‘Why should I move out now after 16 years?’

Chris Baines at his home in Firth Park, Sheffield who is opposed to the new bedroom tax
Chris Baines at his home in Firth Park, Sheffield who is opposed to the new bedroom tax
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IT’S THE most divisive Government legislation for 25 years and it kicks in next week.

The bedroom tax is coming to a council house near you on April 1 and, say campaigners will bring misery, hardship and potential suicides.

As the full extent of its powers begin to sink in Sheffield tenants are preparing to march against the changes on Saturday and meetings are being organised across the city.

Condemned, it seems, by all but those who thought it up, the bedroom tax will face huge opposition on estates all over the country.

Chris Baines of The Oval, Firth Park, is one who will, he says, fight to his last drop of blood to beat the tax.

“It won’t affect us straight away but when my daughter leaves home we will not be able to live on what we get,” said 50-year-old former cutlery worker Chris.

“At the moment she pays us £67 a week rent and that’s deducted from our benefits. When she leaves and we have an empty bedroom we will lose 14 per cent of our housing benefit.

“We can hardly get by as it is on the £140 a week we get and there are people a lot worse off than us

“I have spent thousands on this house getting it the way we want it. Why should I move out now after 16 years? When we took a council house it was a house for life.

“What right have they got to take them away from us?”

Kerry, aged 22, is a care assistant at the Northern General Hospital.

“Having to pay that much rent to live with my mum and dad is too much and I will be better off moving into private accommodation and sharing with a friend,” she said.

“I feel as though I’m being forced to move out of my family’s home. With having to pay £67 plus £8 council tax it’s too much.”

Chris’s wife Pauline is agoraphobic, she has a fear of leaving the house and open spaces.

“I don’t work because I have to look after my wife who is sick,” said Chris.

“I haven’t worked for 16 years now, I can’t leave her in her now. Her mum died last year and my wife has deteriorated since then.”

The stress has taken its toll on Chris too who now takes anti-depressants to help control his anger.

“We just want the Government to change their minds.

We want people to know what’s going on. A lot won’t know what’s hit them.

“People can’t afford to be paying this new tax, they are on the breadline now.

“This will push people over the edge. There will be suicides over this, you’ll see.”

City councillor Tony Damms whose ward is Southey, one of the city’s biggest council estates, believes the tax is grossly unfair and divisive.

“People could be saying ‘yes, I’m happy to move’ but the council don’t have any properties for them to move in to,” he said.

“We estimate that around 7,000 people will be affected in Sheffield and the smaller properties we have already have people in them.

“We just don’t have 7,000 properties for people to move in to.

“We let about 4,000 properties a year to people on the waiting list who are priority cases and we currently get 12,000 applications for those.

“It’s simply a way for the Government to impose a £10 billion benefits cut.”

Graham Beck of Shiregreen moved in to his late mother’s house in 1981 to care for her. She died in 2002.

“I have a spare bedroom and because I am unemployed am liable for the bedroom tax,” he said.

“Even if I wanted to downsize, I have been told the housing stock simply isn’t available. So, how I will pay this tax of £9.51 a week on £71.70 a week Jobseekers Allowance beggars belief.

“I will also have to pay council tax for the first time since becoming unemployed.

“I will have to cut down on food or the fuel I use to heat my house.

“The callousness and scant disregard for human rights is astonishing.”

The last word goes to Tony Baines, who stands at his gate with his placard ready to protest at the Town Hall on Saturday.

“My message to David Cameron and the Government is that I will fight. I won’t pay the tax and I won’t be kicked out,” he said.

“Not while I have an ounce of strength and a drop of blood left in me.

“We will organise so they cannot take our homes away from us.”

The Sheffield Benefit Justice Campaign’s Axe the Tax: Say No to the Bedroom Tax, say No to Benefit Cuts meets at Manor Estate Social Club, City Road on April 4 at 7pm. Sheffield is part of a nationwide protest meets outside Sheffield Town Hall 1pm, Saturday.

See www.thestar.co.uk for full details on how the Bedroom Tax could affect you.