‘Shameful’ revelation of council home evictions in Islington
54 households in the borough made to leave during the past year
22 November, 2019 — By Emily Finch
Pete ‘Gas’ Biggs was evicted from his council flat in December 2015
THE Town Hall has come under fire as being “shameful and cruel” for allowing the eviction of 54 households in the past year.
The figure came to light during a policy and performance scrutiny committee meeting on Thursday when it was revealed that 44 of those evictions from council homes were for arrears.
It is not known what proportion was due to rent and council tax arrears.
Green Party councillor Caroline Russell, one of only two opposition councillors in Islington, said after the meeting: “I have casework where people are overwhelmed by debt incurred in the transition to Universal Credit and some with council tax arrears growing year on year. These evictions are shameful and cruel. The council should be supporting people living on precarious incomes, not making them homeless.”
Cllr Caroline Russell from the Green Party
She said that it was “shocking” that the Labour Party’s finance chief, Councillor Andy Hull, was “unable to tell me what had happened to the evicted people” after he revealed the figures in the meeting.
She added: “He hasn’t even confirmed how many people lived in the evicted households in total.”
The final decision to evict is made by the court and not the council.
Sound engineer Pete “Gas” Biggs, 60, was evicted from his council-owned flat in Canonbury with his cat after falling into rent arrears totalling £838.50 in December 2015.
Mr Biggs, who is part of the LGBT+ community, has sofa-surfed since then and has been unable to find a permanent job or home.
His eviction was managed by Islington’s Partners For Improvement (PFI) firm which manages the borough’s street properties following a multi-million-pound deal signed in 2003.
“After my eviction by the council there’s been quite a few times in bin chutes and under stairs. It’s literally so cold out there. You’ll be very tempted by alcohol and heroin,” he said.
He added: “I’ve had four years of exile. Once you’re evicted it’s more difficult to start again.”
Cllr Andy Hull
He said he was offered “no support” from the council when his rent arrears climbed up and was not told how he could attempt to stop his eviction.
“They refused my reasonable offer to pay. They broke their own guidelines. Now my life is about survival and I can no longer call the shots,” he said.
A council spokesperson said: “Islington Council will do everything we can to avoid evictions wherever possible.
“If people are struggling with benefit issues or arrears we recommend they contact us as soon as possible so we can help.
“Where evictions are for ASB [anti-social behaviour], the council’s partnership approach is to work with families and individuals in the context of their community, to address underlying issues and to prevent and deter people from involvement in criminal activity.”