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Government will outlaw squatting once and for all…..

Jamie Potter is a graduate in Journalism and Politics, a member of the Labour Party and his blog can be found here.

Grant Shapps has written in the Telegraph of his government’s plans to outlaw squatting ‘once and for all’ to alleviate the ‘distress and misery’ squatters cause to people who can’t be bothered to do anything with their building until it’s occupied by somebody in need of one.

This comes not long after the Tory Westminster council announced their intention to dispose of any human empathy in their collective soul and ban food donations to the homeless. Apparently it ‘encourages them’, much like scraps of food encourages rats and other vermin I guess. It’s hardly surprising then that the government want to crack down on squatters making use of empty homes whose numbers are startling.

According to local authority data (.xls) compiled by Empty Homes, a campaign group working to convert empty buildings into habitable properties, there were over 700,000 neglected houses stood idle in 2009. Meanwhile, there are over 1.7 million families waiting for social housing and hundreds more people spending nights on the street. Does something strike you as discrepant here?

And these are just the figures for homes. There are also countless empty shops, offices and other commercial (even industrial) buildings twiddling their thumbs in towns and cities across the country. The problem is apparent to anyone with eyes and the means to get around town, with buildings falling into disrepair and horrifying the well-to-do homeowners who fear for their own image and affected property prices.

On the other hand, many squatters have seen to it that such buildings are put to a good social use, acting as green education centres, women’s refuges, places of education and creativity which otherwise wouldn’t be there (cough, big society, cough). Guy Ritchie’s abandoned Fitzrovia mansion made more of a contribution to the neighbourhood when it was briefly taken over by protesters than it has at any previous point in its unremarkable, forgotten and couldn’t-care-less state.

For so many homes to be stood idle, waiting for investors, the market or local authorities to wake from their slumber, while so many homeless and marginalised people crave a roof over their heads is a disgrace. Are we really suggesting that it’s absolutely fine for property developers and the rich to buy up houses and forget about them while people across the country cry out for their own home?

In many cases, that people are squatting is a symptom of a wider malaise of deep rooted and systemic inequality, one that Grant Shapps and his colleagues in government are only going to exacerbate as budget cuts bite. Cracking down on squatting is nothing more than a doffing of his cap to the rich and landed, a policy that once again reveals the inner spite of the government and their refusal to consider the needs of the marginalised and impoverished in society.

Bollocks to it.

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Filed under: Big Society, Conservatives, Economy, Welfare, Westminster

The cynical ‘Big Society’ lie….

Councillor Rupert Read has been a Green Party City Councillor in Norwich since 2004, to find out more about Rupert visit his blogand twitter. This post was reproduced with the authors kind permission from Bright Green Scotland.

The reality is as follows: The government is forcing through big, rapid cuts. It is trying to target most of those cuts onto areas where public outrage at the cuts will not be too rapid or drastic. One obvious target has been local government (in complete contradiction with the government’s alleged ‘localism’ agenda): local government is a soft target, because money that goes to local government does not go direct to citizens, and so central government can always shift blame onto the local governments themselves. In the most cynical of ways, this latter is what Eric Pickles, the Local Government Minister, has now been doing for several months.

As a local Councillor, I know only too well how dependent many vital voluntary services / NGOs / etc. are upon local government to stay alive. The voluntary sector, these services, these groups, are in many cases now being slashed or driven to the wall, as local Councils desperately seek to make ends meet.

What the Government has perpetrated here really is a sickeningly cynical exercise. For it is nothing more nor less than a sick joke to talk about the ‘Big Society’ while creating conditions that you know will result in a severe reduction of the voluntary sector’s ability to cope and to do good things.

And precisely this is what Westminster has done. It is the opposite of joined-up government, and it is, in my view, both a stupidity and a disgrace.

Filed under: Big Society, Local Government, Westminster,

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