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by Matthew Varnham

MSOIn anticipation of the nation-wide sleep-out, where thousands of campaigners are expected to turn to the streets of over 60 cities across the country, tents have been pitched on the grass of Leicester Town Hall Square. The move comes as groups across the country have decided to assemble and openly reject the so called bedroom tax which has already claimed its first victim through suicide. [1]

Daniel Ashman of the tented occupation notes; “Like communities all over the country members that form the community of Leicester have decided to assemble to openly reject the bedroom tax and it’s inevitable consequences. In the next few months people on the breadline are due to be evicted because they can’t afford to cover the cost of this malicious policy. A policy that will see families, people with disabilities and the elderly suffer the distress and indignity of being forcibly removed from their established home.”

He continues “Those who have brought in this policy, supposedly to free up houses for larger families are ignoring the fact that affordable social housing has been neglected for decades. The smaller sized social housing does not necessarily exist.”

His comments come as Commons Library figures indicate that implementation of the hated tax will in fact cost the taxpayer an extra £1.5 billion. [2]

Whilst Canterbury council acknowledge the injustice of the tax and have assured effected tenants that the effects of the tax will be ‘mitigated,’ [3] Labour run Leicester City Council are yet to announce their position. The controversial tax has already led to counsellor resignations in Wellingborough [4] and Ludlow. [5]

Mr Ashman claims a fear that “As things stand it appears that Leicester Council will be among the councils that will be evicting some of the most vulnerable  members in our community.”

Commenting on the Council’s planed cuts to provisions for the homeless by nearly half [6] he continues “The benefits cap, rising private rent, the increase in energy prices, the criminalisation of squatting, the prevalence of zero hour contract and the lack of jobs mean that more people than ever are vulnerable  to  homelessness. Across the country we have seen the rise of food banks and an increase in rough sleeping by a third since 2010. This is worst in London where the Government ‘s own figures indicate that 6,437 people slept rough between 2012-13, a 62% rise in 2 years. [7] We must limit not exasperate the avenues to homelessness. For these reasons we oppose the planned cuts to hostel provisions for the most vulnerable people in our community. We consider it to be  political cowardice and not in the public interest. We wish the Council to continue Leicester’s proud legacy in providing the most comprehensive provision in the country for those who need it. We must provide an avenue so people can journey to attain a higher quality of life no matter how difficult it has become. A fundamental tenant of that is having access to shelter and a bed.”

The tented occupation is set to remainuntil Tuesday with organisers inviting those who support their action to come to the Town Square and get involved. The Facebook group set up for the action indicates that 57 people are so far due to attend with attendees being called to “bring a sleeping bag, home made banter, some food and a smile.” [7]

[1] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bedroom-tax-suicide-stephanie-bottrills-2106302

[2] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/bedroom-tax-costing-more-saves-2214198

[3] http://democracy.canterbury.gov.uk/moderngov/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=138&MId=9139&Ver=4

[4] http://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/top-stories/wellingborough-tory-councillor-resigns-over-bedroom-tax-1-5365069

[5] http://www.shropshirestar.com/news/politics/2013/05/31/ludlow-town-councillors-resign-in-protest-over-new-mayor/

[6] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leicestershire-22159277

[7]  http://news.sky.com/story/1124291/homeless-more-young-people-sleeping-rough

[8] https://www.facebook.com/events/194036830762523/?ref=2


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