Party wants more robust strategy against austerity

Party wants more robust strategy against austerity

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Dave Nellist

The following piece is a press release sent to the local media regarding the local elections in Coventry on May 2nd, 2019. If you agree with us, please fill in the form at the bottom to get involved. You are also invited to our public meetings, see details at the end!


‘Socialist Alternative’ is the electoral name of the city’s Socialist Party.  The party is fielding 3 candidates in the local elections: in St Michaels, Lower Stoke and Radford wards.

Party spokesperson, and candidate in St Michaels, Dave Nellist, the former Labour MP, claims that the Conservative government has cut £120 million a year from the city’s budget. He argues that this has exacerbated austerity.

“Coventry was once the richest working-class city in Britain, now we have thousands of people relying on foodbanks, and people sleeping in shop doorways in the city centre”, he says. “Essential services such as libraries and youth clubs are underfunded, under threat or closed.”

Good quality, affordable housing

Many people find it hard to get good quality, affordable housing in Coventry, according to Mr Nellist.

“The Socialist Party wants more public housing in the city. The two universities ‘dash for growth’, particularly with city centre student tower blocks, is leaving local people behind. And for many debt laden students they face exorbitant rents to make large profits for developers.”

Compulsory register of landlords

“Neighbourhoods are being blighted by changing housing ownership and use”, declares the former socialist city councillor. We urgently need a compulsory register of private landlords so that housing conditions and fly tipping can be tackled.”

Opposition to PFI

The Socialist Party organised the main opposition to the PFI financing of University Hospital Coventry and Warwickshire and has collected thousands of signatures against what it describes as “rip-off” car parking charges at Walsgrave.

Mr Nellist said: “The car parking charges at the hospital, and the profit made by the private company that collects them, are a national scandal. It’s a tax on ill-health and should be abolished immediately”.

Lack of serious strategy to challenge austerity

The Socialist Party complains that the Council says it has no choice but to implement “savings” but has managed to find millions of pounds to invest in Coombe Abbey hotel or loan to student developers. It further alleges that the Council has lost millions of pounds by not using a national levy to charge developers of student accommodation.

The Socialist Party wants Coventry Council to:

  • adopt a legal no cuts budget;
  • freeze council tax and abandon planned cuts in council staff, pay and conditions.
  • oppose new charges for museums and sports facilities;
  • use council reserves to offset next year’s cuts and future cuts planned in areas such as children’s services;
  • link up with other local authorities to campaign for restoration of government funding;
  • call on Labour leaders to pledge to reimburse reserves spent, or borrowing undertaken, defending local communities in this way.

Not afraid to put Brexit into its local campaigning

Mr Nellist said: “I helped Tony Benn organise the “No” vote in 1975, and socialists campaigned for a leave vote in 2016. In our campaign we are calling for a Brexit that benefits workers, putting the millions ahead of the millionaires.”

“Neither remaining in, or aligned to, the EU – nor a Tory pro-big business Brexit – will provide a solution to austerity and privatisation. For that we need a change of government, major re-funding for local councils, and socialist public ownership.”

Opportunity to widen the political debate

“We are the sixth richest country in the world, yet our schools and hospitals lack the resources they need. Something is not right!”

“In this election we hope to widen the political debate and convince more people that socialist planning in the interests of the majority, not the fat cats at the top, could mean that we can both protect our environment and ensure everyone has a decent life”, he ends.

Socialist Alternative candidates:

St Michaels – Dave Nellist

Radford – Isla Boadle

Lower Stoke – Terri Hersey

Details of election public meetings – all welcome!

Austerity deepening, Tories in Brexit crisis – we need a voice for working class people!

Monday 29th April, 7.30pm Jubilee Crescent Community Centre, CV6 3EX

Tuesday 30th April, 7.30pm, Humber Pub, Humber Road, CV3 1BA

 

If you agree, fill in the form below to get involved!

Published by Dave Nellist, Coundon Road, CV1 4AR

A socialist response to “Dispatches: New Landlords from Hell”

A socialist response to “Dispatches: New Landlords from Hell”

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We recieved the following article from a Socialist Party member who works in the social housing sector. 

A recent Dispatches programme prompted the question “ Are Housing Associations
the New Landlords from Hell?”

Datshiane Navanayagam investigated various complaints from Sanctuary Housing
tenants, including one family living in a Sanctuary property that was riddled with
mould, damp, rot, slugs and silverfish. This family’s youngest child has been
diagnosed with Reactive Airways Disease and has been in and out of the hospital on
several occasions. The parents and their little boy slept in the living room while the
other six boys shared one bedroom because the rest of the house was uninhabitable. The living room and bedroom also contained damp and black mould.

The family complained several times to Sanctuary with no avail. They then called in
environmental health, who categorised the home as a very serious health risk. They
presented this report to Sanctuary who sat on the report for four months. The family
submitted evidence from their surveyor, hospital specialist and their GP. They also
had the backing of their local MP. Eventually, they used the Data Protection Act and
were able to obtain internal emails from Sanctuary. These emails showed that
Sanctuary knew the dangers of the property. Captured in one of the emails was the
suggestion that they (Sanctuary Housing) delay the response in hope that the tenants
would get tired and move out. The family have since hired a no win no fee solicitor.

Finally, after 21 months of complaining Sanctuary went into the house to make the
necessary repairs. However, when the family moved back in a month later they were
already noticing that streaks of water were coming down the kitchen wall indicating
to them that nothing structural had been done to truly alleviate the cause of the
damp and mould problem.

Navanayagam investigated another case where an elderly man’s son
informed her that his dad had his boiler disconnected by a Sanctuary engineer
because the boiler was unsafe. However, it was not immediately replaced even
though his father had chronic bronchitis. His father was given four small electric
heaters as a substitute until the boiler could be replaced. His dad did not feel he
could use all four at the same time due to potential fire risk as well as the expense. His dad was on a pay as you go meter.

The son noticed that his father’s health had taken a turn for the worse and after five
weeks without a new boiler his father was hospitalised and diagnosed with a lung
infection. The son stated that the nurses told him not to take his father home until
the boiler was fixed. His father died in hospital of bronchial pneumonia. His boiler
was finally replaced one month after his death and two and half months after the boiler was initially turned off.

These two examples, though extreme, are only the tip of the iceberg. In her
investigation Datshiane found several other complaints made by tenants against
Sanctuary Housing. There are several complaints about delayed repairs. Datshiane
spoke with a Sanctuary gas engineer who stated that they were under so much
pressure to do things that they never had time to fix things properly.

Sanctuary’s failure to look after their properties goes against the original ethos of Social Housing; that everyone deserves a decent and affordable home. Navanayagam rightly asks how is it that housing associations have lost this focus?

Housing Associations’ roles started to change after the 1988 Housing Act was passed. That act allowed for the first time for housing associations to borrow private money
in order to build affordable homes. Since then the Government has pushed housing
associations to build more homes, and this is how they have become
to be judged – not by the upkeep or the quality of the service they provide to
tenants.

Additionally, deregulation and funding cuts have helped pave the change in culture in which Housing Associations act like private developers. This culture includes paying their senior staff incredibly high salaries; for example, in 2017 Sanctuary’s CEO made £365,000 and their Chief Financial Officer made £240,000! Most of their Board of
Directors come from the financial and legal sector with no background in housing.

The Housing Association sector as a whole has problems with repairs and
maintaining their homes. The English Housing Survey discovered that across the
Housing Association sector that 11% of housing association properties failed to meet
The Decent Home Standards and 5% of properties had problems with damp and
mould.

Housing Associations are often not prosecuted because they exist in a loophole
between being government and private bodies, and the government tends to look at
them as private entities outside of government control. Adding to this, in 2010 the Tenant
Services Authority which was responsible for the inspection of housing associations
and addressing residents concerns was abolished. In 2015 the Audit Commission
which played a key role in monitoring housing associations was dissolved. Tory
policy continues to deregulate the sector, meaning that councillors and local
authorities have little power to take action against housing associations.

Social Housing tenants often feel ignored, stressed, drained and powerless to change
things due to the perceived stigma of living in social housing – including being told that “you should feel lucky that you have a roof over your head” if you dare to complain about the poor standard of your home. This is reinforced by government policies and
rhetoric, the right-wing press demonising benefit claimants and social housing tenants, and of course exploitative TV programmes like Benefits Street, Benefits Britain: Life on the Dole, On Benefits and Proud and The Great British Benefits Handout.

Safe and secure housing for working class people should be a right, not a luxury! The Socialist Party calls for a massive programme of council house building, and rent controls to stop greedy landlords exploiting people.

If you agree, please get in touch by filling out the form below!