Hundreds gathered at Guildhall Square yesterday afternoon for a protest against ‘The Bedroom Tax.’
The crowd which included local councillors were opposing cuts in the rates of Housing Benefit. Representatives from People Before Profit, the Bogside and Brandywell Initiative, Dove House who organised the protest and the North West Disability Forum also attended
Benefit recipients who will be affected most by the cuts also attended. A petition opposing the cuts and “demanding that the finances are found from other revenues to offset these cuts” was also circulated by organisers.
Main speaker, Ms. Kathleen Bradley of Neighbourhood Assist, Dove House, an independent non-governmental organisation, told attendees: “This is the time to stand together and inform government at all levels that we simply ca not afford to take these cuts. This is a benefit tax, a tax on those who are already receiving a helping hand. These cuts amount to the cost of one week of electricity or gas supply every month. They could add up to £500 per year for some households.”
Ms. Bradley then told the rally: “Almost 40, 000 homes in Northern Ireland will be affected by these rate reductions. These cuts are not their fault they are a failure of government to plan for future generations. It is unfair that Housing Executive tenants are being forced to pay for that failure.”
Ms. Bradley continued: “Our service has seen a large increase in those concerned about the cuts and therefore it was our duty to organise this meeting in order that we might voice our and their opposition. We don’t have to balance the books for the government but we do have a duty to inform them that this will not stand.”
Fellow speaker Tony O’Reilly of the North West Disability Forum described the cuts as; “a stealth tax which will lead to a cut to all benefits. The Government say these cuts are only ‘under discussion;’ We need to stop that discussion.
“What we are asking for is only a basic human right. If we all stand together then maybe the government will develop a conscience and realise these cuts are indefensible, morally wrong and a violation of every human rights doctrine on the planet.”