Aug 10, 2012 09:44 BST Labour consultant Councillor Pavitar Mann looks at the impact of the 2011 Census on her own authority of Slough.
Pulling up the ladderJul 24, 2012 15:00 BST
Labour Consultant Dr Paul Harvey looks at the effect of cutting housing benefits for the under 25s
If you are under 25 you could be forgiven for thinking that the Coalition Government are targeting you. Owen Jones has very accurately reflected this debate in his book ‘The Demonization of the Working Class’.
He argues that the Tories are trying to raise a generation to hate them. “If you’re young and not cushioned by a trust fund, you are within your rights to feel a bit victimised by David Cameron’s government.” He slams the Liberal Democrats for their betrayal on tuition fees which he argues became emblematic of the political establishment’s betrayal of the young. “To some of the poorest, the abolition of the Educational Maintenance Allowance was symbolic of a government of millionaires slamming the door in their faces.”
He also cites the list of cuts to local authorities, youth services; the Aim-Higher scheme promoting access in universities; the Future Jobs Fund. Let’s not forget, either, that youth unemployment is at a record high.
He argues that, “the proposed scrapping of housing benefit for under-25s is just the latest kick. Cameron attempts to tap into the resentment of the working poor at the unemployed on benefits, as with private sector workers against public sector workers over pensions. But the large majority of housing benefit claimants are actually in work: it is just that they cannot afford extortionate rents. If the Government was serious about taking down the housing benefit bill, it would build social housing, phase in rent caps and introduce a living wage.”
The Government focusing on the undeserving poor is a strong theme on the right of the Tory Party, but in actual practical politics it is inherently self-defeating. By pulling up the ladder of opportunity and by seeing benefits as a hand out not a hand up the Coalition are missing the point, but that is also the fundamental problem with right wing ideology – it is incredibly simplistic in its prescriptions.
In this argument over social mobility and opportunity Owen Jones’ point about building social housing and offering routes into security and stability has real resonance.
Most 25 year olds cannot afford a house of their own, which is not surprising, but that they cannot afford to rent a home either is more concerning. If indeed it is the Governments belief that young people should live at home longer, that presupposes that they have a family with which to live, or that parents are willing to support them into their 30s. If you are successful in a job but need support with housing, but happen to be under 25, then the social engineering of the Government means you are forced back home, into shared accommodation which may not be suitable or, you wind up homeless.
There has been a staggering 23% increase in homelessness in the last year. The Governments message, not just to young people, but to the undeserving poor is that they do not have a right to a home and if they can’t afford it with benefits being cut then the choice is theirs – food on the table, heating the home, or paying for the home – the choice is yours.
The British housing market is so confused and messy that at the moment the product does not match the need, and house builders are not incentivised to build what we really need. The link between making house building profitable for the developer, ensuring they deliver what we need, and making routes into occupation of those homes viable for everyone who needs or wants is just being made. The banks won’t lend, the Government have an agenda, and people are trapped.
The Government’s Welfare Reform Act which limits benefit, penalises under occupation and forces young people into poverty will have a lasting effect of pulling up the ladder. At a time when we need growth, the house building industry could help us drive recovery by focusing its efforts on building to tackle the real housing crisis. Affordable, social housing that people can rent or eventually buy, supported by a supply to ensure we restock the right to buy, would create demand from the very people who are disenfranchised and being targeted as unworthy by the Coalition.
People oppose house building because they don’t want the housing near to them; because they don’t think the housing is for them, because they cannot see the hope of ever owning or renting a house that they allow to be built in their communities.
There is a very dangerous spiral of decline being created by the Coalition and more and more people will be dragged into it as the cost, price and affordability of any kind of housing becomes too great. In the 1990s we spoke of the underclass to describe the dispossessed and disenfranchised of society, and I think unless this right wing assault on young people and the undeserving poor is checked and challenged we are stoking up enmity and anger of another generation lost.
This is the politics of envy and hate. I hate you because you have, and I envy you because I haven’t. If society turns its back on people because it deems them unworthy then that sends dangerous and terrible signals to people who at the end of the day are there more than any other reason because society does not care to offer hope, or opportunity or even a helping hand.