Nationwide protests against Bedroom Tax downplayed by BBC

By staff writers
16 Mar 2013

Some 17,000 people across Britain have taken part in demonstrations against the government’s controversial ‘Bedroom Tax’ this weekend.

Protests were organised simultaneously at 1.00pm in 52 towns and cities across the country on Saturday 16 March, with more to follow on 30 March.

Tenants and their supporters have expressed their opposition to "cruel and unfair" deductions to housing benefits as a result of a so-called 'under-occupation penalty'.

Critics have dubbed the policy, due to come into effect at the beginning of April, 'the Bedroom Tax', to the chagrin of Prime Minister David Cameron.

Organisers of Saturday's demonstrations said that "this is just the beginning" of opposition to the government's repeated targeting of low income households for cuts and restrictions.

But there has been anger on the part of some protesters that the BBC has chosen to downplay the campaign, claiming that demonstrations had taken place in "at least 10 towns and cities", when the true figure was five times that number.

The Corporation also re-dubbed the events "Housing benefit change protests" in its online report, and reduced the demonstrations to an insignificant mention on its Saturday evening news - preferring instead to concentrate on a speech by David Cameron at a Conservative Party spring conference.

"You wonder if the Beeb is under behind-the-scenes pressure from the government, given its feeble coverage of bedroom tax protests, lack of critical reporting on the NHS crisis, lack of interest in the real impact of savage welfare cuts, and failure to probe workfare sufficiently," one protester claimed to Ekklesia.

Under the bedroom tax deduction, social housing tenants of working age who receive housing benefit will have their payments cut if they have one or more 'spare bedrooms' - though critics point out that the definition of 'spare' is narrow and contentious.

Equally, the government knows that finding alternative accommodation for the many hit by the tax will be impossible or unfeasible, say analysts.

Two days ago, reported Inside Housing magazine, some 7,500 members of Facebook had said they would attend the protests on Saturday with an additional 3,200 people having said they would attend protests in London and Glasgow on Sunday 30 March. Direct pledges are running at 16,000, with another 9,000 or more family members possibly ready to join in.

Dr Éoin Clarke, editor at Labour Left, which has helped organise the protests through social media, told Inside Housing: "We see this as a grassroots initiative... This is a cruel policy that primarily hits single parents, and the adult disabled.

"Even children deemed disabled but not 'severely' so, are affected. Carers, the terminally-ill, battered wives and husbands are all affected.

"Foster parents with more than one foster child are also hit, despite the government's talk of a U-turn. There are times in history when people must stand together in defence of common decency - that time has come," declared Dr Clarke

* Bedroom tax: 57 varieties of nationwide protest: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/18178

* Co-ordinator: Dr Éoin Clarke (BedroomTax@hotmail.com)

* No To Bedroom Tax: http://no2bedroomtax.co.uk/

[Ekk/3]

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