Posted 27 July, 2012
In response to Mr Machin’s letter “Rob the poor, feed the rich” (Look Local Issue: 706) its curious is it not, how a few years ago, moral outrage ensued when it was alleged that certain young women up and down the land were jumping to the head of the council housing queues for empty properties by getting themselves pregnant. Yet now politicians of all the main parties at both local and national level, see nothing wrong with forcing decent, law abiding, model social housing tenants of long standing, out of their homes if committing the sin of under-occupation and are in receipt of housing benefit (HB); in order to make way for “hard working” young families who have knowingly chosen to have more children than they have accommodation for. And then seemingly quite selfishly and callously, expect others to disrupt their lives to cater for their needs. Thus begging the question as to why the expression of moral outrage regarding the former allegation, yet whole hearted political support for the latter actually intended strategy.
To begin with, it seemed that the politicians were intent on witch hunting solely unemployed under occupying tenants in receipt of housing benefit, whilst leaving other categories of claimant alone. The only serious opposition to which took place in the House of Lords that Clegg and Co now seek to reform, in ways that will make the chamber nothing more than a rubber stamp for the increasingly powerful Secretaries of State able to singly enact and amend the law at their will, regardless of majority public opinion. But at one point, seemingly in order to placate the Lords, the government said that their plans would undergo “review”, whilst neglecting to state when such would take place, by who, according to what terms of reference and how long it would take. Thus conjuring up the possibility that the so-called HB reforms had been shelved for the foreseeable future. Though it now appears that all social housing tenants in receipt of housing benefit will suffer cuts in their payment if deemed to be under occupying properties. A strategy that such as Sheffield Council, Sheffield Homes, Housing Associations and local MPs seemingly support given their deafening public silence on the subject. Indeed, Sheffield Homes (and hence Sheffield Council) were already informing tenants via “In Focus” of how the new legislation would affect them if not willing to “voluntarily” dance to the required tune, before the legislation had been finalised and enacted. Thus demonstrating the usual stitch up was well and truly in place before the sham of formality completion.
The problem of course derives from successive government policies since Thatcher that have served to create, together with such as council incompetence for example, a stark shortage of genuinely affordable housing; in particular for the less affluent in society. And now this proverbial pigeon has come home to roost, the usual knee jerk tendency to deflect responsibility and cost for the debacle on to the poorest as a stop gap measure until after the next election, is once again to the fore.
For if people are deemed even under current rules to be too poor to pay the prevailing rate of rent and hence in need of housing benefit, then how on earth can they be expected to pay more rent if their HB is cut? The answer to which being of course that they can’t and hence will have an incentive to “volunteer” to be re-housed, seemingly once again at their own cost. Thus begging the question as to where all the appropriate properties are to come from and what happens if not enough (however undesirable) are available to the enforced evacuees. Besides how they are to afford removal costs amongst many other questions. Thus the spectre of increasing numbers of homeless due to evictions for being unable to afford rent whilst having no affordable place to go to, looms for many. Thereby begging the question as to how such homeless are to be catered for in future. Perhaps the politicians would care to explain?
For such concerns and more besides were patently ignored (and still continue to be) by the politicians of the three main parties when designing the legislation. Who mostly appear to be motivated both at local and national level to zealously pursuing the return to an imaginary pre-Beveridge free market Nirvana, whilst enriching themselves and the big money concerns at whose altar they choose to worship, at the expense of the poorest in the process of course. Consequently, under the current voting system and main party motivation, when the only option is to vote for either Pepsi or Coke on an ongoing basis to ones detriment, thus serves to disenfranchise an increasing public majority who find themselves on the receiving end of such; given that they have no taste for what’s currently on offer and hence no one to vote for to protect their own and the genuinely national interests. Thus begging the question - wither democracy in the near future one wonders? How can the down trodden best defend themselves from such self-serving persecution?