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From The Socialist newspaper, 27 February 2019
Cuts councils massage homelessness figures - build council houses now!
photo Garry Knight/CC (Click to enlarge)
How should councils deal with the deepening housing crisis and the homelessness and desperation it creates?
Begin a mass programme of council house building? Introduce rent controls? Confiscate empty homes owned by rich oligarchs? Allow working-class people to move into them? Fight for a living wage for all workers? Scrap insecure and zero-hour contracts?
Well, according to pro-cuts councils, the answer is none of the above. Because a much simpler solution has apparently presented itself: massaging the figures.
According to the Guardian, in 2018 some 30 councils changed the way they compiled statistics on the number of rough sleepers living in their areas.
After switching from providing estimates - which take into account the fact that those forced to sleep on the streets move around, and are not outside and visible at all times - to providing statistics based on head counts, many councils registered a significant drop in the official homelessness figures in 2018.
Brighton and Hove Council, which has a Labour administration, saw a staggering 85% reduction in official rough sleeper numbers between 2017 and 2018 after changing to this method. It's reported that some councils even conducted their head counts on snowy evenings - probably aiming to minimise the recorded numbers as much as possible.
Whatever figures are officially produced, anyone who spends any time walking Britain's streets knows rough sleeping is certainly not a declining problem.
The Socialist Party says housing is a fundamental right. Instead of finding new ways to make homelessness figures look respectable, councils should be actively resisting its causes.
Labour councils around the country are currently sitting on 'general fund' reserves totalling around £9 billion.
This is money that could immediately be put to use to begin a desperately needed mass programme of council house building.
Along with passing no-cuts budgets, introducing rent controls, and using their powers to crack down on empty homes owned by super-rich speculators, councils have the power to make a decisive impact on this issue now. The example of the Militant-led Liverpool City Council of 1983-87 shows this.
Corbyn should pledge now that any Labour council prepared to take such an approach would have its funds immediately restored on day one of a Labour government.
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In The Socialist 27 February 2019:
What we think
Honda closure threatened
From anger to action to save Honda plant
Socialist Party feature
Defending the city that dared to fight
Kirklees: Labour and Green councillors refuse to fight the cuts
Leicester: cuts passed in record time - use the £100m reserves!
Worcestershire: save the nine libraries
Socialist Party news and analysis
Kick out austerity politicians
Socialist change, not climate change!
Tory education 'reforms'
Blairite traitor Ian Austin - byelection now!
Cuts councils massage homelessness figures
US: "Launch a mass, working-class fightback"
Workplace news and analysis
Supermarket giants merger: protect jobs and fight price hikes
Birmingham Bin workers and home carers strike on same day
University and College Union: anti-union laws frustrate strike ballot again
Manchester posties strike against bullying
Liverpool Women's Hospital
PCS union: help us win the elections and pay campaign
South East Unison annual general meeting votes for no-cuts budgets
Socialist Party reports and campaigns
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Tommy Robinson BBC demo: socialist fightback needed to undermine far right
Nottingham Labour Corbyn rally
PCS union branch opposes cuts to women's services
International Women's Day meetings and other events
Five years on - and still no justice for Zane
Non-fiction: 'Unhealthy Profits: PFI in the NHS'
Art exhibition: 'Unobtania' by Peter Robson
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