Nightmare on King Street (Part 16)

The ruling Tory group of Hammersmith and Fulham Council are a nasty, mean-spirited bunch. Their blatant classism and disgust for those whom they see as inferior (that’s ordinary working class people, benefit claimants and homeless people) has marked out the council as one of the cruellest in the country.

In the last day or so, the council has been sending out these cards to council tenants.

Happy Christmas from your overlords.

Happy Christmas from your overlords.

The fizzing pound coin represents an Alka Seltzer. Geddit?

Yesterday, Cllr Andrew Johnson, the council’s cabinet member for housing appeared on BBC London News to defend the local authority’s decision to send these cards. His manner was bullish, unrepentant and stridently classist. Remember this is the council where you will find Tory councillors referring to tower blocks as ‘vertical slums’ and the council itself working flat out to reduce to amount of council housing stock within the borough.

I was contacted by Tina Buckley, whose mother is a council tenant of some 60 years and has never been in arrears with her rent. Tina appeared on BBC London 94.9 where she was due to confront Cllr Johnson about his council’s Christmas cards. The ordinarily pugnacious Johnson  took the coward’s way out and declined an invitation to appear.

Let’s remind ourselves of Cllr Johnson’s past musings on council housing. From The Evening Standard, 2 October 2012.

“We believe that the notion of a tenancy for life is outdated and that it’s wrong to expect to inherit a welfare benefit in the form of a subsidised house irrespective of housing need.

“Instead, we want to give honest, hard-working, local residents on low to middle incomes, who make a positive contribution to their local communities, the opportunity to access social housing.”

On Conservative Home, Johnson penned an article that outlined his thoughts about the housing shortage:

That’s why we’re doing all we can to increase the supply of homes to buy for local people on low to medium incomes, through new delivery using council land and assets. We already have a significant amount of social housing, but it needs to be used more effectively. It’s why we’ve brought in fixed termed tenancies and given far greater priority for those in work rather than on welfare. What we really need is more housing for the middle market and at long last we have the figures to prove it.

There’s little, if any, mention here of homes to rent. The council knows that those on low to medium incomes cannot afford the borough’s vastly inflated house prices and will regularly trot out weasel words like these. There are new developments all over the borough and many of the properties within them will be sold to Chinese investors. If LBH&F could get its way, it would sell off all of its council housing (it’s been transferred to a so-called ‘arms length’ management company or ALMO) to foreign investors for redevelopment.

In last October’s edition of Inside Housing, Johnson said:

‘The old, antiquated system has created disadvantaged communities by producing concentrations of people on benefits with disproportionately high levels of unemployment and sometimes social breakdown.

‘In its place, we want to create neighbourhoods where a broad mix of social households all live side-by-side.’

Classism writ large. There will be no “broad mix of social households” if the council gets its way.

Time and time again, the new crop of Tories have shown themselves to be bullies. Unable to fathom what life is like on a low income, they would rather engage with fictional characters and myths than real people. If people are finding it hard to pay their rent, in Tory eyes, it’s because they’d rather spend their money on flatscreen televisions, booze and iPhones than on their rent. This card is nothing less than an attempt to bully people. It also deliberately ignores the economic plight of many of those who are housed by the council, whose stagnant incomes have failed to keep pace with the spiralling cost of living.

The Cowan Report also has the story here.

Next May, we have a chance to vote this current Tory administration out.  Let’s do it.

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