Sometimes the only way to get a point across is to satirise it.
Satire is always unfair, but that is why it gets under your skin and makes you think about issues in a different way.
Hopefully it can also sometimes be funny ... read on!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Durham Twelve Face Eviction

So the Church Commissioners' secret plan to evict the Durham Twelve has been leaked to the press.

The 12 sons of Jacob have been sitting tenants at Auckland Castle for the last 250 years, and in recent years they have claimed squatters rights despite an estimated cost to the Church Commissioners of £60,000 pa.

"It's absolutely disgusting" said a spokesperson for the Twelve. "We have been living here for longer than we can remember. We don't want to move at our time of life."

They have a powerful ally in a former Bishop, who has stepped back into the role of goal keeper for their 5-aside football team. "It must be remembered that the Twelve have given a great deal of pleasure to myself and my predecessors, living in this beautiful mansion for generations. It can be a lonely job, living in a castle, and the Durham Twelve make this hardship just a little easier to bear. They are worth their weight in gold."

But that, of course is the problem. Evicting the Durham Twelve could prove very lucrative for the Church Commissioners who have a proven track record in selling off housing to make a quick buck.

In 2001, the Commissioners had to admit to secret plans to raise rent levels in the Octavia Hill Estates in London. Built as early social housing estates, they had provided affordable housing to 1000's of the less well off in London for over 100 years. But the profits they produced were not enough to satisfy the remit of the Church Commissioners to make as much money as possible.

Tenants protested, marched, and petitioned all to no avail, and soon afterwards the Church Commissioners found a way to sell the estates and be rid of the problem once and for all.

Then more recently, the Commissioners invested heavily in the proposed re-development of social housing in New York, only to lose a tidy wad of cash (around £40m), when the American authorities had the audacity to rule that these estates should remain as housing for the less well off, rather than be revamped and rented to the rich.

There is a solution, of course, for the Durham Twelve. They could give up their rent free status and start paying market rents for their treasured place in the Bishop's Palace. Market rents for Auckland Castle, this fine listed building in a prime location, nestling in over 800 acres of parkland could easily reach 6 figures. The Commissioners could then turn an annual loss into a profit to be proud of. And if the tenants couldn't pay, that's ok - the eviction process for rent arrears would be much more straightforward, and the Commissioners could then find new tenants who could pay.

Not everyone has been critical of the Church Commissioners policies however. It is reported that successful landlord and entrepreneur, Peter Rachman has been full of praise for policy developments of recent years, and it is rumoured that his name is being considered as a financial consultant to the Church Commissioners. So considering the financial success of his version of social enterprise, the Commissioners are in for a bumper harvest in years to come.

As for the Durham Twelve, they could be out by next summer if the numbers stack up. "It's the end of an era" said one of the Twelve reluctantly "They'll be evicting the Bishop next!"

Now there's an idea ...

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