With lower numbers than expected due to a protest in Woolwich, locals from around the Tower Hamlets area gathered outside the Housing Association to make a stand against welfare reforms last Saturday. Despite the smaller turnout, the day united communities around the country to make a stand.
We spoke to some of the people there. Here’s what they said:
“This is the place from which people are told that there’s nowhere in Tower Hamlets that you can be re-housed and actually you’re going to have to go to Northampton or Luton or wherever. And that is happening everyday, and that’s partly why we chose to come here. Because of the bedroom tax and council housing tax, a lot of people are being evicted. We are all fighting benefit cuts and we all need to stand together and that’s why we’re all standing here today.”
Eileen, Tower Hamlets Benefit Justice Organiser
“I have a spare bedroom. A small, spare bedroom. I’ve lived where I’ve lived for 30 years. Because of ill health, I can’t move. There’s nowhere in my housing co-op with one bedroom. I’m here because it’s criminal what the government are doing. It’s a huge swathe on honorable, hardworking people.
“We need to get the message out to the people that they are not alone, and get them on the streets. The Tories will realise that though we are not well-off, or are ill or disabled, we are a force to be reckoned with.
“A good judgement of society is how it treats it’s weak.”
“I’m not affected by it personally, because I’m a pensioner. But I think the big problem is that there aren’t any places for people to move to. If they’ve got an extra bedroom there’s no housing available in Tower Hamlets. We’ve got thousands of people on the waiting list.
“A woman just stopped who has two sons. She’d been waiting 8 years for a two bedroom place. It just doesn’t work because there are queues of people waiting for smaller places. They haven’t really thought it through. They don’t know the impact it’s going to have on people.
“Same with the NHS. I’m involved with trying to stop what they’re doing to the NHS as well. It all kind of fits together, like, ‘If you can get it through and people don’t realise what you’re doing to them, just get on and do it.’ The [government] don’t have any morals it seems to me. Fortunately, I’m not affected by it myself, but I can see lots of people suffering badly because of it.
“And who’s the money going to? The thing is the rents are too high – that’s the problem. If we can get the rents controlled and lowered, they wouldn’t be such a drain on the benefits. Because housing benefit pays very rich landlords a lot of money. So that’s the basic fault with it. What we need is more housing and controlled rents, and that would solve the problem. Not picking on individuals.”
Myra, 80, Protestor
“I have been out campaigning for the last three years because we have a dangerous, sociopathic group of people in charge of government.
“We need to let the people speak, but they won’t until there are massive numbers of deaths, which will happen because they are also decimating our 999 services.”
“I’ve been affected by the bedroom tax, and I will be affected by the benefit cuts. And we’ve got the council tax. So it’s going to be three – the bedroom tax, the benefit cut and the council tax.
“I can’t afford to pay it. I’m not in a position to take in a lodger. They suggested people take in a lodger. It’s not really going to solve the problem, because if you have a lodger, you’re still going to have your benefit cut anyway. There was a time when you had a network or a community. The networks now are not necessarily that safe to say I’m going to take Tom, Dick or Harry or Lucy or Jane in, because you have to think about who you’re sharing your house with.
“It’s easier to attack the weaker ones rather than the stronger ones. They need to build more housing, and not luxury flats. They need to assume that everybody who is on these benefits is NOT a lazy sit around. A lot of people are becoming unemployed and they can’t live on fresh air.
“And it doesn’t matter who you are, wherever you’re working. If you’ve worked, and you’ve paid your tax, you’re entitled to have some relief if and when you‘re not well, that’s why it was there wasn’t it?
“And when I’m saying the benefit, that goes down to the NHS and the Fire Brigade and whatever. And they’d all be willing for us to burn in our extra bedroom. That’s what they’re trying to do if you don’t move out. But where can we go?”
by Kam Sandhu – @KamBass