Today we have a new scandal on the front pages, “social cleansing” and the movement of masses of people to other areas of the country.
This type of action is only something previously heard of in war torn countries or extreme right wing (even fascist) regimes. Yet today, Grant Shapps, Conservative Housing minister is trying to explain why the actions of Newham Council are happening when he specifically told the country that this would NOT be the result of government policy.
Newham Council, in London, the Olympic capital for 2012, is in discussions with Stoke on Trent, one of the most deprived areas of the country, to take up to 500 residents from their area because they can no longer afford to provide social housing for people due to the caps on Housing benefit.
We were assured by ministers that the idea of “social cleansing” and the fear of wholesale movement of poorer people out of the well off areas of London was simply hysterical, is now looking a little hollow.
We were assured by Grant Shapps in interviews:
Housing minister rebuts opposition critics: “We are not being unfair”
Concerns over Housing Benefit reforms “complete nonsense” says Grant Shapps.
Now the very concern dismissed by the government is now becoming fact. Whether by design or simply government incompetence (it is difficult to tell the difference at the moment) their policy is having the exact result that they stated would not happen.
Newham Council says it can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation.
The gap between market rents and the housing allowance is too big, it says.
It has written to the Brighter Futures Housing Association in Stoke, offering it the “opportunity” to lease homes to it.
The letter says the local private rental sector is beginning to “overheat” because of the “onset of the Olympic Games and the buoyant young professionals market”.
It says the council can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation as the gap between market rents and the local housing allowance has become too great.
The council has been “forced to look further afield for alternative supply”, it adds.
And unbelievably this is a “Labour” council.
But along with so much this government says like “no top down re-organisation of the NHS” ; “We are all in this together”; “No Banker will have a bonus of more than £2,000; and that they had no plans to raise VAT, all become hollow in the face of reality.
As with the NHS reforms that will have changed the service for ever, we will not know the full effects of the reforms until several years later, when the damage will have been done and most probably irreversible.
In respect of moving 500 people to Stoke On Trent, I understand that the “people” concerned have neither been consulted or their concerns heard.
This is policy could have some of the most vial consequences our country has ever seen, but we will sleep walk on regardless.