HOMELESSNESS has risen by a startling 134% since the Tories came to power in 2010, with the amount of people sleeping on the street rising by 60% in the same period. Figures from March this year show that there are now 77,000 families living in temporary accommodation, like hostels and Bed & Breakfasts, 120,000 of whom are children.
Meanwhile more than 21,000 homeless people have been admitted to hospital with problems related to drink and drugs over the past three years. Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) have been introduced with broad powers which allow councils to criminalise non-criminal behaviour. They are being used to fine homeless people for sleeping on the streets!
The Tories’ homelessness crisis has been created using a three pronged attack – the introduction of the benefit cap and universal credit, the destruction of council housing and the soaring cost of living, in particular ever-rising private rents.
The number of council homes had already dropped from 5m in 1981 to 1.7m in 2014. Now, with the Tories extending the ‘right-to-buy’ scheme, that figure will fall even further as more and more people are driven into the private rental sector or onto the streets. On average, homeless people die at just 47 years old, compared to the average life expectancy of 81.
The Tories’ introduction of the Housing Bill enables councils to sell off their property at an alarming rate. Families are being ‘decanted’ out of major cities like London and rehoused, in some cases over a hundred miles away from their family and friends, a policy which is now known as ‘decanting’, meaning ‘social cleansing’.
Over 50,000 families have been silently shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years, leaked documents have revealed. Between July and September last year, there were 423 families sent out of Greater London, including 115 families sent to Essex, 96 families sent to Kent and 24 to Birmingham.
The Grenfell fire, a product of an orgy of Tory deregulation, has brought the housing crisis into sharp focus. To add insult to injury, instead of rehousing the Grenfell fire survivors, they have been told to bid against each other in a scramble to get rehoused. Three and a half months after the fire, just a fraction of the survivors and their families have been rehoused.
We now find out that tower blocks in every part of the UK are fitted with the same flammable cladding and in some cases, in combination with the same lethal insulation, as the Grenfell Tower. When that particular insulation catches fire it releases toxic cyanide gas.
The housing crisis has got so bad that many people have resorted to sleeping in their car or van. Dozens of people in Bristol have become so-called ‘van dwellers’ with up to 35 vans, trucks and horseboxes parked in a queue in Bristol.
Shelter is one of the most basic human needs and the fact that capitalism in the 21st century cannot even provide a roof over someone’s head, means that it is a system that cannot be allowed to continue to exist. It is an antiquated system, with a ruling class that lives off the backs of the working class and now in its death agony has to destroy all the gains of the working class to survive.
Council housing, along with the NHS and the welfare state, was one of the great gains of the working class after the Second World War. In what was called a ‘historic compromise’, the working class won ‘socialist reforms’ from a ruling class which feared that if it did not make these concessions there would be a social revolution in Britain which would have swept it away.
Now, in their crisis, the rulers of this country are attempting to claw back everything the working class won. That social revolution can be postponed no longer. The working class in Britain demands the building of millions of council homes, and will defend the NHS and the welfare state with the same revolutionary vigour that won them.
What was won through the ruling class’s fear of revolutin, can now only be defended through the socialist revolution itself. This is why the struggle of the Bolshevik Party and the centenary of the Russian Revolution of 1917 is not just something to celebrate but something to emulate. So join the WRP and come to the 100 years Anniversary Rally of the Russian Revolution on Sunday November 12 at the Camden Centre.