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London: Nearly two-thirds are struggling with their rent
Video: Thatcher's Dead, Now Bury Her Policies! with Peter Taaffe, Part one of three
West London Socialist Party members with others are out campaigning against the bedroom tax, writes Keith Dickinson, West London Socialist Party. Last week we organised a public meeting in Acton Trade Union Centre with Socialist Party general secretary Peter Taaffe speaking, to relate this attack and the Lib-Con government's policies to the lessons of the Thatcher era. A video of Peter speaking (in three parts) is embedded in this article.
The west London boroughs are not the poorest in the country but the higher cost of living is creating a real struggle for most, whether they have jobs or not.
There are very poor council and social housing estates as well as many money grubbing private landlords.
With a large front page headline on the same evening as our meeting (18.4.13) the London Evening Standard announced "Rents rise 8 times faster than wages: young working Londoners hit".
This has happened over the past year alone, with average monthly rents in London now at £1,106. On top of this, shop price inflation is 2.8% but earnings are "running at a meagre 1% ... at a time when salaries have hardly moved".
Shelter says: "The relentless rise of rents is putting more pressure on Londoners already fighting to stay afloat ... nearly two thirds of Londoners are struggling or falling behind with their rent, leaving little left over for essentials - let alone to save for a home of their own".
For every £1,000 owed to landlords in rent last month almost £100 was unpaid - twice the level of arrears of four months ago.
It is believed that the desperation of many is reflected in the increased number of even City workers' deaths under Tube trains, some are clearly suicides. Five in the last week or so, including at least two on a Friday.
Video: Thatcher's Dead, Now Bury Her Policies! with Peter Taaffe, Part two of three
The Evening Standard says that some of the steepest rent rises have been seen "in the inner ring of family-friendly neighbourhoods such as Clapham, Balham, Fulham and Shepherds Bush".
These last two are in the Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. This council says that 1,600 households in the borough will be affected by the bedroom tax, meaning they face losing up to £60 a month due to the housing benefit changes. Half of these are council homes, the other half owned by housing associations.
Based on this Tory council's own statements it is already interfering in the lives of 50 households, "helping to downsize or swap with families who need bigger homes and advising others to take in a lodger to help meet shortfalls in rent", which it conveniently doesn't mention it has increased. Tenants' benefits will be cut if they don't comply.
The council has sold over 200 properties over the past three years but has not used this income to build any new housing, in fact it is demolishing whole estates.
As always the councillors put blame on immigrants and have extended this to include the rest of this country as well now: "We do not think it is right that people from anywhere in the UK and new immigrants are able to apply for a council home here and jump ahead of hard-working local people who have lived in the borough for many years".
Forced to move away
Thatcher's Dead, Now Bury Her Policies! with Peter Taaffe Part three of three
At the same time they will not hesitate - like other London boroughs - to force families who they and their business backers make unemployed, to move up north where there are even fewer jobs, so their so-called concern for local people is clearly false.
Brent Labour council has disrupted the lives of the Counihan-Sanchez family by evicting them into totally inadequate housing far distant from their schools and friends, in Labour controlled Ealing.
It is appropriate at this time of denouncing Thatcher's policies - which these housing proposals flow from - to remind ourselves that it was her minister Lord Tebbit who told the millions of unemployed at that time to 'get on their bikes to find work'.
Many workers who have today been dispersed to jobs around the country need to return home to see parents or families to stay in so called 'spare bedrooms' for weekends or holidays.
That the Tories are floundering around while blaming the victims of their economic crisis, is shown by another proposal. "A rent-to-save scheme, where people can pay less rent while saving the rest for a deposit for a mortgage". Surely the total is what people these days cannot afford.
We have to get these councillors out and persuade local activists to stand as candidates, preferably under the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition umbrella.
We need urgently to set up committees to campaign against these proposals and policies and to plan community resistance to the councils' bailiffs, and fight for a huge housebuilding programme.