Thousands protest UK `bedroom tax`

Last Updated: Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 11:07

London: Protesters across the United Kingdom have taken part in demonstrations against changes to the country`s benefits system, including the controversial "bedroom tax".

Hundreds protested at Trafalgar Square and outside British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chancellor George Osborne`s residence in Downing Street.

A similar number of demonstrators also marched past the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh on Saturday.

The "bedroom tax", which is due to be introduced next month, refers to a cut in housing benefit for claimants whose home has a spare room.

Pensioners, who have the highest number of spare rooms, are exempt, but critics say that a spare room is a necessity for many families, particularly those with ill or disabled family members.

In Glasgow, a large group of protesters marched from Glasgow Green to George Square outside the city council chambers with police estimating a turnout of around 2,500 people.

Trades unions, groups representing the disabled and students led the protests directing their anger at the Conservative party led coalition government.

They claim the government policy is effectively a harsh new tax on households.

The move is expected to affect 660,000 people when it comes into effect next month, although the government announced exemptions for approved foster carers and parents with "adult children" serving with the armed forces.

Work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith has insisted that the current welfare system had to be reformed.

"It is unfair on taxpayers, it is unfair on those in over-crowded accommodation and it is unfair that one group of housing benefit tenants cannot have spare bedrooms and another group are subsidised," he said during a visit to Edinburgh earlier this week.

Demonstrations were spread across an estimated 50 towns and cities in the UK, 23 years since around 250,000 people gathered in Trafalgar Square to protest the introduction of the Community Charge in England and Wales leading to the infamous "poll tax riots" on March 31, 1990, under former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Anti-cuts activists had announced a campaign of "mass civil disobedience"
against the new rules earlier this week. PTI



First Published: Sunday, March 31, 2013 - 11:07

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