A BITTER row has broken out between members of Stroud Against The Cuts and the town’s Labour Party after the latter refused to support a motion calling for no ‘bedroom tax’ evictions at a meeting of SDC on Thursday (November 28).
The motion, tabled by the Green Party after SATC had submitted a 1,200 strong petition to the council calling for a formal no evictions policy, was defeated following opposition from Labour and Conservative councillors.
Speaking on the night, members of the Labour group criticised both the anti-cuts group and their Green coalition partners for bringing forward the proposal, insisting it was unnecessary because the authority had already agreed strong measures to avoid evictions.
Following the meeting the war of words continued online, with Labour Cllr David Drew taking to Twitter to accuse SATC of being little more than a ‘talking shop’.
That jibe prompted SATC activist Caroline Molloy to hit back, Tweeting in reply: “Speaking out and taking effective action makes us a 'talking shop' apparently. Handwringing seen as preferable?”
Chris Moore, of SATC, said: “Labour claim that they’re opposed to the bedroom tax, but given an opportunity to do something concrete to help those affected, they refused to do so. It makes their words sound very hollow.”
But Cllr Drew, Labour’s parliamentary candidate, said: “The proposals for no eviction are just treating the consequences of this pernicious tax. What’s needed is to treat the cause.
“The only political group that will have the power to scrap the bedroom tax will be a Labour government. This will be among the first things a Labour government would do if elected in May 2015.”
Labour Cllr Mattie Ross, who is chairman of SDC’s housing committee, said: “We have put in place a large range of measures to help tenants retain their tenancies and to prevent eviction, including debt and benefit advice, home visits and contact with every tenant affected.”
She added: “Thanks to these measures since the bedroom tax was introduced in April this year no tenants have been evicted as a result.”
However, SATC co-ordinator Caroline Molloy, said: "Existing policies are clearly inadequate - 123 people in Stroud are already in arrears due to the bedroom tax and others are relying on family and predatory lenders, which is unsustainable.
"So it was very disappointing that Labour councillors descended to name-calling and rejected the opportunity to take effective action to ease the anxiety of some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our community."
Infighting on the political left between Labour and SATC, as well as signs of an emerging rift between the rainbow alliance partners has unsurprisingly been received with delight by Conservative members.
Tweeting after the meeting on Thursday, Tory councillor Debbie Young, said: “Labour, Liberal and Green coalition creaks tonight. Has the love in, fallen out over the Green motion of a no eviction policy?”