A significant number of councils, all of which Labour, have announced they may evict tenants who are found guilty of the rioting and looting over recent days. I’ve picked up Greenwich, Barking and Dagenham, Manchester and Salford coming out with this announcement.
This is undoubtedly a very tough line.
I think tough actions should be taken against those who caused incredible damage to communities, mostly their own communities, across London in recent days. People, even if they face poverty and disadvantage, have choices and responsibilities. The first of those responsibilities is to obey the law.
As Red Brick has constantly argued those who are worse off in society, many of whom live in social housing, are not ‘passive’, ‘impotent’, ‘dependent’, ‘trapped’ but people who shape the world around them, try to better their lot and contribute to their community, most often in positive ways that belie their circumstances.
Occasionally, a tiny minority choose to act in destructive ways and in the past few days, we’ve seen that on an incredible and entirely unpredicted scale.
Poverty, alienation and pessimism about the future are undoubtedly a major part of what has gone on in recent days – and as Steve says condemnation can only be one part of our response. But, for the sake of the many people who share those challenges, but choose not to riot and loot, we must ensure those who have sought to wreck their neighbourhoods face the law’s toughest penalties.
As for eviction, I can see both sides:
Why should those who have committed such grievous crimes against the public realm get the benefit of such a valuable public good, which is in such short supply? There are plenty of others in need and law-abiding who might make better use of those tenancies. And why should people in social housing be subject to neighbours who’ve acted in such destructive ways in the estates and street where they live?
But shouldn’t those who are guilty of crimes face criminal penalties – prison, fines, and community orders? We wouldn’t withdraw public services like health or education and it reinforces the idea that a good stable home is not something that people should have by right, and is of a second order importance compared to healthcare or education. Is it fair that rioting social tenants may face eviction, but those who own their home or rent privately are unaffected?
On balance, evictions are probably counter-productive – the process being long and drawn out and the fact that the rioters will have to move elsewhere in circumstances that may make such behaviour worse and more likely.
Perhaps in this case community orders might have a particular role – so sentences can be carried out in the communities where crimes took place and local residents can see that justice is being done.