Thursday, November 19, 2009

Government abandons social housing to bail out developers

The Department of the Environment recently informed local authorities that leasing units from the private sector will become the main driver of social housing delivery in the coming years. The plan will involve locking local authorities into a lease arrangement with a developer for periods of 10 and 20 years with the housing authority responsible for insurance, maintenance and upkeep. The tenants of the leased properties will be local authority tenants.

I think this plan is wrong and represents the wholesale privatisation of social housing. It is nothing more then a sop to developers and banks. The state is now going to spend tens of billions of taxpayer’s money over the next decade lining the pockets of developers. When these lease arrangements end neither the local authority nor the tenants will own a single brick on any of these properties. Families will also face the prospect of being asked to vacate a house that they lived in for 10 years or more and have made their family home.

This plan follows on from the Rental Accommodation Scheme which sees the state spending €500 million a year on private accommodation and seeks to extend this further and will inevitably see billions of Euros of taxpayers money wasted. The winners from this scheme are developers and landlords and the losers will be the taxpayer and potential social housing tenants. This is another Government sop to developers and must be scrapped.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Meanest cut in decades should be reversed

We have seen a lot of cuts from this Government in recent times. We have seen a lot of cuts from many Governments but surely none as mean as cutting the Christmas bonus for those on social welfare. Families with children use this money to cover basic costs of Christmas and removing it will force many into the hands of ruthless moneylenders. It is all the more galling that the decision to cut the payment was made by politicians who earn 15 times more then those who will be effected.

This payment has also been taken from pensioners. Elderly people use this additional payment to help cover the costs of fuel over the winter and as a result of this cut will undoubtedly go without sufficient heating this year.

This cut is part of a wider agenda of making those who can afford to pay least pay most. Those setting the agenda want us to believe that we must see cuts in social welfare at a time when billions are pumped into the banks. This ruthless agenda also seeks to divide workers, gut the public service, cut funding to the community and voluntary sector and essentially shield those who benefited most from the boom years from paying their fare share.

There is though another reason why this payment should be restored. The withdrawal of this payment takes money out of the local economy and will hurt local businesses. The only people who will gain are the ruthless moneylenders who prey on the poor. The Government should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves for putting the poorest in our society into such a vulnerable position. Next week Sinn Féin in Waterford will step up our campaign to have the cut reversed by protesting outside the local social welfare office and taking our message directly to those effected. We will be joined in our campaign by Santa Claus in order to highlight the scrooge type nature of this cut.