As much as many of their leading lights may aspire to be Tories, Leicester’s Labour Council must wake up to the reality of poverty, and do everything in their power to bring an end to it. This will mean major changes will need to be made in how the Party operates.
It is outrageous that the Council “used bailiffs more than 17,000 times” last year, with more than two-thirds of these unwelcome visits dealing with council tax arrears. If this was not bad enough the number of ‘enforcement agent’ intrusions is 52 percent higher than two years ago (September 11, Leicester Mercury).
Ordinary working-class people are already struggling to get by. Zero-hour contracts, poverty pay and sky-high rents are the norm. Now it seems that the most vulnerable in society are being further penalised, and for what crime? Being poor!
Chief executive of the Money Advice Trust Joanna Elson said “that sending the bailiffs in can deepen debt problems, rather than solve them and it can also have a severe impact on the wellbeing of people who are often already in a vulnerable situation.”
How to explain this dire situation? Perhaps, deputy City Mayor Rory Palmer, who heads Leicester’s health and wellbeing board, in a moment of diabolical ingenuity is deliberately overusing bailiff’s to promote his recently launched “Let’s talk about mental health” media program (March 5, Mercury).
What better way “to get people talking about the issue” than to intensity Leicester’s mental health problems!
Here the key policy that has, no doubt, done most to contribute to the massive spike in bailiff visits was Labour’s 2013 decision to cut council tax benefits — such that everyone, no matter how poor, now has to pay at least 20 per cent towards their council tax bill.
This unnecessary political choice was then topped last year when local Leicester councillors raised council tax to the maximum threshold (just shy of the amount that would trigger a referendum) which they combined with an increase in rents.
With stress levels sky-lining, the Council then ignored pleas from local campaigners who had demanded that they refuse to evict tenants who end up in arrears because of the bedroom tax.
But despite fueling the conditions that have forced thousands of already struggling families further into debt, the Council pleads that they only “use bailiffs only as a last resort” (September 11).
But surely as the people of Leicester voted Labour, implementing Tory attacks on the residents of our City should also be seen as a political decision taken only as a “last resort”? It seems not; although their tactical priorities may soon change for the better under the firmly anti-austerity influence of Labour’s new leader, Jeremy Corbyn.
This letter was emailed to the Leicester Mercury mailbox on 12th September.