Huge Victory in Bristol as Mayor Pulls Back Council Tax Exemption Proposal

Bristol ACORN blocks an eviction

Lake Buckhorn, Ontario   ACORN members, leaders, and organizers were celebrating with the news that the mayor of Bristol, England, had folded under growing pressure from the ACORN campaign and shelved his proposal to eliminate exemptions for lower income families from the council tax. ACORN’s research and reports indicate that the victory protects the 16,000 poorest families in the city and blocks them having to pay 9 million pounds or almost $12 million dollars. This is a huge victory, as an ACORN representative told the bristolcable.org, an on-line news provider there, “This is a vindication of all the hard work that ACORN members have put in over the last few months, taking on what looked like a hopeless campaign and smashing it into the ground. We can fight and we can win.”

So, why is this so critical? The council tax is the main governmental revenue generator for local city councils in England. It is a combination of property and personal taxes, usually about 50-50. For the growing millions of private tenants, the council tax is paid by the tenant in single occupancy situations and by the landlord in multiple unit complexes though of course passed on. It is a somewhat progressive tax compared to real estate taxes in the US because there are multiple “bands” assigned by value, and there historically have been some exceptions and exemptions from full payment that “reduce the amount of council tax owed on a property depending on the occupants’ income, age, employment status, health, being a full-time student, or if the property is unoccupied,” according to Wikipedia.

And, that’s the rub. Under the British government’s austerity program and cutbacks in recent years, many councils have rolled back one exemption after another in order to replace revenue that they had lost due to the central government’s reductions. One report indicates that only 32 of the 353 various councils in England continue to offer full exemptions. It is in this economic and political climate that the battle was waged in Bristol, when the Mayor decided to remove the exemption for the poorest families, and given the rollbacks across the country, why ACORN had initially begun this fight even knowing that it was an almost “hopeless campaign.”

For months though Bristol ACORN had thrown everything they could at the Mayor. There was a petition that quickly gained 4000 signatures. ACORN issued a report in the form of briefing document to the city councilors outlining the economic arguments against the removal of the exemption, including the belief that it would end up costing the city up to 4 million pounds for various reasons if they removed the exemption. There were actions a plenty and highly visible “stalls” or tabling around the issue making the campaign hard to ignore.

Politically, endorsements for the campaign began rolling in with some Labour Party councilors indicating they would publicly bolt on the vote with others silently behind them and the Green and Liberal Democratic Parties coming on board with threats to sue because the consultation had been illegitimate offering various ways of cutting the exemptions with no option of standing pat. Other Labour Party chapters were also preparing to endorse the ACORN campaign. The weight of all of this forced the Mayor to finally retreat, handing a huge victory to the organization.

The Mayor claims he may come back again next year, but ACORN had a ready response and threw down the gauntlet for this fight and many to come saying in what could become the motto of the Bristol organization, “We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again, because we are ACORN and we refuse to lose.”

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Please enjoy A Little Pain by Margo Price.

Thanks to KABF.

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Chaos in the White House Can’t Stop Progress in the Streets

Bristol ACORN

Bristol   Maybe President Trump needs to get out more? Perhaps there’s something in the air in the White House that is clogging up his so-called “fine-tuned machine” and bringing out the crazy? Maybe from the outside looking in, it would be easier for him to understand better why the rest of us are scared sillier every day?

Who knows, but for me it was relief to jump off the merry-go-round of the Trump-Watch and back onto a plane again. And, though sleepless and a walking-zombie imitation, sure enough it was possible to find signs of continuing progress away from the maddening vortex of chaos in Washington.

Visiting with the ACORN organizers in Bristol, the big problem of the day was one every organization likes to have. On the eve of ACORN’s first all-offices, national action scheduled only days away from Edinburgh to Sheffield, Newcastle, Bristol, and beyond against the giant multi-national bank, Santander, they threw in the towel and caved in. The issue was a requirement that Santander attaches on any loans in housing that tenant leases mandate rent increases. ACORN was demanding the provision be dropped from all leases, and Santander announced that it was doing so, and in a bit of dissembling claimed that they had never really enforced it anyway. Hmmm. I wonder if they had told any of their landlords, “hey, ignore that part, we don’t really want you to raise the rents, we’re just kidding, it’s only money.” Hard to believe isn’t it? And, we don’t, but a win is a win, and the action will now become a celebration and a demand that all other banks in the United Kingdom also scrub out any such language.

Back home, ACORN affiliate, A Community Voice, was front page news as they laid the gauntlet down once again around an expansion of the Industrial Canal that divides the upper and lower Ninth Ward in New Orleans. The expansion would dislocate homes and further bisect this iconic and beleaguered community.

Meanwhile, as we get closer and closer to being able to target big real estate operations and private equity that are exploiting lower income home seekers in the Midwest and South through contract for deed land purchasers, there was progress in the courts. A federal judge ruled that Harbour Portfolio, a Dallas-based bottom-fishing private equity operation with a big 7000-home play in FNMA, would have to abide by a subpoena from the much embattled Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and disclose information on its use high-interest, predatory contract-for-deed instruments in its home flipping. As we get closer and closer to having our arms around not only terms and conditions of these exploitative contracts, but also lists of potential victims in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan, this is good news, even though far from the relief and victory families will be seeking.

All of which proves that if we can keep our focus away from the chaos created in Washington and our feet on the streets, there are fights galore and victories aplenty to reward the work and struggle.

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