Tory welfare minister Lord Freud is determined to punish some of the poorest people in Britain for living in homes that are supposedly too big for them.
His “bedroom tax” could plunge almost 100,000 people into poverty.
But Freud himself hasn’t just got some spare bedrooms—he has a spare mansion.
He also has a four bedroom £1.9 million London pad. Twelve bedrooms, then, for just one former banker and his wife.
Yet when separated dad Graeme Fair argued with Freud on a radio call-in that his spare room was for his children’s weekend visits, he was told they had to stay on the sofa.
Freud told another caller, Janine Moxon, to get a lodger if her 16 year old son joins the army. But she pointed out, “That’s against the rules of my housing association”.
Disabled people in relationships will be penalised for having adapted rooms and parents will be hit if their children go to university.
Thousands could lose their homes for being poor in areas where there aren’t any one bedroom social homes available.
Freud, who retired early thanks to his banking fortune, is also gunning for workers who can’t get enough hours. Around one million people will receive regular texts from job centres because, although they work, they could work longer.
They will even be threatened with losing the new universal credit benefit.
Freud says this is will “reduce benefit dependency” and “make work pay”—the latest addition to government rhetoric that pits “strivers” against “skivers”.
But people are determined to fight back against his new benefits onslaught.
More than 30 local and national organisations campaigning around benefits met in London on Saturday of last week to pool their resources for a united campaign.
Shirley Frost is a tenants’ association secretary and member of Defend Council Housing in Sheffield. She told Socialist Worker, “We’ve been campaigning around housing for years. Now the issue of benefits has made people’s position really precarious.
“Every day I see people impoverished by benefits sanctions. The government tries to divide people to distract attention away from themselves, but 60 percent of claimants are in work.
“Rents are high and wages are low—what do they want people to do?”
Other organisations include the Unite and PCS unions, Disabled People Against Cuts and many local campaigns.
They are planning to target ministers in February.
“There is some anger, and it’s growing,” said Shirley. “I was in the thick of it with the poll tax. Now we’ll send a clear message to the government that we won’t submit, we can’t pay and we won’t pay.”