Camden Unison’s stance on housing policy and other social security cuts

We are led to believe by politicians and most of the mainstream media that there is no alternative to the relentless attacks on the living standards of the majority, including our poorest citizens. This is not true.

Camden Unison made a deputation to the Council’s Housing & Adult Social Care Scrutiny Committee to lay out our alternative. This includes:

• Taxing the rich and redistributing the wealth to those who are less fortunate. The UK is rapidly becoming among the most unequal societies in the whole of the developed world when it comes to wealth distribution.
• Massive Council House building programme. This would kick start the economy by creating huge demand for both materials and construction workers and over time ensure every family could have a home to meet their needs.
• Placing strict rent controls on all private sector rents: this would immediately reduce the housing benefit bill, most of which goes straight into the pockets of the private landlords.
• Legislate for a Living Wage for all. Given that over 60% of all Housing Benefit claimants in Camden are working this would again cut the housing benefit bill stopping the subsidising of wages via the council.
• Compulsory purchase of all empty properties that have been empty for more than one year. This was done in the 70’s so it can be done again. In the meantime take rigorous action such as increasing council tax on vacant properties by 100%

We believe Camden Council Labour Group need to:

• Fight to ensure both national and local Labour manifestoes commit to the repeal of all welfare attacks.
• Lead a National Campaign of Labour Councils against the assault on welfare benefits by going on the offensive and launching a campaign using all means possible to highlight both the viciousness of the assault on welfare state and the alternative strategy outlined above.
Unison is calling on Camden Council to:
• Refuse to evict anyone who is caught out by unjust new benefit cuts. (Determining the cause of growing rent arrears since 1 April 2013 should be reasonably straightforward)
• Ensure no disciplinary action is taken against any employee who refuses to evict/call in bailiffs in connection with Bedroom Tax and other arrears, stemming from the benefit cuts
• Reassign spare bedrooms to unspecified room status until such time as the current Tenancy ceases.
• Offer an amnesty to all Tenants who accrue arrears whilst trying to downsize and if arrears do accrue write them off.
• Guarantee no family will be forced to move out of Camden due to the benefit cap.
• Have a more sensitive approach to dealing with arrears caused by both the bedroom tax and the benefit cap. Any reduction in benefit due to the cap will be taken out of the housing benefit, causing an increase in arrears. In these circumstances, it would be very easy for a Notice of Seeking Possession to be served after only a few weeks. It is the stress caused by actions such as this that can lead to suicides like that of Stephanie Bottrill, and therefore the Council needs to make sure a much more supportive approach to dealing with arrears is developed and followed. No Tenant in this situation should have their garage/parking space/shed taken off them because of arrears.
• Confirm publicly the commitment to offer anyone facing eviction due to the bedroom tax one direct offer of housing.

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