[Ben Reeve Lewis has got a new job...]
Well, what a strange and busy week it’s been at the coalface.
An enforcement co-ordinator
I’ve been seconded out of my normal role as a TRO and am now my council’s Enforcement coordinator.
Pulling together disparate council teams and external organisations to take down our worst criminal landlords in a multi-agency taskforce kind of way.
Tuesday morning saw me up at 4:30am to get to the local nick for a raid on a disused pub with 27 illegal immigrants working for an unregistered gangmaster.
Once we had stoved in the door with one of those battering rams the police use, we certainly found 27 people, all families with kids but not an illegal immigrant among them.
Spanish EEA nationals to a man, living in the most appalling conditions being exploited by a weird triumvirate of dodgy owner, dodgy local agent. 6 of them sleeping in the bar area (see pic to side) and all the doors nailed up.
A death trap in short but the landlord…..whoever he is, pocketing £4,000 per week.
While booted feet ran upstairs, people shouted and vaulted the back fence and the sound of wood being split assaulted the air I stood in the doorway discussing the merits of the 5:2 diet against the Hays diet with the attending police inspector. Even madness like this can end up just being your normal day job.
And last Friday a result against a local landlord cramming 40 people into a 6 room ex care home. Prosecuted for no HMO license and a very heart-warming £53,000 penalty under a Rent Repayment Order. Sometimes I love my job.
I even got filmed by the BBC on Friday for a documentary about ‘Rouge’ landlords installing stolen electricity meters to siphon of supply whilst charging the tenants for bills the landlord isn’t paying. Going out in January 2014.
More work for the lawyers
A few weeks ago I met with a worker for an unnamed London council (I don’t want to get sacked) who told me that his employers had recently issued 5,000 summonses for council tax non-payment, even though they have only 4 lawyers in their legal team to back it up. Four very annoyed lawyers with ‘WTF’ tattooed on their foreheads.
So I was interested to read a story on the BBC news website of Brent Council, next door to Wembley Stadium who have issued 3,500 of 3,500 summonses being issued to get people to ‘Engage’ with the council.
De rigeur in this game is to ignore criminal landlords owing 10s of thousands of pounds in council tax that the council will write off because chasing them is too expensive and go after ordinary people who owe £300 – £400 because they are easy targets.
Anyway I won’t labour the point…..or even Lib-Dem the point.
Now I’m not so vain as to reference my own writings generally but I have to say I was surprised this week to write an article for the Guardian about the sudden death of the Mortgage Rescue Scheme in London with nary a comment.
The Mortgage Rescue Scheme (MRS) has been around for 5 years and was the standard way of stopping lenders repossessing people’s homes. It is closing down at the end of March 2014 and was originally to close in London on the 31st December but in a surprise letter to London councils last week it was axed altogether, with even pending cases flushed down the bureaucratic toilet.
This is major news. Loads of people are going to lose their home because the GLA pulled the plug without warning and yet nobody seemed inclined to comment. Is this because nobody sees how significant this change is? Or is everyone just going into ‘C’est la vie’ mode?
Nearly Legal on the case
The lads at Nearly Legal ran an interesting and infuriating piece about Ayrshire Council threatening to take tenants children into care if they defaulted on Bedroom tax, ramping up arrears.
It’s an astonishing piece of bravado, that NL Towers appropriately pointed out wouldn’t pass muster for even the most intellectually challenged housing adviser and yet Ayrshire council seem to be getting away with murder, just like my illegal gangmaster and the council tax summonses of Brent council.
Do people care that little or have things slipped so far that a new perspective is being created?
Benefit cap challenge fails
24 Dash told us this week that the challenge of three single mums over the benefit cap was a ‘Cruel and arbitrary policy reminiscent of the workhouse’.
Judges Bean and Elias commented:-
“Ultimately a policy issue, and for the reasons we have given we do not think it can be said that the scheme is so manifestly unfair or disproportionate as to justify an interference by the courts.”
Does this mean that everyone is giving up? Council tax officers? Judges? Ayrshire Council?
Maybe it’s because I’m knackered from today’s exertions. Kicking in doors at the crack of dawn only to find a bunch of nice, decent exploited people and their kids living in a public bar, where I hoped to catch villains but my mind tonight is drawn to the more forlorn stories.
Crisis, what crisis?
Which is why my eye alighted on this piece by Jules Birch on the less than encouraging TV debut of new housing minister Kris Hopkins being interviewed by Jon Snow who pointed up that government’s response to the housing crisis resulted in over half of sales of properties in the UK of over £1m was down to foreign investors.
In his interview he rather astonishingly said of the UK housing crisis “I don’t know about a crisis”.
Remember James Callaghan saying in 1979 “Crisis? What crisis?”. If the new housing minister doesn’t identify a housing crisis when he sees one what hope is there?
In a sane world he would be held down while people stamp on his nuts until he gives in and admits there is a situation which needs addressing.
People? …….We now have a housing minister who doesn’t think there is a problem.
Comedian Russell Brand is suggesting that people shouldn’t vote on the basis that whoever you vote for it is always the government that gets in. If Kris Hopkins is the result I am coming around to the fat Goth’s reasoning.
Jules accurately says:-
“All any housing minister can do is defend the policy and squirm in interviews. But that’s no excuse for seeming to be so out of touch with the housing crisis that so many people perceive is already happening around them”
I have to get up again at 4:30am tomorrow to arrest the sad sack that is exploiting the lovely Columbian families. Around the same time that I will be sitting in Lewisham nick cautioning the lying twat while Kris Hopkins is sitting down to his kippers, thinking all’s right with the world.
Sorry guys. My humour ran out this week. See ya next week