At the first meeting, there was a lengthy discussion of the state of affairs round the country. The campaign is patchy, but in some places progress has been made, and the results are being seen in the trickle of councils committing themselves to no-eviction policies. Significant protests have been held in some cities, but there's no consistent picture. People are finding a lot of public support for the campaign.
We need to put pressure on the Labour Party; if they can be persuaded to commit themselves to repealing the tax, that will then put pressure on every Labour council across the country to institute a no evictions policy. Once the Bedroom Tax is eventually defeated, we can't just go home like we did after the Poll Tax campaign; there are too many othe issues we also need to tackle.
Some ates were set:
Sunday 29th September : TUC March on Tory Party Conference - Manchester
From October 4th - Bedroom Tax - The TRAINing Day.
Leafletting and stalls outside rail stations across the UK.
Saturday 26th October: National Day Of Action Against The Bedroom Tax
After a break, we moved to a bigger room for a session with Raquel Rolnik. She began by explaining her role. She's a former government minister from Brazil, working for the UN on a voluntary basis. She visits two countries a year, looking at housing issues, and is completely independent. She asks the government to invite her and the protocol is that they then do so. She prepares her report, and gives it to the UN General Assembly. Her preliminary report was given today, and despite Grant Shapps' spluttering over its contents, the procedure appears to have been followed properly, with the knowledge and cooperation of the government. Shapps' letter of complaint to the UN can be seen here. She spent a fortnight in the UK, visiting various cities to collect evidence. Written evidence may still be sent to her at firstname.lastname@example.org , until 26 October.
A series of people then gave their testimony. What we heard was terrible, but no different from what I've been hearing over the last few months. they were videoed, so rather than attempt to summarise them, I'll give the Youtube links; 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15. There doesn't seem to be a Number 7. The stories are horrific, and well worth watching. Ms Rolnik's extremely forthright response is here:
She says that there is a retrogression of human rights in the area of housing; we're going backwards, and that the governent's housing stimulus will do nothing to alleviate the need. The Bedroom Tax should be stopped immediately.
When it's finished throwing its dummy out of the pram, the government will no doubt ignore the report. However, it's getting extensive cover in the Press, and won't be forgotten; htere's a good article in the Guardian, for instance. It's very much to be hoped that judges here will take it into account when considering Bedroom Tax cases, and it should make it easier to get the Labour Party to commit to repeal. Other countries are expected to take notice of UN findings, and Britain should not be an exception.
EDIT: This post on Grant Shapps' complaint includes Ms Rolnik's preliminary report. We need to campaign for all of this - not just the reccommendatin regarding the Bedroom Tax - to be implemented.