Archive for the ‘homelessness’ Category

Leicester – a smarter city

June 13, 2018


To create a smarter city:
Signs are installed,
to attract exhaust fumes
and be daubed with graffiti.

In this smarter city,
the address points forlornly
to Page Not Found.
Your search did not find any results.

To create a smarter city:
The council chops down trees,
holding them responsible
for ‘anti-social behaviour’.

Create a smarter city.
Protect our few wild sanctuaries.
Don’t try to improve on Nature.
Living things should be left
to flourish in peace.

In this smarter city,
we will build cycle paths, not link roads.
We will take our buses back.
We will re-open closed libraries,
use empty offices for housing.

In this smarter city,
people will no longer sleep on streets;
ordinary people will regain their voice
and demand what should be theirs.
We can provide for all.

Ballad of James McLean

March 28, 2017

Listen here –

This tale is all too sadly true –
James McLean, he walked the talk.
To London streets, where homeless folk
warm hands on steaming cups of brew.

In Leicester, likewise, courageous stand;
he pitched his tents on Jubilee Square.
Mayor Soulsby, angry at protest there,
Served him notice to quit the land.

But public ground belongs to all;
The Diggers, once fought for such a right.
We have no choice, except to fight,
No longer to be held in thrall.

Moved on, James struck on pastures new,
Nearby the Old Town Hall.
Providing shelter, comradeship too.
Sir Soulsby, he still had the gall

to impose an unjust fine on him:
good James did nothing wrong.
Leicester in Bloom’s all proper and prim
But I’d rather see the homeless throng

provided with places for their needs;
hostel funding should not be cut.
New Labour councillors claim to heed
calls for more resources . . . but

Blairites cry tears of Tory blue,
their words don’t match their deeds.
False claims of  building houses new,
while poor are thrown on the streets.

A Mayor’s vast salary will console;
Soulsby’s never suffered on the dole.
‘Gainst cruel hypocrisy, ruthless cant,
we must, like James, protest and rant.

Homeless services, they must stay,
the fat-cats must be booted out.
Capital’s greed has had its day,
let people protest, hear us shout.

As cuts hit home, we realise
We must all strike and organise,
like James McLean, who made his stand,
and occupied our council land.



Patiently explain . . . thoughts on the local election results

May 5, 2013

If you want to see what Britain will be like in a few years’ time, if the trend of the Con-Dem’s planned spending cuts, continued wholesale privatisation of our NHS and further erosion of our living standards is not overthrown by mass strike action on the part of the labour movement, then look at Greece.

With wages stagnating, and workers simply not being given the money to enable us to buy back what we make, the economy will continue to bottom-out, or go into another nose-dive into recession. Without any jobs being created for young people, without the prospect of a decent, free education, then it is not surprising if people look to blame each other for their situation, rather than the real culprits – the super-rich who made money speculating on loans which people could not afford to pay back (the reason for the financial crisis in 2008), and tax avoidance by large companies to the tune of £120 billion a year. Combined with the constant coverage of UKIP in the media, and the usual barrage of anti-immigrant propaganda in the right wing press, the rise in vote for UKIP in the local elections last Thursday is not surprising, as this was an easy way for voters to voice their discontent with the government. Labour hardly benefited at all, and the Lib Dems face political oblivion.

However, when the 147 newly-elected UKIP councillors are actually put to the test, voters will inevitably find an odious, corrupt party of the establishment, with racist undertones. This will hopefully in turn be rejected, just as the BNP have been wiped out in these elections. The question then is, where are protest votes going to be channelled? Without a mass, left-wing opposition, this could develop into far-right, neo-fascist sympathies, as has happened to some extent in Greece with a rise in support for Golden Dawn, an openly neo-Nazi party.

A major difference between Greece and the UK, apart from the savage depth of the cuts – leading to malnutrition amongst children, for example – there is a party called Syriza, which has opposed austerity measures. It has been the vessel into which much of the intense anger against the main parties has poured (particularly PASOK, their equivalent of New Labour). Syriza is now jointly in the lead with New Democracy, the Conservative party of government (both on 20% in the opinion polls). Rewind back a few years, before the cuts impacted on Greek society, when PASOK was the main opposition – then Syriza’s vote could be counted in terms of 5-6%.

I support TUSC, the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. Like Syriza, it is the beginning, I think, of something much bigger, as the cuts continue to bite. What direction and character such a mass party of the working class will have is yet to be determined. One thing is clear – all the other parties, from the Greens on the soft-left, to New Labour on the centre-right, to Tories on the right wing, to UKIP on the far-right – they all stand for cuts. Only TUSC is opposed to all cuts in services, for a decent, living minimum wage for all, to investing in and renationalising our NHS and rebuilding a comprehensive, publicly funded education system, free for all, from nursery to University. Another similar vision is Ken Loach’s Left Unity project, and I hope that the two can work together to provide an alternative to cuts.

Visit TUSC’s website for the election results.
TUSC’s election results 2013
These elections were held under difficult circumstances for the hard-left. There has been the usual lack of coverage of our campaign, and Labour were much more visible in opposition to the Tories. However, our 120 candidates achieved some remarkable results in this context. As cuts start to bite even further, the need for a co-ordinated, left-wing challenge to the austerity agenda is ever greater.

Having completed writing this, I am just off now to canvass for TUSC in a by-election in Abbey Ward, Leicester, where the political landscape is somewhat different, with 52 Labour councillors and just two others – 1 Lib Dem and 1 Tory in the council. Yet the lack of opposition to cuts is still overwhelming. Labour are carrying through the bedroom tax, axing homeless places and council-funded care homes. If a TUSC councillor were to be elected, this would be a massive step forward for the people of the city. We are standing to provide, in a small way at this stage, opposition to the mantra that the poor, the disabled, those on benefits must pay for the economic crisis.

Just as has happened in Greece and throughout Southern Europe, opposition to cuts will definitely grow. We urgently need a mass party of the left to be there for ordinary people. The choice is between socialism or barbarism.

Update – Election results Abbey Ward by-election 9th May
Labour (Vijay Riyait) 1190 elected 47.9% (+0.9%)
Conservatives (Dipak Joshi) 562 22.6% (+9%)
Independent (Terry McGreal) 352 14.8% – this was a NIMBYist campaign against traveller sites
Lib Dem Focus Team (John Taylor) 212 8.6% (In 2011, the Lib Dems and Liberals got a combined total of 602 votes)
TUSC (Tessa Warrington) 165 6.65%

This result gives us a good base, in an area of Leicester where we have not stood before, to build real opposition to cuts and to the bedroom tax.


March 6, 2013

Two hundred hostel places cut
The headline screams.
Two hundred lives shut down.
Wasted dreams

Of a job and a flat of your own
Instead we are thrown
Out on to the streets
Faceless, alone, deadbeats.

We shiver in the cold
As we struggle to hold
On to dignity and hope
That we can cope

With the boredom and pain,
Feeling tired and brittle,
Getting drenched in the rain
Facing insults and spittle

Dripping onto our cheeks
From the loud-mouthed gob
Of a lout, who reeks
Of alcohol. Just lost his job.

Don’t be too quick to condemn.
A few pints help to stem
The misery, being on the dole;
The stresses of life take their toll.

Isn’t this the 21st century?
Tomorrow’s World said we’d be
Riding round on rocket cars
Not sleeping rough ‘neath uncaring stars.

Note: Leicester’s 51 Labour councillors are considering cutting 200 homeless places. With the loss of yet more jobs, the future for homeless people in the city looks bleak. Yet the council could stop the cuts. They could fight the government, rather than doing the Tories’ dirty work for them. However, the homeless are fighting back – a 200-strong protest outside the recent budget-setting meeting won a reprieve, while the Lord Mayor (on a £60,000/year salary) considers what to do. I can tell him what to do – instead of spending the council’s reserves on making its employees redundant, build a campaign to protect jobs and services. That’s the programme put forward by TUSC and Leicestershire Against The Cuts.

Why we need to keep our homeless services

January 29, 2013

There is a petition to Leicester City Council to reconsider the drastic step of cutting funding to homeless shelters, like the Dawn Centre, Upper Tichbourne St and Lower Hastings St Hostels, which are all under threat. Please support it.

Some reasons why we need to win the fight to keep our homeless shelters open:

Leicester has the highest rate of rough sleepers per head of population outside of London (2012).

The Con-Dems are capping benefits, which will have a knock-on effect on housing benefit, forcing people into expensive and largely poor quality private accommodation or onto the street.

There is a projected rise in demand for homelessness services.

The economy continues to stagnate and Leicester has seen firms such as Dunelm Mills, Jessops, HMV and RF Brookes cut jobs in the city. With high unemployment, some people will be unable to afford mortgages and be forced into temporary accommodation or onto the street.

But there is an alternative – the council could build council housing, providing much-needed construction work. There is also no need to make these cuts. The Labour council is making swingeing cuts to services without a whimper of protest – yet it has reserves, which it could use to buy time in order to build a campaign, along with other Labour councils across the country, to force the government to back down. Instead the council is earmarking reserves to make people redundant.

This is a powerful argument for building a new party to represent ordinary people – Labour are no different, in reality to the Tories or the Lib Dems – they are all making the most vulnerable in society, in this case homeless people, pay for the crisis which their policies introduced.

Yet MPs have the gall to award themselves a £20,000 pay rise! I support TUSC (the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition). I support the idea of having elected representatives on the same wages as working-class people. Let’s build a left-wing alternative to cuts, privatisation and austerity.

The problem of homelessness

July 30, 2010

Today, I read an article in the Big Issue which gave the new Tory housing minister lots of space to go on about their plans to slash the housing budget, whilst still being “concerned” about the vulnerable in society.

This prompted me to fire off the following angry letter:

Dear Editor

I was dismayed by the article “The State of Things to Come” (Big Issue no.908) which presented the coalition government’s policies on homelessness.

The Tory / Lib Dem coalition is freezing housing benefit. Shelter claims that in many cases, people will lose 40% of their rent. In some local authority areas in London, there are no private rents available for less than the cap on housing benefit. This will ghettoise social housing and force thousands of people on to the streets. Nowhere was this mentioned in the article.

Instead, the Big Issue gave space to Grant Shapps, the new housing minister, who talked about a “personalised service” to the homeless, and more choice in the way that help is offered – i.e. the coalition plan for individual budgets, which is basically a carte blanche for private companies to profit from homelessness and to soak up public funding in doing so. Why was this not challenged? The state has a responsibility to house the vulnerable and the homeless and the Lib Dems/Tories are going back on this fundamental principle, in effect washing their hands of the problem.

At least the government seems to be facing up to the high numbers of homeless people and the under-reporting of the problem under Labour. However, the article fails to point out the root cause of homelessness, caused by Thatcher in the 1980s, of the Right to Buy scheme which has decimated council housing and caused private rental costs to soar, the appalling lack of investment in council house building by all the mainstream parties, the 4.5m people on waiting lists for council housing and 2.6m people living in overcrowded conditions.

The government’s “solution”? Reliance on the voluntary sector and privatisation. It is nonsensical to assume that the voluntary sector can somehow step in to fill the gap. People already have to work long hours just to make ends meet – are they to be expected to follow this up with a stint at a local homeless shelter at the weekend? Shapps says that the housing budget has to be cut because we cannot afford it. Yet, after 1945, when the country was in deeper debt than it is at present, hundreds of thousands of council homes were built.

Publications like The Big Issue need to expose the right wing lie that we cannot afford public services, not allow spin doctors like Grant Shapps to promote a society where our right to social housing is being snatched away. I would like to see an article in the paper, which gave one of the smaller parties, like the Socialist Party, put its case for social housing which would solve the problem of homelessness once and for all. After all, as Militant Labour, by leading a mass struggle against Tory cuts, it secured funding to build 5,000 council houses in Liverpool. The involvement of the private sector leads to housing to be seen as a way to make money rather than an essential human right.

Sources – Militant Labour’s record, Cuts to housing benefit