MORE than 1,100 people have campaigned to get local councillors to fight the so-called bedroom tax.
A petition of 1,106 names was presented during the Sedgemoor District Council meeting on Wednesday by protesters who want the council to lobby Government to repeal the tax.
Under the "spare room subsidy", people living in social housing deemed to have more bedrooms than they need have had their housing benefit reduced.
Gwyn Holland, treasurer for Bridgwater People's Assembly which organised the petition, spoke at the council meeting and called on the council not to evict tenants because of the tax.
Mr Holland said: “We have never had this level of support for a petition before. It is not enough for councillors to wring their hands. It's time they stood up to a government which is clearly incompetent at introducing reforms to the benefits system.
“Councillors are elected by local people and paid for by local people. It's time they acted in our interests.”
Members of the assembly protested outside the council office in Bridgwater before the meeting in a bid to gain the support of councillors as they arrived.
Glen Burrows from the assembly said: “It's absolute financial nonsense because there aren't any alternatives available for the people affected.
“There's a shortage of housing and social housing. If there were loads of one-bedroom flats it would be fine but there aren't.
“People are better off staying where they are rather than moving into private housing where the rents will go up and they will have to get housing benefit anyway.”
Nigel Johnson from Nether Stowey said: “It puts the burden of dealing with the deficit on the poorest of people, which is completely wrong. It is an administrative nightmare and creates all sorts of oddities that are completely unfair and just a load of nonsense really.”
The petition received full backing from Labour, Lib Dem and Independent councillors at the meeting.
Cllr Leigh Redmond from Labour Group said: “It's disgusting the way the government is treating people who are in poor circumstances. It's important that we support people who are in need.”
Cllr Duncan McGinty, Conservative leader, was supportive of the appeal not to evict victims of the tax, but put forward a proposal that the petition should be reviewed at the relevant scrutiny committee.
A proposal was passed to lobby the Local Government Association, to in turn lobby Government to change its policy.
It was felt that a single authority urging the Government to change would be ineffective and that there was strength in numbers so the LGA would be the most effective route.
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.”