housing benefit but now on top of that I am going to have to pay out more.
"I will have no money left.
“That is why I am here – what can I do? What am I supposed to do?”
Other protesters, who didn’t want to be named, said there was a shortage of smaller homes to move into and that, even if they could downsize, the process was far from simple as they would have to bid for properties, which could take months.
They also said they lacked the funds to cover moving costs.
Denise Stainer from Combe Down moved into her two-bedroom home in 2004 after it was allocated by Somer Housing, now Curo.
The 41-year-old, who is a wheelchair user and in constant pain from fibromyalgia and disc damage, now says she faces a stark choice – food or rent.
She said: “When you have a chronic pain condition, you have to keep the place warm and my gas and electric bills are already £110 a month and I can’t pay any more.
“I was offered that house because at the time they had a different system, you were allocated a property and you took what you were given but now the system has changed and you have to bid for properties.
“Adaptations have been made to my house (to help her get around easily) and I am worried; I wouldn’t like to have to move, I have made friends and joined the church and have a garden for my dog.
“It is the longest I have ever lived in a place, I had a very unsettled childhood and moved around a lot.
“David Cameron doesn’t understand living on a budget because most of the Government are rich and worth millions and don’t have to worry about the cost of things.”
The protest was also attended by a number of private householders who won’t be affected by the move but still wanted to protest at what they believe is an unfair tax.
Brian Green and his eight-year-old son Joseph, from Bear Flat, braved the rain to add their support.
Mr Green said: “It is a tax on vulnerable people and I think it is despicable, it won’t work and will cost more to administer than it saves.”
Opponents also took the protest to the streets of Bath, heading past the abbey down to SouthGate before heading up Stall and Union streets to Queen Square.
Under the changes people will be assessed for the amount of bedrooms they need and can either make up the rent themselves or move into smaller accommodation.
The Government has already announced some changes to the new legislation after protests, with foster carers and families of those in the armed forces now exempt.
Pensioners are also exempt, while families with severely disabled children can also claim exemption if their children cannot share a room.
The new rules allow one bedroom for each adult or couple.
Children under the age of 16 are expected to share, if they are the same gender. Those aged under ten are expected to share whatever their gender.