Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Wizardry of Os-borne and Cameron's Bricks

A guest post by John Souter.
A DWP spokesperson said: ‘Our Housing Benefit reforms are not designed to force people out of their homes. They are about restoring fairness to a system which has spiralled [sic] out of control and ensuring that benefit claimants make the same choices about affordability as everyone else.
Nearly two thirds of people currently in receipt of the Shared Accommodation Rate would be entitled to the one bedroom rate if they decided to live in self-contained accommodation. This shows that many of these people actually choose to share accommodation with others.
People in the most vulnerable situations will remain exempt, and those not exempt can be considered for extra help from the additional £130m is being made available through the Discretionary Housing Payment scheme to help smooth the transition of the Housing Benefit changes.’
Snake Oil Double Speak.
The £130 m is a promised maybe – the Discretionary Housing Payment must be reviewed every three months and is not guaranteed whether the same conditions still exists or not – the discretionary part is constant.
“Not designed to force people out of their homes” – a blatant lie.

And when challenged they cannot explain why it will not force people out of their homes when it’s already doing so.

‘People in the most vulnerable situations will remain exempt.” Another blatant lie – they refuse to define what or who they class as vulnerable.

A severely disabled woman had to take her local authority to the High Court because they refused her a bedroom allowance for the carers she needed to be with her overnight, they would only award her a single bedroom rate. She won and got back her £70 pw allowance, but her local authority is considering whether to appeal?

Here’s the rub, the L A is thinking of spending a fortune from its rates revenue (your money) in legal fees to take a case to appeal when in fact it only acts as an agent for the government? Makes you wonder just exactly how much we pay to be governed by incompetents.

The new DWP mantra is, we give you an upper limit based on 30% of the average cost for your area. If your existing rent is more and you cannot afford to pay the difference – move out and into a one bedroom slum.

They always quote the London rates, but if you check the local rates some are less than 40% of London’s.

This affordability maxim doesn’t just apply to the few shysters who managed to play the system on £20k to a supposedly £150k rent bill – (though its worthwhile remembering it was the same DWP that allowed these shysters to manipulate the old system! Just imagine somebody trying to get a Rolls on Motability – on second thought don’t. Given the DWPs record of competence you’ll probably find somebody has) – but to get back to the point; this will/does apply to people who have lived and invested in their rented home for years and, only when they come to retire on state pensions, or small private pensions which makes them applicable for housing and council tax benefits, will they be confronted with the ‘affordable’ option to up sticks and move.

Perhaps we should call it the Compulsory Geriatric Ghetto Option. But that’s unfair, because it will affect the young, middle unemployed, or underpaid, single parent families and old equally – to qualify; all you have to be is struggling.

This is Cameron’s Big Society ________ Now let’s get on with sorting out the NHS. There’s a lot of dividends floating in that.

John Souter


Disenfranchised of Buckingham said...

Can't agree at all.

All forms of housing benefit just end up forcing house prices and rents upward.

If you remove the subsidy then the possibilities are: Rents come down or the tenants evicted.

If the tenants are evicted there are 2 possibilities: The property remains empty or the property is re-let.

If properties remain empty then rents will fall. back to option 1.

If properties are r-let then this demonstrates a lack of properties to rent which may well be the core problem. Then why the shortage of properties? Nothing to do with immigration I suppose.

All housing benefits do is pump up property values, it does not create more housing and is therefore a waste of money.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Deisenfranchised - no doubt immigration comes into it -its a core policy everything comes into it.

As to your hypothesis on market stability the Office of Statistics and the DWPs own statistics prove you wrong. Private Letting Rents directly related to HB have increased less than Social rents and the majority of the increase in budget costs are down to general inflation, even after the 3-4% increase in demand for benefit since 2007/8 is included.

That said the elephant in the room of this statistical averaging of averages is the South East of England especially London and parts of the M4 corridor. There, using the governments own figures, to meet the rent levels requires a £52k income. Which is probably their reasoning for setting a £250 cap for shared rooms there while the rest of the country is capped around £65.

But all that gumph aside - do you really condone the vulnerable being evicted?

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, Mr Soutar.

I'm surprised that the government is risking this with old and vulnerable people. It shows either how greedy or how indolent we have become.

The unemployed have always been fair game for any government to "stick it to". The Daily Mail will support pretty much anything you do to them and therefore governments feel safe cutting, pruning and abolishing, regardless of the fact that the hardcore unemployed about which these papers rant is a small minority of the actual figures.

Since Thatcher put everyone she could on to Incapacity Benefit (or its predecessor) to force down the potential 5 million unemployed figures, to a more tolerable 3 million, people have been suspicious of every single claimant of any kind of sickness benefit, so whacking them has become fashionable and acceptable. Again the Mail will happily direct us to the family of 12 kids living with a mother and father on IB; all the better if they have brown skins.

But until now governments have tolerated the old (reluctantly probably, but with reasonable grace) because Joe Public always thought kindly of them. Maybe that was because they fought in the war, or lived through the fifties when everything was in black and white and there was still rationing or maybe because we will all be old one day unless we die young, and who knows what horrors await us.

This is the first government to test the water by effectively reducing the pensions of the elderly, by cutting their winter heating payments. As no one much protested about that I suppose they think that throwing them out on the streets because they can't afford their rent will go unnoticed by a public more wrapped up in the travails of Cheryl Coal and Katie Expensive-Price.

I despair of the yookay.

Anonymous said...


Using the market forces model I suppose you are right. More demand; higher prices.

It is certainly true that in the corner of the world from which your name suggests you hail, the demand is high; the stock is low, and therefore the price rockets.

The trouble is that here we are talking about people having to find a roof over their heads; in this case people with not much money. And a little humanity has to be thrown into the mix. Not I suspect something at which Cameron is much good.

I’m not unsympathetic to people railing the chancing that goes on with rents. Some landlords take advantage of every loophole to ensure maximum income, but then, who can blame them when various members of the cabinet do exactly the same thing with their investments.

One thing that I would say was completely mad was the last Uk government’s setting of upper limits for rent. Needless to say almost every flat or house which goes on the market to rent from private landlords is now priced at that upper limit regardless of how cheap and nasty it is.

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Tris -couple of other points to add to the mix.

One market factor that adds to the pressure is the difficulty first time buyers are experiencing to get mortgages resulting in them renting instead. This one factor more than any other is distorting rental values.

The second is the figures and calculations shown in government (any) statistics can be vastly different to those experienced in reality. I have first hand knowledge of a couple - both retired in 2008 - have rented their 3 bedroom home close on 37 years and brought their family up in it - they're not sophisticate folk, but decent salt of the earth - when they retired with small private pensions, relying mainly on the state pension they were given an award of HB of £99.50 per week - in Sept 2010 they were told they only qualified for the one bed allowance and their award was cut to £56 per week. A £43 cut when, according to the statistics the maximum effect the reforms would have for their area and circumstance would be a cut of £7.00?

Bad enough, but made worse by the fact the LA involved should not have applied the rule to them until October this year and have refused to acknowledge the husbands illness means they now sleep in separate rooms should qualify them for the two bedroom rate.

Why their local council is adopting this draconian attitude I've no idea - but I suspect they're following a quiet edict from Whitehall.

Brian said...

Could we please use the phrase "unemployed people" and "disabled people" instead of "the unemployed" or "the disabled"? By remembering that they are not categories but humans with inherent dignity, they will not be treated as problems to be solved but less fortunate individuals. We could all become either or both through no fault of our own.

subrosa said...

Brian, I will do my best to do that because I agree with you about the present terms sounding like statistics rather than people.

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