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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #51

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis would like to point out a few mistakes made by people this week – starting with his Doctor ..]

Mistaken impressions are my theme this week, starting with Doctor Bloody Jiminez of Guys Hospital.

Some mistake surely?

I finally caved in to Frazzles nagging on Tuesday and went to the ENT department of Guys to find out why I snore. The doc asked me if I stopped breathing when I was asleep and I replied “No but I think Frazzy wishes I would”.

He then proceeded to stick something up me nose, something down me gob before pronouncing that there is nothing wrong with my various pipes. My relief that surgery wouldn’t be necessary was soon overtaken by the shocking true reason for my snoring…..I’m FAT apparently.

And not just overweight. The height and weight chart put me on the border of OBESE!!!! He said dismissively “Oh its just a chart”, if its just a chart why frigging mention it??????

The picture that accompanies my Newsround was taken last year. Do I look OBESE???? Bloody quack! No wonder the government are closing down the NHS if they keep making these mistaken impressions

Similarly deluded are the residents of Devon village Silverton, who I read about in the Telegraph this week, an unexpected and humorous piece of reverse Nimbyism down in darkest Devon.

ASBO village

ASBO BrickThe good people of the village (Population 1905) complained about bad behaviour and the Police created a Section 30 dispersal area notice to stop village yoof gathering and causing anti social behaviour.

These dreadful teenagers, something needs to be done!

However, now the good burghers of Silverton have realised that the measure has resulted in the village being known in the district as the ‘ASBO village’ which they are worried will have a knock on effect to their house prices so they are now reversing their previous outrage and defending the kids, saying they aren’t that bad. You have to laugh.

Its funny how different communities interpret different behaviours

I spent 8 years living in Taunton and when I arrived in 2001 I was amused to see a headline in the Taunton Times complaining of bad behaviour on an estate where teenagers were “Practising their skateboards after dark and swearing” Bless!

And my favourite was when the now defunct Taunton Times, who had a bee in their bonnet about street crime, ran a front page picture of a man with a black eye and the headline “Where will this madness end?”

Try living in Peckham. If you look on the Police crime map Peckham has little street assault crimes but when you live here, anyone will tell you that people just don’t bother reporting it. I would still rather live here than there. You can take the boy our of London etc…..

Shapps’ new tool

Grant ShappsStaying with ASB, Grant Shapps has been working with the Chartered Institute of Housing in the creation of a new tool for social landlords to tackle the problem. The Community Harm Statement which has been successfully piloted in a number of areas

It is a statement that is used when applying for proceedings in court that formalises the way information is presented and encourages judges to look at the wider effects of a range of behaviours not just the fact that the tenants have breached nuisance grounds for possession.

Speaking to 24 Dash Chief Exec of the CIH, Grainia Long said :-

“It is an opportunity to give communities a stronger voice in the judicial process. Anti social behaviour has such a detrimental affect on communities, the impact of last summer’s riots are testament to that, and until now the voice of the community hasn’t been put forward in the courts”.

Don’t get me wrong. ASB is a problem for communities that needs tackling but I am uncomfortable with Ms Long’s statement in linking a once in a generation event like last summer’s riots with general ASB. It seems as if the riots are being used as political capital to usher other things through.

Its like using world war 2 as an example to justify clamping down on a Saturday night pub fight.

Criminalising squatting

And on the subject of further misguided perceptions I’ll turn to a strange but intriguing development on the criminalisation of squatting.

Many of you will have known about this doing the rounds for over a year now. [For example see this post from last year Ed]  Forcing through new and actually un-needed legislation in an attempt to demonise another group of unpopular whipping-boys, that is in actuality a smoke screen to clamp down on public protests.

The Guardian’s Shiv Malik writing last Friday did some digging about the cost of operating the new law and puts forward some surprising figures highlighted by a report produced by the Squatters Action for Secure Homes.

The SQUASH report says:-

“The government has seriously underestimated the financial implications of clause 136 by failing to quantify some of the key and inevitable costs of criminalization, such as increased take-up of housing benefit and homelessness rehabilitation.

Using government data … we calculate that the true cost to the taxpayer of criminalising squatting in England and Wales could reach a shocking £790m over five years,”

They estimate that people squatting unused buildings saves between £36 and £90 million a year in housing benefit alone. The report also points out that if squatting is criminalised then the costs of evicting will get passed on to the Police, adding even more to the overall costs.

Lets remind ourselves that Squatting homes that people live in is already a criminal offence and it has never been a massive or widespread problem, despite the screaming voices of the tabloids. The vast majority of squatting is in unoccupied buildings that have often been earmarked for demolition in the future and aren’t being used by other people.

For many squatters it is a moral choice they make utilising idle properties they see as a form of recycling and they aren’t all drugged up tree-hugging nutbags. Several squats around the country have very strict community rules. One large squat I know in London that has been around for years will not allow residents to be on benefits, they have to be self supporting.

So there you go, that’s my third example this week of mistaken impressions and the utilisation of popular community demons to achieve other ends

I actually had a fourth example to tell you about but obviously being so FAT, as pointed out by Dr Bloody Jiminez, I am too exhausted from the effort of typing to carry on.  [Never mind Ben, you’re not the only one … Ed]

Ben Reeve Lewis

Follow Ben on twitterBen’s runs  Home Saving Expert, where he shares his secrets on defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties,  catch up with him on Twitter and check out his free report “An Encouraging note on Dealing with your Mortgage Lender” and have it sent right to your inbox.

ASBO brick piture by asboluc

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7 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #51

  1. I am beginning to dread the inevitable Shapps moment. Each week, it gets worse: privilege+low intelligence x power=nightmare of crass awfulness.

  2. I heard about the Community Harm Statement as well in anti-social behaviour possession claims. From its format I very much doubt it’s all that revolutionary. In ASB possession cases I’ve run into it’s generally been ordered that that sort of thing all appears in the chronology and case summary at the front of the bundle anyhow.

    I’m the opposite way round on Peckham v. Taunton. I’d rather live in curtain-twitcher-land than Peckham. I used to live in Camberwell and wasn’t a fan. Greyness. Bleakness. A palpable sense of hostility and that they don’t like your type (being people not from Saarrrff London) round here. Glowering asbonauts on every corner and flatblock. I can well believe the thing about how the locals don’t consider violent crime worth reporting; a bunch of Peckham locals did one of those “stop snitching” campaigns as well on the internets a while back.

  3. (Addendum, apologies for double post)

    I quite agree on the opposition to criminalising squatting. Seems to me more of an attempt as using legislation to send a message rather than to address something that needs addressing. Like people say it is already a criminal offence to squat in occupied residential premises but many Police officers would rather shrug it off as a “civil matter.” With this in mind, who’s to say that they won’t do likewise if all squatting becomes criminalised?

    A sledgehammer to miss the nut much?

  4. I must confess I thought judges would take into account the effects on the community anyway but maybe this new statement is a way of helping social landlords frormalise that element of the application. The pilot studies seem to prove judges like it.

    No JS, there is something about living in the sticks if you are a city boy, northern or southern. Some can do it but not me. To be honest I was alright when I was there but now I am back i dont understand how it works people have countryside alliance posters in their windows and it isnt just for a laugh???

    Just like you felt in Camberwell, I felt at the various Point to Points, Skittles tournaments and country fairs I went to, trying to convince myself I was part of the gang.

    Gimme 10 people from all over the world, standing at a bus stop, laughing at a slanging match in the Walworth road between an unlicensed Nigerian cab driver and old Turkish woman about the fare anytime. (Half an hour ago) haha

  5. I seem to recall from somewhere that as soon as the Tories got in they said something about rolling back all this Blairite/New Labour ASB malarkey. Evidently they thought it was all a bit unnecessary. To be fair, I could sort of see what they meant. A lot of ASB is just criminality that the police ought to be dealing with anyway. One view is that all this ASB law derives, in the first instance, from the police’s abdication of responsibility for the maintenance of law and order.

    Not all that keen that all local authorities had, by law, to produce and publish policies and procedures for dealing with ASB. Yep. People will have been hired on to draft up this stuff. ASB ‘teams’ get created, work will be found for them to do – low level stuff that will previously have been dealt with by an experienced tenancy officer having a quiet word now gets passed to a team who will be measuring their success and effectiveness in terms of orders obtained. The whole thing becomes a bit of an industry.

    So, have the Tories yet done anything about rolling back ASBOs, etc? I don’t think so. I daresay even the most Conservative of shires will be reluctant to surrender what can be a handy little tool. It’s not just councils, of course. No one likes to give up power. When was the last time that you heard ACPO saying “what we need are fewer and less intrusive police powers”. Equally the judicary are generally keen to find that they do have new and improved powers potentially available to them to scrutinise government decisions and find them unlawful (eg via the Human Rights Act) even if they usually go on to hold that in the vast majority of situations they won’t actually do so. They find that they have the weapon in their armoury [surprise, surprise], it’s just that they can’t/won’t use it just now.

  6. Well said Chris and a good analysis.

    We have gotten used to the whole ASB thing now but I remember when it was being redesignated as a new cultural phenomonon many of us in the council were perplexed about when the age old pain in the arse of problem families or nuisance neighbours suddenly became a newly discovered social sickness.

    Government wont back down from this position now as it is too useful for them make links between ASB and social tenants as a whole, which in turn allows them to promote home ownership as an “Aspiration”, equate last years one-off rioters with all social tenants and remove “In the locality” from ground 14 in the name of protecting society from raging ASBO’d up cider swilling hoards and stopping them moving onto mixed tenure new build estates where Mr and Mrs 2.4 have just broekn their backs to afford the deposit on a Barrat built rabbit hutch.



About the post author:

Ben Reeve-Lewis

Ben is an enforcement officer for a London Local Authority, a housing law trainer, an author on housing law who writes for the Guardian & occasionally pops up wittering away on TV. He also runs Easy Law Training with Tessa & Graeme. Occasionally he sleeps. Find him on Google, and Journalisted. Any opinions expressed are Ben's personal views & don't reflect those of any organisations he may refer to.

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