Tenants campaign group disrupts council meeting to defend proposed cuts to council tax benefit

Mayor Marvin Rees left the podium to chants of ‘shame’
Members of ACORN inside City HallMembers of ACORN inside City Hall
Members of ACORN inside City Hall

Tenants campaign group ACORN disrupted a full council meeting inside City Hall to oppose the mayor’s proposals to cut the council tax benefit.

Over 50 members assembled, with 20 standing up inside the chambers to disrupt the meeting, and 30 more setting up office in the foyer to collectively ring and text councillors to ask them to defend the benefit.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Mayor Marvin Rees refused to answer calls to meet with ACORN to discuss the proposals, and left the podium to chants of ‘shame’ from the public gallery.

Last week, 20 ACORN members disrupted the cabinet meeting five separate times and confronted the mayor directly as he adjourned the meeting and exited the council chambers, demanding that he meet with ACORN members to discuss proposed cuts. Again, the mayor refused to respond.

Last month, ACORN launched their campaign to challenge proposals from Bristol Council to cut the city’s council tax reduction scheme, a key lifeline for over 23,000 households in the city on low incomes amidst the current cost of living crisis.

This is the second time the Council’s Labour administration have proposed cuts to the support scheme, with ACORN leading a successful campaign against similar proposals in 2017.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

At a public meeting last month at Docklands Community Centre, over 40 ACORN members met to plan the first steps in a campaign to defend the support scheme. Several councillors have already committed to back the campaign. The council has launched a public consultation which runs until September 25, offering one option for keeping the scheme, and several others where low income families would pay potentially hundreds of pounds more in council tax each year.

ACORN says that this does not represent a meaningful choice for Bristolians, and that the council is looking for a ‘rubber stamp’ for a decision already made.

ACORN have published guidance encouraging Bristolians to fill out the consultation, advocating for a ‘no cuts’ response.

Bristol resident Wesley, who currently relies on the reduction scheme, said: “I get a significant reduction, so it’s about an extra £125 I’d have to pay out, which is going to be difficult. I’ve got two children, a house to heat, food to eat. I really don’t know where I’d find that extra money.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

ACORN member William, who receives the council tax benefit, said: “I’ve been homeless before, and this is likely to force me towards that again, it’s really scary.”

Fellow member Rachel, who’s receiving the council tax benefit, said: “I’m currently receiving full council tax benefit as I’m registered disabled. If this was to be cut and I’d have to pay it, it would financially cripple me, plunge me into debt and cause serious anxiety.”

The council announced that it would save £3 million by cutting the scheme. Yet ACORN members argue that efficiency savings could be found elsewhere.

In 2017, ACORN successfully fought council proposals to scrap the council tax reduction, resulting in a U-turn from the administration.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

After ACORN members organised within the Labour party to put pressure on the city’s administration from within and secured the support of councillors to vote against the Mayor’s proposals, the Mayor dropped the plans rather than face a humiliating public revolt.

ACORN says protecting the scheme in 2017 kept an annual saving of £8 million in the pockets of the poorest households in the city, supporting those most hardest hit by a decade of government cuts.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.