A horrible cough and cold picked up in Liverpool meant a weekend with a box of lemsip, a
Henning Mankell novel and watching lots of football without feeling guilty. It was an error to switch on the computer and risk my temperature going even higher because the name Grant Shapps appeared in several places.
We are used to the parade of statistics about social housing claiming to show that it is
full of benefit dependent scroungers, caused so we are told by the policy of allocating housing according to housing need. Having set up the Aunt Sally to throw sticks at, the Tories are feeling confident enough to take more steps in their campaign to end social
housing. Westminster has elbowed its way to the front with their apparently reasonable new allocations policy giving significantly higher priority to employed people. Shapps was quick to congratulate them, saying that he plans to extend the policy nationally.
Westminster’s cabinet member for housing, Jonathan Glanz, said the scheme “acknowledges and rewards” people who are “contributing to the economy…. We have
got so many people not working that it gives worklessness an attractiveness as a way of life.” The ex-Guardian journalist David Henke has shown what the implications of rents policies might be in changing the the social composition of Lady Porter-land – a long term ambition of the Council – and Guthrie McKie, Labour’s housing spokesperson, said: “The Council is shifting its housing failures on to the most vulnerable people in our community. Due to its failure to provide sufficient social housing, the Council is doctoring its allocation policy… The Council is hell-bent on turning Westminster into a ‘no go’ area for the poor and low-income families.”
Shapps popped up in several papers, including the Telegraph where he said: “Up until now, access to council housing has too often been blocked for hard-working families who do the right thing. So I’m determined to end the something-for-nothing culture and replace it with a system that actively recognises individuals who work hard and play by the rules.”
A conspiracy theorist, which I am normally not, might see a link between this and the other housing story given major prominence in advance of the Tory Party Conference – giving new impetus to the Right to Buy by massively increasing discounts. The link is that people on benefits are highly unlikely to exercise the Right to Buy.
It has been a feature of council housing since the RTB was introduced in 1980 that, as council homes are bought by tenants who work, the proportion of remaining tenants who are economically inactive rises. Many buyers still live in the same home on the same estate with the same social composition, and others have sold on to new occupiers who could afford to buy them out. But the headline statistics show that council tenants are less likely to be in work, therefore more reform is justified because the tenure has failed.
Shapps’ thumbs were itching to tell us all about it on Twitter: “The right to buy is back” proclaimed The Great Builder. And he provided a helpful link to a CLG webpage of questions and answers.
You might think given everything that has previously been said about council tenants that there is no-one left, apart from Frank Dobson, with anything other than housing benefit to live on. But to justify the new RTB policy the Government has to employ reverse spin: suddenly there are plenty of tenants earning money through work who may have a bit to
spend. CLG tell us that “38% of social tenants are well-off enough not to need Housing Benefit and over 800,000 tenants are in full-time work. Nearly 60% of social housing tenants who are couples with children do not claim housing benefit. Therefore many social tenants will be able to meet the cost of the mortgage after allowing for the discount.”
Pass the lemsip. Perhaps Kurt Wallender has the answers.