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Civil disobedience is coming! - What landlords & property owners need to know!

Updated: Apr 5

Civil disobedience is coming!

The 1970s were marked by strikes that shook the country, with rubbish left on streets and bodies unburied. Great Britain experienced a wave of strikes on a scale that hadn’t been seen since the General Strike of 1926. First Ford workers, then lorry drivers, council workers and NHS staff all walked out causing severe disruption to public services. That was "the Winter of Discontent".

James Callaghan, prime minister and member of the “Labour” party during the Winter of Discontent, had put restrictions against wage increases into place in an attempt to combat inflation a limit of 5% on wage increases. Some trade unions did not agree with the wage restriction, nor did a lot of union workers (which was over half the total workforce), so many ended up striking from November 1978 to February 1979. The effects of these protests were amplified by the weather; the coldest UK winter in 16 years.

Callaghan's government was just 24 hours away from declaring a state of emergency and mobilising thousands of soldiers to restore law and order, according to documents published at the turn of the century.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. George Santayana

Piles of garbage accumulate on the sidewalk in front of businesses in 1979
Piles of garbage accumulate on the sidewalk in front of businesses during an strike by council employees in London's Leicester Square in 1979. Source: Business Insider

References to the winter of discontent predominate across all media platforms, replete with warnings of impending insurrection by a population pushed to its limits. The similarities between that period in history and the current crisis are on initial observation clear to see, however, the similarities are largely superficial, the current situation is far more dangerous!

Winter of Discontent 2022

The social implications of the current cost of living crisis will be devastating, with 10.5 million households, a third of the population becoming impoverished. We are already entering the storm. Government figures recently released show that 3,405 households in private rented accommodation were evicted by bailiffs in England between April and June 2022, due to their inability to cope with rising costs. This was up 39% on the previous quarter,. The use of food banks has also increased by 14% on last year and a staggering 81% on the same period five years ago.

Already we see the first stirrings of push back by the population, with campaigns to cancel utility direct debits, protests and industrial action. Just last Friday crowds ran amok in Oxford Street looting shops and targeting Police who attempted to intervene. Political and social instability will characterise the next few years, as the population of the UK increasingly turns on those who are supposed to be representing their interests, an ineffectual governing class devoid of creative measures to combat a deteriorating situation, supported by a Police force that increasingly prioritises thought crime over 'real' crimes. The coming years will see sporadic outbursts of violence and civil unrest, with the establishment struggling to contain a population that is increasingly disillusioned and angry.

Public protests often lead to attacks on property, an easy target for the desperate and angry. In the last few years we have seen gilet jaune protests in France (2018), anti-government protests in Hong Kong (2019) and mass protests and strikes in Chile (also 2019) ,which have caused damage to property and business interruption. Attacks on private property are also becoming increasingly common closer to home, with people looting in response to socio-political instability. In the UK there have been an increasing number of incidents resulting in damage to property, from BLM protests targeting monuments, to protestors campaigning against the rising cost of living.

Forewarned is forearmed. The warning bells are ringing, the signal fires burning. We must look to our own defences and prepare for what many see as inevitable.

What can we do to protect property?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, as the best way to protect property in a difficult environment may vary depending on the location and type of property. However, some general tips on how to protect your property from protesters and demonstrators include:

  1. Analysing the operational capabilities of potential adversaries and establishing clear risk priorities are two important steps in protecting property assets.

  2. Establishing emergency crisis plans based on a careful assessment of risk, that include preparedness measures for the evacuation of personnel and assets, as well as providing instructions to staff on how to respond in an emergency.

  3. Making sure your premises are properly safe and secure, with adequate security measures in place including security personnel, perimeter detection systems and CCTV. This will help improve the ability of law enforcement to identify and apprehend criminals involved in criminal damage incidents.

  4. Measures to site harden property, such as window screens, security fencing, bollards and gates, to help reduce the risk of attack.

  5. Staff training in what to do in an emergency including how to respond if evacuated from premises, including regularly practiced drills.

We may not be able to escape what's ahead of us, but we could reduce many of its most harmful impacts through advance planning and meticulous preparation.

Propertysec are specialists in the protection of vacant property. For more information or guidance on how to protect your property assets, get in touch with us today.

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