HUNDREDS of people around the region have gathered this afternoon to protest against the controversial bedroom tax.
Protests took place in Durham, Darlington, Newcastle and York, with many bearing homemade banners and signs to voice their opposition to the changes to housing benefit, due to come into effect in April.
Altogether more than 90 protests took place around the UK, organised by campaign group Labour Left, which used social media to arrange the event.
More than 250 people, some wearing pyjamas and onesies, gathered in Durham’s Market Place, where MPs Roberta Blackman-Woods and Grahame Morris and trade unionists spoke to the crowd.
Some of the people who will be affected by the changes were given the chance to tell their story.
Val Hudson, chairman of Labour Left Durham Tees Valley, who organised the Durham event, said: “I had asked people if they would stand up and speak but no-one wanted to but I just went into the crowd with a microphone and once one person had told their story others came forward.
“One lady who came from Easington had the crowd in tears with her story and there were so many others - young people, older people, people who care for someone else.
“We opened up the stall at 11am ahead of the protest at 1pm and we had a queue of people the whole time wanting to sign the petition against the bedroom tax. A lot of people won’t be directly affected, like me, but they just feel that it’s so wrong.”
In Darlington protesters marched through the town centre chanting ‘No way, can’t pay, won’t pay bedroom tax’.
Darlington MP Jenny Chapman said: “It’s clear that there’s a lot of anger in Darlington about this tax. It’s unfair and it won’t solve a problem that we don’t even have.
“I’ve been contacted by many, many people who are in situations where they will be affected by this change and it’s heartbreaking to hear their stories.”
The Coalition government claims that the changes to housing benefit will save taxpayers around £500m a year.
Social housing tenants deemed to have more rooms than the family needs will see benefits cut by an average of £14 a week for one spare bedroom.
Although pensioners and private-sector tenants are exempt, the Government estimates 660,000 people across the country will see their benefits cut.