#OpSleepOut is a countrywide protest against the benefit caps and bedroom tax which were introduced by the Coalition Government. Because of low wages and high rents, the new controls will inevitably lead to an increase in homelessness and forced evictions. They are an aggressive attack on the poor and those in rent arrears while corporations still fail to pay their fair tax.
This weekend’s protests take the form of mass sleep-outs in around 60 locations around the UK, and are supported by various campaign groups including Occupy and Anonymous.
The Brighton protest, which began this afternoon in Steine Gardens, highlights the particularly high private rents in the area, leading to evictions when benefit caps fail to meet requirements. Campaigners point out that the poorest are hit hardest by the changes, while government propaganda portrays them as workshy, whereas in fact, 80% of benefits for working age claimants go towards topping up low wages. A higher minimum wage and stronger rent controls would lead to a lower benefits bill, and lessen the flood of benefit money going into the pockets of rich landlords.
The bedroom tax came in on April Fool’s Day, and the new benefit cap came into force in the Brighton area last week. In all, housing benefit cuts introduced in the last couple of years have affected around 38,000 people in the region – about 14% of the city’s population.
Although the week has seen summer temperatures and dry weather, today was unfortunately very damp and cooler in Brighton, but campaigners, including members of the Brighton Benefits Campaign, and the Brighton People’s Assembly, erected a marquee and some banners,, and without a Socialist Worker newspaper in sight, they’ve got a great selection of flyers and information leaflets, some tea and cake, and a warm welcome with music and spoken word performances expected throughout the evening. By tea-time, the first few tents had pitched around the marquee. They’ll be there until around midday tomorrow.