Mayor George Ferguson has bold visions for Bristol and wants us the grasp the nettle… or whatever. Ferguson has a thing for politics… he doesn’t ‘em. And when it comes to the practicalities of the real world not the pie in sky blue sky thinking of the Merchant Venturer… he’s predictable. Before Xmas there was a proposal where low income households would be billed for a minimum of their council tax bill. Thankfully it lost… no thanks to the Greens they either abstained or voted against Labour’s Cllr Helen Holland’s amendment… aligning themselves with the Tories and George Ferguson! I mean even the LibDems voted with Labour.
And now there’s a Cabinet meeting on the 16th January which is the budget meeting. One of the proposals up for discussion is the bedroom tax and temporary blanket ‘no eviction’ policy be ended. Ferguson announced on March 20th 2013 that ‘the Council will not evict any tenants for arrears they build up due to a genuine inability to pay this new sum until a cross-party working group has had time to examine the issue and propose a sustainable way forward’.
According to this report
As at August 2013 the latest under occupation statistics reveal the following picture:
A total of 3,901 under-occupiers of which o 2,989 are council tenants o 912 are housing association tenants
3,204 are under-occupying by one bedroom with an average HB loss £12.70 per week 697 under-occupying by two or more bedrooms with an average HB loss £23.90 per week
There has been a 26% increase in the numbers of tenants, impacted by the charge, in arrears.
The total amount owed by tenants affected by the charge has increased to £725k.
The conclusion of the working group was that a no eviction policy is unsustainable for the following reasons:
The policy would send a message to tenants that paying rent was not important. This is unfair and would affect the services of tenants, often on low incomes, who do pay.
The policy would be ambiguous in that it is not easy to distinguish between – inability to pay as a result of other circumstances (40% of tenants were
already in arrears prior to the introduction of the charge) – inability to pay as opposed to the tenant’s decision not to pay.
The policy could be seen to disadvantage those tenants who choose to prioritise their rent payments, at the detriment of accruing other debts
The policy would be unfair in that it would provide advantage to those tenants specifically impacted by the under-occupation charge.
The whole ethos this report puts the onus onto the tenant. It is about them downsizing. It’s about homes becoming dwellings. “Fairness” is thrown in as a tool for divide and rule
This will ensure fairness so that tenants’ affected by the UOC are not given advantages not available to other tenants’.
Bedroom tax is about destablishing people, about warehousing people and a wholesale attack on social housing. It is social cleansing. Rather than sticking with the “no evictions” blanket policy Bristol Council has capitulated to government pressure. But that was going to happen anyway.I suppose Eric Pickles’s understanding of localism is that he tells local authorities what to do.
The membership of this committee is made up of Greens, Tories, LibDems and Labour. This proposal will be discussed at the Cabinet meeting on Thursday, I assume there will be a vote. Labour has to make a political stand and make it a priority emphasising too that the bedroom tax was never put to the electorate driven through by an unelected politician. It’s pernicious, cruel and a further attack on the working class. What is more important and should be repeated to the Labour leadership is that council tenants are usually Labour voters. Labour should do what the Tories do to their traditional voters…. support them!