Time for this gross injustice to stop. To be spoken on steps of Highbury Corner Magistrates Court 12-1pm 13th July

13 July 2017

Time for this gross injustice to stop.

Rent and council tax, plus court costs and bailiffs fees, are burning a big hole in the lowest incomes needed for food, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities. That means debt, hunger homelessness and ill health. It has a devastating impact on disabled and other vulnerable people. 

Rev Paul Nicolson – to be spoken on the steps of Highbury Corner Magistrates Court - 12-1pm – 13th July 2017.

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We are all here because we know the present political regime is damaging the mental and physical health and well-being of the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK.

"British society is in moral and economic crisis. Suicide is now the leading cause of death in men under 45. The Royal Society of Medicine tells us that “relentless cuts” have led to an extra 30,000 deaths. A report to the UN from the Equality and Human Rights Commission noted that work capability assessments “have been linked to suicides and cases of deteriorating mental health”. Benefit sanctions have caused hunger, hypothermia, homelessness and deaths. It is scarcely believable that food banks have become a societal norm. Workplace stress is at epidemic proportions, with working conditions increasingly amounting to servitude. People work for pitiful wages and uncertain numbers of hours in agency work and on Zero hours contracts. Employment and wealth have become the primary arbiters of a person’s value and character.

Are human beings nothing more than economic units? Are some people valued more than others? Are vulnerable people deserving of public expenditure, or are they disposable? Do neighbours and communities matter – or are we merely people in housing units? Treating people as objects has destructive economic effects at every level.” Most of that was written before the election in a letter to The Guardian by 73 people involved in providing mental health services.

May I now add to their correct analysis that. The Department for Work and Pensions never considers the undeniable and comprehesove evidence hat low income creates mental and physical ill health. The Royal College of Psychiatrists has been telling governments for decades that low income and debt create mental health problems.

The minds of ministers seem incapable of grasping the robust and solid evidence that the prevention of ill health by the provision of adequate minimum incomes by the DWP is absolutely necessary. It is also better than causing “soaring demand” for mental health services in the NHS.

Providing adequate minimum incomes would be the right thing to do on humanitarian grounds alone, meanwhile the NHS would be relieved of at least £9bn poverty-related extra costs.

Rent and council tax, plus court costs and bailiffs fees, are burning a big hole in the lowest incomes needed for food, fuel, clothes, transport and other necessities. That means debt, hunger, homelessness and ill health. It has a devastating impact on disabled and other vulnerable people.

It is all because we have anarchic land and housing markets in the UK. National and international speculators pour money into that market in short supply forcing up prices and rents. Landowners and landlords see the value of their property go up and up. So their wealth has multiplied year after year and they have not lifted a finger for it.  They leave 600,000 plots of land unused and rows of empty homes and unused plots of land on London Streets. They do that for private profit while Crisis is reporting 3.5 million homeless including people crashing out on neighbours floors and sofas.  

The gap in wealth and income between land owners and landless tenants gets wider and wider. The unaffordable rents needed for shelter compete with food, fuel and water for hopelessly inadequate unemployment incomes. The result is record increases in evictions, record admittance to hospital with malnutrition and unprecedented rises in mortality and infant deaths in 2015. . 

I now turn to the problems in the London Borough of Haringey, where I live. The Church I go to is in Northumberland Park. It is the most deprived ward in the Borough. The council is required under the Health and Social Services Act 2012 to improve the health of local population. They are already making it worse by enforcing council tax against shredded benefits plus court costs and bailiffs fees. By demolishing Northumberland Park council estate they will fail to carry out that duty by making the tenants health worse by disrupting theirs lives and their children’s education.

They are destroying council housing for ever. Council Housing is the only housing whose affordability the council can control as landlords. They are abandoning their tenants into a housing market where rents and council tax are taking an ever increasing amount of the income needed for food fuel, clothes transport and other necessities, in fact abandoning them to greater poverty and ill health.  Rehousing Northumberland Park’s tenants will be just as difficult as rehousing the tenants of Grenfell Tower but without the absolutely necessary emergency procedures.

I have raised this point about the link between low incomes,debt and ill health with the council since 2012, in the magistrate’s court, the high court, the Supreme Court and with the council’s auditors. The Supreme Court noted in 2014 after citing my evidence;

“Their income was already at a basic level and the effect of Haringey’s proposed (council tax) scheme would be to reduce it even below that level and thus in all likelihood to cause real hardship, while sparing its more prosperous residents from making any contribution to the shortfall in government funding.”

That is a rotten principle on which to base local government funding. The demolition of Northumberland Park will pile hardship on the existing hardship of the council’s tenants, without the borough’s more prosperous residents making any contribution to the shortfall in government funding.   

That is what has happened since 2010. National and local government have piled hardship, debt and ill health on the hard working, low paid and unemployed landless tenants of the UK while the landowners and landlords have seen their wealth go ever higher without lifting a finger for it and without making any fair contribution to the shortfalls in government funding.

It is time for this gross injustice to stop.

 

 

 

 


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