Pyjamas protestors lose battle to get no eviction policy

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MORE will be done by Portsmouth City Council to support families affected by the government’s so-called bedroom tax.

But campaigners couldn’t convince the local authority to adopt a no-eviction policy for those who fall into rent arrears. Portsmouth’s Labour group submitted a notice of motion at yesterday’s full council meeting asking for the measure to be considered.

PROTEST Campaigners at Portsmouth Guildhall

PROTEST Campaigners at Portsmouth Guildhall

It came after campaigners wearing pyjamas staged a protest in support of the move earlier in the day.

Protesters chanted: ‘Axe, axe the bedroom tax, bring in a mansion tax’ and sang songs in opposition. Under the scheme, families who claim housing benefit and have a spare bedroom in their home have their money cut by 14 per cent. It’s cut by 25 per cent if people have two or more empty bedrooms. People either have to move out if they can’t pay what they owe or risk facing eviction.

Liberal Democrat Councillors Darren Sanders and Hugh Mason instead put forward an amendment asking the cabinet to check up on the work already being carried out.

They asked for checks to be done on the quality of advice given to tenants in the private and social housing sectors and whether more council houses could be built

Cllr Sanders, cabinet member for housing, said a no-eviction policy was a ‘gimmick’ which wouldn’t be enforced properly.

He said: ‘Eleven-thousand council homes were let in the last year. We are not resorting to gimmicks.’

The amendment got a majority vote.

But Labour group leader John Ferrett, in supporting the motion put forward by his deputy, Cllr Aiden Gray, said: ‘I am quite shocked at this amendment.

‘The residents have been made an offer by the council, and now we are turning around and saying we are going to cut the amount of money you need to move, but we don’t have any where else for you to go.

‘That is a breach of contract.’

Kelly Tomlinson, South East community coordinator for Unite the Union, said: ‘We hope the protest raised awareness. People living in social housing who are on benefits are the poorest in our society.’