Tag Archives: social housing

Don’t be fooled: The Tory £2bn offer for social housing is a sick joke

Don’t be fooled: Mrs May wants people who need social housing to think she supports them; in fact she is offering only a fraction of what is needed to fix the UK’s housing crisis and couldn’t care less about this girl’s life.

There is no foundation to Theresa May’s claims about Conservative plans for social housing.

She is offering £2 billion to housing associations, councils and other organisations, who will be able to bid for a share of the money to build new social housing, starting in 2022.

Here she is making her speech at the annual Social Housing Conference, co-sponsored by the National Housing Federation:

Her claim that she has made social housing her mission since becoming prime minister in 2016 is a genuine surprise to This Writer. When did she mention that?

David Orr, of the National Housing Federation, said the money meant organisations that build social housing will be able to plan into the future, knowing the cash would be available for them.

This is an extraordinary statement for an organisation that revealed in a statement exactly one year previously that the Conservatives had cut funding for social housing every year since they took office in 2010, so that by 2015 the amount available had been more than halved, from £11.4bn in 2009 to £5.3bn that year.

That’s £6.1bn less than the 2009 total in a single year, and Mrs May’s current offer is only for £2bn in total.

As a share of GDP, state spending on this area has fallen even more dramatically, declining from 0.7 per cent to just 0.2 per cent.

The responses have been as one might expect:

That should be “liable” not “libel”, and Daisy really means “responsible for providing habitable properties”.

The statement, although made badly, is correct: Thanks to the Tories, landlords do not have to provide dwellings that qualify as fit for human habitation.

Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn provides some much-needed context:

Here’s Marcus Chown with some more number-crunching:

So, what are we to conclude?

Simple: This is electioneering by the Conservative Party – based on a lie.

Mrs May knows the Tories are heading for electoral apocalypse, due in no small part to their own infighting over Brexit and policies that have sent working-class people into the arms of Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour.

So she is trying to steal some of those voters back with a false claim that her party – that has scorned social housing for four decades, preferring to sell it off so a new generation of landlords can fleece the poor – now supports it, even though the amount of money on offer is a tiny fraction of what the Tories have taken away over the last eight years.

It is too little, too late.

Don’t be fooled.

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Right-to-buy scheme WILL deplete social housing; Tories are taking us for fools

These Tories are trying to take us all for fools.

Communities secretary Greg Clark (who?) reckons councils will have to replace any housing association property that is sold under the Conservative Government’s latest plan.

But this won’t work, because the plan is to offer a discount on the purchase of each property, of up to 70 per cent.

That means councils, who are being starved of money by – guess who? – the Conservative Government, will be either unable to replace 70 per cent of the lost accommodation or will be forced into serious debt.

Don’t be deceived by this blatant lie – it’s all part of the Tory plan to deplete social housing.

The new communities secretary, Greg Clark, has insisted government plans to provide a right to buy for 1.3 million housing association tenants will not lead to a fall in overall provision of social housing in England.

The measure is due to be included in the Queen’s speech on Wednesday and Clark defended the policy saying “consistently, over many years, nearly 86% want to own their home and just because you have signed a social tenancy should not mean you sign away your aspiration to own your own home”.

Ministers have insisted that social housing will not fall because councils will be expected to replace any housing association property that is sold. The new properties are due to be provided by the enforced sale of more expensive council-owned property when the tenancy falls vacant. Housing association tenants who have lived in a property for three years will be entitled to seek a discount on the purchase of the property of up to 70%.

Clark said there would not be a net fall in affordable property. “Where the flat is sold to the existing tenant it is not lost, it does not evaporate, and it is sold to someone that has means to pay for it, so then what is released in terms of the sale can then build an extra home – so it is adding to the housing stock. Every housing association property that is sold will be replaced one for one for a new property, so it is not only allowing people to meet their housing aspiration, but to increase the housing stock as well.”

Source: Right-to-buy scheme ‘will not deplete social housing stock’ | Society | The Guardian

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‘One in four people will be in poverty by 2040’

Poverty rates by 2040, according to the JRF: The different levels, marked out by differently-coloured bars, show the effect if social rents rise at one per cent above inflation per year, or to meet market values.

Poverty rates by 2040, according to the JRF: The different levels, marked out by differently-coloured bars, show the effect if social rents rise at one per cent above inflation per year, or to meet market values.

When a Conservative-run government messes up your life, it doesn’t go in for half measures!

Earlier today you all read how the Conservative Party had miscalculated – badly – the effect of its ‘welfare reforms’, meaning that people were being forced into expensive privately-rented accommodation by the Bedroom Tax, then claiming more in Housing Benefit because their wages were not rising fast enough to accommodate the increase.

(Wages have, of course, been held down because the government’s insistence on cutting the amount paid to the unemployed has created an underclass of people desperate to take any job available – meaning employers can brush off calls for wage rises by saying hundreds of other people would be happy to do these jobs for less.)

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has put flesh on the bones of these findings in a report published yesterday (November 17).

It states that “compared to 2008, private rents will rise by 90 per cent – more than twice as fast as incomes – pushing up to 50 per cent of private renters into poverty”. The average private rent today is £132 per week – it will be £250 per week in 2040 in real terms.

In addition:

  • “People who rent will be more than twice as likely to be living in poverty than homeowners.
  • “Private rents are forecast to rise by 90%, twice as fast as incomes.
  • “One in five (10.6 million people) will be living in private rented homes, up from 7.2 million today. Half of these, 5.7 million, will be in poverty (a rise of 2.6 million).
  • “One in 10 will be living in social housing, down from the current figure of 8.2 million to 5.7 million in 2040. Social rents will increase 39% to reach £92.10 per week in real terms.
  • “If social rents continue to rise towards market rates, the cost of Housing Benefit could rise by 125% – adding £20 billion to the current bill.
  • “Real median house prices for owners will increase to £263,000, a rise of 57%. 35.3 million people will be home owners by 2040 (a reduction of 820,000 people from 2008). Real household incomes will grow from £32,300 to £45,500.”

In light of these figures, JRF has called on the government and housing providers to work together to solve the housing crisis and keep poverty in check, saying poverty levels are likely to reach one in four by 2040.

“The reality facing many people is a life below the poverty line because of the extortionate cost of keeping a roof over your head,” said JRF chief executive Julia Unwin.

JRF reckons this growth in poverty can be contained if:

  • Housing supply doubles to more than 200,000 units a year;
  • Social rents continue to go up by inflation plus 1%, rather than move towards market rents;
  • Housing benefit continues to support housing costs at similar levels;
  • The fall in the proportion of affordable social housing in the overall market is halted.

Of course that is a forlorn hope under any Conservative-run government.

The increase in poverty levels to one in every four people should worry everyone – if it doesn’t affect you, then it will affect somebody in your family or somebody you know. It is clear that this is the intended result of Conservative-led government policy, and the Liberal Democrats have supported it.

Labour – on the other hand – already has a policy to increase housing by 200,000 units per year. It supports social housing. It wants to cap rent increases in the private sector, and its plan to cut the amount spent on housing benefit is based on increasing wages so that fewer people need it, rather than increasing the number of people who are homeless.

Which would you prefer?

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How clueless do you have to be to believe Iain Duncan Smith?


The Man With No Time for the Truth is back again with more of the same shenanigans.

Iain Duncan Smith reckons his huge and unnecessary benefit cuts are breaking up the culture of unemployment on the UK’s housing estates – a culture he likened to that shown in the TV drama Shameless.

There’s just one problem with what he’s saying: It’s rubbish.

“The Work and Pensions Secretary revealed that cuts to jobless hand-outs had reduced the number of workless households in council homes to the lowest level since records began,” shrilled the Express report on Friday.

Apparently nobody had pointed out to either RTU or the Express that removing people from the unemployment figures does not automatically mean they are in work. It is far more likely to mean that our heartless Tory-led government of selfishness has consigned these people to destitution.

That’s of no consequence to Iain I-Believe-I’m-Right. If they’re off his books, he doesn’t worry about them. What a fine Christian attitude from this upstanding and still un-excommunicated Catholic.

“We are beginning to change this dependency culture that Labour bred and are turning it into an independence culture where people see they can take control of their own lives,” he lied. Throwing them to the wolves is not making them independent.

He added that the proportion of people in social housing who do not work had fallen from just under 50 per cent in 2010 to 41 per cent – and that he believed it would fall below 40 per cent. Perhaps this is because he has engineered a situation in which increasing numbers of unemployed people, unable to pay his Satanic Bedroom Tax, are being thrown onto the streets?

“People are beginning to say – I ought to go to work, I have to go to work,” he gloated, knowing that his party had devised a poverty trap in which falling wages are ensuring that people going to work will be no better-off for it.

People are, in fact, telling themselves they have to get off benefits before Iain Duncan Smith kills them – just as his policies have killed tens of thousands of incapacity benefit claimants.

And now the Tories reckon the country should support their plan to cut the maximum amount a household should claim in benefits from an already too-low £26,000 a year to £23,000. The original figure was in line with a Tory lie about the average family income. Does this mean incomes have dropped by £3,000 a year since they imposed the cap?

It seems the money ‘saved’ by the increased cap would fund three million apprenticeships, as David Cameron says he wants to “abolish” youth unemployment.

As ever, the devil’s in the detail. The money would be used to give 18-21-year-olds a six-month window to “find” work or training – but would be withdrawn if they did not carry out “community projects” like cleaning local parks.

And will any long-term jobs result? Or will these youngsters be thrown back after the money runs out, to be branded SNLR (as Iain Duncan Smith was, back in his Army days) – Services No Longer Required?

This is work formerly carried out by convicted criminals, which tells you everything you need to know about the Conservative attitude to unemployed youth.

Are these gibbering buffoons really the Conservative Party’s hope for the future?

The caption on this picture reads: "Nick Robinson, former Young Conservatives chairman and current BBC political editor, taking a selfie with some young Tories (Photo courtesy of theblueguerilla.co.uk). Perhaps you'd like to dream up your own caption for this image of wild-eyed, slack-jawed decadence (he's the political editor at the BBC and people still think it's left-wing; the mind boggles).

The caption on this picture reads: “Nick Robinson, former Young Conservatives chairman and current BBC political editor, taking a selfie with some young Tories (Photo courtesy of theblueguerilla.co.uk).” Perhaps you’d like to dream up your own caption for this image of wild-eyed, slack-jawed decadence (he’s the political editor at the BBC and people still think it’s left-wing; the mind boggles).

How bizarre. Apparently the right-wing social media want us to believe that, even though Conservative Party membership is believed to have dropped below 100,000, the number of young people joining up or supporting that party is reaching its highest in a decade.

Never mind. If, like Alice, you try to believe six impossible things before breakfast, you still have five more slots available to you.

The new information comes from a website called Vice.com, in an article entitled ‘Rise of the Tory Youth: Meeting Britain’s Young Conservatives’.

And meet them we do, along with some of the most spectacularly ignorant and ill-informed opinions this writer has encountered in a month of Sundays.

Try this, from 24-year-old Louisa Townson, current Tory Society President at University College, London. She tells us she became a member because of Tory economics: “We’d had this huge crash and we knew we had to sort out the national debt and the deficit.” Doesn’t she know that the last four years of Tory economics have cost the UK more than Labour spent in its entire 13 years of office and reduced the deficit by a staggeringly meagre £10 billion?

Louisa thinks the tripling of tuition fees was “fair” – presumably she won’t be saddled with student debt until she’s in her fifties, then.

As for workfare, she thinks “it would be good if [the unemployed] can give something back”. So this young woman, who joined the Conservatives for their economic policies, thinks it’s a good idea to remove paying jobs from the economy by making unemployed people do them – at the taxpayers’ expense – while the rate of corporation tax has nosedived so the host companies take all the profits? How will that help reduce the national debt?

And this is supposed to be an example of the brightest Young Conservative thinking. Oh my word. Oh dear.

Oliver Cooper, president of Tory youth movement Conservative Future, is still under the impression that his party stands for “economic freedom” – the party that, in government, has pushed millions onto the dole to keep wages down; destroyed much of Britain’s remaining industrial base, decimating the economies of entire regions of the UK, to undermine working-class self-confidence and security; de-democratised nationalised industries through privatisation; created a mushrooming of homelessness by promoting house ownership, creating a chronic shortage of social housing and perpetuating it by denying councils the ability to build more; and increased inequalities of income and wealth by cutting the relative value of benefits along with wages, boosting the social exclusion of the poorest in society.

This is supposed to show that it is cool to be a Tory again? Oh good heavens no. It demonstrates the “cancerous… classist and out-of-touch view of the modern middle class youth of today”, as Theodor Ensbury states in the comment column.

“Mix privilege with a lack of life experience … and you have a heady cocktail of political and social empowerment without understanding of consequences,” he adds.

There is much more of this, but there really isn’t any need to go into further detail. Read it yourself, if you can stomach it.

Today’s Tory youth, ladies and gentlemen: Ignorant, insular and insolent.

The last thing they deserve is responsibility.

I wouldn’t give them the time of day.

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Poll result reveals DWP doublespeak on the Bedroom Tax


The Department for Work and Pensions is heralding the result of a new poll as proof that a large majority of people support its controversial Bedroom Tax policy – in fact the findings prove nothing of the sort.

Headlined (incorrectly) ‘Poll shows support for removal of spare room subsidy’ – there is no such thing as a spare room subsidy so it cannot be removed – yesterday’s press release relies on some not-so-subtle wordplay and the gullibility of the reader to make its case.

If you want to find out how many people supported the government’s policy, you’ll have to look somewhere else because it is not directly identified anywhere in the article.

“New independent research shows there is strong public support for reducing under-occupation and overcrowding in social housing,” it begins – and this is fair enough.

People do indeed want to reduce under-occupation in social housing – but we have seen, time and time again, that people think there must be adequate social housing available for people who want, or need, to move. This is not what the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government are offering.

Instead, people are being told they can either move into smaller, privately-rented accommodation that will create more expense for the government, or if this is unavailable, pay the Bedroom Tax at 14 per cent of their eligible rent for one room and 25 per cent for two or more. Whatever they do, they end up having to pay more. That is not reasonable.

“In a poll [of 2,021 people] conducted by Ipsos MORI, 78% of respondents said they thought it was important to tackle the problem, which has led to nearly one-third of social housing tenants who receive Housing Benefit living in homes that are too big for their needs,” the article continues.

What problem is this, then? The problem of people occupying social rented properties that are too large for them, as the ConDems want you to believe? Or the problem of successive governments failing to build social housing that is adequate for the needs of the population? The latter seems more likely, don’t you think?

None of the information around that 78 per cent figure suggests that 1,576 people support the Bedroom Tax. I happen to believe it is important to tackle the bottleneck, in order to relieve the overcrowding issue. The Bedroom Tax won’t do that, though. It will just take money from poor people.

Was support for the Bedroom Tax indicated anywhere in these results? No. The closest we get is: “The polling also found that 54% agreed that it is fair that people of working age, who live in social housing, should receive less Housing Benefit if they have more bedrooms than they need.” Even this does not suggest that those questioned agreed with the amount the government is taking from hardworking social tenants.

Curiously, the same proportion of those polled – 54 per cent – said they believed “the coalition government’s removal of the spare room subsidy policy will encourage those receiving less housing benefit to improve their personal situation by, for example, finding work.”

There are a couple of points to make here. Firstly – there is no policy to remove the spare room subsidy because, as previously mentioned, the spare room subsidy has never existed. Secondly, the idea that people can find work (or find better-paying work) is a bad joke.

Only yesterday, a staffer at my local Job Centre was heard admitting that their office had received no new job advertisements in several weeks, and there is no evidence that this is a unique case. It is unrealistic to suggest this as a reasonable way out.

The fact that both these questions received 54 per cent support leads one to question how many of the respondents were affected by the Tax. My guess would be 46 per cent or less. The other 46 per cent, of course.

DWP ministerial rentamouth Esther McVey was on hand to provide the commentary (Iain Duncan Smith is still in hiding, one presumes). She said: “This shows that the public agree that action was needed to tackle overcrowding and to make better use of our housing stock.” Except, as already pointed out, it doesn’t show that the public agree with the government.

She added: “We have seen our Housing Benefit bill exceed £24 billion – an increase of 50% in just 10 years – and this had to be brought under control.”

The Bedroom Tax will do nothing in this respect – in fact, the bill may increase (people moving into private rented property would receive more benefit, and people who have been evicted because they can’t pay their bills after the Tax was imposed will be a burden on councils, who will have to put them up in more expensive B&B accommodation).

Also, increasing numbers of working people are being forced to claim housing benefit because companies are making sure their wages are too low to provide a decent living. Almost a million working people were claiming housing benefit in May this year, and that figure seems sure to have been exceeded by the time the next set of statistics is released on November 13 (Wednesday).

Apparently it is bad for unemployed people to claim the benefits they deserve, but perfectly fine for companies to have the lousy wages they pay topped up at the taxpayers’ expense.

That’s government doublespeak for you!

Duncan Smith weighs in with support for Tory bid to impose right-wing bias on BBC


The Secretary-in-a-State about Work and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith, has joined Grant Shapps in attacking the BBC with entirely fictitious claims that it has a left-wing bias.

Smith, affectionately known as ‘RTU’ or ‘Returned to Unit’ by this blog because of doubts about his achievements in the Army, is a serial spreader of falsehood, as has been documented here many times.

It seems he missed his true vocation and should have been a farmer; he spreads muck so vigorously.

And this is the case today. The Daily Mail has reported in its usual bombastic style that RTU is angry because the BBC keeps describing his charge on social housing tenants who the government deems to be “under-occupying” their homes as a “bedroom tax”.

His “furious” letter states that the corporation has been misleading viewers because the phrase is “innately politically and indeed factually wrong”.

Oh, is it, Iain?

Let’s have a look at his reason for saying this: “A tax, as the Oxford English Dictionary makes clear, is a ‘compulsory contribution to state revenue, levied by the  government on workers’ income and business profits, or added to the cost of some goods, services and transactions’.”

That’s right – and the state under-occupation charge (to give it it’s correct title) is a compulsory contribution to state revenue, added to the cost of a service. In this case, the service is rental of a dwelling. There can be no doubt that the contribution is compulsory, and it is clearly the state that receives (or rather, keeps) the money.

It is a tax. And we can say that, since the number of spare bedrooms in a dwelling is used to apply the charge, it is a bedroom tax. It’s the same principle as was used to describe the ‘Window Tax’ of the 19th century or thereabouts.

Some pundits have stated that it cannot be a tax because it is not paid by everybody, but this is also nonsense. Does everybody pay Inheritance Tax, or Capital Gains Tax? No. Even the corporations don’t pay Corporation Tax any more, according to all the reports we hear about tax avoidance!

And it may also be stated that the BBC is simply reflecting public parlance in its use of the phrase. People do not talk about the “underoccupation charge” or the “removal of the spare room subsidy” – they talk about the Bedroom Tax.

So RTU can whine all he likes; the BBC is factually correct in using the phrase, and it also reflects public custom in doing so.

His letter continues by claiming the BBC has adopted the language of the Opposition, stating, “We do not believe it is the job of the BBC to use misleading terms and promote the views of the Labour Party.”

Again, he is wrong to claim that the BBC has a left-wing bias. You may get tired of reading this, Dear Reader, but research by Cardiff University has shown that “The BBC tends to reproduce a Conservative, Eurosceptic, pro-business version of the world, not a left-wing, anti-business agenda”. Read the report for yourself.

The Daily Mail goes on to report that former Immigration Minister Damian Green has been unhappy with the Beeb’s reporting of immigration data, saying it was “mystifying” that a 36,000 drop in migration was described as “slight”.

But it is Mail readers who should be mystified at this claim. Didn’t they read, only last month, that more than two million immigrants have been given British passports since 2000 – one every two and a half minutes? Was this not accurate? In comparison to that figure, 36,000 is indeed “slight”.

And Mr Green might have had a little more sympathy for the BBC report if he had bothered to read the latest information on immigration by the Office for National Statistics, which stated that a drop of 39,000 long-term migrants between December 2011 and December 2012 was “not a statistically significant fall”. This is the information used by his government.

Of course we all know the reason for this latest round of BBC-bashing – the Tories are putting out a ‘marker’ for the general election.

They are telling the BBC, in no uncertain terms: “Behave. We don’t want any trouble from you in the run-up to May 2015 – just nice stories saying how great we are. Otherwise it will go badly for you after the election.”

Considering the evidence that the BBC already has a right-wing, Conservative-supporting viewpoint, it would be perfectly understandable if any high-ranking member of the corporation, receiving that message, did the exact opposite.

These Tories are ungrateful. They should know it is impossible for the BBC to hide the vast amount of cock-ups, miscalculations and intentional harm they have inflicted on the nation in the last three years. Attempted intimidation can’t alter the facts.

But then, threats are a part of the Tory way of life – especially for Iain Duncan Smith.

That is clear to anyone who has spent a few months signing unemployed at a Job Centre.

Will ‘independent’ study whitewash the Bedroom Tax?

Doesn't he look like a puppet? In fact the correct term is 'marionette' - for a puppet on strings, worked from above. But who's pulling Nick Clegg's strings this time?

Doesn’t he look like a puppet? In fact the correct term is ‘marionette’ – for a puppet on strings, worked from above. But who’s pulling Nick Clegg’s strings this time?

The Government is running an independent study into the impact of the Bedroom Tax, in order to find out if it is really possible for social housing tenants to move into smaller accommodation to escape its effects. The result should more likely be feared than welcomed.

Nick Clegg announced that the study was taking place in response to a Parliamentary question from Harriet Harman – but was immediately undermined by the Department for Work and Pensions. A government spokesman said the DWP routinely commissions research on new policies and an independent consortium was already carrying out evaluation work.

Clegg had to say he was taking action after his own party voted to change its policy on the Tax – the Liberal Democrats now oppose it – but this is not cause for celebration.

Who will carry out this independent study? We are told it is an “independent consortium” but what does that mean? What will be their terms of reference? What questions will they be asking and will they be the questions that need to be asked?

Observers should be raising serious doubts about all of these because this is not a government with a good track record on evidence-led policy.

We all know what this is about – the government’s hugely flawed scheme to claw back Housing Benefit cash from social housing tenants, taking 14 per cent of payments from those with one spare bedroom, and a quarter of the benefit from anyone with two. The Discretionary Housing Payment scheme for local councils was boosted to £60 million in anticipation of extra demand from struggling tenants.

It is true that evidence about the policy is conflicting. Lord Freud, introducing it in the House of Lords, apparently refused to listen to arguments that there were too few single-bedroom properties into which under-occupiers could downsize. Now he is blaming local authorities for the shortage.

The government said the policy would save £480 million, but the increased cost of DHPs must be subtracted from that, and also the costs of people who do manage to downsize. This could range from just four per cent of the 660,000 affected households to 20 per cent, depending on who you believe – a recent study by the University of York suggested that 20 per cent of households intended to move (which isn’t quite the same as actually doing it), but this was based on evidence from just four housing associations.

It seems unlikely that one-fifth of everyone affected nationally is moving to a different property – but even if they were, this would not create a saving for the government because it would have to pay out, not only increased Housing Benefit for those who have moved into smaller but more expensive private rented housing, but also Housing Benefit for people moving into the now-vacant larger social housing.

And then there are the people who cannot downsize but cannot afford the rent if their Housing Benefit is reduced. Recent reports had 50,000 households facing eviction – around one-thirteenth of the total number affected.

If they become homeless, local councils will have to find temporary accommodation for them – and this is paradoxically much more expensive than putting them in social housing, because they have to go into bed-and-breakfast rooms. Homelessness was already on the increase before the Bedroom Tax was introduced, rising from 44,160 households in 2011-12 to 53,540 in 2012-13.

Not only that, but there has been a sharp increase in complaints about this accommodation, according to the Local Government Ombudsman.

Finally, let us not forget that at least one suicide has been attributed to the Bedroom Tax – that of Stephanie Bottrill.

So definitive research is certainly desirable. There’s just one problem: The Coalition Government is very good at commissioning ‘independent’ reports that say exactly what ministers want them to.

Look at the report on culling badgers to get rid of bovine tuberculosis. A seven-year study during New Labour’s period in office concluded that this would be useless, and in fact could worsen the situation. The Coalition came in and a new study appeared advocating a cull.

With no knowledge of who is carrying out the report it is hard to predict whether its findings will be accurate – or just what the government ordered.

An inspector calls: Can YOU help her assess the damage caused by the bedroom tax?

Hugely unpopular: Thousands of people have demonstrated against the bedroom tax on the poor since it was first announced by our government of millionaires - this one was in Glasgow.

Hugely unpopular: Thousands of people have demonstrated against the bedroom tax on the poor since it was first announced by our government of millionaires – this one was in Glasgow.

A United Nations inspector has arrived in the UK to investigate whether David Cameron’s Coalition government has reneged on international agreements giving everybody the right to adequate housing and shelter.

Special rapporteur Raquel Rolnik has been asked to assess whether bedroom tax-related eviction threats that are driving tenants to suicide mean the UK is refusing that right to its citizens – and you can help her with this by emailing your story to her on [email protected]

Come to that, there’s no reason for victims of the ESA assessment regime, for whom loss of the benefit involves a threat of eviction, not to provide their story as well. Is that you? [email protected]

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises the right to housing as part of the right to an adequate standard of living: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.”

An article announcing the visit in the Morning Star (it doesn’t seem to have been picked up by the pro-Coalition newspapers) said the visit was likely to infuriate our comedy Prime Minister, David Cameron.

The article states that he described this country, in a speech to the UN last year, as “a country that keeps its promises to the poorest”.

It seems possible he will argue that under-occupation of social housing – having a ‘spare room’ as defined by his law – means people are getting more than they deserve.

But the government’s clear failure to provide enough social housing of a size and standard appropriate for the 660,000 affected households in the UK – some of the poorest in the country – is likely to weigh against him.

And then there is the fact that the policy has driven people to death.

For example: John Walker, of Marsh Green, Bolton, was found hanged at his home by former partner Susan Martin in May. He had been worried about mounting financial problems, worsened by being forced to pay extra rent on his home under the bedroom tax. A suicide note was found in the property.

And Greater Manchester Against the Bedroom Tax’s Mark Krantz told the Morning Star of an eviction in Oldham where bailiffs discovered the tenant had also hanged himself, and was dead.

These two deaths pale into insignificance, of course, when compared with the monumental death toll caused by the Department for Work and Pensions and its assessment regime for Employment and Support Allowance. The plan, which aims to knock as many sick and disabled people off-benefit as possible – for any reason at all – has led to thousands (possibly tens of thousands) of deaths as claimants’ health conditions have overtaken their bodies’ ability to cope, or the prospect of destitution or being a financial burden on friends and family has forced them into suicide. The DWP is currently refusing to issue figures on the number of deaths that have taken place, among those either claiming or appealing, since the start of 2012 – and it is believed that this can only be because the numbers are far greater than the already-appalling 73-a-week average that was revealed for 2011. No figures are known for the 70 per cent of claimants who have been marked “fit for work” and thrown off the benefit altogether, who have not appealed against the decision. The DWP does not monitor their well-being at all.

Ms Rolnik is expected to meet with government officials, non-government organisations, housing associations and individuals in a tour of England and Scotland.

But to get a full picture of the situation here, she needs to hear from real people who have become victims of the robber-government’s punitive policies. She needs to hear from you: [email protected]

Boris Johnson – wolf in a buffoon’s clothing?

Dangerously right-wing policies wrapped in a fuzzy exterior – but can Boris Johnson pull the wool over our eyes?

After David Cameron’s calamitously poor speech at the Conservative Party Conference, everyone seems to be touting Boris Johnson as the new Great Blue Hope for the Nasty Party.

He seems plausible, after all – a bear-like, genial-looking, slightly buffoonish, overgrown child who seems to fumble his way through his commitments, presumably on his way to a social get-together or a recording of Have I Got News For You. A friendly figure who should be taken to the public heart.

In fact, he’s nothing of the sort. His policies are more right-wing and dangerous to the poor than Cameron’s.

Let’s take law and order as an example. As London’s mayor, Boris has relieved more than 1,700 police officers of their duties, along with 1,800 community support officers. He then claimed that crime had dropped by 12 per cent. Recorded crime has indeed dropped, but only by 5.6 per cent. So he’s a liar.

Last year, he spent £50 million making Metropolitan Police civilian staff redundant.

Under Boris, social housing starts in London have fallen to their lowest level for a decade, with only 25 affordable properties being started in each of London’s 32 boroughs in the three months from April to June. That’s half the number for the same period last year. Local authority waiting lists show 366,613 households waiting for homes.

For those on middle-to-higher incomes, home ownership is an increasingly distant dream, with Shelter estimating that the average first-time buyer must now rent for 31 years before they can buy their own home – at a cost of £300,000 in private sector rent.

In this sector, rents soared by 12 per cent last year, but more than 33 per cent of homes do not meet Decent Homes standards, and tenants are often exposed to a lack of stability caused by rogue landlords and short-term tenancies.

In his conference speech, Boris announced a new “Housing Covenant”, with £100 million to help 10,000 “modest income” households become home owners – but this doesn’t event claw back the amount the Coalition government cut from London’s affordable house building budget in 2010. In 2009-10, £310 million was spent on housing for first-time buyers.

He has cut the London police force and reduced housing, despite rapidly rising demand.

What do you think he would do if he was allowed to play with the whole of the UK?