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Protesters’ fury over bedroom tax
PROTESTERS gathered in Weymouth to campaign against a controversial welfare reform.
Dozens stood at Weymouth and Portland Borough Council offices on North Quay to voice their opposition to bedroom tax.
The reform, also known as the under-occupancy penalty, is due to take effect in April.
Under the new system, people considered to have a spare bedroom in their council or housing association home will have their benefits cut.
Protest organiser Michael McManus said it will affect hundreds of people in Dorset and the rest of the country.
He said: “We want the government to listen to the people who they are hurting and who will be upset by this.
“There are hundreds in Dorset and we’ve got people coming from out of the county as well. So many people will be affected by this.”
He added: “The government is putting this tax on people’s bedrooms, it’s not housing benefit cuts it’s basically a tax.
“They are actually not giving you what you need to live on, it’s mental.
“How many one-bedroom properties are there in Dorset? There are people who want to live in them but there are not enough available.
“There are a lot of questions to be answered.”
Mother-of-two Rachel McGarvey said she will be more than £50 worse off each month, which is money she can’t afford.
She said: “I’ve got two sons, one is disabled and because they are both under 16 they are supposed to share.
“It’s going to cost another £53 a month for the third bedroom that we need, I don’t even know how I will find that money.
“The room is tiny, it’s such a small space, what really upsets me is that I was in a two-bedroomed property which was actually bigger than the three-bedroomed one I’m in now.”
A Facebook group set up by Mr McManus has attracted almost 300 supporters in the first two days of going online.
The protest is part of larger marches in cities across the country against the tax, which are taking place on March 30.
Mr McManus said he is not affected personally by the policy, but many of his family and friends will be.
He said: “They are targeting vulnerable people, those who are disabled or recovering from illness.
Some people find it difficult to stand up for themselves. It’s important that we all speak out about it.”
For more information about the protest, search Dorset Bedroom Tax on Facebook.
Policy a fairer approach to benefits
THE bedroom tax policy is part of the Welfare Reform Act 2012.
It will restrict housing benefit to allow for one bedroom for each person or couple, with the exception of children under 16, who are expected to share, and where there is an overnight carer for a disabled person, who will be allowed an extra bedroom.
The change has been highly criticised by the Labour Party, but the Coalition believes the policy will create a fairer approach to benefits.
According to the National Housing Federation, the cut to housing benefit will be 14 per cent for one extra bedroom and 25 per cent for two or more extra bedrooms, and those affected are expected to lose around £15 per week.
In Weymouth, a two-bedroomed Synergy property is rented at an average of £87.59 per week, with a three-bedroom averaging £94.49 per week.
‘Hold the government to account’
COUNCILLOR Mike Byatt turned out in support of the protesters.
He said: “As a Labour councillor I’m upset about what the government is doing and I went to the protest because people affected by this need every bit of support they can get.
“They are the ones experiencing the outcomes of policy.
“The government is actually hurting people locally and all over the country.
“It’s not fair and the government needs to be held to account for what they are doing.”