HUNDREDS of people have signed a petition calling for the controversial “bedroom tax” to be axed ahead of a major protest rally this weekend.
Staff at Manor Residents’ Association, in Kilmarnock Road, Hartlepool, have launched the petition –which has so far been signed by 1,000 people – and organised the rally to show the strength of feeling among townresidents.
Organisers say the rally, to be held outside the Civic Centre in Victoria Road on Saturday, March 16, will be a “peaceful protest” and have urged people to go along.
They claim the legislation will mean an increase in homelessness among the most vulnerable.
From April 1, more than 1,500 people in Hartlepool are set to be hit in the pocket when the Government’s plans to tackle “under occupancy” become a reality.
The bedroom tax will affect both social housing tenants in employment and those in receipt of housing benefits if they are found to be under-occupying their homes.
Households under occupancy will have their benefits cut by around £13 each week for one bedroom or £22 for two bedrooms.
The rally is due to get underway at 11am and concerned residents and councillors will be holding banners and placards outlining their feelings towards the bedroom tax.
Organisers say Hartlepool MP Iain Wright is also expected to attend alongside Labour councillor Carl Richardson, president of the Hartlepool Constituency Labour Party (CLP).
The petition will be presented to the town’s MP who will then submit it to Government.
People can either sign the petition online or drop into the Kilmarnock Road office.
Angie Wilcox, a Labour councillor for the Manor House ward and manager of the Manor Residents’ Association said: “We want as many people as possible to turn up on Saturday to show their support because these changes are going to affect a lot of people in town.
“This should not be happening and to say people are worrying about it is an understatement.
“People that we speak to are terrified because they are not sure how it is going to affect them because the town does not have the volume of smaller properties needed.
“These are people’s homes, that they have brought up to a good standard and don’t want to be forced to move out.”
Last week Hartlepool Borough Council moved to protect the 103 most vulnerable households from the controversial legislation but 1,563 more are set to have to pay.
The council’s cabinet committee agreed plans to protect disabled people living in “significantly adapted” accommodation and foster carers from the new legislation by using £74,000 of government funding.
The online petition says the reforms will have a “major impact” on the health and well being of those affected.
It reads: “This legislation ignores the needs of social housing tenants by introducing a tax designed to reduce central governments housing expenditure.
“The governments assertion that the legislation will encourage greater mobility within the rented sector and make better use of available housing stock flies in the face of common sense.”
Coun Wilcox added: “For many individuals on benefits this will result in significant hardship and stark choices will need to be made: “Do I feed the family, or keep a roof over our heads.”
To sign the online petition visit www.gopetition.com and search for Manor Residents or call (01429) 297201 for more information.