Tag Archives: homeless

Homes for People not Profit

GPLogoStrapGreenForWebThe Green Party’s Housing policy states ‘Affordable secure accommodation is a basic human need’. Who can argue with this simple proposition? How can a person be a member of society if they have nowhere to live, no reliable address, nowhere secure to keep essential and personal belongings – nowhere to curl up warm and secure to sleep? A very simple proposition that successive Governments have failed to grasp. For them, houses are an investment, some sort of luxury that only the rich are supposed to afford, something to be provided by the market for those who have the money to buy or rent, enough money to provide a profit for the landlord or developer.

It was Thatcher who turned housing into a commodity to be bought and sold for profit. Her policies put profit and personal gain above basic human needs. Her policy of selling off council houses at a knock down price, then forbidding Councils to replace them destroyed the concept of public housing. Her ideological, aggressive ‘go-getting’ government destroyed the post war consensus that Government and Councils should ensure that people were properly housed; that with proper and secure housing the family unit would hold together, children would have security, working people would have a settled base from which to find work and hold down jobs. Communities would be more settled and mutually supportive, neighbours helping to look out for each other. All this was sacrificed with the Thatcherite drive to break up traditional working class communities and create a new property owing and therefore (she hoped) Tory voting class.

So the market came to drive housing policy, the need for profit outweighed the need to provide affordable homes. People took on mortgages that they couldn’t sustain, so driving them into debt. Thatcherism didn’t have the sense to understand that this ‘property owning democracy’ had to be underpinned by secure work in order to keep up the payments for 25 years. Secure jobs were destroyed by the thousand, people were thrown out of work, they were forced to take temporary, poorly paid work, they struggled to keep up the payments, debt built up, fuelling eventually the financial crash. People became homeless, all very predictable and the Government continued to do nothing except leave it to the market to supply housing.

The Government has failed to understand the market it puts such faith in. It is not set up to meet people’s needs, it is there to make profit. For house builders the highest profit lies in the luxury end of the market, on green field estates built on the edge of cities and towns for the executive class with company cars. But the need is for the majority of people, needing to live near to work to cut travel costs, near to schools, near to facilities. They need affordable accommodation, with enough space for the family, perhaps three generations of family. The key word is ‘affordable’ a word that our governments of millionaires fails to understand. But ‘affordable’ doesn’t give enough profit for the market.

Government has to involve itself again in the implementation of a housing policy designed to ensure that there is a sufficient mix of available homes to meet the different needs of the population. This is what Green Housing Policy aims to do.

We have a costed programme that would deliver 500,000 homes in five years. We would end the right to buy and enable Councils to borrow for the express purpose of restoring their housing stock to meet local needs. We would end the tax relief that is claimed by private speculators for ‘buy to rent’, so helping to finance the building programme. By taking action on sky high rents and providing more accommodation at affordable and controlled rents we would be able to cut the £9billion of housing benefit that currently is paid to private landlords. For those who do rent privately we would ensure that they had enhanced rights including, crucially, greater security of tenure. As well as enabling Councils to build affordable homes, we would require them to use the powers that they already have to bring some of the 700,000 empty properties in the country into use.

We would also ensure that all new and refurbished properties were energy efficient, so helping to end fuel poverty and leave people with more disposable income to use in the local economy, helping local business. Making homes more energy efficient is also important in addressing climate change, which is an essential priority.

This is Green policy, joined up thinking, working to meet people’s real needs, giving them security, building healthy neighbourhoods where people can settle and feel they belong, where their kids can grow and flourish on a sustainable planet.

Policies that work for the Common Good.

Mike Shipley and Peter Allen

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Natalie Bennett’s Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

Natalie Bennett's Address in Derby 24th September 2013

Natalie Bennett DerbySpeaking to a well attended audience in Derby, Natalie Bennett catalogued the inadequacy of the Labour Party’s response to a range of political issues that are affecting people’s lives.  Contrasting the reality of fuel poverty that is becoming a reality for a growing number of people with the huge profits being made by the big energy companies, she condemned Labours proposal for a two year price freeze as inadequate.

‘After two years, then what?’ she asked. ‘The Green Party proposes a national energy conservation programme funded by the Government.  This will lead to permanently reduced energy bills and to lower carbon emissions.  The insulation programme will create sustainable jobs, taking people out of fuel poverty and off benefit.’ 

‘Labour want to see the minimum wage enforced.’ She said.  ‘We know that people cannot hope to manage on a minimum wage, that is why we want to see it raised to a Living Wage, that enables people to meet their necessary weekly costs.  This policy is supported by 70% of people.

‘Labour have no commitment to re-nationalise the railways to ensure that investment goes where it is needed to build a system that meets demand.  This is Green policy and it is supported by 75% of people.

‘Greens support a publicly funded NHS free at the point of delivery.  Labour has made no commitment to reverse the coalition policy of sell-off of the NHS.  ‘‘Labour is backing fracking, ignoring that we must leave half of all known reserves of fossil fuels in the ground to prevent catastrophic climate change.’

Natalie went on to criticise the economic strategy of the three big parties.  There was she said no evidence of fundamental change in economic strategy from any of them.  They were all supporting the creation of a low wage economy that was only possible with the availability of cheap fossil fuels.  This she explained allowed cheap food and goods to be transported to this country, pricing local production out of the market.  ‘This failed economic strategy has left half a million people in this country, the sixth richest in the world, dependent on food banks.’

She reminded the meeting about the causes of the economic crisis.  ‘The bail out of the banks took huge amounts of public money.  Yet the banks were bailed out with no guarantees that they would reform their activities, stop high risk investments and end the bonus culture.  If the economic strategy proposed by the Green Party in 2010 had been implemented, we would now be seeing investment by the banks in sustainable projects that the country needs, creating long term employment to get and keep people in work and off benefit.’

‘We now need to ‘re-localise’ the economy.’  She said that this process had to be accompanied by the restoration of local political power that could rebalance the economy away from London and the south east.  As evidence of this unbalanced economy she told the meeting that there were a million empty homes in the UK yet there was also a housing shortage.  The power of big corporations was concentrating work in the areas that suit themselves having no regard to where people now live.  As a result these economic hot spots drag people in but do not provide the facilities that workers need, hence a chronic shortage of affordable housing.

‘We need thought out regional development strategies that address both economic and social needs, backed with the necessary political power to deliver those strategies.’

‘With rising transport costs and rising wages in the developing world, we are now seeing a ‘re-shoring’ in production, with companies starting to bring production back to the UK.  This offers great opportunities but we must have the economic and political structures in place to ensure that business properly pays its way.’  Natalie explained that with a clear political determination, big business could be made to address and pay for its impact on the environment and society.  ‘Greens on Bristol Council have helped to bring in a supermarket levy that collects 8% of turnover to reflect the damaging consequences of supermarkets.  This money is ploughed back in to local small business.’

Flanked by the five East Midland European candidates, Natalie concluded with a review of  the Green Party’s electoral prospects.  ‘We are now a Parliamentary Party.  This has been very important in lifting our national profile.  Latest opinion polls are placing the Greens on 12% and show a clear growth in support, by contrast the Liberal Democrats are now on 10% with their support fading.  With our level of support we could have six MEPs, including one here in the East Midlands.’  Natalie said that recent events had shown that the public were turning away from the three main parliamentary parties and looking to the smaller parties to express a dissatisfaction with traditional politics.  ‘We know that a growing number of people are coming to support Green policy.  Our challenge is to get people to vote for what they believe in, because what they believe in is increasingly Green Party policy.’

UK’s first Green MP welcomes Labour to Brighton with digital billboard ad

Labour ConferenceLabour Party members attending their conference in Brighton this weekend, in the constituency of the UK’s first Green MP, will be welcomed by a billboard making the case that it is Caroline Lucas who is offering the real opposition in parliament.

The digital advert will be on display prominently on Queen’s Road – one of Brighton’s main thoroughfares.  The street is the main route down which Labour delegates and lobbyists who arrive by train will travel to reach the conference at the sea-front Metropole Hotel.

The ad starts with a check list, against a red backdrop, reading: “Saving the NHS, Fighting Austerity, Railways in Public Hands, Scrapping Trident.”  As the screen turns green, the billboard says “Brought to you by the Green Party.”

The final screen displays a photo of Caroline Lucas MP and reads: “Welcome to Brighton – Home of the True Opposition in Parliament. p.s. Labour is down the hill on the right.”

Rob Shepherd, Chair of Brighton and Hove Green Party, said, “We know a lot of Labour members want their party leadership to stand up to austerity and NHS privatisation, and to support progressive policies such as public ownership of the railways.

“We wanted to remind them that there’s an MP already fighting for these causes in Parliament. It would be great to see Labour members using their conference to encourage Ed Miliband to follow Caroline’s lead on standing up for these causes, and bring together a powerful coalition of voices to reverse the consensus that austerity and privatisation are the only game in town.”

The Green Party’s own autumn conference took place last weekend, also in Brighton.  In her conference speech Caroline Lucas criticised cuts to welfare and local services, and argued that it is the Green Party, rather than Labour, that is offering the real opposition to the Government’s agenda of austerity and privatisation.

She is speaking at two events at Labour’s conference – a Compass panel discussion called ‘Labour – an open tribe?’ and an Institute for Public Policy Research event titled ‘The Condition of Britain’.

Her Private Member’s Bill to bring the railways back into public hands is due its second reading next month.

View the ad on line at: http://bit.ly/16qbrBJ

Network Connections

Derby People's Assembly 8 July

The next meeting of Derby People’s Assembly preparatory meeting is being held at 7pm, Monday the 8th of July at Sound Bites, which is on the Morledge opposite the Magistrates court. Here is the map: http://www.soundbitesderby.org.uk/map.html  All Welcome

 

BENEFIT CAP CLAP TRAP – by Peter Allen

The Green Party has spoken out strongly against the so-called “welfare reform” proposals being pushed through Parliament. A particularly pernicious proposal is the “Benefit Cap” which will leave families homeless or starving.

The proposal is that families which do not include anyone in work will have total “Welfare Benefit”, including Housing Benefit, capped at £500 pw, leaving unemployed families renting from private landlords, particularly in and around London, unable to feed and clothe their children whilst keeping a roof over their heads. In Central London Housing Benefit is currently limited to £400pw for families needing four bedroom accommodation and £340pw for three.

Elsewhere in London and the South East the limit is only slightly lower. It is almost unbelievable that the cap makes no allowance for the fact that rents in some parts of the country are two or three times as high as in others.

Even this Government believes that a lone parent family with three children needs a minimum of £273pw to meet essential living expenses after housing costs, and one with four needs £335. The Benefit Cap will leave the three children family living in private rented accommodation in Central London with only £160pw to live on. A four child family will have just £100 !

In reality the amount left over after rent is paid is likely to be even less, since rents for most homes in the private sector are higher than the current Housing Benefit limits, and the poor are already having to make up the difference by cutting back on essential living expenses.

The Government says it has decided on a £500 pw cap because this is the average net wage earned by families in work. Whilst not disagreeing that there should be some financial benefit from paid employment, the current Benefit rules already provide this, and many working families already receive large amounts of Housing Benefit in London, given the high rents in the private sector and the chronic shortage of social housing.

The proposal is outrageous. The real problem is a lack of sufficient decently paid jobs and affordable housing, in one of the most unequal societies in Europe. Unemployed families will be forced out of London in particular, perhaps into depressed seaside towns, where they may find housing but probably no jobs. Many may end up working back in London, in one of the

many essential low paid service jobs on which London depends. Maybe they will leave their children behind, and become migrant workers, like workers in China, with whom British business tells us we must compete!

There are plenty more planned too, including cuts to disability benefits and a freeze to child benefits. And the only thing Tory MPs are complaining about is the decision to stop Child Benefit payments to higher rate income tax payers!

Labour are all but silent on the issue of welfare “reform”, anxious to chase swing voters in marginal seats. Worried that many such voters are persuaded that the people to blame for their own increasing economic hardship/insecurities are those even worse off than themselves , rather than the super-rich ( greedy, dishonest and incompetent bankers in particular) and the capitalist system itself.

The Green Party must continue to say loudly and clearly that the poorest and most disadvantaged shouldn’t be the ones paying the highest price for a crisis which they did not cause.  Benefit claimants and migrant workers should not be scapegoated. Most benefit claimants are already in work, have recently been in work, are retired from work, will soon hope to return to work or are too ill to do so.

As for migrant workers…. please read this article published in The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/felicitylawrence?INTCMP=SRCH

Greens Oppose Threats To Council Tenants

Derbyshire Green Party has added its voice to the criticism that has met David Cameron’s proposal to end security of tenure for council house tenants.

“Following the cuts, this is another attack on ordinary people by the ConDem Government,” said Peter Allen, the Green Party’s candidate in High Peak in the last election. “I recognise that there is a shortage of affordable housing and rentable accommodation across Derbyshire, but this proposal will do nothing to increase supply.”

Figures produced by the housing charity ‘Shelter’ show that there are over 4,000 on the council house waiting list in High Peak. In 2009 only 500 families were housed from this list. The Green Party has called for more resources to be put in to renovation and conversion of existing properties as an affordable alternative to new-build.

Peter Allen explained that the Greens do not oppose new housing where their environmental impact is acceptable, but pointed out that there are often alternatives.

“Figures produced by the Empty Homes Agency show that there are 16,000 homes standing empty in Derbyshire, largely owned by private landlords. Nearly 800 of these are in High Peak. These can be made available for occupation at relatively little cost. We urge Councils to use the powers they have to bring these properties in to occupation. If the Government was really serious about doing something about the housing crisis, it would direct resources at Councils Re-homing Officers, enabling to quickly negotiate these empty properties in to occupation”

Notes

Shelter is the UK leading charity campaigning for the homeless
http://england.shelter.org.uk/housing_issues/waiting_lists#content

The Empty Homes Agency is a charity who’s aim is to bring empty residential property in to occupation
http://www.emptyhomes.com/index.html

High Peak and Derbyshire Dales share an Empty Housing Officer, who is Laura Kirk, appointed in 2007.
http://www.highpeak.gov.uk/news/press/2007mar1094.asp

For more information on Green Party policy on housing contact: Peter Allen, peter.allen@derbyshiregreenparty.org.uk

Feeding The Homeless, Reducing Waste

I have a growing concern about the amount of wastage that big supermarkets create with the food they stock. Hundreds, if not, thousands of tonnes of perfectly edible, in-date food is thrown into skips every week, and it has to stop. Firstly, the millions of animals killed per week to supposedly feed Britain are slaughtered for nothing but to be packaged and never consumed. Secondly, there are millions of people living in poverty who are either on the streets or genuinely struggling to feed their family, so this food wastage is both unnecessary and unacceptable.

What I would first like to focus on is the subject of the homeless. I have done some research and spoken to homeless people, as well as having a volunteer place at Women’s Work in Derby starting in September, who deal with female sex workers who are often trafficked, in debt to their pimps or boyfriends, not to mention being emotionally, physically and sexually abused, and more often than not, addicted to drugs. I discussed with one of the leaders the subject of what the women eat, and the answer was nothing, apart from the chocolate bars and cups of tea when they go to the Outreach centre. As they are trapped in a very dangerous lifestyle, they need real food to sustain them. I also feel that if there was more care involved, they are more likely to consider to try and work towards a better lifestyle; to make the conscious decision to stand up for themselves and kick their drug habits. I feel that if they were able to get one meal a day, cooked for them, using what supermarkets would usually waste, they would begin to realise they are worth more than this lifestyle of prostitution, which is never a choice, it is a lifestyle born out of desperation which they are often conned into. For example, many of the young girls and women who come from abroad to work are either kidnapped, sold and trafficked by pimps, boyfriends, or even their family, or they are promised jobs as waitresses or cleaners, for example.

I know that in Paris, they take the food that is wasted from supermarkets and have agreements with local restaurants to cook the food which is then given by outreach centres to the homeless. This will create more jobs in restaurants, as well as giving homeless people a base where they can be fed and get the support they need to get them to a better place in society. When people go without food, they become aggressive and desperate; of course, they are more likely to steal from someone to buy drugs than food, but if we create a network of people who care, for those who need care, they can sit down and have a meal in a normal environment where they are not on the streets, and not displaying threatening behaviour. It will also bring them in to talk to the volunteers and get the advice they need as well as a meal.

All this will contribute to them having a better life while they are on the streets, and hopefully aid them as they work towards a more positive future. After all, to make this change which is often difficult and can involve many relapses if they are drug addicts, they need something to inspire them make this change. I truly believe that if we do this, the number of people on the streets will decrease, and they will begin a transition from being homeless to having a place in society where they are valued and not living in poverty. If we get the right funding, it will create more jobs in restaurants. As this is such an important and beneficial scheme, I do believe that we will get funding from companies, as it shows they are supporting the community and will make them more popular.

While the food wastage includes more than just meat, I know the Green Party are aiming to stop factory farming completely, which as a vegan I totally support this, but some of the food wastage will include factory farmed meat. However, although I think it would be fantastic for the scheme to only cook vegan food to promote an healthy lifestyle, if the unwanted meat was used in the meals, this would be better than it being wasted and rotting in a landfill.

I sincerely hope that we can use this scheme for our community and other communities around the country, and I want to be involved. Please consider the ideas I’ve put forward, as so many people will benefit, and our people, whatever there background, need to be supported somehow and we want the number of people on the streets to be as low as possible.