Myself and four others form Birmingham Benefit Justice Campaign just had half an hour with Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham City Council, about the Bedroom Tax. It wasn't insurrounding as plush as this (the Council House), it was in a local primary school, and we were sitting on child-sized chairs.
I gave him copies of a letter people signed at a meeting we held locally the other day, asking for a no evictions policy. I've nothing against him personally; he's probably a perfectly well-meaning individual, and I wouldn't question that the Bedroom Tax is going to cause real problems for Local Authorities. I know the Poll Tax did. But he's like a spineless jellyfish; he seems to have no conception of actually taking a stand and resisting the powerful, so he always ends up giving them what they want.
He said that they're following a wait and see policy as they don't know how the situation's going to develop. That does mean no immediate evictions, but he said they will evict eventually. I think we need to go on talking, go on making nice (even if it hurts), and use that to keep the pressure on, and to ensure that we know what he's up to.
He did at least say that they've got lawyers looking at issues around bedroom size. This is a point of contention since, while the new Act fails to define a bedroom, the Housing Act 1985 specifies that it has to be 70 square feet or more. A lot of people are getting charged the tax - or, more accurately - having their Housing Benefit cut - on the basis of rooms which are smaller than that. If the courts decide that they aren't bedrooms within the meaning of the Act, councils are going to be in trouble. Some housing Associations have been reassessing bedrooms as box rooms or studies, perhaps to get round this one.