Friday, 30 November 2012

The Return of the Workhouse

Kingsway House, Salisbury

 (The picture above is Kingsway House in Salisbury. Once a former Workhouse, it is now owned by the Spectrum Signpost Housing Association who are a member of the Give Us A Chance consortium).

In an August article[i] on the looming introduction of the Bedroom Tax[ii], Inside Housing interviewed Tory ratbag and Chief Executive of Liverpool Mutual Homes (LMH) Steve Coffey on “innovative proposals to reduce the impact of benefit reform on its residents.”

The proposal offers tenants hit by the Bedroom Tax a deal to make up the shortfall in their rent by working for LMH doing odd jobs such as “litter picking” on LMH estates. Tenants would also be shunted into training (work) programmes with local charities to secure a roof over their heads.

Coffey coats the proposed workhouse scheme with a voluntary varnish, but how voluntary is voluntary when it is conditional? Well, it’s not voluntary, at all, when the threat of eviction forces tenants into the scheme.

Coffey has been in the news lately over false accusations made against staff to get them arrested.[iii] The 3 shop stewards —callously sacked along with 10 others in 2011[iv]— accused of assault by Coffey were finally acquitted in November, when the Judge threw out the case brought against them by Coffey & LMH. So, its no surprise the slimy shitbag would have no qualms transporting tenants back to the days of the workhouse, under the pretence of a “something for something” deal.

With 56% of people on the Work Programme in social housing[v], Housing Associations (HAs) have been sniffing ‘round the Government’s failing Work Programme since its introduction in 2011, trying to find a way to tap into the lucrative contracts the DWP has been throwing at its toff pals. Bromford Housing Group is one of the landlords who’ve secured contracts to swell the profits of Work Programme provider esg[vi]. Bromford Group even released a Work Programme guide for HAs that includes,

“…assisting and tracking customers who have found work. This can help them [prime contractors] claim significant sustainability payments. You already have an ‘on the sofa’ relationship with your customers. Many of which will be on the Work Programme whether you know about it or not.”


Another racket, the Give Us A Chance[vii] consortium, consisting of 23 members including LMH and Spectrum Signpost Housing Association, have been plotting with prime contractors to squeeze every last penny out of their unemployed tenants by cajoling them onto the Work Programme if they aren’t already on it.

Bastards times two.

When the Tories called for a return to Victorian values, they fucking meant it. Landlords, whether they’re branded social or not, putting tenants-to-work for rent taken away by attacks on welfare; or adding conditionality to tenancies based on attending training or work programmes mimics the workhouse ideology (sans conditions) of what were known as spikes.

Coffey & LMH’s “embryonic” plans could be (or already have been) picked up by landlords out to make an easy pound off the backs of the unemployed, as Landlords try to embed themselves in the Work Programme supply chain. Uptake by Housing Associations has been slow, but with the impending Bedroom Tax and cut in Council Tax support it could provide an opportunity for landlords to escalate the exploitation of their tenants.

Conversely, the introduction of the Bedroom Tax is an opportunity for us to fight and organise.

In Ireland, a grassroots community-led campaign against a €100 Household & Water Tax has met fierce resistance from working class people. The mass non-payment campaign has seen households working together & supporting each other when refusing to register or pay the tax. Statistics released by the No Household Tax Campaign show that 750,000 families (52%) have boycotted the tax.

We have until April 1st 2013 to organise against the Bedroom Tax, so we must act quickly, and in the process we can stop landlords’ exploitation of tenants.

For those of you who are unsure, this is class war!


On 12th January 2013 Liverpool Claimants Network is calling a mass meeting to organise resistance to the Bedroom Tax and Welfare cuts in general.

Defend Your Home Against the Bedroom Tax – Mass Meeting – Liverpool -12th January Facebook event:




  2. wwork for the shortfall? so for 1 extra room that's £14. so at a reasonable living wage. i reckon just under 2hrs work each week. however immoral it is for government to do this. seems acceptable rather than lose £14.

    though forcing people onto work programs or into charity work is just down right evil.

  3. But if they work for any shortfall, then ALL benefits eill be withdrawn surely?