Sunday, 13 March 2011

A housing policy fit for nobody.

Do you remember the hazy days of May 2010 when Dave and Nick joined hands to lead us all into a brave new world? The yoke of state control was going to be lifted off people’s shoulders, the books would be balanced but not at the expense of the most vulnerable members of society.

That was always just so much pie in the sky wasn’t it? If you needed proof of that look no further than the figures released by the Department of Work and Pensions this week which show that some 450,000 disabled people will be up to £13 a week worse off from April 2013 thanks to changes to housing benefits. It is all part of the government’s plan to force people out of social housing deemed to be too large for their needs into smaller but more expensive properties.

Combine this with the replacement of the Disability Living Allowance under Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare reforms and a review of the statutory services councils are obliged to provide for disabled people and you have a perfect recipe for chaos, injustice and despair. Disability charities are already reporting clients contacting them who feel suicidal with anxiety and the ‘reforms’ are still a good two years away.

As Neil Coyle of the Disability Alliance told the BBC this week he had spoken to people who had told him ‘that if they lose the kind of support that helps them to work for example, they’ll lose the ability to be independent and they may take their own lives.’

Is that a price worth paying for making savings on the housing benefit budget? It hardly seems logical to try and cut welfare costs by making people more dependent; but then I didn’t do PPE at Oxford so what to I know?

Regarding the review of council’s statutory responsibilities a spokes person for the Department of Communities and Local Government said that ‘while some duties remain statutory others may no longer be required or may no longer be needed or may create unnecessary burdens or restrictions on local authorities.’

Nobody, on the government side anyway, seems to have spotted the flaw in this argument, that if given the chance many councils will see this as a golden opportunity to slough off a lot of difficult responsibilities. As a spokesperson for SCOPE told the BBC ‘under these proposals councils could decide not to provide any services for disabled people,’ creating ‘a very real threat to the lives, security and futures of disabled people.’

What of the golden couple on whose watch this farrago of injustice is taking place, surely such a thing can’t happen now that Dave has detoxified the Tories and Nick (helped by St Vince) is on hand to be the government’s conscience; but it has.

It’s happened because David Cameron has reverted to Tory type, rattling the nation’s sabre on the international stage whilst railing against the ‘enemies of enterprise’ at home. As for Nick Clegg; Jiminy Cricket has been pretty much squished and these days all he can do is prattle ineffectually about ‘alarm clock Britain’ and how hard it is to be unpopular.

Meanwhile the banks go on playing roulette with other people’s money and paying themselves obscene bonuses and conditions for the most vulnerable people in society continue getting worse. As if to make himself feel better Citizen Dave occasionally talks breezily about how he’s going to use the ‘big society’ to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony; all along knowing that the truth is the tune will be called by the banks that got our national finances into such a mess in the first place.


As a reformed smoker I should be in favour of the government’s proposals to ban cigarettes from being displayed openly in shops and to be sold in plain packaging; but I’m not.

This is, in part, because it seems that nothing makes a grubby habit like smoking seem more glamorous to foolish and impressionable people than making it subject to official censure. As for plain packaging, the marketing departments of the tobacco companies will soon turn that to their advantage, as they did with the restrictions placed on press and poster advertising.

What really sticks in my craw though is the rank hypocrisy of the government lecturing smokers about their wicked ways whilst eagerly accepting the tax rake off from the habit that is slowly killing them.


As part of his campaign to patronise the nation into submission David Cameron, in his ‘just call me Dave’ incarnation, pitched up on the BBC’s dreary The One Show this week, sharing the sofa with a rather startled looking Barn Owl and prattling about what he likes on his pancakes.

Politicians love this sort of soft soap because it makes them appear more ‘human’ and has the added benefit of meaning they don’t have to answer the sort of tough questions they might face on Newsnight.

Where will it all end? Probably with Citizen Dave landing a guest spot on Rastamouse so that he can explain how he’s going to use the ‘big society’ to make a bad ting good.

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