The New Worker
The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain
Week commencing 13th July 2007
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NEED MORE COUNCIL HOUSES
by Daphne Liddle
PRIME Minister Gordon Brown has at last realised that this
country has a housing crisis. But the proposals he outlined last
Wednesday in his draft legislative programme will do little or nothing
to resolve the problem. But they do contain measures that will make it
easy for multinational companies to build major structures – whether
the local population wants them or not.
As ever Brown cannot resist some sleight of hand to make people think
they are getting what they want and need while in reality only the
wealthy will benefit.
Brown told the House of Commons that he intends to put
“affordable housing within the reach of not just the few but the many”
and spoke of plans to increase the rate of house-building.
He spoke of “building over a quarter of a million homes more than
previously planned, a total by 2020 of three million new homes for
families across the country”.
He will raise the annual house-building target for 2016 from
200,000 to 240,000 a year.
So for all the fuss and fanfare we have got to wait 11 years for
a meagrely increase of 40,000 homes per year on what was previously
Furthermore these homes will not be council homes. As an
afterthought he spoke of supporting and encouraging “local authorities
and other authorities” to come up with initiatives. This is a long way
from a commitment to build new council housing.
Currently there is a serious crisis among home buyers struggling
to keep up with rising mortgage rates. Around 18 million are estimated
to have real problems, with those in arrears expected to double from
36,000 to 77,000 within the next year.
This may result in a drop in housing prices but that drop is
unlikely to be big enough to allow the millions of workers in Britain
on the minimum wage or just above to even dream of owning their own
Perhaps Brown thinks no one else can do the arithmetics. If people are
earning less than £200-a-week and the average price of a home is
more than 1,000 times that sum and interest rates are rising, they can
never, never afford to buy.
So what will happen? The higher earners will scrape together what
they can – with two partners working full out, perhaps with two jobs
apiece, they will work themselves to death to provide a roof over the
heads of children they will rarely get to spend any time with.
But with the decline in industry the proportion of high earners
compared to minimum wage earners is falling. The low earners will
either have to shack-up with their parents or in-laws or rent. With no
increase in the number of local authority places to rent and housing
associations falling prey to speculators, huge numbers will have to
rent from private landlords at rising rents.
The result will be a trend towards overcrowding that was last
seen in Victorian times – and was the reason for the introduction of
Private landlordism has been growing steadily for the last decade
and will eventually become the predominant form of housing provision.
The only way to solve the crisis is to instruct local authorities
to get building more council houses, providing genuinely affordable
housing for all workers who need it with secure tenancies.
Brown also spoke of the new Planning Bill as part of the measures
to address the housing crisis. This will cut the rights of local
authorities to refuse planning permission to major infrastructures and
projects “that Britain needs to facilitate economic and housing growth,
and to speed up planning generally”.
It is a bill more in line with the demands of global capitalism
and will mean that if Coca Cola or BP or any other multinational wants
to plonk a great big plant or refinery in the middle of your local
beauty spot, or next door to a primary school, there will be very
little you can do about it. It will also make it easier to knock up new
nuclear power stations more quickly.
Very generously Brown spoke of giving over a total of 550 sites now
owned by central government for housing development.
In other words there are going to be a lot more cuts in
Government services and those that are left will have to operate out of
expensive rented buildings.
The Government is going to make an urgent review of surplus land
owned by the NHS to explore its transfer to provide more homes.
In other words, when the Government closes your local hospital,
the land will be converted into homes you cannot afford before you can
bat an eyelid.
So, as usual, the first reports of Brown’s intentions seemed
good, but when examined properly they continue the ruling class attack
on the working class as before.
FORMER Tory leader Ian Duncan
Smith has suddenly discovered that there are poor people in Glasgow,
people who live in appalling conditions in run-down council estates,
who have no jobs and are dependent on welfare benefits; people with low
morale, poor health and a tendency to become addicted.
He declared: “There are some postal districts in Glasgow where
the average life expectancy is 55, which is lower than the bloody Gaza
Strip for God’s sake. How can we have this in Britain?”
He has produced a report on his findings on broken families, drug
abuse, alcoholism and many other problems, which will be one of six
reports that will be the basis of the Tories next election manifesto.
The Tories have concluded that all the problems stem from what
they call “broken families”, the decline of the institution of marriage
in modern society and giving too many benefits to single parents.
They want to change the tax system to benefit married couples
over single parents and to compel single parents to find jobs as soon
as their children reach school age; “living on benefit should not be a
way of life,” they declare.
They blame the most vulnerable members of society for the effects
of closing down the mines, shipyards and factories and leaving the
working class with significantly reduced job prospects. They blame
single mothers for the effects of selling off council housing and
banning local authorities from building new homes or even repairing and
restoring the old. And they blame their victims for the effects of
relentless cuts in the social wage – not just health and education
provision but all those public employees who used to make a real
difference: youth workers, park keepers, bus conductors.
Instead of admitting that it was Tory policies that broke this
society and destroyed its economic and social structure, they blame the
safety net of welfare benefits that keeps the victims from actually
starving on the streets.
Single parents do not regard their situation as a career or
lifestyle choice. Usually they end up looking after children on their
own as a result of accidents, lack of contraception or, more often,
because they have been abandoned by the other parent. Tax penalties
will not change this. They are actually undertaking a difficult and
responsible task in rearing the next generation.
Single parents who work currently get more benefits than couples
because couples can usually arrange childcare between them and support
each other while single parents have no choice but to pay for childcare
services that are still too rare and expensive.
The Tories are not proposing investment in jobs, in better
housing, health, education or childcare. They are not even recommending
investment in treatment and rehabilitation services for people who are
addicted to alcohol or other substances.
They are advocating polices like those in some parts of America
that will force single parents to leave their children uncared for
outside school hours while they work.
Police, magistrates and probation officers all assert that crime
in all of Britain’s major cities could be reduced to a fraction of
current levels if drug and alcohol treatment were available for all who
need it and want it. There would be no crisis of overflowing jails and
it would take enormous pressure off the health system. It would also
prolong lives and reduce misery.
Ten years of Labour rule have done little or nothing to roll back
the attack made on working class society by the Tory government of the
80s and early 90s.
But the sudden outbreak of apparent compassion for the poor
coming from Duncan Smith and his leader David Cameron is an awful
warning of further attacks to come if the Tories were ever to be
re-elected. They plan to withdraw the lifeline from the drowning
victims of their policies in the hope they will just disappear. It is
hardly surprising that even after Tony Blair; the Tories still have so
little support in Scotland.
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