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STUC 2013 Perth

Welfare cuts: Heaping homelessness on top of poverty

John Stevenson
John Stevenson

The Scottish Government must work to prevent evictions over the deeply unfair bedroom tax – evictions that would heap homelessness on top of poverty.

That was the call from UNISON’s John Stevenson as he supported a motion condemning the despicable ‘welfare reform’ agenda of the UK coalition government.

John said that people should be “furious” at the attack on benefit cuts from owners of country mansions who have never had to worry about rent or whether they can afford a Christmas.

Unions must make sure the public know the facts – not the fiction in most of the media - to make them angry and give them the confidence to act.

“But while we do that” he said, “we still need to protect the victims here and now.

“Part of that is to convince councils and the Scottish Government not to heap homelessness on top of poverty by evicting people.

“Around 105,000 households in Scotland – a fifth of the social-rented sector – will lose an average of £14 a week.

“In Edinburgh 4,500 people will be affected with only 900 one bedroom houses available and of course not sitting empty."

“The vast majority will lose £14 a week or more with no option whatsoever to move – even if you accept that people should be forced to move home – for that is what it is – a home not a flat, not a house – a home with memories, with neighbours and friends and support networks.

“To their credit, councils across the country, including Edinburgh on Tuesday, have pledged not to evict people due to this vicious legislation. As Cllr Ricky Henderson put it, the council was not going to stand up in court: “trying to evict some poor soul whose only offence is the government moved the goalposts.””

The Unite motion, seconded by PCS, was also supported by Edinburgh, Glasgow, and South Lanarkshire & East Kilbride TUCs.

It stated that Congress is “deeply concerned at the statement of Johann Lamont MSP, Scottish Labour leader, that universal provision is ‘something for nothing’ – on top of Ed Balls and Ed Miliband’s declarations that a future Labour government will not seek to reverse the Tory-led Coalition’s massive cuts programme or to restore public sector pay and pensions to pre-freeze levels.

Congress reaffirmed its strong support for universalist principles, as an “effective contribution towards creating a fairer and more equal society, ie universal provisions of social, welfare, education and public services paid for through progressive taxation, where the rich are properly taxed on their income and wealth.”

John, president of UNISON’s Edinburgh City branch, added: “Credit must go to Mike Dailly and Govan Law Centre on the petition calling on the Scottish Government to amend Section 16 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 2001 to prevent social landlords from using rent arrears caused by the bedroom tax in eviction actions.

“Great though the campaign is, it will not stop councils pursuing the money, they just won’t evict.

“And it comes at a cost. Edinburgh could lose £4m. That equates to 100 housing management jobs or a £4m reduction in direct capital investment.

“And as we all know, while the rich hoard their money away producing nothing, the rest of us spend most of what we have in our local economies.

“So almost £1.5million a week will now be stolen by the government from local communities and local businesses that they claim to support.

“So it’s making people poorer, councils poorer and local economies poorer.

“And there is another element to this – the attack on local government. Force local councils into delivering your deeply unfair policies and let them take the flak while you get off with it.

“The more unpopular local councils are, the easier it is to attack them even more.”

The motion also called for a range of measures in campaigning against the cuts, for a fairer deal for all disabled people and their families and for a campaign to oppose all privatisation of welfare delivery and to bring all privatised services back in-house, provided by public sector staff.

18 April 2013

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