A safety net that served me well

The man be­hind the mic

The Peterborough Evening Telegraph - - Paul Stainton -

Igrew up in a work­ing class house; a coun­cil house, a safety net for those that could not pay the rents in the pri­vate sec­tor, your af­ford­able piece of real es­tate, that you could treat as your own.

We had many of these houses and I lost count of the times I got cov­ered in gloop, scrap­ing wood chip wall­pa­per from the walls. But those walls were our walls, part of our lit­tle cas­tle.

We only ever read the Daily Mir­ror and only ever voted Labour; rich peo­ple voted Tory ap­par­ently, and we were far from rich.

My father was con­stantly in and out of work and we de­pended on the wel­fare state to sur­vive, but we al­ways paid the rent.

A lit­tle was put away each week along­side the money for the elec­tric, gas and food, but the rent came first, keep­ing a roof over your head was al­ways the pri­or­ity.

From a young age I knew we were on the bot­tom rung of the lad­der and I used to look at the Ford Cortina on my best mates’ drive and won­der how you could pos­si­bly earn enough to buy one of those.

He had Sub­bu­teo, a proper cricket bat and an Atari; mine were not en­vi­ous eyes though, in­stead, I was spurred on, de­ter­mined to achieve, to do bet­ter.

To­day I own my own home, I have a Dyson vac­uum cleaner, a wood burn­ing stove and a Nutri Bul­let, all things, ac­cord­ing to a new sur­vey, that make me mid­dle class.

I don’t apol­o­gise for that, it was a long jour­ney from there to here, full of hard work, early morn­ings and risk. I have taken chances, seized on op­por­tu­ni­ties and been blessed with the odd bit of good for­tune. Any­body, with the right at­ti­tude could have done the same.

My up­bring­ing and my life ex­pe­ri­ences have de­ter­mined the per­son I am to­day; part so­cial­ist, part Tory, part Lib Dem with a bit of green thrown in for good mea­sure.

But with­out the se­cu­rity of our coun­cil house, as a child, I am not sure my story would be such a pos­i­tive one.

I don’t think my par­ents ever dreamed of own­ing a house when I was grow­ing up, but iron­i­cally, my mum did even­tu­ally buy her own home un­der Mag­gie Thatcher’s right to buy scheme; she may have hated the women and her pol­i­tics, but like many oth­ers, she knew a good deal when she saw one.

That de­ci­sion to sell off coun­cil houses (and not re­place them) may have made fi­nan­cial sense for many but it has left count­less oth­ers with­out proper, af­ford­able hous­ing and robs them of that se­cure, solid base, on which to build their dreams.

That lack of hous­ing is part of the rea­son why Pe­ter­bor­ough City coun­cil is be­ing forced to spend over a mil­lion pounds on hous­ing the home­less in var­i­ous Trav­elodges; I know they have king size beds these days and a de­cent ba­con and egg in a morn­ing, but just think of what else that money could have been spent on.

Surely so­ci­ety has to have a bet­ter safety net in place for those that need help the most and isn’t the an­swer star­ing ev­ery­one in the face.

As a boy who grew up in one, and pros­pered be­cause of it, I ad­vo­cate the re­turn of the coun­cil house as a cure for our hous­ing prob­lems.

Now that’s “Trav­el­og­i­cal.”

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