Angry protesters facing eviction from their homes gathered to urge the Government to ‘axe the tax’.
Hundreds of residents were summoned to Barnsley Magistrates’ Court yesterday after receiving letters regarding unpaid council tax - something they claim is a result of crippling ‘bedroom tax’ housing benefit cuts.
The cuts, which affect social housing tenants considered to be living in homes too big for their needs, were brought into force last month.
The Government says it is intended to make the system more fair, but campaigners in Barnsley claim the move has left them struggling to make ends meet.
They also insist there are not enough smaller homes available for people to move to if they cannot afford extra rent.
“They’re saying they’re going to evict me because I owe about £40 in bedroom tax,” said single mum Natalie Batley, aged 34, from Gawber.
“I’m just managing to pay my council tax - I just haven’t got this extra £70 a month they now want.
“They rehoused me and my daughter seven years ago into a three-bedroomed house, despite us applying for a two-bedroom house.
“Yesterday I got a notice telling me I’m facing eviction because I can’t afford to pay tax on a tiny box room we don’t even want.”
According to research carried out by Sheffield Hallam University earlier this year, as many as 6,000 people in Sheffield and 4,100 in Barnsley were set to be affected by the housing benefit cuts.
Student Ben Moran-Healy was at the protest to show his support, despite being unaffected personally.
“My motivation for being here is that if the Government gets away with this, next time they’ll attack students, pensioners or the unemployed,” he said.
“I think it’s important we show solidarity for everyone.”
Fran Postlethwaite, from the Campaign for Benefit Justice who led the protest, told The Star: “This government is launching a war against the poor. These are people who have nothing, who are living on a very basic level of money, and who are now being slammed with bills they simply can’t afford to pay. It’s like trying to get blood from a stone.
“I’ve spoken to people here today who are frightened and desperate, who are relying on family and friends to feed them because they can’t afford to live in their own homes. We’re a wealthy country and this just isn’t right.
“There are also plenty of people here who aren’t affected directly but are angry because their friends and neighbours are. The Government needs to listen up - people can’t pay money they haven’t got and we won’t back down without a fight.”