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Keir Starmer forced to defend Labour policy on tenant evictions

Labour leader gets flack from the left of his party for his softer line on rent arrears after launching five-point plan to protect tenants during the crisis.

Sheila Manchester


Keir Starmer has defended Labour’s five-point plan for residential tenants during the coronavirus crisis, as criticism intensified from MPs and campaigners on the left of the party.

The Labour leader had already backed plans for an extension to the three month ban on evictions, saying people who fall into rent arrears because of Covid-19 should be given two years to repay the cash.

But a petition, signed by over 4,000 party members and supported by left-wing campaign group, Momentum, urged Sir Keir to push for a halt to all evictions for failing to pay rent until “employment stabilises”.

“Let’s cancel their rents!”

PoliticsHome reported that tenants should be allowed to request a cancellation of rent payments if their income is impacted by the virus, with the Government stepping in to pay utility bills.

Others went further, Coventry South’s MP Zarah Sultana said, “When the ban on evictions ends, renters whose incomes have been hit shouldn’t be made to pay-off huge debts. Let’s cancel their rents instead.”

Former Shadow Minister Clive Lewis, added, “In a post-Covid19 era, Labour has everything to gain from being bold and putting transformative change on the political agenda.”

During an LBC conversation, Sir Keir said that the plans would lead to taxpayers bailing out private landlords. “If all rents are suspended full stop then the Government will have to pay to compensate landlords – there’s no question about that,” he said.

“And therefore public money will be paid to landlords to compensate for the fact they haven’t got rent even where people don’t lost their jobs.

“So what we’ve said, the better option is if somebody does lose their job, which is tragic and I certainly hope you don’t, then the benefit system should be paying the rent at a better rate.

“So in other words if you carry on and you’re still in your job and you can pay your rent, then there’s no reason for the Government to pay the landlord.”

Read more about Labour housing policy.

May 12, 2020

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