Friday, August 12, 2005

Who's being anti-social?

John Hemming's proud announcement that he achieved a personal record for evicting somebody in his area in under 12 hours for anti-social behaviour reminded me of a couple of things. The irony that he then reports that 'homelessness remains the most intractable issue' after having celebrated making someone homeless appears entirely lost on the man.

Firstly, I recalled that the Liberal Democrats opposed the Anti-Social Behaviour legislation that went through parliament. They opposed it right up until they realised that it worked and that ordinary voters liked it. Then, they executed another one of their trademark U-turns double-quick.

The other thing it reminds me about is the City Council's current love for evicting tenants for unpaid rent - largely as part of a strategy to reduce outstanding rent. To clarify, if a tenant agrees to pay arrears at a lower rate, then outstanding debt is still counted as part of the overall arrears total. If the tenant is evicted, then the debt is effectively written off, so making the figures look better.

Anyway, here's the story. A little while ago, I was out leafleting in one of the poorer parts of Birmingham when my colleague and I were approached by this bloke. He wasn't the shiniest knife in the drawer as years of drinking hadn't been kind to him. Once upon a time, he had held down a job, but had been made redundant and taken to drink, followed by years of ill-health. He'd tried to keep up rent payments, but things had got on top of him and had fallen behind. Our lovable council had noticed this and started eviction proceedings for non-payment. As many people do, he'd ignored the letters and ended up going back to his flat that morning to find that the locks had been changed. Curious, we asked how much he owed and he reckoned that it was around the £800 mark. That's it. Your building society won't evict you for being that far behind on your mortgage, but the council, following instructions from their new political masters, have got all medieval on non-payers - not discriminating between the can't-pay and the won't-pay.

A couple of phone calls later and the process is in train to get him back into his house and refer him for benefits advice - he's not claimed anything like that to which he is entitled.

You may think 'Stuff him - he's in the position he is by his own hand.' Up to a point, you're right, but isn't it the job of society to try and pick these people up and help them? This man probably won't work again, but I'm not prepared to see him homeless when his benefits will cover his rent and council tax.

Leafleting isn't the most exciting of jobs, but we both went home that night feeling better about ourselves, even if that man never voted for Labour.


Unity said...

I did notice one thing in JH's article - the 12 hours quoted is actually 12 working hours - the actual case itself could have taken 6 months to complete in full for his 12-hour clain means anything as all he's saying is thjat he put 12 hours into it and not how long it took to resolve the case.

Fairly typical piece of disingenuity.

Anonymous said...

This bloke was/is one of the many in Britain whose life has been ruined by alcohol.So what is the government going to do?Introduce round the clock drinking.
What is the cause of most of all this anti-social behaviour?
The answer seems entirely lost on nearly all in this government.

john said...

I have dealt with a wide number of situations including the squatters in Selly Oak who left of their own volition a few months after I stopped them being evicted by force.

However, where someone has no right to reside somewhere and also there are many threats of violence on neighbours then they should be moved out quickly.

There needs to be a balance set between various needs.

It was BTW 12 working hours for the officers, not me. ie 1 1/2 days.

PoliticalHack said...

I have no problem with anti-social neighbours being evicted and I guessed that was the reason why they were ejected so swiftly.

Good to see an LD supporting government policy.

john said...

I do believe that firm action is need to protect people from anti-social behaviour.