Category Archives: Opinions

Food for thought and action

Scrap the Bedroom Tax Defend Council Tax Benefit Nottingham press release over City court summons to tenants


For Immediate release
Scrap the Bedroom Tax Defend Council Tax Benefit Nottingham:                                       
Cathy Meadows 07913476905
 

Local campaign group calls meeting with Nottingham City Council over bedroom tax pre-court protocol failures. 

Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Scrap the Bedroom Tax Defend Council Tax Benefits campaign have requested a meeting with Nottingham City Council as a matter of urgency amid concerns that the Council are failing to follow the pre-court protocol for tenants hit with the bedroom tax.  They are concerned that the council is not engaging with tenants who are in bedroom tax arrears, not giving them the information they need, and not trying to make arrangements with them before taking them to court.  In the most recent example a tenant who is less than four weeks in arrears and whose arrears have been decreasing since January, has received a court summons for possession of their home from the council.

This is the second time the campaign group has requested in writing, a meeting with councillors, as well as previously making a verbal request.
 
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Notes for Editors
[1] The council are applying to the court for Possession Orders, which give them permission to evict residents who can’t keep up with Bedroom Tax and/or Bedroom Tax arrears payments.  Social housing landlords must follow a pre-court protocol.  Tenants have the opportunity to put their case at the court hearing but do not receive legal aid to fund a solicitor to represent them in court. 
 
To contact Scrap the Bedroom Tax Defend Council Tax Benefit Nottingham contact:

07521 569 622 / 0791 347 6905
defendcounciltaxbenefits@yahoo.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/#!/groups/450355785005204/
https://twitter.com/defendbenefits tweet us defendbenefits

Trade Unions Unite For Militant And Sustained General Strike Len McClusky Announces


In a genuinely historic move, every trade union in the UK has signed up to a sustained general strike against austerity which could begin in the next few days Unite leader Len McCluskey has confirmed.

Read more: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/trade-unions-unite-for-militant-and-sustained-general-strike-len-mcclusky-announces/

Nottingham Bedroom Tax Eviction Prevention Protocol does not prevent evictions but shifts blame onto the tenant – Press release (23rd Sept 2013)


For Immediate Release – 23/9/2013

Nottingham Bedroom Tax Eviction Prevention Protocol does not prevent evictions but shifts blame onto the tenant.

Contacts: Cathy Meadows 07913476905
Email: defendcounciltaxbenefits [at] yahoo.co.uk

A campaign group has criticised a new Nottingham Bedroom Tax Eviction Protocol[i] signed by social housing landlords including Nottingham City Council, saying that it will not prevent evictions, it offers nothing that tenants could not already access, and potentially blames tenants it they are evicted.

The report[ii] by Nottingham Defend Council Tax Benefits Campaign criticises the protocol for implying that arrears are caused by tenants’ inability to “budget”. It also refers to a UN report which says the Bedroom Tax may be a violation of human rights and the recent announcement by the Labour Party that it will abolish the Bedroom Tax, and concludes that the only acceptable solution to the social, health and monetary costs of the Bedroom Tax is for Nottingham City Council to use its position by publicly stating that it will not evict anyone because of Bedroom Tax arrears and encouraging other Nottingham social landlords to do the same.

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[i] The Eviction Prevention Protocol was signed by Nottingham City Council, Nottingham City Homes, Nottingham Community Housing Association and ASRA Housing Group on 14 September 2013.

[ii] The report is attached to email (this follows below)

Nottingham Defend Council Tax Benefits Campaign response to Evictions Prevention Protocol

Nottingham City Council, Nottingham City Homes, Nottingham Community Housing Association and ASRA Housing Group have signed up to an “Eviction Prevention Protocol” to prevent evictions caused by the Bedroom Tax.

Nottingham Defend Council Tax Benefits Campaign opposes this protocol because:
• It will not prevent evictions.
• It does not offer anything to tenants which they could not access anyway.
• It sets up tenants to be blamed when evictions occur.
• It abandons tenants who don’t “engage” when they may be the most vulnerable.
• It uses vague terms such as “engaging” with housing providers and “realistic and affordable.” payment plans, without explaining who defines these terms and what they mean (ie. what is expected from tenants).
• It puts too much emphasis on Discretionary Housing Payments (DHPs), which are temporary, limited, and discretionary.
• It presents the issue of financial hardship caused by the Bedroom Tax as an issue of budgeting, rather than the real issue, which is that people can only avoid rent arrears by using money which is meant for food, fuel, bills, clothes. This implies that if eviction occurs it is the tenant’s fault.

The protocol says housing providers will request a Discretionary Housing Payment (DHP) for every tenant suffering financial hardship who “engages” with tenancy sustainment teams.

• The term “engaging” is not explained. What exactly is expected of tenants, and who decides whether tenants are “engaging” or not? Many tenants affected by the Bedroom Tax are some of the most vulnerable people in society, who may lack the support to be able to deal with the additional stress caused by the Bedroom Tax.
• Tenants are already free to request DHPs themselves or through advice agencies and there is no guarantee that requesting a DHP will mean a tenant will receive one. Some tenants have received a DHP in repect of bedroom tax arrears while others have been refused. Furthermore, DHPs are temporary so tenants have to apply repeatedly with all the uncertainty that entails.

The agreement states that Credit Union accounts which help tenants to prioritise rent and other bills are also being offered to tenants facing court action.

• All tenants are already free to open Credit Union accounts – at a cost of 50p per month – so the agreement is not offering anything new.

The protocol states that affected tenants will be expected to set up and keep to an affordable payment plan.

• A tenant in Bedroom Tax arrears faces a weekly demand for rent which they cannot afford. The protocol does not explain how such a tenant would suddenly be able to afford a payment plan to pay off their bedroom tax debt.
• The protocol does not acknowledge that arrears would continue to accumulate since the bedroom tax is ongoing and that this would lead to eviction.

The protocol does not acknowledge the extreme emotional and monetary hardship being experienced by those households who are not yet in arrears. Households can only pay bedroom tax by cutting down on food, fuel, transport, clothes etc. We know of households who are experiencing extreme hardship and poverty – the protocol does not address this.

By emphasising budgeting, priorities and advice the protocol implies that bedroom tax arrears is caused by tenants’ inability to budget and lack of information. This is clearly not the case. Arrears are caused by tenants being asked to pay towards rent (and council tax) from living expenses meant for food, fuel, clothes, transport etc. Budgetting solutions are unsustainable and set up tenants to fail and be blamed, putting huge pressure on households and leading to evictions.

The social health and monetary costs of the Bedroom Tax, which are hitting vulnerable households, communities and the social housing sector, are unacceptable and unsustainable. A recent UN report says that the Bedroom Tax may be a violation of human rights, and the Labour Party have now announced that they will abolish the Bedroom Tax. In view of this, the only effective way of protecting households from eviction is for the council to use its position to implement a no evictions policy and to encourage other social housing providers to do the same.

Nottingham Defend Council Tax Benefit Campaign calls on Nottingham City Council and all Nottingham Social Housing Providers to:

Publicly state that they will not evict anyone because of Bedroom Tax arrears.
Recall all notices of seeking possession and eviction notices relating to bedroom tax arrears.
Acknowledge that Bedroom Tax arrears are not caused by tenants inability to budget.
Use all of its DHP budget (including reserves it is permitted to use) to reduce Bedroom Tax arrears (at August 2013 only one fifth of the budget had been used).
With other social landlords and campaigners persistently explain and publicise the social and monetary costs and unsustainability of the Bedroom Tax to Central Government.
Demand that Central Government take responsibility for this policy and the potential damage to the social housing sector, by demanding it makes up the shortfall in rental income to social housing providers caused by bedroom tax arrears.
Demand that Central Government abolish the bedroom tax.

Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead – BBC won’t play it in the Chart Show but You can [music/video]


Trafalgar Square Thatcher Death Party panoramic composite photo from 13th April 2013

Previous article on Notts SOS: https://nottssos.org.uk/2013/04/10/nottingham-reacts-to-thatchers-death-photos-on-indymedia-more-street-party-events-across-the-land/

More about the ban: http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/music/news/ding-dong-bbc-refuses-to-play-margaret-thatcher-death-song-in-full-on-radio-1-chart-show-8569691.html

Nottingham reacts to Thatcher’s death – photos on Indymedia & more street party events across the lands


The latest Nottingham Indymedia feature shows smiles all around,
http://nottingham.indymedia.org.uk/articles/5565
and the festivities carried on from 5pm on Monday 8th April until 6am the following day.

UK on the day (many photos and video): http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/margaret-thatcher-dead-video-cheering-1818888

Elsewhere this week …

Leicester (yesterday): http://leicestershiresg.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/jelly-and-ice-cream-post-thatcher-party.html

Everywhere else, and London again on Saturday:

Street parties welcomed by PM


Meanwhile, Ding Dong, the Witch is Dead from the Wizard of Oz has hit no. 10 in the mid-week official charts … it currently sits at number two in the iTunes download chart and is already number one on Amazon.

Bedroom tax protext in Bootle, Merseyside shows the way + Nottingham protest on March 16th


Update 2 – Nottingham protest report and photos: http://nottingham.indymedia.org/articles/5463

Update1 – Nottingham protest announced:

Saturday, March 16, 2013.1:00pm. In Nottingham alone, 4746 families will be affected by the Bedroom Tax. We oppose the Bedroom Tax in principle & in detail. Not one person should be forced to pay it. This is a peaceful demonstration to protest against the injustice of the Bedroom Tax that penalises the disabled, single parents, families of those recently deceased, foster parents and the parents of children in the army or at university: This will be a static demonstration rather than a protest march.

Twitter: @BedTaxNotts
http://www.facebook.com/events/613425092006763/

Many hundreds of people raged through the streets of Bootle, Merseyside yesterday (28th February 2013), in protest against the ‘Bedroom Tax’, which is just one month away from implementation. The ‘tax’ is actually a housing benefit cut if you have any spare rooms in a council house or other social housing. The mass demonstration had been organised by grassroots resistance group Stand Up In Bootle, which only sprang up a few weeks ago. Full story:
http://infantile-disorder.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/explosion-of-class-anger-at-bootle.html

Meanwhile Nottingham City Council have mounted a petition to central government against the tax, a move that is being backed by the local voluntary sector: http://www.nottinghamcvs.co.uk/news/article/nottingham-cvs-backs-campaign-re-think-bedroom-tax

It will be interesting to see which approach is successful. Nottingham City Council have a long way to go to convince City residents it has their interests at heart, having cut many services that affect housing and homelessness over the last few years and is also poised to implement the government’s council tax benefit reform which will result in some council tax being due if you are on certain benefits.

See also: ‘Bedroom tax’ is ‘appalling’ says paediatrician:
http://www.channel4.com/news/bedroom-tax-is-appalling-says-paediatricianI

Nottingham Indymedia relaunches


It’s good to see Nottingham Indymedia has reopened publishing as of today. Over the last few years of austerity, and long before, the independent newswire has been an important source of news, comment, photographs and videos about anti-cuts activism and events in Nottingham and Notts. Most importantly it is a place where anyone can publish. Notts SOS has regularly linked to articles and features from the website. Take a fresh look and get publishing!

Co-operative stops using ATOS


ATOS kills logo
In the face of protests both on and offline, The Co-operative Group have ditched poverty pimps ATOS as their occupational health provider.

The Co-op posted the following on their facebook page this afternoon:

“Hello everyone, here is an update as promised on our occupational healthcare provider, many thanks for your patience on this matter.

The Co-operative Group can confirm that a robust procurement process considering, amongst other factors, cost, operational efficiency and geographical capability is currently underway for our occupational health services provider. Having been scored against an agreed set of parameters and against other bidders, Atos Healthcare have not progressed to the later rounds of that process and our intention is to have a new provider in place when the current contract terminates.”

Source 14/1/2013: http://johnnyvoid.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/co-op-ditch-atos-keep-up-the-pressure-it-works/

Action against ATOS in Nottingham:

Nottingham Defense Campaign: http://nottingham.indymedia.org/groups/nottingham-defence-campagin

‘Too much of this sort of thing’ Atos Two pamphlet: http://nottingham.indymedia.org/zines/2548

The subject of ATOS is currently receiving House of Commons debate:

Hansard: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201213/cmhansrd/cm130117/debtext/130117-0002.htm#13011761000001

Guardian 17/1/2013 Atos comes under attack in emotional Commons debate: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2013/jan/17/atos-attack-emotional-commons-debate

A note about Council Tax Benefit ‘Consultations’ in Nottingham


As noted by NCC Lols Friday, 2 November 2012.

NCC’s consultation exercise on its replacement for Council Tax Benefit is now over. As such, they now deem it safe to respond to the questions I asked at the consultation event I went to in Bulwell, as I can no longer use the info to come up with clever-arsed objections to their ideas.

Full story: http://ncclols.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/better-late-than-never-not-much.html

Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Defend Council Tax Benefit Campaign


Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Defend Council Tax Benefit Campaign’s
have responded to Nottingham City Council’s and Bassetlaw District
Council’s local council tax scheme consultations.

They have condemned the proposals which include 20% cuts or more for
many council tax claimants, an end to backdating, and a lowering of
savings limits.

They also say the proposals are unworkable, too costly to run and
divisive because they are separating claimants, who are already
identified as in need under the current scheme, into the deserving and
non-deserving.

The campaign group, who have researched the proposed changes, explain
their objections in detail in a letter and say that if local councils
do not fight to retain the existing scheme, it is likely that the
government will cut the budget further. The group have offered to
fight alongside the Council if they are prepared to fight to retain
the existing Council Tax Benefit scheme.

To get involved or contact the campaign:

Email defendcounciltaxbenefits@yahoo.co.uk
Phone/text 07521 569 622

See consultation letters in Word and PDF:

Consultation letter Nottingham City Council [Word format]
Consultation letter Bassetlaw [Word]

Consultation letter Nottingham City Council [PDF]
Consultation letter Bassetlaw [PDF]