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From: The Socialist issue 915, 7 September 2016: #KeepCorbyn: Build the movement against austerity

Search site for keywords: London - Council - Council tax - Tax - Homes - Housing - Benefits - Child poverty

London bailiff use soars by half

Homeless children, photo Eflon (Creative Commons)

Homeless children, photo Eflon (Creative Commons)   (Click to enlarge)

Alex Gounelas

There, outside your home. A towering mound of gym hours. Rippling biceps and the beady eye waiting for that slight curtain twitch that will give your presence away.

Bailiffs collected council tax debts from 19,212 London homes in 2015-16. This is 51% up on the year before, according to the Child Poverty Action Group and Z2K charities.

26 out of 33 London boroughs are now charging council tax to people who didn't previously pay. Benefits cut by the government are now the responsibility of councils to collect.

To add insult to injury, councils add bailiff costs to council tax arrears - which over 131,000 households are shackled with. Ealing and Hillingdon have even introduced charges for disabled and unemployed residents for the first time.

318,000 homes have received a court summons for council tax non-payment. Bailiffs actually get any recovered costs before the council does.

The government should be forced to reinstate council tax benefit. In the meantime, councils should refuse to implement all benefit cuts and above-inflation council tax hikes.

Corbyn must take the lead in calling all Labour councils to do this, by setting no-cuts budgets and campaigning for the money back from central government. No bailiffs should be used.

London is desperate for more council houses, and rent caps on private landlords. Housing campaigns like on the New Era estate in Hackney show what can be achieved.

We need to be organised and ready to build bailiff-busting movements on the estates.

As cried out by Labour councillors in Poplar nearly a century ago: "better to break the law than break the poor."

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