Around 50 people took part in Thursday night’s Bedroom Tax protest in St Helen’s Square, before the Council debated its report on the York Housing Crisis petition. Councillors arriving for the night’s Full Council session were greeted with placards and chants, and a short rally followed. As the council meeting got underway, Assembly member and York Housing Crisis campaigner Chris Fuller addressed councillors in a speech which you can watch on Youtube.
The protest was addressed by Ben Drake, who as UNISON Secretary, represents housing staff at the council. He conveyed their anger at being forced to implement policies like the Bedroom Tax. Green Councillor Dave Taylor reported on his group’s attempt to get a similar concession from the Labour group in the summer, to no avail.
Chris talked about the bedroom tax as a punishment on the poorest and most vulnerable and also took the opportunity to demand controls on spiralling private rents and a national program of new council houses. Of particular concern are those who, whilst paying their rent up to date, are falling prey to loan sharks or building arrears in other areas such as Council Tax, for which support has also been cut.
Later during the meeting, when councillors came to discuss the petition and a report written in response to it, the controlling Labour group were unable to offer any reassurances that proceedings wouldn’t be started against people who are in arrears.