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Islington housing campaigners: ‘People power got rid of Pay to Stay...but we can’t stop fighting Housing Act’

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 November 2016 | UPDATED: 09:49 25 November 2016

The 'lslington Kill the Housing Bill' protest from Clerkenwell in March. Picture: Vickie Flores

The 'lslington Kill the Housing Bill' protest from Clerkenwell in March. Picture: Vickie Flores

Vickie Flores/Archant

Housing campaigners have urged Islington families to continue fighting the Housing Act – despite the government abolishing its hated “pay to stay” policy.

The 'lslington Kill the Housing Bill' protest from Clerkenwell in March. Picture: Vickie FloresThe 'lslington Kill the Housing Bill' protest from Clerkenwell in March. Picture: Vickie Flores

Pay to stay, also known as the “tenant tax”, was an element of the Act targeting council households earning £40,000 or more: 15p extra rent would have been imposed for every £1 over £40,000. It was scrapped on Monday.

Hundreds of tenants were outraged at the plans, sparking a huge “Islington Kill the Housing Bill” march from Clerkenwell in March and an Upper Street “sleep-out” protest in April.

Glyn Robbins, from the campaign, told the Gazette this week: “This proves people getting together and fighting for things they believe in can make a difference. It is accumulated pressure that has led us to this victory, and that needs to continue.”

Other aspects of the legislation would ban lifelong tenancies, and force Islington to sell off up to 400 of its council houses a year.

And Mr Robbins, who manages the Quaker Court Estate in Clerkenwell, added: “It’s now important to remember the tenant tax wasn’t the only part of the act. The entire bill has to go as we still have a massive housing crisis, and this will only make it worse. We must continue to fight.”

Cllr Diarmaid Ward, Islington’s housing leader, added: “We are pleased the government has listened and will not now force working people to pay more tax, simply because they are council tenants.

The 'lslington Kill the Housing Bill' protest from Clerkenwell in March. Picture: Vickie FloresThe 'lslington Kill the Housing Bill' protest from Clerkenwell in March. Picture: Vickie Flores

“However, the government still doesn’t understand that everyone has the right to feel secure in their home. It is determined to push ahead with its plans to ban lifetime tenancies. There is much that it needs to urgently rethink.

“We will continue to campaign to against these plans, which do nothing to deal with the housing crisis.”

Penelope McGhie, a 56-year-old actress, has lived in a Newington Green council home for 19 years.

She said: “I’m so relieved. It’s very difficult to make a decent income from acting, and your good years have to see you through your bad years.

“If the government wanted me to pay an additional tax based on my previous year’s income, I could have ended up paying it despite earning virtually nothing in the year that it actually had to be paid.

“You feel very powerless when a group of people in Westminster are making life-changing decisions about your home. We have a housing crisis and we need to fight again.”

The Housing Act was passed into law earlier this year, but is yet to be imposed. Critics claim the Act, which the government says will help boost home ownership, is unworkable in practice.

UPDATE: Pay to stay was formally rejected by the council executive at a meeting of the town hall on Thursday, November 24.

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