NATIONAL MARCH AGAINST THE HOUSING ACT ~ for secure tenancies and controlled rents
Rev Paul Nicolson – delivered at Hyde Park Corner on the 18th June 2016
The enforcement of council tax against benefits since April 2013 is a story about piling stress upon stressed households with the indiscriminate use of information technology against the most vulnerable people in England and Wales. Many will also have rent arears due to cuts in housing benefit. The means to pay off the rent and the council tax arrears is often stopped by a benefit sanction for one month, three months or three years.
Since April 2013 housing benefit has been cut three stressful times, by the co-called “Bedroom tax”, the “Benefit cap” and the “Local Housing Allowance”. Those three cuts in housing benefit have created rent arrears, evictions and misery for tenants. In 2015 more than 170 tenants were evicted every day in England and Wales, according to Ministry of Justice figures.
Also since April 2013 the same benefit income, which is expected to pay the rent, due to those cuts in housing benefit by central government, is expected to pay council tax due to the cuts in council tax benefit by local government. Many cannot pay either rent or council tax.
That is where information technology clashes with vulnerable humanity. A loveless computer printout is carried by the councils to the magistrates’ courts. On it will be 10s, 100s or 1000s of names of late and non payers of council tax. The printouts blindfold the Magistrates. In May 2013, at the first enforcement courts after benefits were taxed by Haringey Council, there were over 4000 names on the printouts. The Tottenham magistrates waved their hands over these loveless printouts and “they presto” the council is given permission, with liability orders, to enforce the tax against 1000s of people, with draconian acts of intimidation.
There are threats to take the arrears out of shredded benefits or low pay, of the bailiffs and prison. Over 20,000 liability orders a year awarded by the blindfolded Tottenham Magistrates to the London Borough of Haringey and 3.5 million by other magistrates to councils in England and Wales in 2013/14.
The vulnerable circumstances of the people named on the printouts are unknown to the magistrates and often to the councils. They will be people with rent arrears who have been sanctioned, people with TV licence fine arrears who have had a visit from the bailiffs. There will be pensioners, residents with a disability, the blind, the deaf, the seriously ill, the recently bereaved, single parent families, pregnant women. Humanity is of no concern to a loveless printout. Justice does not exist in the monstrous spread of government by computer.
In Haringey we have some of the most deprived wards in the UK with among the highest incidence of low birth weight babies, risking life time mental and physical illness, probably due to poor maternal nutrition, and with the lowest expectation of life.
No march in this country is more important than this one. We demand secure affordable homes for every resident of every council. We are quite clear what affordable means.
An affordable home is one that leaves enough income to buy a healthy diet, cook it and keep warm, to buy clothes, a bus or a train ticket and other necessities, enjoy some recriationr, AFTER RENT, council tax and income tax have been paid.
Life is very oppressive without an adequate income and an affordable home.
That is why I am refusing to pay my council tax.
Love and solidarity.
from the Reverend Paul Nicolson
Taxpayers Against Poverty
No citizen without an affordable home and an
adequate income in work or unemployment.
93 Campbell Road, Tottenham, London N17 0BF, 0208 3765455, 07961 177889,