Nottingham Housing Justice Forum challenges pro-austerity council

Nottingham Housing Justice Forum protesters
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On 5 March, a demonstration was held by the Nottingham Housing Justice Forum (NHJF), a local housing campaign committed to fight with those affected by the housing crisis for ‘Decent Housing for All!’ Nottingham RCG has been part of founding the campaign and has been centrally involved ever since working to build it. The demonstration was called to protest the full meeting of the city council, where councilors voted on the budget for 2018-19. This budget was to include £20m of cuts to public services to be followed by £7m later in the year.

The cuts will include: £750,000 from transport for people with additional needs; up to 200 job losses across the council; £144,000 from drug, alcohol and weight loss services; £835,000 by delaying residential care places for elderly people; £1,500,000 from Better Care Fund (joint health and social care services); £500,000 from Nottingham City Homes; and £123,000 through reduction in Family Support Workers.

Which exact services, which exact jobs and which exact resources are to be reduced or eliminated were not made clear by the vague way that the council presented the ‘efficiencies’ it is planning. 

The demonstration called for ‘No Cuts to Housing! No Cuts at All!’ and called on the councilors, who have expressed verbal opposition to cuts many times in the past, to follow up their words with action and vote against the cuts budget. The demonstration was committed to not letting this attack on public services go unopposed, and set up outside the meeting with an open megaphone, inviting attendees and passersby to talk about their experiences of homelessness and austerity. People stopped to talk about their experiences and more stopped to listen to others. One young man, who has been homeless since he was 15, spoke about being housed in a temporary hotel (a common occurrence in Nottingham) and how he was threatened with eviction for putting up a friend who was also homeless. That evening, he was indeed kicked out and spent the night sitting in the foyer of the local hospital.

In the event, all 51 Labour councillors and the one Independent voted in favour of the cuts. Only the two conservative councilors, in a meaningless point-scoring exercise, voted against the budget. It is no consolation to anyone that these 51 councilors are apparently ‘opposed’ to the cuts.

Of course, the story of crocodile tears from the willing implementers of austerity should be a familiar story to anyone living in a Labour-controlled area. Interviewed by the local press, the holder of the Housing Portfolio, Labour’s Jane Urquhart, accused the NHJF of ‘not understanding’ the cuts which the council were ‘forced to make’. She made her position clear that ‘“no cuts at all” is just not an option.’

The NHJF includes Lorraine, a woman who has been fighting the council for a decent home for a year and who, along with her teenage children, was threatened with being shipped off to other cities. The demonstration attracted people who are street homeless and people who are going to be affected by the £144,000 of cuts to drug and alcohol services this year. Lorraine, the rest of the NHJF and working class people across Nottingham understand the cuts perfectly well. For them it is the cuts that are ‘not an option’. The only option is resistance. Urquhart and the rest of her pro-austerity Labour Party colleagues have made it clear than they will not be part of it, and will stand in the way. Join the Nottingham Housing Justice Forum and help to build it!

No Cuts To Housing! No Cuts At All!


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