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This government is more class-ridden than Thatcher’s

29804413_sYesterday’s report that the government has exempted developers who turn an empty building into private housing from having to build further affordable housing not only gives super-rich investors like the Abu Dhabi investment fund a free windfall of hundreds of millions of pounds, it also deprives some of the poorest families of the affordable housing they desperately need.

Under Thatcher social renting declined by 990,000, under Major by 226,000, and under Blair by 726,000 (according to Savills Residential Property Research). It is now at the lowest level ever relative to demand since there are 1.4 million households on council waiting lists plus a further 80,000 homeless in temporary accommodation.

Now to shut off the flow of affordable housing further, grossly inadequate as it already was, and to give the green light to big foreign investors (when there are already more than 2 million foreign owners of property in Britain today) is gratuitously denying decent housing to hundreds of thousands of poor families cooped up in cold, damp, leaking, or inadequate housing for several years to come. The same government that imposed the bedroom tax, but screams blue murder against the mansion tax!

This is part of a pattern. Benefit claimants have been ruthlessly targeted by giving DWP offices goals to achieve off-flow from the benefit count. In the 3 years to March last year more than 1.9 million sanctions were imposed on JSA recipients, yet only a fifth of those who ceased to claim benefit were able to find work (according to Oxford-based research). It was found that Jobcentre staff, driven by senior management, were following arbitrary and poorly communicated rules that punish not just the non-cooperative, but also some of the most vulnerable in society, including mentally ill and disabled people. Some jobcentres, it has been reliably alleged, have set up ‘hit squads’ to target for sanctions vulnerable claimants, including those with learning difficulties or mental illness, in order to enable staff to meet monthly targets. Even Thatcher didn’t stoop to these levels.

Apart from the callousness of this class-based targeting, there hidden social and personal costs of sanctions. Where sanctioned people disappear from view, it is likely that other services will end up absorbing the costs, like the NHS, food support systems, and probably prisons too. Sanctions could be costing taxpayers more. It is also known that sanctions have led to the death of a significant number of claimants. But DWP ministers have refused to publish the findings of 60 internal ‘reviews’ commissioned into deaths linked to benefit cuts.

One example is David Clapson who had diabetes and died last July from an acute lack of insulin. His benefits had been stopped after he missed 2 Jobcentre appointments. His electricity was then cut off, so the fridge where he kept his insulin wasn’t working. An autopsy found his stomach was empty when he died, there was no food in the flat – and he had just £3.44 in his bank account.

Image Copyright: ‘Concept of a rich and poor person’ by Enrique Ramos Lopez / 123RF Stock Photo

2 Comments

  1. Barry Ewart says:

    Yes we need to curb the upper clas welfare state (billionsc in tax relief on practically everything and subsidised to the hilt) and tax the super rich (£30b uncollected taxes a year) until the pips squeak and end the £3b a year Gravy Trian of bankers bonuses. The rich and powerful legally nick the surplus labour of the working billions so we should not be shy about getting our share of this wealth back! We should send out a message out to the poor that we will compensate all those who have suffered from the bedroom tax and perhaps all those who have been unfairly sanctioned. We should also work with international partners to get the rich “the true little people of the planet” to pay tax on the 22 trillion they have stashed in illicit offshore bank accounts, “THE REAL GLOBAL SCROUNGERS”. Should work with EC partners for a 5% EC Financial transaction Tax (will bring in £1.75 tr in the EC) and this makes the financial sector pay for the global economic mess that they caused! Re housing we need to build more and good quality social housing and affordable homes. Also need to radically redesign existing council/ housing assn estates where needed to green them up with park areas and community ameneties. We should also have rent controls in the private rented sector (and make private landlords responsible for tenants behaviour – talked out by two Tory MPs who are private landlords) and give private tenants more security of tenure like the European model- plus give tenants all sectors a statutory right to consultation. With rent controls in the private rented sector we may save £3b and more from the annual £12b housing benefit bill to be used to buy and refurbish empty homes to rent or buy and refurbish (which could be done by local housing cooperatives or councils). Have more shared ownership schemes in owner-occupation – could consider turning building societies into trusts – you buy 25% of a home and get the rest on a 120 year lease so we change the home ownership culture to one of people buying good housing as ONE GOOD HOME TO ACTUALLY LIVE IN! A bit of a housing revolutionary? Should also consider all new build being detached – I want everyone to live in a detached home if they wish – why should only the rich be able to purchase exclusivity! I am with the young Castell’s when he argued we need a better urban space for the working class although I would say working people- we just need imagination and to be bold! Yours in solidarity!

    1. Barry Ewart says:

      Just remembered should also bring back taxes on private landlords with multiple properties which the Tories and Lib Dems got rid of- thus causing the boom in private landlords milking the housing benefit budget!

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