Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Bash the Poor. It's still New Labour's way

PEOPLE who live in council houses should be made to "actively seek work" as a condition of their tenancy, according to Labour's Housing Minister Caroline Flint, who claims there is a culture of "no one works around here" on some council estates.

Labour: if you want a council house, find a job
Housing minister Flint's plan to make tenants actively seek work
Patrick Wintour, political editor, Tuesday February 5, 2008
The Guardian

Anyone who is on unemployment benefit is already required to show evidence that they are trying to get work, and if you refuse to take suitable work your dole can be stopped. The government has been saying it will extend this to those registered for disability - at the same time as presiding over plans to close Remploy and other sheltered workshops. This seeming inconsistency can be explained if we forget the talk of "helping people back to work" and realise it is about creating a bigger pool of desperate people for wage-cutting employers to exploit.

Now by blaming people on poor estates for their own plight, and stigmatising them as idlers living off the state, Flint is fostering prejudice and divisions in the working class (one reason people can't get jobs is employers stigmatising entire areas). Her threat to people's homes takes us back to Victorian days when employers could have workers and thir families evicted from their cottages.

It also means councils strapped for cash and staff struggling to maintain services would be expected to take on a policing role, spying on tenants. Or does Flint perhaps have it in mind , as per New Labour's way of doing things, that some outside firm of "consultants" should be given a juicy contract doing that job?

The minister's pronouncement in an interview with the Guardian comes ironically in a week when the public has been hearing how MPs find employment - or rather well-paid sinecures - for members of their own families. We are also hearing how they claim big expenses without having to show a receipt, and get the public to pay for expensive second homes even when their constituency homes are within easy reach.

Caroline Flint has only just taken over the housing ministry. She was moved from employment in the reshuffle set off when Peter Hain resigned, saying he would "clear his name" over failing to declare thousands of pounds from wealthy businessmen which was paid into a "think tank" that did nothing. The money was used to fund his deputy leadership campaign which proved a dead duck.

People who fail to declare income when claiming council housing benefit can be suspended immediately, and if caught fiddling they can face more serious consequences than MPs who absent-mindedly forget to mention patrons' generosity. Maybe New Labour's bright sparks think we are too thick to notice, or that we'll gratefully clutch the chance to denounce someone lower down the scale and forget what our 'betters' are up to? Or maybe their smartness doesn't extend to a sense of irony

For Flint story see:


Flint's big idea has been challenged by other MPs, including Tories who want to know whether she is serious, and by housing professionals and charities.

'Grant Shapps, the shadow housing minister, said: "Ministers and local councils have a statutory duty to house homeless families with children and so they can't boot them out of their houses without then providing alternative accommodation.
"What we've heard is classic Labour spin - designed to sound tough, but is in reality meaningless."

His view was echoed by David Orr, the chief executive of the National Housing Federation. He said: "Such a policy would be unfair and impossible to enforce.
"Many of the jobs open to people, especially at the lower skills end, are insecure or temporary. Also, people with health problems, such as mental health issues, may find there are periods when they cannot keep up their job."
The chief executive of Shelter, the housing charity, said Flint's ideas would send Britain back to the Victorian era. '

Flint accused of 'stigmatising' council estates

Rosalind Ryan and agencies Tuesday February 5, 2008 Guardian Unlimited


With local government elections coming, Labour's remaining campaigners at grass roots and in the unions are desperately hoping to play down the funding scandals, and telling us to get out and vote to stop the racists and the Tories. It is a pity that a Labour minister thinks the way to win is to bash the poor and try to show you can be better at this than the Tories.

Labels: ,


Post a Comment

<< Home