Housing upheaval can be traced back to Thatcher

26th May, 2012 5:16 pm

If further evidence was needed that the Government is destroying our communities then it came by the bucket load with proposals to relocate hundreds of housing benefit claimants.

Councils across London desperately searched for a solution to the housing benefit cap that made it impossible for some of the capital’s poorest residents to stay in their homes.

First we heard of plans to move residents to Darlington, Stoke, Hull and parts of Yorkshire. But the revelation that Westminster Council planned to ship up to 150 of its residents to Derby and Nottingham really brought the issue home in more ways than one. I have no beef with Westminster Council, and that it is Conservative-run is of no concern here. Indeed, Labour-run councils are faced with a similar predicament and were forced into the same quandary.

What angers me, though, is that David Cameron and his Government don’t seem to give a second thought to the very real impact on people here.

My first reaction to the news, as a Derby person born and bred, was concern for our city’s residents already on the housing waiting list, and the impact this would have on them. But it was considering this fiasco from another perspective that really put into perspective how out of touch the Government is with the damage it is doing to our society.

What about those families involved? Most would passionate about being from London as I am about being from Derby. How would they feel about being forced hundreds of miles away from the only place they know as home? And what about the children involved? Ripped from their schools, their friends and the hearts of their communities, for no better reason than the Government charged with protecting them has thrown them into poverty.

At every level, it was shameful state of affairs – resulting directly from yet another Government saving which targets the poorest.

It was an utterly disgraceful result of an ill-thought out policy designed to hit the poorest and most vulnerable.

What the Government should be doing is addressing the inadequate supply of affordable housing and the spiralling levels of private sector rents.

It is worth remembering that it was the Conservatives who said it didn’t matter if rent levels increased because “housing benefit would take the strain”. It was the Conservatives who moved housing subsidies away from building affordable homes to funding higher rents through housing benefit. And it was the Conservatives who sought to stigmatise social housing.

Now we have a housing crisis which is entirely the fault of an ideologically driven decision by Margaret Thatcher’s Government to smash council housing. The Tory Party ideologues recognised that council tenants tended to vote Labour and embarked on a policy of naked gerrymandering.

Switching housing subsidies from bricks and mortar into housing benefit also allowed private landlords to cash in on this new publicly funded cash cow. And cash in they did. Rogue private landlords couldn’t believe their luck. Many of them became millionaires courtesy of the Conservatives inequitable use of public money.

Thirty years later, their catastrophic legacy is resulting in London councils like Westminster being forced to consider such desperate measures. But what I find so ghastly about this whole sorry saga is the utter duplicity of this Tory-Lib Dem Government that blames the victims of a previous administration’s policy failure.

That is why we must address the inadequate supply of affordable housing and the crazy housing subsidy system that supports high rents in the private sector – in spite of the benefit cap.

Chris Williamson is the Labour MP for Derby North.

  • AlanGiles

    It might have started with Mrs Thatcher, but she has been gone these past 22 years.

    What is more to the point is why didn’t Blair take the opportunity, with a massive majority in 1997 and again in 2001  and a bouyant economy do something to rectify the situation.

    We are just as guilty as the Tories where the lack of council housing is concerned and there ought to be a frank admission of that fact – yet another of Blair’s failures

    * Donald Byrd (1932 –   )

    • treborc1

      It’s a political game, Thatcher we then had Major, we then had Blair, and then Brown, is Miliband a break in this, some how I doubt it after all was it not  Miliband who asked James Purnell, still widely viewed as a “Blairite”, to become his chief of staff. Purnell turned down the job.

      The game is to get elected, that’s all.

  • Steven Farquhar

    the subsidy britain pays to contribute to a property market backed by the most unemployed workforce in england, londoners inflate there property market based not on income but an ability to get a massive amount of capital investment that could be used much more profitably in other english cities like birmingham.  No wonder we are nearly bankrupt!

  • MonkeyBot5000

    “Now we have a housing crisis which is entirely the fault of an
    ideologically driven decision by Margaret Thatcher’s Government to smash
    council housing.”

    In 1997 we voted you in so you could fix those problems, not so you could tread water for 13 years and then go back to blaming Thatcher.

    We are perfectly capable of judging for ourselves who’s to blame so we pay MPs to focus on figuring out solutions – not pointing fingers.

  • Daniel Speight

    Now we have a housing crisis which is entirely the fault of an
    ideologically driven decision by Margaret Thatcher’s Government to smash
    council housing.

    Chris not sure if it’s even worth me saying as those below have already said, and with great doubts that you will have either the courage or the good manners to come back and answer on here.

    So yes, most things do go back to Thatcher as that was when the great neo-liberal reforms was enacted. Yes, her policies were ideologically driven and they have put back progress to a more equal society for getting on to half a century.

    BUT where does that place thirteen years of New Labour rule. Was our inability to make a real change in social housing policy ideologically driven? Don’t hit us with quotes made Labour luminaries on how it should be, just look at the numbers. Maybe ponder a question like ‘How many houses should individuals be able to own?’ and then maybe check out the Blairs or John Reid.

    The problem with a statement or post like yours is that you must know much of the thinking public is going to pick up on it just like the comments below. You should build the answer into the original post instead of looking like a fool. You’ve been around long enough to know better.

  • Mark

    What the heck IS Labour’s policy as far as housing goes these days? As far as I can remember the party is against rent controls and more tenant’s rights as far as the private sector goes and against committing funds to launch a comprehensive building programme in respect to social housing. As far as I can see none of the political parties give a fig about affordable housing unless it relates to subsidies and financial help to get a few tens of thousands of the young middle classes onto the bottom rung of the “housing ladder”.

    • treborc1

       It’s now called Affordable housing not social housing, you have to be political correct these days, I now live in an affordable home.

      • AlanGiles

        Unfortunately when politicians talk about “affordable” housing they seem to forget that, unlike them, ordinary people can’t claim their furniture, food and sundry costs on “expenses”, and add a few naughts to the total!

        “if you can’t be good – be bop” (Dizzy Gillespie, 1953)

  • Loxxie

    The coalition have promised to build a replacement house for every council home sold to its tenant. This is something Blair and Brown never did. If they had we wouldn’t be in the incredible mess we are in now thanks to uncaring governments, both Labour and Conservative, who turned their backs on needy people who had to rent accommodation in order to have a home. In my opinion Blair and Brown were WORSE than Thatcher because despite pledging themselves to help the millions in need of decent social housing when the nation gave them an unprecedented chance to put matters right they broke their word and built even less social housing than Thatcher while continuing to sell what little was left at a huge discount, just like the Tories, without replacing the homes that were lost.

    Politicians are scum.

    You should have all learned that lesson after eighteen years of governments led by Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown.

    • Loxxie

      Sorry. The last sentence should have read, “You should have all learned that lesson after thirty one years of governments led by Thatcher, Major, Blair and Brown.”

  • http://twitter.com/robertsjonathan Jonathan Roberts

    When in doubt blame Thatcher. I’m sure it plays well to many.  I recently saw a young MP (29 years old) say she got into politics because she saw the devastation wrought during the Thatcher years.  Well she’d have been around 8 when Thatcher left office.  I think the political capital raised by criticising Thatcher is beginning to wane somewhat.

    I always thought right to buy was a good thing so long as you were building enough houses to replenish the stock.  No one, including out own party, has built enough houses over the last 30 years and that is why we have a housing crisis.  People on housing benefit are forced into private rented accomodation which forces the taxpayer to pick up the full tab, which is why the welfare bill is so massive.  Labour and the Tories should just get themselves around a table and figure out how successive governments can build more houses over the next 20 years without too much political squabbling.

    • treborc1

      Now why do I not find this surprising.

      • AlanGiles

        No Robert on this occassion Jon is right. We cannot and should not soley blame Mrs Thatcher flor things WE could have done something about: we had the landslide majorities and the money, but sadly New Labour were not interested.

        I don’t know how the MP who wrote this shallow trivial nonsense in his article could be so myopic  – at 55 years of age, he should be able to recall there has been a Labour government in office in the past 15 years.

        * Buddy DeFranco (1924 –    )

        • treborc1

          I suspect if he’s only 55 year he will not remember the last time we had a real labour government.

    • Daniel Speight

       I always thought right to buy was a good thing so long as you were building enough houses to replenish the stock.

      But what happens Jonathan if you are selling social housing at below market prices, or worse selling at below the rebuild cost? Doesn’t it become a subsidy for those that don’t really need it? Surely a better option is encourage house building both social and private and thereby force house prices downward.

  • Rwilliams

    Still about Thatcher eh?
    Let it go guys 

  • Daniel Speight

    So Chris Williamson didn’t have the courage or manners to come back and argue his corner. Isn’t this how it always is with the professional politician. They are there to talk at us, not to listen to the public, even this one small section of it. To use a word more often seen in computer magazines, there is no interactivity. They use the internet just like it was a newspaper, radio or TV. At least Painter and Marchant do interact to some extent.

    • AlanGiles

      Good morning Daniel. I suppose it might be that Mr Williamson is ashamed and embarrassed at having inflicted such shallow and trivial nonsense on us, and hasn’t got the courage to come back to at least put up some answer to the facts many of us have presented him with.

      But I suspect you are right, and just like the Flint woman and other MPs who deign to say a few words on LL, they see their function as talking or writing AT US, rather than for us, or feeling that they need to justify what they have said. It is as if they have been handed a script, and having delivered it, they have run out of words, and like a ham actor, they have no talent to improvise or think for themselves.

      I really do think that if an MP writes for LL they ought to be prepared to return to answer questions.  It ought to be part of the contract. We know how “busy” they all are but they are currently on a 3 week recession, to get ready for the rigours of the long summer holiday which will start just a couple of weeks after they shamble back to Westminster from this Jubilee/Whitsun break. It’s a hard life, filling in all those expense forms……..

      * Alice Coltrane (1937-2007)

      • Daniel Speight

         As this thread disappears into the archives I wonder Mr. Chris Williams if you are ignorant of the internet, just have lousy manners or a coward. I cant’s think of any other options, but I’m willing to be corrected.

  • Dave Postles

    Kickstart and Thames Gateway – insufficient, but a change from Thatcher.

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