Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Brits Indulge in a Little Ethnic Cleansing

Oh, to be in London in the springtime of the year. The rain is pelting down and gales lash against the White Cliffs of Dover. The Conservatives are in power, Rupert Murdoch's being persecuted and it's less than a hundred days until the Olympics begin.

They're being held in what was and is known as the East End of London, traditionally one of the poorest areas in the city. And one of the most ethnically diverse.

For any of you would-be Anglophiles, who get your knowledge of Brit-Life from the likes of Katty Kay or PBS repeats of Eastenders, the East End used to look like this:

But now, it looks more like this:-

There's been quite a bit of controversy in the news lately about what's effectively been described as sociological ethnic cleansing centering around certain areas of London.

Let me explain something. In the UK, there is, as in the US, swathes of government-subsidised housing for low income people. That which we would call "the projects," the Brits refer to as "council estates" (as in maintained with government assistance by the local councils). But since Maggie Thatcher made it possible for tenants to buy their rented council properties, there have been few new council properties being built. Instead, the government has been encouraging private landlords to rent their properties to local councils in order to house low-income people. Rents are guaranteed to be paid by the council, as most tenants are on housing benefit anyway - which means they get reimbursed part of the rent they pay by the government.

But there's a problem now with rents and property values rising. Because whilst the East End houses lots of poor people - most of whom are immigrants with brown or black skin - it's also very close to the financial sector, and now the rich, young banksters are buying up properties and sending real estate values sky high.

Result? The local councils can no longer afford to subsidise poor people when landlords' rents and property values, in general, are rising.

Solution? The Tories (that's Conservatives) have it sussed: ship the council tenants out of London, get some mug council someplace in the North of England, where it's cheaper (and whiter) to take on a bundle of people too poor to pay a real rent. Especially from the East End, which is going to be swamped with American tourists here for the Olympics this year.

I mean, it wouldn't do for Americans  to get confused and think they were on Main Street, Jalalabad, instead of someplace in East London. They want fish'n chip shops, not Halal butchers.

Of course, The Guardian reveals all.

A number of London councils are planning to move housing benefitclaimants outside the capital as cuts shrink the number of properties affordable to people on welfare, prompting fears that a policy to export poor residents of the capital will strengthen "divisive rightwing extremism" in northern towns.
Tory-led councils such as Hillingdon, Croydon and Westminster have admitted either placing claimants outside the capital or said they were preparing to do so. Adverts have been placed in local newspapers in Berkshire asking for landlords to become part of a "three to five years guaranteed local authority scheme".
A political storm erupted over the policy to ship out poor households when it emerged that Labour-run Newham council was planning to move 500 families who relied on housing benefit some 160 miles away, to Stoke-on-Trent.
Newham council says it can no longer afford to house tenants on its waiting list in private accommodation. It says rent rises linked to the Olympics and the demand for housing from young professionals has caused rents to rocket in east London.

But the controversy surrounds Newham council, the poorest area of London's East End, which is controlled by - surprise, surprise - Labour, who are proposing to relocate 500 council tenant families from their homes in the area (which have become too expensive for the council to maintain) up North to Stoke-on-Trent, which is about 170 miles as the crow flies.

Here's what happened:-

Newham said the gap between market rents and the housing allowance was too big following the central government cap on housing benefit payments. Since January, councils have been writing to claimants telling them of shortfalls in rent that they will have to make up. The Chartered Institute of Housing estimates that Newham must have at least 1,500 families affected by welfare cuts immediately.
Newham, one of the most economically deprived local authorities in the UK, which legally must house claimants, said it had had to look "further afield for an alternative supply" of affordable housing.
The Labour-controlled local authority, which will host 2012 Olympics events, wrote to the Brighter Futures housing association in Stoke, offering it the "opportunity" to lease homes to the council.
Gill Brown, chief executive of Brighter Futures, wrote to local MPs warning of the consequences if "London boroughs are allowed to export their most vulnerable and challenging families to cities like Stoke-on-Trent".
She likened it to the experiences of 10 years ago, when a Home Office dispersal programme moved thousands of refugees into privately owned properties in north Staffordshire.
"The result was huge unplanned pressure on local services, the collapse of already vulnerable neighbourhoods and the rise of divisive rightwing extremism," she said.
A Labour MP warned that Newham's move was the "tip of the iceberg". Karen Buck, the Labour MP who was passed the Newham letter, said it showed that ministers were wrong when they claimed no one would need to move as landlords would lower rents to accommodate welfare cuts.
She said there was increasing evidence that local authorities were not able to meet their responsibilities. "We see homelessness rising, rents rising and this is a big problem for a government which claimed that none of this would happen."

And, if that's not bad enough, certain landlords who've leased properties to the councils are beginning to evict council tenants who can no longer pay rents due to their Conservative-inspired cut in rent caps.

Again, The Guardian sports the tale of a landlord "forced" to evict a young family from one of his properties because they could not afford his rent, and their rent cap (benefit) had been cut. Here's how the landlord described the situation:-

"The social cost is immeasurable. Lives are being wrecked," he said. "I don't like ethnic cleansing, and that is what is happening." He described the tenants he was in the process of evicting as "exclusively non-white".
"I don't think that it will save any money and I am very worried about the social implications. What is going to happen to the kids? We have tenants in the office crying, regularly," he said, asking not to be named.
"Secure home life is important. See where this ends up in four years. See what social issues you are going to have… We are asking for trouble."

The obvious problem now is the rise of the English Defence League (think Tea Party on steroids) in the areas in the Midlands and North of England where a lot of these poor people are being shifted. This is a tinderbox waiting to explode. 

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