Bedroom tax campaigners spend the night on Bolton's streets
CAMPAIGNERS in Bolton opposing the “bedroom tax” slept rough to raise awareness of the vulnerable and homeless.
Protesters set out their sleeping bags in the square next to the Octagon Theatre and Lever Chambers on Saturday night — the same weekend of the Bolton Food and Drink Festival.
The group of 30 joined an estimated 50 mass “sleep outs” taking place across UK on the same night.
The protest was organised by those opposed to the government’s under-occupancy charge, which reduces housing benefit for people living in social housing considered too big for their needs.
Mum Jacqueline Galloway, aged 42, of The Pungle, Westhoughton, was one of the campaigners who came up with the idea.
She helped it gain momentum through the use of social networking sites like Facebook.
The protest included a board with a list ‘proxy sleepers ’ to represent people who were unable to attend due to disability or caring responsibilities.
Ms Galloway said: “I hope this protest has made people realise the problems vulnerable face.
“I’m not personally affected but you never know what’s round the corner. No one is ever that far away from being homeless.”
Deputy mayoress of Bolton, Colette Harkin, also camped out for the night with protesters.
Mrs Harkin said: “I feel so strongly about the bedroom tax I just had to be here. I think it affects the disadvantaged in society and we should stand up for them.”
The government says reform is needed to reduce housing waiting lists and said it has trebled the amount of cash it gives to Bolton in emergency funding for people who are struggling to pay their rent or tax.
Linda Charnock, from Darcy Lever, was camping out with her son and daughter after being affected by the tax.
Ms Charnock said: “I’m here because it affects all of my family. I was made redundant 12 months ago and now I have to fork out an extra £24.66 a week for my two bedrooms.
“I have four adult children and six grandkids. One of my daughters is a single mum and my other daughter is married to a soldier who has done three tours of Afghanistan. “They need me for support to help look after the kids. But now they’re having to support me financially and it’s very difficult.”
Introduced in April, the underoccupancy charge, dubbed the “bedroom tax”, reduces housing benefit for tenants in social housing if their property is deemed too big for their needs.
The government says the move will “reintroduce fairness” into the system and free up larger properties for families currently languishing on waiting lists.
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