Emotional side / policies / Temporary Housing

Local Politics. Local schmolotics.

I will be the first to admit that I’m not of the Political Persuasion.

I’ve always felt it best to leave all that to the people who had a passion for it, who understood it all.

Don’t get me wrong; I vote. I spend the run up to elections feeling guilty for not taking more notice in the powers that be so I frantically start looking at policies and weighing up what they would mean to me. I’m sure this is how a lot of people do it but still…I have no loyalty when it comes to a party.

I try not to fall into the hype bandwagon of ‘tory bastards ruining our country’ kind of thing. Which is hard these days. But I try to make an informed decision. 

But part of me never really trusts the party manifestos. It often feels like a whole heap of promises designed to lure people in. These promises are often abandoned as far as I can see. So that’s my jaded cynical view of politics at the top end.

 

But Local Politics? Local councillors held a certain respect from me. They were passionate about what they believed in and worked to take a stand. These are the people who speak for us Normal Local residents. Aren’t they?

 

So when this whole nightmare began, I decided to contact my Local MP. And then My local ward councillors. And then the Local Councillors who were part of the Local Housing Committee.

 

So that was:

1 MP

2 Local Ward Councillors

10 Housing Committee Councillors

 

My MP’s secretary replied stating they would look in to my predicament. Weeks later I had heard no word so I asked again for some guidance or advice. I was then forwarded a copy of a letter. It seems my MP had asked the housing department about my situation. I got a copy of the letter they had sent in reply to his query. It was a simple timeline of events. And not totally accurate at that. No personal words from my MP. No ideas of what I could do or where I might seek other advice. Just a copy of the letter with a compliments slip from the MPs office. I am grateful he even asked in the first place but I can’t help feeling it was a case of  ‘I asked.That’s all you can have from me’ No personal involvement or concern whatsoever. Add this to the ignored requests about any local surgeries he might attend. 

I don’t know what I expected really.

 

So my Local ward councillors? Neither replied. At all.

 

And the Housing committee? The group of councillors specifically tasked with dealing with housing issues?

3 replied.

The chair of the committee wrote a reply saying she was sorry and would get back to me within a week. That was 6 weeks ago. She does however get brownie points for mentioning a local charity that might be able to help. She also asked the other members for their comments – but this transpired from the following reply – she did not state this herself.

 

I got this reply from a second member 

             “Thank you for your email. I’m sorry to hear about your situation. The chair of the committee has asked Housing officers for their comments. I will follow this up when we get a response.”

Maybe they never got a response because he never followed it up.

 

The third reply was worrying. This member of the Housing Committee had no idea how the system was working. She had no clue that the council was advising people to wait until after notice expired. This is very common practice here. In fact, you don’t really get any help until this has happened. I really thought the housing committee members would know this very basic policy. She asked for confirmation of the policy from a housing officer so at least she educated herself in the end. She copied the query to the lead commissioner of housing in the hope they could help me. So small brownie points there.

 

I also received an ‘out of the office on holiday’ reply stating they would look into it when they got back. I’m presuming it’s a round-the-world trip. By foot. Given the length of time I’ve been waiting for a reply.

 

So, technically, these committee members were asked about my situation twice. Once by me and once by the committee chair. I don’t know if the others ever replied to her. 

Overall, it was a huge kick in the face really. I was not of any real concern to them. My problem ushered onto others to be dealt with or simply not worth any form of consideration or reply. Should I have followed up my emails and pressed them again? Maybe. Should I have had to do this? No. At a time when I was crying out for help I was desperate for some contact. I was shown just how important I was. And I was not at all keen to chase these people who simply did not care. 

 

Overly sensitive? Me? Quite possibly. It’s been a long, fraught emotional roller coaster and I’ve long since given up control of rational thought to be honest. I’ll know better in the future. Don’t pin any hope of help from the people elected to stand for you. They are far to busy with the grown up world of real politics.

 

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4 thoughts on “Local Politics. Local schmolotics.

  1. Hi, I found you via BritMums and have read backwards every one of your posts up to here (have to go pay attention to the kids now, me-time over!), but I am hooked. V interesting blog, and really well-written too. Will come back to read more and I hope that things work out for you and your family – if that does not sound too trite given the situation. I am really shocked to hear of how you local government officials have treated you though. That is terrible. No idea how they sleep at night.

    • Aww I am blushing a bit – I’m no writer but I have found the process quite fun really. I was shocked by the local people too. I thought they might show more concern but it’s probably not a sexy enough issue they can play hero too. I know that makes me sound cynical but I’ve no reason not to be I guess. Hope you’ve had a great day!

  2. I’m sorry to hear of this, and I’m sorry if the response from any members of my Group on the city council has not been what it should. Housing is one of the biggest issues facing the city, and there are many people in difficulty citywide. Housing casework is by far the main one I deal with given the amount of social housing in my ward (East Brighton).

    Speaking personally I’ve dealt with housing cases both as a councillor and a member of MPs staff. It is hugely frustrating and often upsetting not being able to do more in individual cases. At the very least I undertake to get cases reviewed through the Head Of Housing and a response provided within ten days – though that does not always resolve or improve the situation – as you say it is sometimes just a timeline of events.

    I do urge people to get free, independent advice though organisations like BHT (who I suspect is the charity you refer to) or Shelter. The supply of decent housing is very limited, the conditions of existing housing can be poor. We must do more as a city to tackle this – I don’t claim to have the answers but there has to be a political will to make it a priority.

    Local councillors are there to act as advocates for their residents, and to set policy that improves things across the board. If they are lucky enough to win power they might have some scope to put money and resources to dealing with the problem. Even if they don’t they should bring together other organisations who can help.

    Politicians are not – with some exceptions – professional housing caseworkers and rely on those people to try and resolve cases. Sometimes we should push them harder. Sometimes we have to say sorry, we tried but this is the response – but we should always communicate properly and at least offer some further options for people to pursue.

    Apologies if this reads as a defence of politicians – it’s meant more as an account from the other side of the situation as I see it. I’d hope that councillors and MPs of all parties do care and do appreciate the anger and frustration people feel when they are homeless, don’t have a secure tenancy or are in poor accommodation. I really hope you get the help and advice you need and that your housing situation improves soon.

    • I appreciate the reply Warren.

      I never expected the people I contacted to solve the issue. I know this is the process I have to go through as the policy dictates. Or at least I know that now. At the time of my contacting them I was very worried for the future of my family. I was desperate for help in the form of advice and did not get that.

      If the people contacted had replied offering sympathies and at least acknowledging me I would have felt better I’m sure. Instead I was ignored.

      I’m sure you do deal with cases worse then mine. But I urge people who have the means to question those who make the policies. How can it be right to push a family into debt and through court before you will help them?

      How can it be right that an application for homelessness take 4-6 weeks to process despite it being known to the council for many weeks before it got to the Possession Order expiring? Had my case been looked at then (ignoring the fact I presented 3 months before this with a section 21) then we could have missed this step of emergency housing. This £358 per week cost to the council. This utter confusion and upset to my children.

      I am not expecting help. I am not expecting someone somewhere to have a word and get me housed. I fully accept this is how it’s done here due to the sheer number of people needing housing. But I’d like those making the policies to fully understand what it means when you put a family through this.

      That is why I am doing this.

      And watching local councillors bicker on Twitter is extremely frustrating when you think that time could be much better spent assisting real life people turning to them for help.

      Also, I can’t tell you what part of the city I’m in now. I don’t think this temporary house counts. And I have no idea where I will be so haven’t a clue who to contact to be honest. I’d go to the Housing committee members but…well, I already tried that….

      Thanks for taking the time to get in touch though.

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