Sunday 04 October 2015.
Dear Mr Cameron,
In May 2014 the Independent reported a study by the Office for National Statistics that found more than a million homes lay empty in Britain.
In February 2015 the Mirror reported that the number of families hit by the bedroom tax (under-occupancy charge), which targets poor and vulnerable people, will increase by 1 million over the term of this parliament. Despite your assurances to parliament that ‘Obviously, what we have done is to exempt disabled people who need an extra room’, disabled people are being hardest hit by the bedroom tax and are being evicted from specially adapted homes.
Between July and September last year Ministry of Justice figures show that 11,100 evictions by bailiffs had taken place, the highest number since records began, a large proportion attributed by social landlords to the bedroom tax.
By any sane definition a house sitting empty is under occupied, a child under 5 could work that out. In 2011 the coalition government introduced ‘dedicated empty homes programmes to support housing providers and community organisations to create affordable homes from empty properties’. These programmes ended in March 2015, which, according to government figures, succeeded in creating just 6,000 new homes from empty properties.
In very welcome news on Friday, in a country in which good news is in extremely short supply, a judge ruled that a group of squatters could remain in a disused adult learning centre. In dismissing the councils attempt to oust the squatters the judge found, ‘The defendants appear to be straight forward and honest individuals and they know the law around squatting, they have to gain entry and keep in residency. They are fully aware that they need to show continuity of occupation and have done so with evidence’.
The bigger issue here is that the group demonstrated good sense and, more importantly, self determination. It is the right to be self determining which is under attack through ever more draconian policies imposed by your government and none more so than from the DWP under Iain Duncan Smith. I wrote yesterday that authoritarian governance discriminates against those you consider to be beneath you, treating ordinary people as lesser beings, undermining dignity and self worth and treating us a vassals of the state. I consider this to be a fundamental issue and something that must be opposed and written into anti-discrimination law as a matter of urgency. No one, especially not government, should be free to subjugate and oppress others to the detriment of their mental and physical well being and especially to be a threat to life as Smith’s sanction regime clearly is. The rights to life, liberty, food, shelter and self determination are self evident and fundamental rights of life, a government that opposes and legislates against them is committing crimes against life itself.