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Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Housing policy realities and consequences

By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Brent Housing Partnership's interpretation of 'Managing Homes for Brent Council'
works out as 'Evicting Locals for Vacant Possession' so the Council can sell the land to 'developers'

The following text is transcribed here from a demo leaflet published by KUWG in conjunction with Community Organisers and Unite Community for an anti-eviction event in December 2014. It serves to emphasise that councils have already been turfing out tenants even before the Conservative Manifesto for 2015 UK General Election was published.

'Regeneration' Demolishes Secure Council Housing

Previously we have seen:

  • Building of decent social housing for tenants on the South Kilburn Estate previously put 'on hold' for decades
  • Council and Government spending on services never accounted for promises made to tenants

Land sold off as tenants are sold out! Now we see:

  • Secure tenants are being evicted for different reasons as land is sold off and tenants sold out
  • Leaseholders not being able to afford to stay in the locality
  • Temporaray tenants facing uncertainty
  • Tenants with secure tenancies being pressurised and paid to move out of their homes to make way for development
  • Insttituional evictions which are widespread, where the courts and the local authority work hand in hand evicting many
  • Council housing in South Kilburn being phased out right under our noses to be replaced by 50% private developments and housing associations. Of the 236 new homes being built on the site of Gloucester House and Durham Court, 135 of them will be for sale on the private market

"Taken to the Cleaners": One tenant's case....

Jess, a secure tenant of 18 years on the South Kilburn Estate, tells her story of the harsh measures taken by the Council which has lost Jess her secure tenancy.

"I lost the security of my permanent council home when I rented a room to some friends and took up a temporary job offer abroad where I stayed in staff a ccommodation. I left my belongings inside the flat and they knew I was coming back. My tenancy agreement says that I am allowed to do this if I ask permission from the Council. The Councill cannot really refuse this request."
Consent to subletting: Section 94 of the Housing Act 1985:
(1) This section applies to the consent required by virtue of section 93(1)(b) (landlor's consent to subletting of part of dwelling hous)
(2) Consent shall not be unreasonably withheld (and if unreasonably withheld shall be treated as given); and if a question arises whehter the withholding of consent was unreasonable it is for the landlord to show that it was not.
"If I had got the appropriate permissions I would have been able to keep hold of my tenancy AND carry out my job contract abroad. This would have been possible as my tenancy agreement says I'm allowed to sublet with permission.

"The Judge explained that I should have put in writing I still had access to the flat. Because I did not do this the Brent's Barrister said that I moved out without realising it, giving them exclusive possession, claiming I 'sublet' the entire flat. I ended up losing my job contract aboad as the Council wrote to my employer telling them about the prospective legal proceedings. The Council acted harshly, not to stop me from doing something wrong, but to get the property back."

Stop Evictions!

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Vote Swapping and tactical voting

From Benefits & Work Publishing

Election special: should you swap votes with a stranger or support the enemy?

This is an election in which you may have to make tough decisions about what to do with your vote, even to the extent of swapping your vote with a stranger or voting for a party that has helped to slash your benefits.
The polls, pushed by an endless stream of tabloid hate, may just have begun to move in the Conservative’s favour. The possibility of £12 billion in benefits cuts, hitting disability living allowance, personal independence payment, housing benefit and carers allowance is still very real.
The Tories themselves are pouring huge amounts of millionaire donors’ money into identifying and bombarding a tiny number of undecided voters – perhaps 40,000 – in key marginals. If they succeed in frightening them into voting Conservative, the election may well be theirs.
Vote swap website home pageAnd this is a tactic that won’t even show up in the polls.
So, should claimants – who have the most to lose if the Tories get in - also be resorting to ‘under the radar’ tactics, such as vote swapping and tactical voting?
Vote swapping was credited with taking seats from the Tories in the 2001 general election, it could certainly do so again next week.
And tactical voting takes a strong stomach, but it can also achieve results.
Green/Labour swaps
Labour supporters in safe Labour and safe Tory seats are swapping votes with Greens in Labour marginal seats using the Vote Swap website.

This way the Greens still get the same share of the national vote, but by voting Labour their supporters also get the chance to prevent a Tory taking a swing seat.
It neatly solves the issue of whether to vote with your head or your heart.
Vote Swap claims to have arranged over 10,000 swaps already.
Swap My Vote website home pageLib Dem/Labour swaps
If you are in a Lib Dem/Tory marginal, you might be prepared to vote Lib Dem if a Lib Dem supporter in a Labour/Conservative marginal will vote Labour for you.
After all, every seat the Lib Dems take from the Tories reduces the Conservative’s chances of being the largest party. And the Lib Dems have said they wouldn’t support the full £12 billion in benefits cuts.
There are undoubtedly still some left-leaning Lib Dems left in the country. The Swap My Vote site gives you a chance to make contact with a potential swapping partner to check out their political opinions, because you can only register using your Facebook or Twitter login.
The tactical voting alternative
If you’re in a Lib Dem/Conservative marginal and don’t like the idea of trusting someone else with your vote, you can simply vote Lib Dem to try to deprive the Tories of a seat.

For many claimants voting Labour will be unpleasant enough, voting Lib Dem almost unthinkable.
But if it reduces the chances, even by a fraction, of massive benefits cuts it has to be worth considering.
You can read more about vote swapping and tactical voting on the Benefits and Work website.
Vote swapping survey webpageIf you have an opinion on this issue that you’d like to share, you can also complete our Vote Swapping and Tactical Voting Survey. It’s anonymous, there’s only 4 questions and the results are posted online as they come in. We’ll also be publishing selection of your comments.
All parties are not the same
However you decide to vote, please don’t fall for the fiction that we’re still hearing too often – that it doesn’t matter who gets in, all the parties are the same.

The difference is immense.
In a report published yesterday, the Institute for Fiscal studies (IFS) pointed out that the amount that Labour are planning to cut from the working age benefits bill benefits is . . . zero. This is because their 1% cap on child benefit uprating is unlikely to save anything because inflation is so low.
In addition, Labour plan to actually add to the benefits bill by abolishing the bedroom tax.
On the other hand, the IFS say it’s ‘disappointing’ that the Conservatives still refuse to say where their massive £12 billion benefits cuts will fall.
They described the cuts as ‘extremely challenging’ and ‘painful’ and once again listed some of the cuts the Tories would have to look at making, including:
  • Taxing DLA, PIP and attendance allowance
  • Making all housing benefit recipients pay at least 10% of their rent
  • Abolishing child benefit
  • Reducing the child element of universal credit by 30%
The Conservatives announcement today, that they will pass a law to prevent a rise in the rate of income tax or VAT in the next parliament, only makes it more certain that they will have to impose massive benefits cuts.
So, if you’re unsure how to cast your vote, check out our Election special: who can you vote for to prevent “life-changing” benefits cuts?
And, regardless of the urgings of Russell Brand, please don’t give up the fight. Instead, go out next week and vote for your life.
Good luck,
Steve Donnison
Benefits and Work Publishing Ltd
Company registration No. 5962666

Dude Swheatie of Kwug responds to "a Green vote in Hampstead & Kilburn may let the Tories in" arguments

The Kilburn Unemployed Worker's Group is non-party-political and is divided on the matter of whether to vote Labour to keep out Tories with £12bn further — and unspecified! — welfare cuts. So this is a personal view of a KUWG member who is also a Green Party member.

I say that as a lifelong disabled person in my 62nd year, I am tired of being serially let down by the other political parties. I have been a Labour Party member 1980-84, Ecology Party meber 194-86, Lib Dem 1996-98 and Green Party of England & Wales from October 2005 after voting Green Party in previous council, European Parliament and General Elections. My experience of a variety of political parties has taught me that each political party is a coalition. And yet with its smaller size for several years while developing policies that reach people the more-television-advertised parties have lost interest in supporting as they have sold their souls to global corporate backers.

Online self-help network for carers and its related Pat's Petition are also non-party political. They have now released a statement that makes plain that Labour are not supporting disability benefits testing fodder in General Election 2015 while Natalie Bennett is commended for doing so. Call for a Ceasefire for ESA. So will voting Labour in Hampstead & Kilburn ultimately do any better for vulnerable people?

Revd Dr Martin Luther King warned throughout his activism and in his famous 'I Have a Dream' speech against "the tranquilising drug of gradualism." My experience as a lifling disabled person has been that in many ways that 'drug' has led to allowing things to get so much worse for vulnerable people. And by contrast, today I heard that London now has more billionaires than last year.

I close this comment with a point about global warming. If and when the Thames flood barrier gives out, there is likely to be considerable flooding of homes in areas like Tottenham Marshes and Hackney Marshes. What would that do to London's housing situation?

To this I would add that my own home parliamentary candidate is Holborn & St Pancras. This seat is traditionally a strong Labour majority constituency but Labour MP for several years Frank Dobson is retiring and the Labour candidate standing as his successor is Keir Starmer, ex-Director of Public Prosecutions. Moving around the constituency, I have been concerned about the 'Vote Labour' posters  in the windows of estate agent 'HousePresso'. That seems to me to be a mutual endorsement that suggests that regarding housing, the Labour candidate supports 'exploitation of vulnerable home-seekers as usual'. 

I would not be comfortable about doing that. 

And ultimately, it is up to voters in their respective individual constituencies to consider their own voting priorities, and whether swapping votes will further proportional representation and an accurate picture of voter allegiances for the next UK General Election which may not be all that far away.

See also:

Vote for Policies interactive portal website comparing party policies with your preferences ()


(To follow)

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Revd Paul Nicolson vs Tottenham Magistrates and LB Haringey

Guest blog piece from WinVisible (Women with Visible & Invisible Disabilities)

Taxpayers Against Poverty, Single Mothers’ Self-Defence, WinVisible and others are supporting Rev Paul Nicolson’s Council Tax challenge. Please come to support, and spread the word!

Legal challenge against extortionate court costs added to
Council Tax bills
Thursday 30 April
Royal Courts of Justice, Strand
London WC2A 2LL
9.30am vigil outside
10am in court for Judicial Review
Showing our support in the public gallery. (All day – we won’t know the court number until nearer the date.) 

Support Rev Paul Nicolson vs Tottenham Magistrates and the London Borough of Haringey. Rev Nicolson says: “I allege that Tottenham Magistrates have failed to control the level of costs they endorse in council tax cases, allowing Haringey Council to overcharge residents for up to ten years.”
For more info see: Taxpayers Against Poverty.
To contact Rev Nicolson: Tel: 0208 3765455, mob. 07961 177889

Single Mothers’ Self-Defence & WinVisible tel: 020 7482 2496

Monday, 27 April 2015

'Restorative justice' and 'key decision-makers'

 By Dude Swheatie of Kwug

Service users and deliverers make best policies

Kate Belgrave first of all looks at the mess that 'those who give the order' leave behind them, and then says:

.... But here’s the thing. As we speak, the people who’ve created these places and these confrontational situations and/or support more of the same are prancing about the nation seeking parliamentary election. They slash services and funding, and then abandon people who use and provide those services to their hellholes to slug it out. The arrogance of the thing is quite amazing. They destroy a service, then leave. I don’t think they should be able to leave. I’m tired of the fact that they can. The truth is that all MPs who support a JSA sanction regime, or a cut to housing staff numbers, etc, should be forced to spend the rest of their lives either using or fronting the service that they’ve trashed. Their Spads should be shoved in there, too. Somebody suggested in a comment on one of my stories that I should take an MP or councillor along to each of these jobcentre or housing meetings, etc, once we’re delivered of whichever half-arsed administration ultimately takes the reins. I think that’s an excellent shout, you know. No more fancy dinners, or trips to property fairs, etc, for that lot. They can have the pile of shit they’ve left behind instead. Let’s see how they bloody well like it. (1)

But see also my prior posting, Pollsters 'vision' excludes those offline? (2)

How about more-informed decision-making at the 2015 UK General Election?

(1) http://www.katebelgrave.com/2015/04/all-prospective-mps-should-have-to-use-or-work-in-the-services-they-want-to-trash/#more-8193
(2) http://kilburnunemployed.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/pollsters-vision-excludes-those-offline.html

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