For those of you who don’t look at the blogs of the deluded and misguided Boris fans across the nation (yes, it is sad, but its a hobby..), you may have missed this little nugget that appeared on “The Wonder of Boris Johnson” a site published by Anne Sykes, dedicated to her love for you-know-who…
“BORIS JOHNSON – £8m Hero to the Homeless”
The Government has given £8m to the Mayors office to sort out rough sleeping in London by 2012. Anne then tells us that the latest figures show that there are 415 sleeping rough in the capital, although a link on her site to Homeless Link states that the actual number is nearer 3,000.
“Imagine how cold and ill they get with no hope to better themselves, caught in a vicious trap.” Well said Anne, I can hear the strains of Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise” as she opines…
Yet £8 million, although a lot to you and me, is, to quote our saviour, “chickenfeed”. Per person, it amounts to £2666.66 – rather less than the average rent a Londoner pays in the private sector a year. Perhaps Boris shall buy each rough sleeper a flat? With a one bedroom flat in Hackney costing somewhere between say £120,000 and £160,000, thats 67 homes at the very best. This money, very welcome though it is, is a sticking plaster, and will provide no permanent solution.
Rather this money is being used to improve Londons image for The Olympics. This kind of cynical move is not new, indeed it has gone on at every modern games since at least 1936 – with possibly the 1948 austerity Games as an exception. Bejing, Moscow, LA, Berlin all received money to hide unpleasant aspects of themselves, and when the show moved on, all their dirty little secrets returned.
Londoners perhaps saw a prototype of the clean up when St Pancras Station and the surrounding area were tarted up for Eurostar. Suddenly, as if by magic, beggars and the homeless disappeared. A senior retired mental health professional warned me about renting in Camden at the time – “thats where the Police have shifted them all” he said despairingly.
I do hope that that along with the charities involved, such as Crisis, St Mungos and Homeless Link, Boris’ Director of Housing Richard Blakeway spends this paltry sum well, and that some good comes of it. Yet rough sleeping is only the worst of our housing problem.
As Boris himself says ” It is scandalous that in 21st Century London people have to resort to sleeping in the streets..” But this is nothing compared to the hideous overcrowding that people endure at the lower end of the rented private sector. Anyone who has delivered a leaflet at election time knows that many houses, designed for an average family of four are now “multi-occupied”. In Haringay, I lived in one, at £450 per month,that had been converted to hold nine bedrooms. The highest body count was sixteen, including a young family with a baby. With a shower, a bathroom, one kitchen, and one separate toilet as our only communal spaces. Along our street of pre-war terraced houses, at least half had been converted this way.
In another wretched post elswhere, Anne says ” I adored Margaret Thatcher – she also had IT- lets say the X factor.” well, there is no accounting for taste, but I must point out that it was her adored Margaret’s flagship policy of destroying social housing that has led to massive overcrowding in unsanitary conditions across the nation. The reciepts from Council House sales were kept by the Treasury until after 1997. Local Authorities had little option but to borrow money against them to protect vital services in the meantime. With the destruction of an accountable authority for London in1985, seemingly to spite Ken Livingstone, the capital had no co-ordinated housing policy. In fact, the housing policy of this country since 1983 can best be summed up as “do you know what my house is worth now?”
With recent changes and caps to housing benefit, under Boris overall this will get worse. Boris and his chums at local level are creating a highly divided London, where if you are not wealthy, your place is an overcrowded slum.