Posts Tagged ‘Social Housing’

Owen Jones Talks to Rebecca Long-Bailey: Neoliberalism Has Fallen Apart

October 23, 2017

In this video, Owen Jones, the author of Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class and The Establishment, talks to Rebecca Long-Bailey, one of the people responsible for the Labour manifesto and close ally of Jeremy Corbyn. He states that she has been pretty central to the whole Corbyn project. And he particularly likes her because she’s a ‘scamp’ from Manchester like him.

He begins by stating that Clement Attlee established the post-War consensus of a strong welfare state, state intervention in industry and labour and trade union rights. This fell apart under Margaret Thatcher. He asks her if Thatcher’s neoliberalism is now falling apart in its turn.

She replies very positively that it definitely is, and that more orthodox economists are stating that we need a Keynsian approach to the economy. She says that when they began promoting Keynsianism, they were attacked as very much out of touch. Now the Financial Times and another major economic journal has come out and supported state interventionism. The FT even said that we need to renationalise water. This left her absolutely speechless with surprise when she read it, as it was a Labour idea.

She was the Shadow Minister in charge of business and industrial strategy. Jones notes that the hostile press would immediately attack Labour’s policies as destructive and compare them to Venezuela. He asks how she responds to that. She replies with a very clear answer: ‘Rubbish’. She points out that, under neoliberalism, Britain has become one of the least productive nations in the developed world. Indeed, productivity is at its lowest for 20 years. And thanks to wage restraint, wages are also lower than they were before the Crash of 2008.

She states we need an investment bank for England to encourage investment, as private industry won’t invest unless government does so. She also states that we need to reform industry so that it represents everyone involved in a firm, including workers and stakeholders. When Jones asks her what she considers socialism to be, she simply responds ‘Fairness’, and talks about giving employees rights at work, protecting their jobs. She also makes it clear that she believes it is very important to show people that voting Labour will make a difference to their lives. She wants to show people in the north that Labour will tackle homelessness, not just by building more homes, but by building more social housing, so that people, who can’t afford a house will get one. It will be a radical transformation of society, just like it was in the 1940s.

She also talks about how difficult it is being an MP. As a Member of Parliament, you just want to talk about your policies and the issues, but you have to be aware that every time you give an interview, the media are trying to lead you into a trap by getting you to say the wrong thing, or criticise a Labour colleague.

Long-Bailey clearly has a deep grasp not only of the abstract economic issues involved, but also of the personal dimension as people are driven in debt, misery and despair through neoliberalism’s destruction of the British economy for the enrichment of the small number of extremely rich and privileged. And she is inspired by the same ideas as those of Clement Attlee and the great labour politicians, who forged the post-War consensus and gave Britain it’s longest period of economic growth, as well as expanding opportunities for ordinary working women and men.

And it can only be brilliant that the FT, that great pillar of financial capitalism, has come on board to support a return to Keynsianism.

As for the pet Thatcherite policies of Monetarism and neoliberalism, Robin Ramsay has spoken of Monetarism that when he studied economics in the late 60s and ’70s, it was considered such as a nutty idea that his professors didn’t bother to argue against it. He has suggested that it’s possible the Tories, who embraced it also knew it to be a load of rubbish. But they adopted it because it provided an ideological justification for what they wanted to do anyway: privatise industry and smash the organised working class.

Now Thatcherite neoliberalism is falling apart very obviously, and the elite are panicking. Hence the non-story about Clive Lewis and his supposed ‘misogyny’, which is a complete non-story. It’s being used by the Tories to try to distract people from their continuing failures over Brexit, the privatisation of the health and education services. And, of course, the sheer mass of seething misogyny and racism in their own party.

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Short Video of Jeremy Corbyn Talking to the Victims of Grenfell Tower Fire

June 17, 2017

This is a short video from RT I found on YouTube of Jeremy Corbyn’s visit to one of the community centres housing the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire. Corbyn states that this is a time of great stress, but promises that he will do everything to get to the bottom of it, and says that he will leave them to raise questions about it in parliament. He also praises the community spirit which pulled everyone there together.

And shortly before the end, he talks to a little girl with purple dreadlocks, who’s come up to see him.

During his career, Corbyn has always shown his solidarity with the poor, marginalised and oppressed, and I have absolutely no doubt that he will indeed do his utmost for those poor souls.

His dignified words and quiet solidarity shame Theresa May, who really didn’t want to meet the fire’s victims. She was happy, though, to go to see the council, whose penny pinching savings resulted in the seriously unsafe building that finally burst into flames so horrifically.

I’m not really surprised. May does not like speaking to or meeting the general public. She far prefers closed meetings, like those she held during the election, where all the individuals are picked members of the local Tory community association. And where all the questions from the press have been vetted beforehand.

When she was finally shamed into going to see the victims, they terrified her with their sheer anger, and she more or less ran to her car.

But these people have every right to be furious. They’ve lost everything – family, friends, neighbours, their homes and possessions. They’re social housing tenants and among the poorest people in London. They have been shabbily treated by a Conservative-led council in one of London’s wealthiest boroughs, who were apparently hoping to clear them out to gentrify the area.

There are serious questions which need to be asked about the multiple failures of government, that resulted in this horrific disaster. Not least among them should be Boris Johnson’s decision to close ten fire stations, and waste public money buying two water cannons, which cannot be used in Britain.

And just as Theresa May and the Tories are doing everything they can to wriggle out answering them, I have every faith that Jeremy Corbyn will do everything he can to give them and their supporters up and down the country the answers they need.

As for May, the best thing she and her government can now do is accept complete responsibility and resign.

Weak and Wobbly Theresa May’s Contradictory and Crap Housing Policy

May 15, 2017

The leak last Thursday of the Labour party manifesto, with its promise to nationalise the railways and parts of the energy network, clearly has rattled the Tory party. Mike over at Vox Political remarked that leak was probably intended to discredit these policies, but instead they have proved massively popular.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/11/labours-manifesto-approved-unanimously-by-nec-and-shadow-cabinet-after-leaked-version-wins-huge-public-support/

I’m not surprised. The Tory party, of course, started shrieking that this would drag us all back to the 1970s – actually not a bad thing, as Mike has also pointed out, considering that the gulf between rich and poor was at its lowest during that decade. The Torygraph also went berserk, and plastered all over the front page of its Friday edition a headline claiming that Labour MPs were ‘disowning’ it. I don’t know how true this was. It could be the Blairites trying their best to undermine their own party again, in order to shore up virtuous neoliberalism. Or it could be just more rumour and scaremongering put out, as usual, by the rag and its owners, the weirdo Barclay twins. The Telegraph has been in the forefront of the newspapers attacking Corbyn since he was elected to the Labour leadership. So many of its stories are just scaremongering or, at best, the fevered imaginings of a frightened capitalist class, that you can’t really believe anything the newspaper actually writes about the Labour party or its leader. Ken Surin, in an article for Counterpunch, quoted statistics by media analysts that said that only 11 per cent of reports about the party presented the facts accurately.

But the fact that the railways do need to be renationalised was ironically shown again that day, as a train I wanted to catch was delayed by 15 minutes. Because a train had broken down. The British taxpayer now pays far more subsidies to the private rail companies for a worse train service than in the 1970s. So once again, we’re back to showing that rather than being a decade of uniform disaster and imminent social collapse, it was better in some ways than the present.

So May has decided to unveil a few radical policies of her own. In order to counter Labour’s promise to build a million new homes, half of which will be social housing, in the next five years, May has announced that her government will boost the number of social housing being built, and included a special right to buy clause. Which sounds good, until you realise that they’re not going to release any more money for it.

Without that extra money, the promise is meaningless.
It’s more Tory lies.

http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2017/05/14/theresa-may-has-actually-announced-a-policy-and-its-rubbish/

The Tory party has absolutely no intention of building any more social housing. Mike has put up in his article a table of the Tories’ abysmal record on housing. These include a 43 per cent increase in homelessness, a 166 per cent jump in the number of people sleeping rough, private rents have gone up by over £1,700 since 2010, and the cost of owning a home for first-time buyers has risen by £65,000. But this won’t worry the Tory party, as 1/3 of them are private landlords. And I distinctly remember Johnny Void posting a number of articles about they sought to profit by the dearth of housing in London.

And this is quite apart from the fact that the Tory press, such as the Daily Mail, is aimed very much at the kind of people, who buy to rent, and endlessly applauds high house prices even though they make homes unaffordable to an increasing number of people in 21st century England. Of course they see such prices as a good thing, as it means even greater profits for them.

So they won’t want to undermine the housing bubble they’ve created, and cause prices to fall by building any more.

But they can’t be seen to be doing that, with Corbyn and Labour hot on this issue.

So they’ve concocted this rubbish, self-contradictory policy, hoping that people will be deceived by the meaningless promise. They hope people will remember the first part, and forget that without any more money, it won’t happen.

Don’t let them fool you.
Vote Labour for a decent housing solution on June 8th.

Ken Surin’s List of Theresa ‘Goody-Two Shoes’ May’s Lies and Attacks on the Poor and the Welfare State

May 9, 2017

More from a contributor to Counterpunch, though this time it isn’t about the lies, smears and bullying of the Israel lobby.

Ken Surin is a British academic, who now lives and teaches in America. He’s written a list of articles attacking Theresa May for her lies, U-turns and her attacks on the poor, working people and the welfare state. And her plans to sell off whatever remains of the NHS to private American healthcare companies as part of a Brexit deal.

He calls her ‘Goody-Two Shoes’, because that’s how May described herself: she says she was a ‘goody-two shoes’ in school.

Her first U-turn affected him personally. He lost his right to vote in 2002 when Blair decided that Brits who had been away for more than 15 years shouldn’t have the right to vote in British elections. May then declared that if she got in, she’d repeal it. Now that she’s in power, she hasn’t. She’s a liar. But then, what do you expect from the Tories?

He also states that he’s not surprised the Tories have got a 17 point lead over Labour. They’ve been undermined by the antics of the Blairites, the Zionist lobby’s maligning him as a anti-Semite, because he’s a member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the loss of northern working class voters to UKIP, and, most significantly, the massive right-wing bias of the media.

A study by the LSE showed that on average, only 11 per cent of newspaper articles accurately reflected Labour policies. And in the case of the Daily Heil and Express, that ratio falls to zero.

He states that May is simply an opportunist, as shown by the way she voted Remain in the Brexit referendum, but to stay in power has turned her party into ‘UKIP-lite’.

And then he gives the following list of some her lies and U-turns.

The Tories were fined £70,000 last month by the Electoral Commission for failing to declare more than £275,000 in election-spending in the 2015 election. A dozen police forces have passed files relating to these expenses to the Crown Prosecution Service.

The CPS had intended to decide by the end of May if there were to be prosecutions for these violations, but an election in 2017 would probably take the wind out of attempts to prosecute 20 Tory MPs (or thereabouts) for their fraudulent activity in the 2015 election– “that’s history now”, many are likely to say.

If May called an early election for this reason, it would only demonstrate the flexibility of her principles.

May’s most recent budget dissolved into chaos when an increase in national insurance for the self-employed broke a 2015 election manifesto pledge. The ensuing public outcry panicked May and her colleagues into a U-turn, and the proposed increase was rescinded.

Since 2010 the Tories have promised to increase spending on the National Health Service every year, and that funding for schools would increase per student. In its report card after the most recent budget, The Independent said:

The public sector has been another loser. The NHS, which was in the black in 2010, faced a £1.85 billion deficit in 2016, the largest deficit in its history. As a result, waiting times are up, and the NHS is facing, what the British Red Cross have described as a ‘humanitarian crisis.’ Conditions in the NHS have led to an exodus of doctors. A third of Accident and Emergency doctors left the UK to work abroad between 2010 and 2015. There is a similar pattern in education, where 10,000 teachers left the profession in Cameron’s first term. In both sectors, real terms cuts in spending has increased workloads to a point where many professionals are no longer willing to continue.

Running down public services has hit some groups much harder than others. Austerity has hit women’s incomes twice as hard as men’s. Cuts to lone parent benefits since 2010, for example, have fallen disproportionality on women, for the simple reason that women make up 90 per cent of lone parents. At the same time, as women tend to be low earners they have benefited far less from tax cuts than men.

This is followed by a list of motions she has voted for, in which she has consistently supported the rich, and attacked the poor.

As home secretary, May introduced laws forcing internet service providers to help the UK’s spy agencies hack into computers.

Despite moving her party to the right so it can campaign as UKIP lite, May’s record on immigration when she was home secretary prior to becoming prime minister would certainly not please UKIP voters. May vowed to cut net immigration down to the “tens of thousands”, only to have it increase to a record high of 330,000.

May voted for the notorious “bedroom tax”, which reduced housing benefit for social-housing tenants deemed to have unoccupied bedrooms.

She voted against raising welfare benefits so they remained in line with inflation.

She voted against paying higher benefits over longer periods for those unable to work because of illness or disability.

She voted for making local councils reduce the amount spent on helping those in financial need pay their council taxes.

She voted for a reduction in spending on welfare benefits.

She voted against smoking bans and the hunting ban.

She voted for increasing the rate of the highly regressive Value Added Tax (VAT)

She voted against increasing the tax rate applied to income over £150,000.

She voted against a banker’s bonus tax.

While she voted for the bedroom tax to be imposed on people in social housing, May voted against the mansion tax, i.e. the annual tax on the value of expensive homes.

She voted for more restrictions on trade union activity.

May voted against restricting the provision of services to private patients by the NHS.

She voted for raising England’s undergraduate tuition fees to £9,000 per year.

She has always voted for academy (i.e. private) schools.

While all the above has been transpiring, a massive upwards transfer of wealth from lower-tiered income earners to the top has been occurring. According to the Social Market Foundation, in the UK:

… the average wealth of the best-off one-fifth of families rose by 64 per cent between 2005 and 2012-13.

However, the SMF found the poorest 20 per cent are less financially secure than they were in 2005, with their net wealth falling by 57 per cent and levels of debt and use of overdrafts increasing. Homeowners have raced ahead of people in rented accommodation….

The Equality Trust, citing 2014 data from the Office for National Statistics, said the majority of the UK population (66%) hold no positive financial assets at all, while the remaining 34% hold £9trillion in such assets.

He also cites a report that May wishes to sell off the NHS by the Independent.

The Independent has just reported that May, who is desperate for trade deals to replace those made under the auspices of the EU, which will of course no longer exist after Brexit, is willing, as part of a deal with Trump, to sell-off the NHS to those most villainous of business enterprises, the American “healthcare” corporations.

Surin states that ‘this is class war by another name’, a sentiment expressed by Owen Jones in his book Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class.

Surin says about May herself

Going solely by the immense distance between what she professes in public and how she votes, Theresa May is an absolutely bare-faced phony. Her voting record, displayed above, confirms her fundamental and vital support for Tory austerity policy.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/08/with-theresa-goody-two-shoes-may-what-you-see-on-tv-wont-be-what-you-get/

Don’t be deceived by the media and the Tories. May will kill off the welfare state and the NHS, just as Margaret Thatcher wanted and the Tories and Blairites have been conspiring to do over the past forty years.

Vote Labour, and vote for Corbyn.

The Conservatives and the Sale of Council Housing in Britain and Sweden

May 15, 2016

I’ve put up a couple of pieces, one today and one yesterday, which attempt to expand an article Mike put up on his blog, Vox Political, about the housing shortage and the scandalous rise in evictions. These have now doubled. This ultimately comes back to the Tory sale of council houses under Maggie Thatcher in the 1980s. This was deliberately designed to turn Britain into a home-owning democracy. The stock of council housing was deliberately reduced, and over the years former council houses have been bought up by housing associations and private landlords. As a result, rents in some areas have risen to the point where they are unaffordable.

Michael Sullivan in his book, The Development of the British Welfare State, notes that the Tories took their ideas for Housing Association, as a non-state solution to the housing crisis at the beginning of the ’60s, from Sweden and the Scandinavian countries.

In 1961 the Conservative government, struggling with evidence that the crisis was deepening not tapering out re-introduced substantial subsidies for new build, but, under Joseph, the Ministry of Housing was already turning to new ideas about housing for the poor. Officials seeking non-state solutions to the housing problem visited Scandinavia to investigate their not-for-profit housing association. Sir Keith, already an innovator, invested £25 million in a pilot project in 1961. In 1963, the fruit of that investment twelve two-bedroomed flats in Birmingham, took their first housing association tenants. Here, then, though from social democratic Scandinavia, was an idea that was to take root 20 years later in education and health: the publicly funded but independently managed provider of services. In the dog days of the Conservative government, a jubilant Sir Keith announced a £100 million grant to the newly formed Housing Corporation so that the idea of housing associations could spread. (P. 215).

It is therefore ironic that Sweden is also facing a housing crisis of its own, due to the importation of British Conservative housing policies in the 1990s under a Conservative administration. In 2013 riots erupted in an ethnically mixed sink estate, the product of the government’s abandonment of the social housing policies of Social Democratic administrations. This resulted in the creation of nearly all-White, affluent areas from which the poor were excluded through high rents. Owen Hatherley of the Guardian reported:

Under conservative governments in the 1990s and 2000s, housing began to be privatised, with predictable results, especially given the British experience. Flats in the most desirable areas – here, the city centre – rocketed in price. Yet Stockholm has kept building, and British architects and planners have kept visiting. The “success story” is Hammarby Sjöstad, a waterside scheme which shames the likes of Salford Quays. As much as Vällingby, it shows the virtues of long-term planning over speculation.

But although some of Hammarby was built by the municipality, it’s a wealthy and overwhelmingly white area, and rents are high. It offers little to those exiled to the peripheral million programmes. Hammarby implies that in Sweden, social democracy was only abandoned for the poor. Its innovations were retained for a bourgeoisie whose new areas are far more humane than those provided for them by British developers.

In Stockholm, the centre was cleared of the poor – the likely consequences in London of coalition’s housing policies. The stark segregation visible there means that for the first time, it should stand as an example to London’s planners of what not to do.

To read the Guardian’s article, go to: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/jun/16/sweden-housing-programme-privatisation

The newspaper, The Swedish Wire, also carried a piece about the recommendations of the Swedish building workers’ union and its leader, Hans Tilly in 2010. It stated clearly that the Conservative government’s free market policies had failed. More new homes needed to be built, existing homes renovated and improved, especially for the needs of the elderly and handicapped.

Among the unions’ recommendations were the following points:

Do something tangible about the housing situation of young people. Today’s youth is the first generation that is having greater problems finding somewhere to live compared to their parents’ generation. Therefore we should invest in more rental housing….

Pursue a social housing policy. Everyone must have the right to their own home and this right is often a prerequisite when it comes to giving our children a good environment to grow up in.

• Establish a new Ministry for Community Development. For far too long, these issues have been divided between different policy areas. Hence, what is required is a firm grasp of construction, housing and living environment, infrastructure etc.

The present government’s housing policy is frightening. The coalition government is, however, obviously quite satisfied with what it has achieved when it comes to housing policy. Its motto is choice. The housing policy is to a large extent a non-issue for the present government. The government’s Spring Budget for 2010 gives a summary of what the government itself claims to have done as regards housing policy since 2006. 19 lines describe how the government has worked to achieve a better functioning housing market, how those living in the Million Homes Programme areas have been given the opportunity to buy their homes and how the government has introduced a system of owner occupancy in newly built blocks of flats.

See the article at: http://www.swedishwire.com/opinion/4987-swedens-housing-policy-has-failed

Across the world, Conservative housing policies have failed. They are only creating poverty, social exclusion and homelessness. The time is long past that they should be abandoned.

The Canary on Lambeth Council Using Psychiatry to Evict Elderly Tenant

March 13, 2016

The Canary has published a piece about how Lambeth council had an elderly resident sectioning an elderly artist, Tony Healy, so they could evict him from his home. This was despite protests from all four parliamentary candidates against moves to remove him. The sectioning was carried out without the knowledge or support of Mr Healy’s own GP.

The Canary writes

An 81-year-old social housing tenant has been forcibly removed from his home in South London, despite public and political opposition. Artist Tony Healy had been fighting against the eviction from his housing co-op, where he has lived for more than 30 years. Until, that is, Lambeth council made an unexpected move: sectioning him under the Mental Health Act.

Lambeth council began eviction proceedings against Healy in 2012. His ‘short-life‘ property is owned by the council, which lets them to tenants for fixed-term periods. However, in 2015 all four Vauxhall parliamentary candidates fought against the eviction of vulnerable tenants from these properties.

Despite this unified political opposition, Healy received another eviction notice dated 5 February 2016. The council then visited him on 2 March to persuade him to move voluntarily. According to Lambeth United Housing Co-op, the council were accompanied by medical health professionals.

On 3 March, Healy received a note saying he would be sectioned. Around 1am on the morning of 4 March he was taken to hospital, reportedly as a result of a second section order. He has also sustained a broken arm and hip for which he is being treated. Neighbours who have visited Healy say “these injuries appeared to have happened accidentally”. Campaigners against Healy’s eviction claim that Lambeth Council officers and bailiffs then tried to seize his house on 4 March, after he was removed. This effort was thwarted by his supporters.

For further information, see http://www.thecanary.co/2016/03/10/council-found-despicable-way-forcibly-remove-elderly-tenants/

The article also has links to a petition against Mr Healy’s eviction. There was also to be a demonstration today on the Housing and Social Care bill, which threatens to exacerbate the shortage of social housing.

This is chilling, because it so closely resembles the political abuse of psychiatry in the former Soviet Union to imprison dissidents in psychiatric wards. It was described by Solzhenitsyn. It’s victims included not just Christians, but also Communists, who genuinely believed that Socialism should represent the poor and ministers and public servants should be accountable to those they govern. It’s another way the politics of the 21st century is becoming more authoritarian as Britain becomes a Thatcherite police state.

Hope Not Hate Critiques UKIP’s Claim that London Housing Crisis Caused by EU Migrants

March 8, 2016

Rachel O’Hara has posted a very good rebuttal of the Kippers’ claims that London’s housing shortage has been caused by migrants due to the EU’s ‘Open Doors’ policy over at the site of the anti-racism and anti-religious extremism organisation, Hope Not Hate.

The Kippers released a party political broadcast on Wednesday for their candidate for mayor of London, Peter Whittle. At the end of the broadcast, which concentrates on London’s housing shortage, Farage’s voice comes on to claim that the population is going up by a third of a million each year, all due to the EU’s open borders policy. O’Hara gives the details on the actual migration figures, and shows that migration from the EU only accounts for 172,000 people. The other 151,000 came from outside the EU.

She goes on to argue that London’s housing shortage is due not to immigration, but to the international rich buying homes as investments, which then remain empty. This just increases demand and pushes prices up even further. She also notes that the biggest increase in London’s population is due to migration from India. She concludes

It is NOT our border controls that are causing the housing crisis in London but the encouragement of foreign capital employed for trophy property investments, the lack of investment in social housing and the buy to let scheme.

Go read the full article at: http://www.hopenothate.org.uk/ukip/xxxxxxxxxx-4778

Last Fortnight’s Private Eye on Dave Cameron’s ‘Right to Buy’ Policy

April 14, 2015

Cameron formally announced today his ‘right to buy’ scheme, which would see the remainder of Britain’s stock of social housing sold off. Tom Pride and Mike over at Vox Political have already posted pieces on this today. I’ve reblogged Mr Pride’s, in which he tells it like it is. It’s just a return of Thatcher’s ‘right to buy’ scheme from the 1980s.

He goes further, and describes Cameron as ‘a pound-shop Maggie Thatcher’. Which is pretty much exactly what he is. Though it does leave you feeling that we’ve been short-changed. Surely with his blue-blood and Eton education he could be something a bit more up-market. A Fortnum & Mason’s Maggie Thatcher, perhaps, or may be a Harrod’s Maggie Thatcher? Or perhaps something a little more popular, but still offering quality: a Sainsbury food hall Maggie Thatcher?

Mr Pride also points out that the beneficiaries of the original right-to-buy fiasco weren’t the ordinary tenants, but the private landlords who purchased them and then hoiked the rents up accordingly. People like Charles Gow, the son of the minister, who privatised them. Young master Gow is a multi-millionaire with forty of them.

Johnny Void also wrote a piece I’ve reblogged earlier last year, when IDS announced it as his big idea, pointing out, along with Mike, that it would lead to a complete absence of council houses, and that the affordable housing that’s supposed to replace it isn’t anything of the sort. It won’t solve the housing crisis. It will only make it worse.

Which was Private Eye’s view in their last issue a fortnight ago. In ‘Housing News’ they wrote

The wheels are falling off Tory housing policy as the desperate search for votes intensifies.

Chancellor George Osborne’s final budget saw yet another ineffective give-away to first-time buyers in the form of “Help to Buy ISAs” – up to £3,000 in taxpayer cash to top up savings for a deposit. Like umpteen other schemes designed to help those who can’t afford a mortgage, this one may just inflate prices further while failing to address shortage of supply.

Not to be outdone, the Iain Duncan Smith faction promptly leaked the latest version of its own pet idea: to extend the Right to Buy to Britain’s 2.5m housing association tenants. This sounds like music to Tory ears until one realises that, unlike the social homes owned by the councils, housing association assets are private property.

For decades, governments trying to keep the national debt down have restrained council borrowing by tying up council housing assets in ring-fenced housing revenue accounts (HRA) and making it almost impossible for councils to build. Housing associations, on the other hand, are independent charities so their £65 bn in borrowing is safely “off balance sheet”.

As the chancellor must be only too aware, compelling housing associations to sell to tenants and use the RTB discounts enjoyed by council tenants (up to £102, 700 in London and £77,000 elsewhere) would cost serious amounts of taxpayer money and bankrupt a few housing associations. Then again, as this is the eighth election in row where the Conservative party has said it will extend RTB to housing association tenants, will the vote-catcher fare any better than usual?

That isn’t the end of the TRB saga. Under localism, some councils have found a way round Treasury borrowing caps via public-private partnerships, using the new “general power of competence” to create their own “local housing companies” and build homes – for sale and for social rent – and keep them outside the HRA. Not only does this evade the borrowing caps, but it also means the new homes are not, er, subject to the Right to Buy. Housing minister Brandon Lewis is not happy, and has threatened councils with serious reprisals. So much for localism.

Now public-private partnerships, like the Private Finance Initiative, are by and large a colossal waste of money and a massive drain on the state, all in order to provide contracts to the Tories’ donors in private industry. But if local councils are using such schemes to build more social housing, then perhaps we could do with more of them in this specific instance.

As for Osbo and his Help-to-Buy ISAs, one of the commenters over at Tom Pride’s or Johnny Void’s blogs stated that the last thing the Tories wanted was for the price of housing to go down, as this would have a knock-on effect on the rest of the economy through the way mortgages are used to stimulate finances elsewhere. Hence in the short-term, I really don’t think Osbo would be at all worried about housing prices going up, so long as the bubble burst when someone other than the Tories were in power.

As for the ‘Right-to-Buy’ policy having now been wheeled out by the Tories in eight elections in a row, that shows that they have absolutely no intention of honouring it. Not if it’s been touted in the past, but obviously not been put it into practice, if they’re still claiming they’re going to do it this time.

This means that Mr Pride was probably being overgenerous in his description of Cameron as a ‘pound-shop Maggie Thatcher’. The stuff in pound shops is cheap, but it’s still good quality. This, however, is a decidedly shop-worn policy, that is definitely past it’s sell by date. This is the Arthur Daley, Trotters Independent Traders version of Maggie Thatcher. If the policy was an animal, it’d be the dead parrot in the Monty Python sketch, gone to join the ‘choir invisibule’.

Boycott Workfare Announce Welfare Action Gathering May 30th

March 19, 2015

The campaigning group Boycott Workfare are organising a Welfare Action Gathering at the London Welsh Centre, on Saturday May 30th from 10.30 to 5.30. The day is intended to be a networking and mutual support event, in which protesters and activists can learn from each other how to organise and resist the government’s attacks on the welfare state and the poor, the sick and the unemployed.

Their page on it is entitled Welfare Action Gathering – 30th May. They state

Faced with policies that are pushing ever more people into precarity and poverty, thousands of us have been coming together to support each other. We are pushing back workfare, standing up to sanctions, challenging the work capability assessment and fighting insecure, unaffordable housing.

If you are concerned about:
◦Job centres being places of intimidation and sanctions,
◦Private providers bullying claimants on ‘welfare-to-work’ schemes,
◦35 hour jobsearch under Universal Credit,
◦ESA assessments putting sick and disabled people in fear of destitution,
◦Welfare rights for young people being abolished and replaced with unpaid work,
◦Workfare being required to be eligible for social housing,
◦Housing benefit being part of sanctions under Universal Credit,
◦Claimants in work being sanctioned under Universal Credit too…

…then do something about it and come to the Welfare Action Gathering to hear from other people organising across the UK! Learn about our rights and share ideas and tactics!

This isn’t a day for speakers from the front. Party political representatives aren’t invited. It’s a day for people at the grassroots to get together and work out how we can support each other, defend our rights and continue successfully to campaign against workfare and sanctions.

Organised by Boycott Workfare with Haringey Solidarity Group. Workshops and contributions from other groups are very welcome!

Go to http://www.boycottworkfare.org/?p=4243, for details of how to register, help with transport costs, access information, a list of similar workshops, and information on their Facebook event. They are also interested in talking to anyone, who is keen on holding a similar event near them.

Utah Adopts Social Housing for Homeless

March 1, 2015

Mike over at Vox Political has this story, http://voxpoliticalonline.com/2015/03/01/ending-homelessness-the-utah-way/ covering a story from the American liberal website, Nation of Change. The Republicans in Utah have now solved their homelessness problem because they worked out that the cost to the state of people living on the streets was $16,000, while it would only cost $11,000 to house them and provide them with a social worker. So Republican Utah, one of the most right-wing states in the US, took the homeless off the streets by giving them apartments. Mike’s story begins

How much does it cost to keep a homeless person out of hospital or jail, and to feed them?

That is the question that Utah’s state government asked, and when they discovered it was more than it would cost to house these people, the people’s representatives made the obvious choice.

Homelessness in Utah dropped by 78 per cent in the eight years to January 2014, and was on track to be eradicated altogether by this year.

But you won’t see a Conservative member of Parliament advocating such a policy! Why is that?

“In 2005, Utah figured out that the annual cost of Emergency Room [hospital] visits and jail stays for homeless people was about $16,670 per person, compared to $11,000 to provide each homeless person with an apartment and a social worker”, according to Nation of Change.

“So, the state began giving away apartments, with no strings attached. Each participant in Utah’s Housing First program also gets a caseworker to help them become self-sufficient, but they keep the apartment even if they fail. The program has been so successful that other states are hoping to achieve similar results with programs modeled on Utah’s.

“It sounds like Utah borrowed a page from Homes Not Handcuffs, the 2009 report by The National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty and The National Coalition for the Homeless. Using a 2004 survey and anecdotal evidence from activists, the report concluded that permanent housing for the homeless is cheaper than criminalization. Housing is not only more human, it’s economical.”

Mike contrasts this with the UK, where Cameron’s government has forced hundreds from their council houses and onto the streets. Some of this might seem to be due to a desire to take over the empty homes and convert them into luxury housing for the rich. But it’s far more likely that it’s done out of spite to hurt the poor.

Mike also points out the other Tory policies that are harming the economy, such as the tuition fees. The rise in these will cost the country £300 bn by 2030. Mike makes the point that they pensioners will be next to be attack by the Tories.

And then you.

You can bet that the Repugs have already started sneering at their brethren in Utah as ‘socialists’. The Libertarians have done the same to one of the eastern US states, because their healthcare is funded through a mixture of private and public health insurance similar to Switzerland and some of the other continental countries.

But Utah’s absolutely right. It’s humanitarian and makes good economic sense. Unlike everything this Conservative-led government over here has done.