Yesterday, David Cameron announced that council homes should not be for life. It’s fine for him to say this, he is the illegitimate descendant of royalty and, like his toff pals in the cabinet, has never had any need for social housing (or welfare benefits). But the question remains, why force people into buying property when they clearly cannot afford to do so? There is no logic and no sense to this announcement. Why am I not surprised?
Earlier on BBC Breakfast, the Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, attempted to soften his leader’s line by saying “If you live in a council house now, this won’t affect you”. I’m not sure what’s going on here. First Cameron says that the security of tenure will be removed from social housing tenants, then his minister says that it isn’t.
Shapps also said that the government would make it possible for council tenants to swap homes. I hate to burst your bubble, Grant but this already exists and it has existed for some time. I understand he’s talking about a “wider swap choice” but what does he mean by “choice” anyway? Is this a sugar coating?
“That’s why I’m putting tenants in the driving seat, with a new opportunity to see people like them looking to exchange social homes not just in their area but across the country, through a new National Home Swap Scheme.”
Ah, yes…the old canard of devolving power from the centre. So how will this new National Home Swap Scheme differ from those schemes already in place? Offering ‘choice’ of swap schemes will not solve the housing crisis.
Cameron has admitted that there will be a ‘big argument’ (I think that’s an understatement). The Independent notes that,
The “big argument” that the Prime Minister foresaw began almost as soon as he had spoken, with critics pointing out that his government plans to push house building down to its lowest level in almost a century, when there are already 4.5 million on housing waiting lists. Next year, it is expected that fewer than 100,000 new homes will be built, for the first time since 1923, because of cuts in public spending. The National Housing Federation has forecast that the cuts will add 350,000 to the already swollen waiting lists.
A comment on this article reveals some shocking ignorance about council house allocation.
The reality is that people who have just arrived in this country are often pushed to the front of the queue.
Wrong, there is no active policy among local authorities that discriminates foreigners over those who have lived here all their lives. This kind of myth feeds into the governments opposition to social housing.
A spokesperson for Shelter said,
“We do not believe the big question in housing policy is security of tenure for new tenants. The prime minister has sidestepped the fundamental cause of our housing crisis – the desperate lack of affordable housing supply.”
Quite, the housing shortage is not being addressed. It is being sidestepped, ignored and dismissed.
Nick Clegg, take note: there are rumblings of disquiet in your party, as this blogger argues,
It’s not simply the homeless or those in desperate need of a decent home. Many families will never be able to afford to buy their own home, yet face many years in unsuitable and overcrowded accommodation because of a shortage of affordable homes to rent.
As this blog points out, things would be no better under Labour.
We knew we were in trouble no matter who won the last election.
Another four years of New Labour and the injust and intrusive ‘Big Brother’ state and the continuation of the destruction of the Labour movement, or the toffs of the Conservative party with their sole interest, the propping up of the rich to the detriment of the poor in our society…
This blogger reminds us of where it all started
The Conservatives have always hated this, thinking that tenants in council housing always favour Labour. Thatcher tried to get around this by offering council tenants the right to buy their own homes. And those tenants living in very nice council estates snapped the offer up, but millions of others, living in less desirable housing, did not. Indeed, all Thatcher really achieved was in trapping those at the very bottom of the social housing ladder where they were forever. Because, having sold off the desirable council properties, her government stopped building any new council housing.
Of course the real rationale behind this is to create more Tory voters, this is what Thatcher thought when she introduced Right to Buy. The same blogger notes what Shapps said in defence of this new announcement,
“It is time to consider whether our affordable housing system can be better used and whether one of the benefits would be greater social mobility.”
This is not designed to create social mobility at all. That is a myth and smacks of Orwellian doublespeak but then, I have already identified two recent examples of the Conservative penchant for Orwellian language.
Let’s remind ourselves where the current mood for ending social housing comes from: the Tory-controlled London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Johann Hari writes,
People who took this at face value were startled by the first act of the Conservatives on assuming power – a crackdown on the homeless. They immediately sold off 12 homeless shelters, handing them to large property developers. The horrified charity Crisis was offered premises by the BBC to house the abandoned in a shelter over the Christmas period at least. The council refused permission. They said the homeless were a “law and order issue”, and a shelter would attract undesirables to the area. With this in mind, they changed the rules so that the homeless had to “prove” to a sceptical bureaucracy that they had nowhere else to go – and if they failed, they were turned away.
There is no such thing as ‘caring conservatism’; it is, like so many other slogans, a meaningless coupling of words.
I found this riposte to Hari from Hammersmith & Fulham councillor, Harry Phibbs (Phibbs by name…).
The reduction in the number of homeless hostels reflects anachievement in reducing the numbers in temporary accommodation. This is in line with the “good practice” objective the Government has set for Councils to stop using hostels. Does Hari think families should languish in hostels?
Nonsense, you’ve simply displaced the homeless to neighbouring boroughs by reducing the number of homeless hostels.
Here’s Phibbs in another blog
Would it be politically acceptable to end the security of tenure for Council tenants? The moral case that help should go to those in greatest need is strong. But what of the politics? I think the crucial point is for the changes to apply to new tenancies.
I find it amusing the way in which Tories will talk about ‘morality’ as though they had a monopoly on the word. But, as Nietzsche reminds us, when people talk about morality, they’re referring to their morality (or their own amorality) which they try to will force on others.
Hari’s claim that holding polo in Hurlingham Park has been at the expense of facilities there is the opposite of the truth. The deal with the World Polo Association is bringing in £170,000 in revenue to the Council over three years plus projects to improve the park and the opportunity for children from local primary schools to have free tickets to the tournament and attend sessions to learn polo themselves. The Labour councillors have just responded with a lot of ignorant class prejudice but the open minded can see the benefits.
I find the use of the phrase “ignorant class prejudice” ironic given the fact that this government is now engaged in an ideological battle to destroy the working class and remove from them any dignity or self-respect that they have. The desire to forge new model Tory voters out of working class people can only end in catastrophe.