Tagged: London

Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

The number of tenants evicted from their homes is at a six-year high, according to new figures, as rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.

The increase in the number of tenants losing their homes means 2015 is on course to break last year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest number since records began in 2000.

Rental prices have soared in many UK cities but wages failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments.

Separate figures also published on Thursday showed almost 59,000 households have had their benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly half of those families were in London, where the the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216.

Housing charities said the figures were a glaring reminder that many tenants were struggling to maintain a roof over their heads, and they called on the new government to do more to tackle a housing crisis in the UK.

The latest repossession statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, reveal the highest number of evictions in a single quarter since 2009, when comparable records began, with nearly 126 families forced out every day.

Between January and March, 11,307 tenants and their families were evicted by bailiffs, compared with a figure of 10,380 between October and December last year, and 10,482 in the first quarter of 2014.

The record figure comes as the number of landlord repossession claims – the first step of the legal process leading to an eviction – also rose. Claims were up 10% on the last quarter, but at 42,226 they remained below a six-year high of 47,208 in the first quarter of 2014.

Claims by both private and social landlords were up, the figures showed, although most of the rise was explained by claims by the latter. Social landlords were behind nearly five times as many attempts to recover properties than private landlords, the figures showed. These landlords are typically housing associations providing homes at lower rents than the market rate, often to tenants who receive housing benefit.

In the first three months of the year, 64% of possession claims were made by social landlords. These 27,204 court actions came alongside 5,551 made by private landlords and 9,741 accelerated claims, which could have been by either social or private landlords.

In May 2014, when the threat of evictions reached its highest level for a decade, the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations across England, told the Guardian the bedroom tax was causing problems for social landlords. The policy cuts the amount of housing benefit paid to social housing tenants whose homes are deemed too large for their requirements. Benefit sanctions were also thought to be causing problems.

But many housing associations, particularly in London and the south-east, have turned out tenants as they have sought to redevelop generations-old estates to take advantage of the big rise in property values. This has in turn led to an increase in the number of grassroots campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers.

In one case of eviction resistance last week, activists from Housing Action Southwarkand Lambeth in London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to successfully resist her family’s eviction from a flat in an estate that Southwark council had marked for demolition. Elsewhere in the capital, shorthold tenants in Brixton’s Loughborough Park estate, owned by the Guinness Partnership housing association, have defied eviction orders by occupying their flats.

The MoJ figures came on the same day as the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 58,690 households across the UK had their benefits capped to a maximum of £26,000 a year since April 2013. Londoners were the worst affected, with 26,636 families facing a cut in benefits over the period to February 2015, followed by 5,953 in the rest of the south-east.

DWP proposals to meet the Conservatives’ pledge to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, in documents leaked to the Guardian last week, included barring under-25s from claiming housing benefit, increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of tenants, limiting welfare payments by family size and freezing welfare benefits at current levels.

Responding to the eviction statistics, Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“Today’s figures are a glaring reminder that sky-high housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact of a housing market at boiling point, with the cost of renting so high that many families are living in fear that just one thing like losing their job or becoming ill could leave them with the bailiffs knocking at the door.

“The new government must make sure people aren’t left to fall through the cracks and hurtling towards homelessness by preserving, if not strengthening, the frayed housing safety net to protect ordinary families desperately struggling to make ends meet.”

Betsy Dillner, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said:

“These record eviction figures and signs that they are accelerating are a stark reminder of the housing crisis that the government must urgently start taking seriously now they’re back in power.

“Whether it’s an inability to pay expensive rents or a landlord’s desire to take back their property, the fact that more than 40,000 families were forced out of their homes last year is a symptom of the government’s failure to create a sustainable housing market.”

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, defended the government’s performance, pointing out that mortgage repossessions had fallen drastically, keeping owner-occupiers in their “hard-earned homes”.

He said:

“Mortgage repossessions continue to fall at 56% lower than this time last year, and the lowest annual figure since the series began in 1987. Meanwhile, numbers of county court mortgage possession claims continue to fall to the lowest quarterly number since records began. This is thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“There are strong protections in place to guard families against the threat of homelessness. We increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500m made available to help the most vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.”

Source – The Guardian,  14 May 2015

North-East campaigners set to join anti-austerity protest in London

Campaigners from across the North-East will travel to London to join anti-austerity protesters next month.

Coachloads of campaigners are expected to make their way from the region to a national demonstration against austerity measures, called by The People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

The #EndAusterityNow demonstration is being staged in reaction to the election of the Conservatives and their austerity proposals.

A spokesman said:

“The Tories are back in, this time with a majority.

“They plan many more savage cuts, causing misery for millions.

“We are organising and demonstrating to stop them.

“We demand an alternative to austerity and to policies that only benefit those at the top.

“We’ll be assembling the demonstration in the heart of the City of London right on the doorstep of the people who created the crisis to demand that they should pay for it and not the majority who had nothing to do with it.”

Coaches will leave the North-East from Hartlepool and Middlesbrough on Saturday, June 20, returning the same evening.

Seats are £30 waged or £20 unwaged.

For more information or to book a seat, email nepeoplesassembly@gmail.com.

Source – Northern Echo, 12 May 2015

Anti-Tory Demos in London & Cardiff

 

Stockton Benefits Street participant regrets decision to take part

A participant in the new series of Benefits Street filmed in Stockton says he regrets his decision to take part in the show.

The second series of the controversial Channel 4 show will be screened this month after being filmed on Kingston Road, on the Tilery estate.

Lee Nutley is one of six main characters followed in the six-part series, but  after watching the first episode earlier this week the 42-year-old is convinced he made the wrong decision.

“If I could take it all back I think I probably would,” said Lee, 42. “It took months for the producers to convince me to take part. And I only really did because some of my family were already in it.”

It’s only been two days since the show premiered in London but Lee, who has been claiming Job Seekers Allowance for the past year, said he already feels like a “local celeb” in his home town.

“I went to Stockton earlier and people were stopping me in the street. Mainly people I know shouting ‘Lee, you’re famous now mate’ and stuff like that.

“But this is not why I went on the show.

“I don’t plan to become some big celebrity and earn loads of money.

“As far as I’m concerned you don’t need money to be happy, and us lot being filmed here will prove it.”

Lee, who will appear alongside his mum Chrissie who lives nearby, added that his life is “totally different” to how it was a year ago when filming was taking place.

He said: “I’m in a much better place now. I was on anti-depressants when the cameras were here and my epilepsy is under control now. I’m just waiting for one more test and once I’ve got the all clear I’ll be straight back to work.

“I’ve worked all my life and I plan on getting back to it. If people think I want to sit on my backside on £45 a week, they are very wrong.”

Lee, who has lived on the Tilery estate for about 30 years, admits he is very “self critical” of his appearance on the show.

He said: “I’m not worried about what the viewers will think of me. Everyone has said I come across really well, but I hate watching myself.”

Source – Middlesbrough Evening Chronicle, 01 May 2015

IDS flees from sister of dead claimant

Iain Duncan Smith dropped out of a hustings in his own constituency at the last minute, frightened of facing the sister of David Clapson, the diabetic former soldier who died after his benefits were cut.

IDS should have appeared on a platform with candidates from six other parties in Chingford, north London on Monday night.

Gill Thompson, the sister of David Clapson, was there to talk about how having his benefits stopped for missing an appointment had led to her brother’s death and to call IDS to account.

But, with just hours to go, IDS was suddenly called to “to the north-west of the country” for unexplained reasons.

According to the Daily Mirror, Thompson moved some in the audience to tears as she explained the circumstances surrounding her brother’s death.

“My brother died because of Iain Duncan Smith’s policies,” she said. “He wasn’t a scrounger. He was a former soldier. He died with a pile of CVs next to his body. He was a diabetic. After he was sanctioned he couldn’t even keep his insulin cold in the fridge.”

Just last week, we asked After Harper no-show on Newsnight, will IDS duck his benefits debate too? This followed DWP minister benefits stopped for missing an appointment’s last minute refusal to appear in a Newsnight debate on benefits.

It’s beginning to look more and more likely that the answer to that question will be ‘Yes’.

Source –  Benefits & Work, 29 Apr 2015

http://www.benefitsandwork.co.uk/news/3084-ids-flees-from-sister-of-dead-claimant

Tyneside Samaritans report an alarming rise in the number of desperate pleas for help

Tyneside has seen an alarming rise in the number of people calling Samaritans.

Figures released by the charity show more than 37,000 desperate pleas were made last year, with nearly 5,000 of those coming from people considering taking their own lives.

The suicide rate in the North East is the highest in England, 13.8 per 100,000, compared with 7.9 in London, a figure which gives great concern to Samaritans.

Libby Hibbert, Director of Samaritans of Tyneside, said the number of callers has risen steadily over the past few years.

She said:

“Callers talk about a wide range of troubles that they may be unable to share with the people closest to them. Others are lonely and have no-one close to speak to.

“Some people have mental health difficulties that may affect their relationships or ability to work, some have other illnesses, and some have split up with their partners, some have financial worries, others are upset about bullying and some want to talk about their addictions.”

Samaritans of Tyneside is based at Jesmond, in Newcastle, where more than 100 volunteers answer the telephones.

Shirley Smith, of Chester-le-Street mental health charity Ifucareshare, urges anyone having suicidal thoughts to confide in someone.

She said:

“We have seen an increase in the demand for our service. That could be because people are coming more and aware of what we do. But, I would say the impact of suicide devastates communities and one suicide is one too many.

“Often for those left feeling suicidal there is always something that can be done. Terrific services like Samaritans help people at times of crisis are imperative.

“The most important thing is to reach out for that help. Speak to somebody, let somebody know how you are feeling. Talk to your GP, talk to a friend, that’s the most important thing; start the conversation.

“One of the things most families who have been affected by suicide say is that they didn’t know their loved ones were feeling that way. As a charity we believe there is always a way out. People do not feel suicidal forever. It can be a very temporary feeling. But feeling so low you can think of nothing else.

“Getting the right help at the right time is really important.”

Some of the concerns raised by people contacting Samaritans of Tyneside include financial problems, illness, job loss, bullying, low self esteem, bereavement, guilt, stress/anxiety, divorce, and access to children.

Ifucareshare can be reached on 0191 397 5661.

CALMCampaign Against Living Miserably– specialise in male’s mental health and can be reached on 0800 58 58 58.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  20 Apr 2015

Protest charges dropped against Hartlepool Green Party candidate

An election candidate who was arrested following a protest in London has seen the charges against him dropped.

Michael Holt, a Green Party candidate who is standing in the General Election in Hartlepool, was arrested on October 21 last year and charged with obstructing a police officer in the execution of his duty, and also for failing to comply with a direction to leave.

The charges followed Mr Holt taking part in the protests about having a democracy free from corporate interests, in Parliament Square Gardens, London.

Source – Hartlepool Mail, 18 Apr 2015

Average Teesside home is worth £25k LESS than it was five years ago

The average homeowner in parts of Teesside has lost £25,000 off the value of their house since the coalition came to power in 2010 – while prices in London have soared.

Exclusive analysis of Land Registry data show the average house price in Redcar and Cleveland has dropped by 21.3% since May 2010, the date of the last election.

The average price is now £92,785 – or £25,134 LESS than it was then.

Only two places in the country – Merthyr Tydfil (down 27.1%) and Blackpool (down 24.9%) – have seen a bigger percentage fall.

In Middlesbrough, prices are down 6.6% since May 2010.

That means the average property is worth £5,904 less now than then.

And Stockton-on-Tees has seen a 2.6% fall, equivalent to £2,944.

Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have actually gone up by 10.8% since May 2010, with the average property worth £17,595 more than it was then.

Across England and Wales as a whole, house prices have risen by 10.8% since May 2010.

The biggest increases have all been in London – with the 29 top-rising areas all in the capital.

Top of the list is Hackney, where house prices are up 76.3%.

The average house is now worth £634,045 – or £274,491 more than it was five years ago.

In the City of Westminster, meanwhile, the average price is up £464,941 from £610,767 to £1.07m.

When London is taken out of the equation, Tory-run areas seem to have done markedly better than those controlled by other parties.

Ten of the 20 ‘non-London’ areas that have seen the biggest rises are held by the Conservatives, with nine in no overall political control and just one – Slough – held by Labour.

Tory Wokingham (up 25.7%), Hertfordshire (up 24.6%) and Surrey (up 24.6%) have seen the biggest rises outside London.

By contrast 19 of the 20 areas to have seen the biggest falls in house prices are run by Labour.

The only one that isn’t is Lancashire (down 13.6%) – which is in no overall control.

Source – Middlesbrough Gazette, 13 Apr 2015

Disability campaigner to deliver birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith

Disability campaigner Mary Laver is to deliver a special birthday card to Iain Duncan Smith – to thank him for plans to “imprison” her in her own home.

She is protesting against his party’s plans to scrap the Independent Living Fund (ILF) on June 30.

Mary, 67, of Forest Hall, Newcastle, said: “I’m very frightened about what this will mean to me and anything I can do to at least raise the issue of this appalling cut, the better.”

The former RAF servicewoman has rheumatoid arthritis so severe that she cannot walk or use her hands.

As such she requires constant care – receiving around 18 hours a day or 126 a week at present. The majority is funded by her local authority but 46 hours a week comes as a result of the ILF.

Ironically it was set up by the Conservatives in 1988 for disabled people with high support needs to enable them to live in the community rather than move into residential care.

It costs about £320m a year and helps nearly 18,000 disabled people across the country.

However, according to the plan, in June the funding and responsibility of ILF care and support needs will transfer to local authorities – but there is no obligation to use the money specifically for ILF.

And after one year, the funding from the Government will cease, meaning local authorities need to find it from their own ever decreasing budgets.

Mary is travelling to London with her support team for her protest on Thursday, the Department for Work and Pension Minister’s 61st birthday.

She will set off in her powered wheelchair and travel from the House of Commons, via the Royal Courts of Justice, 14 miles to Duncan Smith’s Chingford constituency in London to deliver a card she has had specially designed for the occasion.

She said: “I do not want to trust anyone else with such an important gift.”

Speaking of the effect the closure of the ILF will have on her, Mary said: “He is going to imprison me in my own home for the rest of my life without a parole or right to appeal. My crime? The crime that I have committed is becoming a disabled person.

“Not only am I disabled, but I am severely disabled with a mandatory life sentence.”

In 2009, Mary travelled from Land’s End to John O’Groats in her electric wheelchair to raise money for The Royal British Legion and made it into the ­Guinness Book of ­World Records.

She has taken part in the Great North Run and in 2012 she carried the Olympic torch through Newcastle.

Mary said: “This will probably be my last long journey.”

She added: “There are 18,000, give or take a few, ILF users who are going to lose on the 30th June, the funding to live an independent life, a life that non-disabled people accept as normal.

“The ILF stands for, Independent Living Fund, that is what the it gives us, our independence to enable us to live our life as we see fit.

“My message to all political parties is that it is not too late to save the ILF. Be true to yourself and stop the cruellest cut of all, cutting the Independent Living Fund, the ILF.”

A conservative spokesman said: “Our understanding of disabled people has changed over the past 20 years, and along with it there have been significant developments in how we provide social care to disabled people so they can live independent lives.

“Spending on disability benefits has increased under this Government – we continue to spend £50 billion a year on disabled people and the services provided to them. As part of our long-term economic plan we want to make sure that disabled people are given the support that allows them to fulfil their potential.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 05 Apr 2015

Will makers of film Suffragette starring Meryl Streep portray Emily Davison’s death as suicide?

Campaigners have expressed concern about how women’s rights activist Emily Wilding Davison might be portrayed in a forthcoming blockbuster movie.

The film called Suffragette is due to be released in September and boasts an all star cast including Meryl Streep as Emmeline Pankhurst, Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan.

It also features Natalie Press as Davison, who is buried in Morpeth, Northumberland, following her death after being hit by the King’s horse during the 1913 Derby.

The ‘Emily Inspires’ group, which is based in Northumberland and has the backing of Davison’s descendants, became concerned after a website revealed details of a film about Emily which appeared to suggest she had committed suicide that day.

Emily Wilding Davison who is buried at St. Mary's Church in Morpeth.
Emily Wilding Davison who is buried at St. Mary’s Church in Morpeth.

Its Chair, Andrew Tebbutt, explained:

“We’re concerned because we understand there has been blurb for it talking of her throwing herself in front of the horse.

“A letter has been sent to the makers about this but we’ve heard nothing back yet as far as I’m aware.”

We tried to contact award winning writer Abi Morgan who penned Suffragette to clear up the matter.

However, on her behalf, we received a statement from Pathe, which is co-producing the film with Film4 productions, which said:

“Abi Morgan won’t be doing any interviews about the film until much closer to the release in the Autumn.

“Unfortunately I must ask you to wait to see the film before commenting on how Emily Davison is portrayed. The one thing I can tell you now is that she is a supporting character in the film, so is not the focus of the story.”

For many years it had been said that Davison did, in effect, commit suicide by steeping in the front of the horse, Anmer.

Recently, however, modern historians have ruled out the suicide theory. In 2013 analysis of newsreel has supported the idea that Davison was reaching up to attach a scarf to the bridle of the King’s horse.

Analysis of the newsreel also indicated that her position before she stepped out onto the track would have given her a clear view of the oncoming race, further countering the belief that she ran out in a haphazard way to kill herself.

1913 Suffragette derby
1913 Suffragette derby

Mr Tebbutt said: “If you re going to some sort of historical documentary, do it properly and tell the truth.

“She was quite happy to die for the cause of getting women the vote, but that is not what she intended to do that day.

“She was preparing to go see her nephew and niece in France afterwards – she had a return ticket. So her intention was not to die that day.”

Emily Inspires said another movie called Emily: Deeds Not Words had spoken of her as a “terrorist” and a “martyr”.

They said it was possible this film had been confused with Suffragette.

Davison was born in London the daughter of Northumberland parents. She was a militant activist who fought for women to be given the vote in Britain and was jailed on nine occasions and force-fed 49 times.

Davison died four days after the Derby incident from the injuries she suffered.

Her funeral was organised by the Women’s Social and Political Union and thousands of suffragettes accompanied the coffin while tens of thousands of people lined the streets of London.

After a service in Bloomsbury her coffin was taken by train to the family grave in the church yard of St. Mary the Virgin, Morpeth.

Source –  Sunday Sun, 29 Mar 2015

> The events were captured by newsreel –