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Meet the Tory council that’s started fining people £50 for being poor

Worthing Council has just pushed through controversial new rules that allow it to impose £50 fines on people who sleep rough or beg for money. The move effectively criminalises homelessness in Worthing – and then allows the council to profit from it.

Conservative-led Worthing Council has voted to ban rough sleeping (“overnight camping”) and begging, and to issue people who break the ban with a £50 fixed penalty notice, or a court fine of up to £1,000 and a criminal conviction if they don’t pay.

Worthing is the latest in a series of councils to criminalise homeless people using new ‘Public Space Protection Orders’ (PSPOs), which were introduced by the coalition government in 2014 and allow councils to criminalise otherwise legal activities in specific local areas. VICE describes PSPOs as “ASBOs for your neighbourhood” and documents some of the more outlandish ways councils have been enjoying their new powers:

It is now a criminal offence to shout or swear in an area of Bassetlaw. Congregating in groups of two or more is banned in one estate in Guildford. It is illegal to “cause annoyance” in part of Lancaster. Possession of golf equipment is outlawed in an area of North East Derbyshire. Other activities which have been banned, or will be in the near future, include ball games, busking, feeding birds and playing music loudly.

But it is the increasing use of PSPOs to criminalise homeless people – which at least 36 councils are trying to do – that is the most disturbing.

Worthing Council waved through the new rules in the face of overwhelming local opposition. 14,000 people have signed a petition calling on the council to “say no to PSPO” and protests were held outside its town hall. Dan Thompson, the spokesman for the Worthing People’s Assembly, which has been instrumental in the campaign against the PSPOs, told The Canary:

The impacts will be huge. PSPO 2 mentions begging in terms of having a receptacle for begging, which will victimise homeless people trying to get by day to day… PSPO 3 discusses overnight camping and finding shelter overnight which will affect homeless people trying to find somewhere to stay… PSPO 1 looks at street drinking, but there is no discussion of treating people with addictions. Many people living on the street suffer from addiction as a product of being homeless. As one councillor pointed out, the PSPOs are all about punishment and don’t mention support or help.

The council denies it is targeting any “groups of individuals”:

The council were clear that the PSPOs were proposed as part of a wider programme to tackle anti-social behaviour, which balances prevention and early help with enforcement. Enforcement is only carried out where necessary and is focused on behaviour and not groups of individuals.

But Liberty, which has opposed PSPOs since their introduction, argues that Worthing’s measures will inevitably hit homeless people particularly hard:

As well as banning begging, the council has made it a criminal offence to spend the night in a vehicle or temporary structure intended to provide shelter or accommodation – which will obviously disproportionately impact the homeless.

Conservative government policies – from the failure to provide affordable housing to welfare cuts and sanctions – have seen homeless figures skyrocket by 55% between 2010 and 2014. In the past year alone, the number of people sleeping rough in England has risen by nearly a third. Meanwhile, cuts to councils have led them to drastically cut support for homeless people.

Rosie Brighouse, Legal Officer for Liberty, told The Canary:

It’s deeply disappointing that Worthing has used these dangerous powers to criminalise some of its most vulnerable people. Begging and rough sleeping are not antisocial behaviour – they’re the result of poverty.

PSPOs are blunt instruments which don’t help those in need – they simply fast-track them into the criminal justice system. We hope the council will follow the example of other authorities around the country and scrap this misguided and counterproductive Order.

People are being pushed onto the streets – and then being criminalised for it.

As my colleagues Emily Apple and Kerry-anne Mendoza have previously reported, PSPOs are part of a wider trend towards criminalising homelessness under the Conservatives, with devastating impacts for homeless people and those helping them:

  • The introduction of ‘anti-squatting’ laws led to homeless man Daniel Gauntlett freezing to death on the porch of an empty bungalow in Kent in February 2013.
  • A furious judge railed against the increasing number of homeless people being criminalised in Brighton after Ashley Hacket was arrested for begging just 10 pence.
  • Sussex Police have been using plainclothes officers to target people begging and gaol one homeless person every week.
  • In 2014, a disabled man was threatened with arrest for trying to give soup and sandwiches to homeless people in Brighton, and police tried to dismantle a soup kitchen in London.

Criminalising poverty will only entrench it, or move the problem to somebody else’s backyard. Instead of a £1,000 fine and a criminal record, people in extreme poverty need support. As The Worthing People’s Assembly told The Canary:

full article at  The Canary and much more about the country we live in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Slow death of social housing’: 80,000 council homes face Tory chop

© Phil Noble

The Conservative government’s Housing and Planning Bill will cause at least 80,000 council properties in Britain to vanish by 2020, according to the Local Government Association (LGA), intensifying the nation’s housing crisis.

The LGA predicts councils will be forced to sell off 66,000 homes under the existing Right to Buy scheme by the end of the decade.

It claims this will lead to a further loss of 22,000 council-owned properties. This will add as much as £210 million to families’ living costs as they are forced to move into the expensive private rental sector, it added.

The draft legislation, proposed by Prime Minister David Cameron, aims to extend the number of sites on which starter homes can be built

Publication of the draft bill in October confirmed government ministers plan to introduce a “pay-to-stay” scheme, a system that would force families living in social housing and earning £30,000-£40,000 in London to pay rents nearly as high as those in the private sector.

If passed, the bill would also compel local authorities to sell “high value” housing, either by transferring public housing into private hands or giving the land it sits on to property developers.

Therefore, rents and waiting lists would soar, making it harder for lower-income and middle-income families to afford to live in the capital.

‘Slow death of council housing’

The number of council homes in Britain has already fallen from 5 million in 1981 to 1.7 million in 2014. Critics argue the government’s plans could contribute to the “slow death” of council housing.

Councils want to help the government shift spending from benefits to bricks and support measures to help people into home ownership but the Right to Buy extension must absolutely not be funded by forcing councils to sell off their homes,” a spokesperson for the LGA told the IB Times.

As a minimum, we forecast that 88,000 council homes will be sold up to 2020. There is a real risk that complex rules and restrictions will combine with certain aspects of the Housing and Planning Bill to have the unintended consequence of making building replacements almost impossible.”

Supporting the LGA’s claims, Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The Conservatives try and paint Right to Buy as somehow aspirational but it is actually the slow death of social housing.”

Further commenting on the crisis, the Radical Housing Network (RHN) said it will continue to campaign against the bill, which they believe will spell the end of social housing.

full article and 2 more videos at RT

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Cameron and his fellow Tory landlords vote AGAINST law to ensure housing ‘fit for humans’

David Cameron and his fellow Tory landlords vote AGAINST law to ensure housing ‘fit for humans’

David Cameron was one of at least 73 landlord MPs who voted against proposals requiring rented houses to be “fit for human habitation”, as revealed by the Political Scrapbook.

Labour’s amendment to the housing bill was voted down by 312 votes to 219 on 12 January. This means at least 23% of MPs who voted against have a financial interest in doing so.

The Tories defended their decision by claiming the amendment would push up rents, preferring instead to sacrifice the actual function of a house. This is not the habitat of an animal, but if it were, the animal would surely need its habitat to be fit for it. The same goes for us humans, a house should be – by definition – fit for human habitation.

The shadow housing minister, Teresa Pearce, had this to say

Where else in modern day life could someone get away with this? It’s a consumer issue. If I purchased a mobile phone or a computer that didn’t work, didn’t do what it said it would or was unsafe I would take it back and get a refund

Upon reading the new Housing and Planning Bill, you would be forgiven for thinking it was written by landlords. In fact, you’d probably be right. One-fifth of MPs are private landlords, compared to only 3 in 100 across the electorate.

70% of the 126 landlord MPs are in the Conservative party. Accordingly, the new bill seeks to siphon off vast public funds and land to rich private developers, through branding the houses they will build as ‘affordable’, despite 98% of the country being unable to afford them on Osborne’s so-called ‘living wage’.

Let alone ensuring houses are affordable, the Tories won’t even guarantee they will be fit for humans. 89% of the 73 landlord MPs who voted against the amendment were Conservative, the rest were Liberal Democrats.

MPs enjoyed a real term 9% pay increase from 2014-2015, while other public sector salaries continue to decrease. These types of statistics are bullet-holes in the “we’re all in this together” Tory mantra. Yet, this substantial pay increase still isn’t enough for many MPs – as the number of landlords in parliament prove.

Governing the country should take one’s wholehearted attention. In fact, when asked at PMQs whether the houses would be affordable for people earning the so-called ‘living wage’, Cameron said

I very much hope they will.

Perhaps the Conservatives would know the nuances, and consequences, of their own housing bill if they didn’t have such private interest elsewhere. Cameron’s concerned letter to his local council, where he complains he is “disappointed” by front-line cuts, shows he doesn’t even know how far his own austerity programme goes. They are, perhaps purposefully, neglecting their public duties.

Get involved!

  • Join the march against the Housing Bill on 30 January.
  • Write to your MP to express any malcontent here.
  • Tell friends and share information online.

Featured image via Images Money and Twitter.

SOURCE TheCanary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cameron ‘vote of no confidence’ petition hits 100k, may be debated in parliament! (It seems the rich might be rethinking starving the revolting poor in case they revolt indeed.)

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron. © Suzanne Plunkett

A petition calling for a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister David Cameron could soon be debated in parliament after exceeding the required 100,000 signatures.

As of Friday afternoon, a total of 121,790 people have signed the online petition, which accuses Cameron of causing “devastation for the poorest in society” since he took office five years ago.

We cannot afford another five years of Tory rule, with the recent welfare reform that will cause nothing but immense poverty in the UK,” the petition says.

When Cameron became prime minister in 2010, he introduced the e-petition initiative to boost transparency and democratic participation.

If petitions on the parliamentary website secure 100,000 signatures, MPs are obliged to hold a debate on the subjects raised.

full article at: RT

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