UKIP if you want to, my eyes are wide open?
Over a year ago I gave a presentation on the bedroom tax in which I said social landlords were adopting the ostrich syndrome with regard to the bedroom tax. I went on to explain that there was a delusional premise among social landlords that the Tories would not be in government after May 2015 and because of this they maintained the bedroom tax would finish by this time.
Not only did they not have any contingency plans should the Tories remain in office after the next general election but, critically, it meant many landlords did not take the challenge to the bedroom tax then (or now) seriously. It will be gone in two years we will survive was the general attitude and hence no concerted action needed to be taken to challenge and fight against it.
The UKIP vote in the local and European elections changes all that as quite simply it means it will be much more difficult for the Tories to be voted out of office and God forbid the nightmare scenario of a Tory & UKIP coalition raises its ugly head for 2015 to 2020. If that happens then welfare ‘reform’ will kill off social housing.
Yes I am very aware that UKIP were the first party to say they would get rid of the bedroom tax but then didn’t the Lib Dems say no to tuition fees and so man other policies they reneged upon once they had the semblance of power and office? Yes and getting rid of the bedroom tax is nowhere near as high an UKIP policy intention than the European issue and dragging the Tories even further to the right with the obvious consequence that the current perception of welfare reforms would need to be even more hardline in practice and in theory.
Social housing has become a hot political issue through the welfare reforms with it being castigated as the refuge of the shirker. Social housing is where the feckless benefit claimant resides and is allowed the lifestyle choice of remaining on benefits according to the current coalition’s political rhetoric. It is not hard to imagine how much MORE blame will be targeted on these ‘shirkers’ should an even more right-wing coalition form after the next general election.
Social landlords NOW have only one choice and that is to get off their lazy backsides and fight the bedroom tax tooth and nail. EVERY landlord has to get together has to launch a concerted political challenge to the policy. Yet the idea of social landlords taking up that mantle is about as realistic as Israel recognising Palestine and withdrawing from the West Bank. It isn’t going to happen as social landlords are notoriously ineffective and slow to challenge anything and when it is political they run a mile.
And even if they did get together they couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag. That comment is not a personal one its a professional one having spent over 20 years working in housing. Social housing as a political lobby is about as weak as they come and ‘social housing’ does not even have one body which represents its entirety. NHF lobbies for housing associations and to its credit quite well especially in comparison to other such as the CIH which lobbies for itself and little else. Northern Housing Consortium lobbies for northern issues, the G15 group for the largest HAs etc. Other groups lobby for parts of ‘social housing’ such as EROSH (and others) for sheltered housing, SITRA (and others) for supported housing, and a host of others in homelessness and disability.
YET there is not one body that lobbies for the (claimed) sector a whole – and without such a body the ‘sector’ cannot be a sector!
Social tenant groups are largely powerless too given they have little funding and little klout and for many years tenant involvement in real decision-making has been lip service to be brutally honest and likely to remain that way despite the rhetoric and individual PR each social landlord puts out about how much they listen to their tenants, etc.
Wrap the reality up anyway you like you find social housing as a whole and its constituent parts are weak as hell when it comes to lobby and political ‘power’ and power is used here as in influence and ability to change.
Over much of the last 18 months or so ordinary tenants and others have formed grassroots groups to challenge the bedroom tax particularly and the wider austerity (or should that be ARSEterity) cuts? They potentially do have the power to influence and so far have done a great job along with the disability lobbies of keeping the bedroom tax in the public eye and changing Joe Public’s mind on this. What began as Joe Public agreeing with the coalition’s simplistic position of the taxpayer shouldn’t ‘subsidise’ spare rooms has now become the bedroom tax in practice is simply wrong and yes pernicious. The bedroom tax is rarely mentioned without the word ‘pernicious’ as a preceding adjective and that is despite many agreeing with its theory.
I could go on but lets return to the central issue. The success of the UKIP vote has made it far more likely that the Tories will not be voted out of office and hence the welfare reforms and especially the bedroom tax will have another 5 years. For social landlords, for social tenants, for local councils and for the social housing model per se that is a nightmare scenario…yet a likely one unless social landlords get off their lazy backsides and challenge it now.
Yet I hold no hope of that whatsoever and the ineffectual social housing ‘sector’ will not fight or challenge. Despite the fact that the UKIP vote means they will be in Shit Street post May 2015 rather than do something about it they will simply bemoan Benefit Street. That is the real problem with social housing and its landlords, they focus on the problem and not on the solution. Instead of challenging and attempting to save the sector and themselves individually, they choose to moan and blame others for their woeful ineptitude.
Recently some tiny parts of social housing have launched thunderclaps on Twitter and Shout and 4councilhousing which are all to be welcomed in trying to present a positive image of social housing. Yet they are far too little and far too late. What is needed is a thousand time more – and thousand is not hyperbole – and it is needed yesterday as social housing as a model will disappear with 5 more years of a much more right-wing Tory coalition government – that is the stark reality
Social landlords believe the welfare reforms have scratched them and they need a ban aid when the welfare reforms are a venomous snake bite and landlords are not seeking any antidote other than prayer.
No doubt there will be comment about how pessimistic I am within housing which is the expected response as of course why debate the reality I maintain I am describing when its far easier to shoot the messenger. That will be the ‘sector’ response to this along with it can’t be a professional analysis as Joe uses expressions like Shit Street and other unprofessional vernacular!! I do so not for effect but for clarity and the removal of any possible ambiguity to try to get the message through some very thick skulls. Is that clear enough for you reader?
How about get off your lazy complacent and complicit arses and DO something?
How about fight for the vocation you chose when you entered social housing?
How about do nothing and see what you have worked for and believed in for (insert number of years) only to have it fall apart at your feet?
In summary, unless social landlords DO stand up en masse and fight for social housing NOW then social housing will cease to exist by 2020. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!