Saturday 13 August 2011

Grandstanding in Wandsworth

I wonder if the CEO and Leader of Wandsworth Council were listening to Tarig Jahan, the father of Haroon who was killed in the Birmingham riots on the Today programme this morning. He said we should all pause for reflection and not seek revenge and retribution. In Wandsworth these sentiments are clearly not being heard as they take steps to evict a woman ( who was not involved in the riots) and her son ( who has been charged but not convicted ) .

It is for the criminal justice system to punish crime. Not Wandsworth Council. And what exactly do they think they will achieve by making these people homeless? Is this social cleansing so that some other Borough picks up the problem of housing them? How exactly does this contribute to a reasoned and sensible response to the riots?

What is particularly stomach turning about the range of Councils who have now joined the bandwagon of retribution is that they are the self same organisations that have been implementing savage cuts to our charity and community sector. If they want to tackle the aftermath of the riots they will need to work with civil society and yet they have been cavalier in their behaviour to our sector. So stop the grandstanding and think about how you can use our great third sector to build a more cohesive society.

As Suzanne Moore wrote on the papers this morning , " my fear is that the post riot rhetoric- punitive,hard,condemning- is simply mirroring the alienation so many feel " .

A good article by Polly Tonybee argues , " go on then , take away their benefits,evict them from their council homes, but then what? How will you stop it happening again? ". She continues , " all social remedies are slow,difficult with no quick fixes, taking a wall of money whatever Cameron pretends - but that's cheaper than crime and chaos. what's needed is consistent public and political will to make gains over generations , without abandoning schemes that never deliver to electoral timetables. The dumb moralisers don't have to be in the wrong,but moralising and plastic bullets won't be enough ".

I'm pleased that our many housing association members have resisted this simplistic eviction approach. Social housing is strong and vibrant and the many ACEVO members who run them play a significant role in community development and regeneration. How fortunate it is that most social housing is provided by the third sector and not the grandstanding burghers of some local councils.

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