Monday, 02 March 2015

Ken Loach: Government is 'cleansing' London

One of England’s leading film directors has accused the government of using benefit reform to ‘cleanse’ central London of poor people because it feels they disfigure the capital.

Ken Loach launched his outspoken attack at an event in the House of Commons yesterday evening, which was set up by a coalition of groups that are concerned about the direction of housing policy.

‘We know [about] ethnic cleansing in other countries,’ Mr Loach said. ‘We have social cleansing here.

‘Whole areas of London are being cleared out of people that they [the government] feel might disfigure it.

‘Social cleansing will go on apace. That is something that should fill us with absolute horror.’

The coalition government is introducing a raft of welfare reforms. Changes include the controversial ‘bedroom tax’ which will see under-occupying social housing tenants of working age charged up to 14 per cent of their housing credit if they have one spare room from April 2013, and a total cap on household benefits of £500 a week from the same date.

Inside Housing is this week examining the potential effects of the ‘bedroom tax’ and looking at how social landlords are preparing for the change and what they are doing about underoccupation in the focus on section.

Mr Loach’s strong links to the housing sector date back to the early days of his career when his 1966 film, Cathy Come Home, helped lead to the formation and early success of homelessness charity Shelter.

The Department for Work and Pensions strongly refuted these claims. A spokesperson said: ‘We do not expect large numbers of people to have to move as a result of our reforms and we’ve made £190million available to local authorities to help people who may be affected by the changes.

‘Many working-age families with adults in work cannot afford to live in central London and it is not fair for the taxpayer to subsidise households on out-of-work benefits who do.’

Mr Loach also accused all the main parties of ‘political correctness’ when it comes to housing policy.

‘The politically correct view is that the market will provide,’ he said. ‘It is the market that has delivered all of this chaos and this tragedy for many people. We need to say that we don’t want a market economy, we want a planned economy.’

The event marked the official launch for a new campaign, called Housing Emergency. The campaign is calling for a variety of action on housing policy. It wants councils and other landlords not to evict tenants who fall behind with their rent as a result of housing benefit cuts, councils to reject the opportunity to impose large rent rises this year based on the national rent formula, and national opposition to the government’s flagship housing policy, which it calls ‘affordable rent’ and allows social landlords to set rents at up to 80 per cent of the market rate – instead of traditional social rents.

Along with Mr Loach, MPs Austin Mitchell, Caroline Lucas, Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell have signed up to the campaign, along with Ken Livingstone, Defend Council Housing, Housing Justice and the National Private Tenants Organisation.

Katherine Sacks-Jones, policy manager at homelessness charity Crisis, which has not signed up to the campaign, also spoke at the event. She also criticised the government’s housing benefit reforms.

‘Five million people rely on housing benefit and it is being slashed and there really hasn’t been enough thought on what the impact on housing and homelessness is going to be,’ she said.

She said that Cathy Come Home helped housing rise up the political agenda in the 1960s. ‘We need something similar today,’ she added. ‘We need a similar movement bringing people together. Hopefully this evening is part of something [that can do this].’

The DWP says its reforms are about fairness and people making choices about where they live based on their means.


Readers' comments (23)

  • F451

    Three cheers for Ken, and here's to many more putting their heads above the parapet - perhaps some more leading politicians may decide to put the consituent's interests ahead of their own for a change.

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  • Why haven't Crisis signed up for the campaign?

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  • Rick Campbell

    IH posters know this and have been saying so for ages, this government has hoodwinked the country including some IH posters but then they are a biased and biggotted government.

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  • abner arrow

    Nothing new in the statement. However he has rcognised the acceleration pace by this government

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  • Jon Southall

    Ken Loach has set up a false dilemma (market vs planned). The reality is we have a mixed economy - some housing is planned, some is market driven but regulated.

    Planned economies suffer hugely from assymetric information. There is a gulf that exists between what people want at different times, and what planners are providing for. It results in rationing on a vast scale and waste when it produces things people don't want or need. It results in people being forced to accept the terms of those doing the planning.

    Market economies on the other hand are based on individuals entering into voluntary exchange with others, and they proceed on agreed terms. These are win-win transactions when they are unforced. The justice system serves as a companion, dealing with disputes arising when either party to an agreement is not sticking to it.

    We have never tried a truly market driven approach. Politicians have always wanted to exercise control via regulation and planning laws. If the companion justice system was accessible and effective, we would not need regulation. We would be free to decide for ourselves what meets our needs, based on our knowledge of our own situation - that has to be better than relying on a bureaucrat who has only a statistics file in front of them to work out what you want.

    As for social cleansing - what a claim to make. Is there evidence of any particular minister wanting to force people out of London *because* they feel people on low incomes disfigure the capital? Who in particular does Ken think holds on to such a view?

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  • Let wait and see when not enough small property and sent them out into the private landlords and then we see Housing Benefit claim rise to even higher level

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  • Melvin Bone

    I'm now waiting for Brian Blessed and his fiscal opinion regarding the Euro Zone and Fergal Sharkeys opinion on the future of the NHS ...

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  • I also hope the people who have look after the homes get some form of compensation and if got written permission to carry out the work

    How many years people waiting for a large property to find children just reached 18 years old and entitled to own room. They a couple years later child leaves home.

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  • @ Jono - Good points regarding market and planned economies. One thing is for sure however and that is social engineering is being planned. I have been to DCLG events to explain impact of welfare reforms and still have the slides as evidence. In fact the commentary that accompanied the presentation stated that the government expects more movement out of London than followed the blitz.

    We need to get a grip on the benefit culture of course but targeting the most vulnerable in society is not necessarily the best for everyone in the longterm.

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  • targeting the poor will costs us and there are many articles on this site alone which evidences this fact - such as the housing benefit cap which will end up costing us.

    Re: Ken loach. Whether he is left or right wing, one thing is for sure and that's the fact that Shelter came about because of the work he has done since the 1960's on social justice and has an in-depth knowledge of issues related to social justice.

    re the type of economy - well,everyone is looking at Sweden for the answers because they aren't struggling and it turns out they are heavily regulated with a reliance on taxation of the rich. Even Cameron met with them recently because of this but its not in his interests to promote the good society as neither him or his posh millionaire mates can carry on their racket of making money by fleecing the rest of us.

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