Council House Tenants, Fraud and Riots: A Correlation or a Gross Assumption?


Every government wants to appear strong on something, tough on crime, a champion of the NHS but a war on council house tenants is definitely new on the political horizon.

Fraud has long been considered a white-collar crime but the new culture of sub-letting council houses brings this into question. There are currently no criminal sanctions for this immoral activity but under the Coalition’s new plans this may be about to change. Now I am all for the theory of council houses helping those who cannot afford to rent in the private sector, this is un-debatable; however, there is a line of trust in this agreement which should not be broken.

It is common knowledge that there are lengthy waiting lists to be housed in a council home and it has now been revealed that an estimated 50,000 people do not actually live in the council house they have been given but rent it out to others at higher prices. Society provides this housing out of taxes for those that cannot afford one themselves but many, it has now been revealed, are actually affluent individuals or families out to make a gain and raise profit. Some make up to £20,000 a year off the tax-payer’s generosity whilst they live nearby in much comfier settings.

The riots last week, as horrific as they were, did have a subtle silver lining for some of the right-wing philosophy. Any rioter that is convicted of any offence relating to last week’s events can (and will) be evicted from their council house. The logic is simple, those that damage their community, hurt others and cause despair for the country should not benefit from taxpayer hand-outs in the form of subsidised accommodation.

The first tenant to face losing their council home, however, was actually not the perpetrator of the crime but the parent of the alleged criminal. This has caused some controversy with many not certain if this is wholly acceptable as the main tenant has not been shown to have broken any laws. This was made worse by the fact that the eviction notice was served before the son was even convicted although if the individual is acquitted then the eviction notice will be revoked.

Another punishment that has been proposed is that “convicted London rioters lose all benefits”. This is an e-petition on the government site and has over 200,000 signatures to date. This is over double the required amount and will be considered for debating in the House of Commons after the summer recess. This shows how strongly the public feel on this issue and how harsh they want the punishments to be; people want these actions recognised for what they truly are: criminal.

It has also been inspiring to see that the Courts are taking participation in the riot as an aggravating factor and that many offences that could be tried in the Magistrates Court are being sent to the Crown Court with their harsher sentencing powers.

One question that remains on everyone’s lips though is what was the cause of this outburst in society? Many have been blaming the Coalition and their deficit-cutting strategies but a case of an Exeter University student, Laura Johnson, highlights that this is not so. Her parents are millionaires, she gained four A*s at A-level and is accused of five counts of burglary. She has been released on bail but is currently submitting to a curfew and having to wear an electronic tag.

The last month has been one of the toughest in recent history for England; the police have been attacked and overworked and the Courts have been working through the night. Thankfully there are many astounding individuals who have pulled together and shown the value of communities and the Big Society. Social networking sites have been used for the good as well as the bad and justice will prevail. E-petitions are being used to raise the issues people most care about and the debate in the House of Commons will be eagerly anticipated. Nonetheless, whether it is morally right or wrong, it seems that there will be many more council house tenants filing through our courtrooms in the coming months.

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Posted on August 16, 2011, in Coalition Government, Comment, Conservative Party, Looking Forward, Party Politics and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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