‘Brick up your doors, knock down the walls’: Labour MP Frank Field makes dramatic call as 'bedroom tax' hits
The cut will reduce a claimant's housing benefit payments if their home is deemed under-occupied
A former welfare minister has delivered a dramatic appeal to landlords to take direct action against the “bedroom tax” by knocking down walls or bricking up windows in protest against housing benefit cuts.
Thousands of people will protest tomorrow against the changes, which come into force on Monday, in more than 50 demonstrations in all parts of Britain.
Further campaigns of civil disobedience are planned next month over the bedroom tax, under which people face losing up to one-quarter of their housing benefit if their home is judged to be under-occupied.
The Labour MP Frank Field urged a revival of the defiant spirit of the 17th-century when glass was replaced by brick in homes across the country in an attempt to avoid the hated “window tax” introduced to pay for the Nine Years’ War.
Mr Field said he had never witnessed a measure as “grossly unfair” as the bedroom tax in his 30 years of dealing with welfare reforms as the MP for Birkenhead.
He said: “I feel so strongly about what the Government are doing to my constituents and similarly placed constituents around the country that I call on both social housing and housing association landlords to defy the measures, not by not operating them, but by doing what landlords did after the Nine Years’ War, when a Government similarly stretched for money imposed a window tax.
“In many instances – we see it in older properties in our constituencies – landlords bricked up windows. I hope landlords will brick up the doors to spare bedrooms and, where appropriate, knock down the walls, so that the properties can safely fit the tenants. I have never before asked for direct action. I do so now because I feel the measures are grossly unfair.”
He added: “Why do I advocate for the first time direct action? I do so because the tax is so grossly unfair and is levied on some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Wicked actions require a different response from parliamentarians.”
Mr Field said: “We are trying to control the demand of people on low income to fit on with the regimented holes in which the government would like to fit them.”
Under the cut, tenants with a single unused bedroom will lose 14 per cent of their housing benefit – equivalent to about £14 a week – and 25 per cent if they have two or more unused rooms. The Government argues that its move to end what it calls the “spare room subsidy” will help to free up housing stock and give extra space to families in cramped accommodation. It will also trim the £23bn housing benefit budget by more than £500m a year.
Protests against the plan will be mounted tomorrow in more than 50 towns and cities from Plymouth to Glasgow. Organisers predict at least 13,000 objectors will support the rallies demanding a last-minute rethink by ministers.
They will be joined by Labour MPs and trade union leaders. Dave Prentis, the general secretary of Unison, said: “I can understand why landlords might be driven to take a sledgehammer to the bedroom wall and the bedroom tax. Where are the smaller homes to move to? They just aren’t available. It hits 670,000 households in April but in the whole of last year there were only 250,000 social lettings.”
The direct action group UK Uncut will next month begin a campaign of “civil disobedience” against the bedroom tax by targeting the homes of prominent people in cities including London, Sheffield and Manchester.
Anna Walker, a spokesperson for the group, said: “The effect of cuts is so dramatic on people’s lives that we really need to ramp up the resistance. We need to use every tactic available – resisting evictions, taking to the streets, building community organisations for people affected.”
In response to Mr Field’s comments in a Westminster Hall debate, Steve Webb, the work and pensions minister, said: “Two-thirds of the housing benefit bill is for social tenants and we have already cut back on the housing benefit bill for private tenants.
“In the context of needing to save money on social tenants’ housing benefit bill, not paying for spare bedrooms seems to be a place where we can find savings, subject to the crucial proviso that we protect the most vulnerable.”
He said landlords did not need to resort to wielding sledgehammers as they could simply redesignate a property as having fewer bedrooms – although they would receive smaller housing benefit payments.
- 1 Apple has installed security backdoors on 600m iPhones and iPads, claims security researcher
- 2 UK pirates will get four warning letters a year
- 3 Fight Club 2: Chuck Palahniuk sequel is a 'meta-fictional comment on the cultural response to the original'
- 4 Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?
- 5 Israel-Gaza conflict: Deadly flechette shells 'used by Israeli military in Gaza Strip’
Hacking Trial: Rebekah Brooks, Raisa and a new twist in the saga of a horse fit for a Prime Minister
Israel-Gaza conflict: Palestinian death toll now exceeds 500 – but Israel fights on
Income tax league: Revealed - the UK towns where people pay the most and least tax
Israel-Gaza conflict: Deadly flechette shells 'used by Israeli military in Gaza Strip’
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Blogger captures footage ‘showing BUK missile launcher that shot down jet’ now back in Russia
Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 crash: 'Nine Britons, 23 Americans and 80 children' feared dead after Boeing passenger jet is 'shot down' near Ukraine-Russia border
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Vladimir Putin is given 'one last chance' to end hostilities in Ukraine
The 'scroungers’ fight back: The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: Ukrainian military jet was flying close to passenger plane before it was shot down, says Russian officer
Malaysia Airlines MH17 crash: victims’ bodies bundled in black bags and loaded onto trains
Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...
Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...
£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...
£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire