Guest blog by Scott Bartle
In a report to the executive dated 16/06/2014 Adam Salmon, Street Population Coordinator and Andy Donald, Strategic Director for Regeneration and Growth report an increase of a third in verified rough sleepers recorded in Brent for the year 2013/14. Salmon & Donald report that whilst the national average increase in the number of rough sleepers is 23% with a London average increase of 43% Brent’s increase was nearer 500%. Salmon & Donald go on to report that Brent has not traditionally had high numbers of people ‘living on the street’ but put the increasing trend down to the impact of the recession and welfare reform.
The impact of Welfare reform and implementation of the Bedroom Tax on homelessness is something that the charity Crisis warned about in May 2013. It was reported by Randeep Ramesh, social affairs editor of the Guardian that Leslie Morphy chief executive of Crisis said:
Without enough one-bedroom homes to move into, tens of thousands are powerless to avoid the anxiety, debt and arrears caused by the bedroom tax. Our fear is that many, through no fault of their own, will in the end become homeless as a direct result of government policy. Ministers must accept these facts and rethink the bedroom tax now.
The Green Party has been united in its opposition to evictions due to the bedroom tax. Councillor Liz Wakefield of Brighton described the bedroom tax as ‘yet more immoral and harmful legislation from a morality-free coalition government’.
Whilst Caroline Lucas MP told parliament that:
The bedroom tax is a cruel and counterproductive measure from a Government that is intent on punishing the poor. There is no evidence that all this will save the Government money, but what it will do is lead to mass evictions and homelessness, and all the related problems that brings to our communities.
Despite this, Brent Council’s Labour Executive pressed on and when Councillor Janice Long, now representing Dudden Hill ward, made the eviction threat via the Brent and Kilburn Times in March 2013 it is clear that they meant it. During the local elections Brent Labour announced that their ‘Manifesto is their contract’ and it is signed by our Labour Councillors. They promised ‘better backing to get through tough times’, ‘better care for our most vulnerable residents’ and ‘better connected communities’. Unless they recognise how immoral and harmful this policy is to people experiencing financial hardship and stop the evictions, they’ve already broken their promises.
Brent Green Party has campaigned consistently against the Bedroom Tax and will continue to oppose evictions of tenants who have defaulted on rent payments because of this unfair tax.
References1) Salmon & Donald (2014) Authority to tender a contract for Rough Sleepers Outreach and Housing Advice and Resettlement Service. Brent Council. http://democracy.brent.gov.uk/documents/s24259/rg-rough-sleeping.pdf2) Ramesh, R. (2013) Bedroom tax ‘could make thousands of poor people homeless’ http://www.theguardian.com/society/2013/may/27/bedroom-tax-poor-homeless3) Brighton Greens (2013) Greens say no to Bedroom Tax Evictions http://www.brightonhovegreens.org/news/greens-say-no-to-bedroom-tax-evictions.html4) Walker, M. (2013) Eviction threat for brent residents hit by bedroom tax. Brent & Kilburn Times. http://www.kilburntimes.co.uk/news/eviction_threat_for_brent_residents_hit_by_bedroom_tax_1_19937635) Brent Labour (2014) Manifesto. http://www.brentlabour.co.uk/manifesto_2014