|Protestors brave the weather to fight the Bedrrom Tax|
Petition organiser Gwyn Holland spoke at the meeting mentioning the example of a disabled friend who was caught in the trap of an unworkable and punitive policy whilst housing solutions weren't actually available. Describing the bedroom tax as 'iniquitous' and 'targeting those on lower incomes while the Government introduces tax cuts for the rich' he further stated the tax 'penalises tenants for a housing shortage which is the responsibility of politicians'.
Labour Leader Mick Lerry (Bridgwater Victoria) spoke in support of the petition and whilst noting that Labour would repeal the bedroom tax if it wins the next election, pointed out that mitigating actions need to be taken now. A previous Labour motion to council and actions agreed through the Labour chaired Scrutiny committees had gone some way to establishing these measures. The motion was seconded by Cllr Leigh Redman (Bridgwater Dunwear) and supported by the Lib Dem and Independent groups.
The response from Cllr Duncan McGinty, Conservative leader, was broadly supportive of the need to help the victims of the tax and confirmed that SDC would not be pursuing evictions. He counter-proposed however that the petition should be reviewed at the relevant scrutiny committee and that the Council lobby against the tax via the Local Government Association.
The Council voted on McGinty's proposal first which was carried by an overwhelming vote of all the Tories present whilst Labour, Lib Dem and Independents voted against in the hope that the petition as originally worded could be supported. The Tory majority won through and there was no chance to therefore vote on the original petition.
After the meeting Cllr Brian Smedley (Chair of Corporate Scrutiny) said "This will give people a chance to have a full and open debate about the Bedroom tax at a special dedicated Scrutiny meeting and to recommend how we can best achieve the aims of the petition. When that meeting is set up I would invite anyone who can contribute to the debate to register to participate and turn up with concrete examples and solutions. Clearly we shouldn't be taxing bedrooms but building new ones."