Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Pass the Poorest

The madness and cruelty at the heart of ConDem austerity policies has been exposed again. The London Borough of Newham in East London, one of the poorest areas in the UK, has a housing waiting list of over 28,000 people. Last year, because of ConDem local government grant cuts, it made £100 million of cuts in services. These cuts are having a terrible effect on some of society’s poorest but more is to come.

The ConDem housing benefit cap has placed further pressure on the council budget as private market rents are above the cap in Newham partly due to the coming Olympic games in the area. This means that the council will lose money each time it places a family on the waiting list in a London house or flat. This is not an incentive to help London’s homeless and in need. Capping the private rental charges makes more sense but goes against 'market knows best' mantras that get more hollow by the day.

The council has responded by writing to 1000 housing associations across the country offering to relocate families on the waiting list to Stoke, Manchester and other cities where it is cheaper to rent housing. The result is the first sign of ‘social cleansing’ where the poorest are not helped but simply removed from an area and pushed onto another council or area. This will spread the local government funding crisis by putting pressure on other councils to provide services. A sick game of Pass the Poorest (like Pass the Parcel but without the music) has been set in motion revealing the callous and vicious nature of ConDem housing ‘policy’.

At a time of growing unemployment and huge problems buying a home due to banks fearing to lend, council (or social) housing is needed more than ever. It is possible to start regenerating the British economy by investing in new housing or refurbishment of empty housing stock. This could provide jobs and bring new housing to tackle the crisis. Instead, the Tories and Liberal Democrats want cuts and increase the misery of the poorest in the process. Their priorities are the wishes of the money markets and the delusion that capitalism will provide.

In London, there are nearly one million on housing waiting lists either living in unsuitable accommodation or homeless. Newham’s housing crisis and its solution raises the British housing crisis to a new level. It also sinks the ConDem coalition to a new level of moral decay. An investment driven council house building programme along with private rental capping are urgently needed to stop the misery of having no place like home for hundreds of thousands.