High Court finds Birmingham City Council’s homeless housing programme unlawful

Birmingham City Council acted unlawfully by putting homeless citizens in unsuitable and sometimes dangerous housing.

The High Court delivered a judgement on Friday 23rd April, finding that the Birmingham council “had been operating an unlawful system for the performance of its main housing duty under the Housing Act 1996”, as the council had been leaving tenants in unsuitable accommodation while seeking alternative long term or permanent housing.

One claimant, listed in a report from the BBC, is disabled with multiple serious health conditions and requires a power wheelchair. This person had been placed in a two bedroom home since 2018. As the home was deemed a temporary residence no adaptations were made to accommodate the claimants requirements which would have allowed them to live more comfortably with their disability. Three years later this person is still residing in the so called “temporary accommodation”, still without changes made to the property to make it suitable and functional.

In the last few years Birmingham council has sold off a number of valuable public and community assets in order to fund cuts and redundancies, including the sale of thousands of public housing flats and community nurseries which have now been privatised. It was easy to foresee that these cuts and sell offs would lead to a shortage of suitable public housing and community services for those most in need.

Meanwhile, Birmingham council sits on financial reserves of over £400 million which is projected to reach over £450 million by 2023. Why then are the council pushing for ever more cuts to basic services for working people? Why are they selling off public housing to developers when poverty is on a sharp incline and we know that the demand for public housing is going to skyrocket? Why are they unable to fund even the most basic adaptations to public housing so people with disabilities can live comfortably and with dignity?

We will soon realise the full scale of the financial crisis as the country exits lockdown and the furlough scheme will draw to a close. We anticipate rapid increases to unemployment and underemployment and with that rising poverty all with fewer public resources to support the people.

It is not acceptable for the council to claim there is a housing shortage in their defence of the unlawful treatment of people in their housing program. The council has manufactured its own housing shortage while it sits on a pile of almost half a billion in cash. Who is this money for? Where will it be spent? Certainly not on the struggling working people of Birmingham.

The Workers Party branch meanwhile has been campaigning for many months for FREE bus travel for children across the West Midlands, a move with obvious benefits for work, education and public peace that would cost a mere £7 million.

These are the sorts of measures that can improve the lives of Birmingham’s poorest right now, and we call on like minded people in the city to join with us in fighting to make them a reality.

References

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/revealed-birmingham-city-council-selling-15906789

https://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/one-five-brummies-living-poverty-17989153

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-56886515

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-birmingham-41124098

Birmingham infant mortality rate almost double the national level

A shocking report says more than 100 babies are dying before their first birthday each year in the city.

A report has found that infant mortality levels in Birmingham are 7 deaths per 1,000 live births compared with 3.9 deaths in England overall.

Infant mortality rates are highest in the areas of the city with the worst deprivation levels. Families of Pakistani origin are disproportionately affected, the report suggested the potential risk of marriages between cousins as a potential contributing factor to the increased mortality, however similar high rates of infant mortality were not seen in other areas with large Pakistani communities such as the London boroughs of Waltham Forest and Redbridge.

Britain ranks amongst the worst in Europe for infant mortality. A study by the British Medical Journal found that Britain had 3.9 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014 and is trending upwards after a steady decline from the year 2000, this trend shows strong correlations with the rates of child poverty across the UK and as Birmingham is home to some of the highest rates of child poverty in the UK, with some areas such as Birmingham Ladywood, having 55% of children living in poverty, it should come as no surprise that Birmingham has the highest infant mortality rate in the country.

Birmingham councillors have voted to create a multi-agency task force to reduce infant mortality in the city by at least 50 per cent by 2025. Its remit involves working with community groups and faith leaders to help minimise the risk factors, however as poverty is a key correlating factor in high infant mortality as shown in a 2019 article by the British Medical Journal (BMJ), it will take more than community groups and faith leaders to reduce infant mortality.

The Workers Party of Britain, Birmingham branch demands a broadening of the discussion to look at social class. The redistribution of wealth and the improvement of the material conditions for Birmingham’s most deprived is an urgent necessity.

Where could the council spend its money?

Hard working families are sinking into poverty, whilst the council wastes millions in vanity projects. Already Birmingham has secured more than £2 million in funding for large plant boxes to shut off some residential streets as part of a “green” solution to congestion, under a scheme known as an LTN (Low Traffic Neighbourhood).

The Workers Party branch meanwhile has been campaigning for many months for FREE bus travel for children across the West Midlands, a move with obvious benefits for work, education and public peace that would cost a mere £7 million.

These are the sorts of measures that can improve the lives of Birmingham’s poorest right now, and we call on like minded people in the city to join with us in fighting to make them a reality.

Find out more about Free bus travel for children in the West Midlands:

https://birminghamworker.org/free-buses-for-children/

Other references

https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/9/10/e029424 Taylor-Robinson D, Lai ETC, Wickham S, et al
Assessing the impact of rising child poverty on the unprecedented rise in infant mortality in England, 2000–2017: time trend analysis: BMJ Open 2019;9:e029424. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2019-029424

https://www.endchildpoverty.org.uk/child-poverty-is-on-the-rise-and-concentrated-in-the-places-the-governments-policies-will-hurt/

https://www.lboro.ac.uk/media-centre/press-releases/2020/october/child-poverty-rise-shapest-in-midlands-and-north/

https://www.expressandstar.com/news/health/2021/04/05/fears-unemployment-could-increase-child-poverty—with-the-regions-total-at-almost-90000-pre-pandemic/

Workers Party will stand candidates in local elections may 6

The West Midlands branch of the Workers Party is standing two candidates in the upcoming local elections 2021. In Wolverhampton Heath Town Alan Russell will represent the party whilst over in Wednesbury South Reuben Lawrence is the candidate.

All Workers Party candidates stand for the principals enshrined in our ten-point programme.

If elected to office, our members will struggle in their communities for:

  1. Local opportunities to rebuild British industry and infrastructure and protect local businesses, jobs, services and our natural environment.
  2. No increase in council tax until local authorities have lobbied and won from national government a policy of a Corona Tax of 5% on the wealth of those individuals with fortunes in excess of £10 million.
    Such a tax on the richest members of our society has the potential to generate more than £17bn in tax revenue from just 4,500 multimillionaires – more than enough revenue to protect jobs and services.
  3. Decent, affordable, secure housing for all, the protection of social housing stock and the rights of tenants and small landlords in the face of aggressive monopolistic groupings.
  4. Free school meals for all children at local authority schools and academies, paid for from the cash reserves built up since 2010 by local authorities, which now sit on billions of pounds’ worth of ringfenced reserves.
  5. Protection of local healthcare services, including the provision of all necessary support services for the disabled and the elderly, with full support to enable families to look after their elderly, including nursing homes and sheltered accommodation for those in need of them, so that all workers are able to live full, dignified and meaningful lives.
  6. Free travel for children on buses throughout Britain. Whilst children in London have benefitted from such a scheme for many years, the bus companies in most cities and towns, as well as in rural areas, hold a virtual monopoly on public transport. Free travel on buses will provide children with access to education, work, cultural and social opportunities, as well as alleviating some of the excessive burden upon parents’ incomes. Additionally, such a measure will help to reduce the emissions from cars on the roads. Many concessionary schemes are already part funded through taxpayers’ money, and full funding of such schemes will benefit local economies rather than hindering them. Rather than allowing the scheme in London to be abolished, we want to see it in place across Britain.

If you would be interested in getting involved with any of our campaigns, leave your details below and we’ll get back to you.

Two Thirds of Businesses oppose LTN

the Birmingham Mail reported that a poll of businesses located on York Rd, Kings Heath shows majority opposed to LTN

An article in the Birmingham Mail has reported that a poll of businesses located on York Rd, Kings Heath have said that they are opposed to the LTN scheme.

The poll, undertaken by a local business owner, found that two thirds of businesses opposed the LTN roadblocks, with a small number in support, and a few neutral. Some businesses mentioned the difficulty they are having in receiving large deliveries of stock, saying that they are having to carry it far up the street rather than delivered straight to their door.

High streets are already struggling, reeling from the necessary restrictions to normal life imposed by the pandemic, but the launching of the LTN scheme is now making the economic recovery more challenging as many shoppers, used to buying everything online, neglect local businesses which has its knock-on effects on local employment.

A recent article in The Times reported that low traffic zones end up forcing traffic and therefore pollution onto poorer streets, rather than increasing the number of busy parents and workers who choose to take to their bicycles.

The article also exposed how the LTN schemes have artificially inflated the house prices of middle class homes:

“Average property prices within the new zones are up to 70 per cent higher than on the roads that surround them, it found.

The figures will fuel concerns that the policy of sectioning off certain areas of cities to through traffic is dividing communities and disproportionately benefiting middle-class homeowners.”

There has been no updates about the rollout or future plans for the LTN in Kings Heath or the next trial zone in Lozells, though Kings Heath and Brandwood Labour councillor Lisa Trickett has tweeted about the LTN, certifying it as a success before the trial has even been completed.

Following the first lockdown in March, councils took advantage of emergency legislation and central government funding to introduce LTNs, usually without any local consultation. In London alone, at least 96 such schemes were introduced between March and December. In Birmingham Cllr Lisa Trickett and her colleagues jumped at the chance for government funding. Though in December 2020, in response to a FOI request Birmingham City Council admitted to having spent just £250,000 of the £1.6 million allocated.

LTN: nice work if you can get it

cllr Lisa Trickett thinks getting about Kings Heath has improved immeasurably

Asked by the Birmingham Mail about the LTN, Kings Heath councillor Lisa Trickett said: “It’s not a cheap way of making policy.”[i]

Lisa Trickett knows how to waste public money. In 2017 she was responsible for a war waged on binmen. For a saving of £300,000 a year Lisa Trickett and the Labour Party spent more than £6million in an attack on bin men causing a strike that lasted months.

Now Trickett and our Labour council are chasing cash being offered by the government to those who introduce these ludicrous measures. To get their hands on the cash they had to act fast, which is why they dumped these giant wooden boxes in Kings Heath:

“Birmingham City Council said it would have to implement them before the end of August to secure government funds having been allocated £1 million from the first tranche of the Department of Transport’s (DfT) Emergency Active Travel Fund, with match-funding bringing the total to £1.6 million.[ii]

That’s Labour party consultation for you. Not a cheap way of working for the taxpayer, but pretty lucrative for the Council.

In December 2020, in response to a FOI request Birmingham City Council admitted to having spent £250,000 of the £1.6 million allocated.