Private landlords in South Tyneside are in talks with council bosses in a bid to cut the number of evictions in the borough
Landlords say a rule change could slash evictions in South Tyneside and make them hundreds of pounds a year better off.
Rents from people on Housing Benefit can now be paid directly to the landlord, as a condition of a lease.
In the past it was down to the tenant themselves to pay their rent from the benefit they receive.
This led to many tenants failing to pay their rents – building up debt as a result – and leading to some being evicted.
Social landlord Colin Campbell has long campaigned for a change to the rules.
Earlier this year he contacted the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to raise his concerns and was told it was up to the leadership of individual local authority benefit offices on how Housing Benefit was administered.
Last week, Dawn Dennison, revenue and benefits manager at South Tyneside Council, outlined the new rule change to a meeting of borough landlords in South Shields’ Littlehaven Hotel.
Mr Campbell, of Cleadon Meadows, Cleadon Village, welcomed the new approach.
He said: “From this week it will be possible for private landlords to be paid the Housing Benefit directly if they make it a specific condition of the lease.
“This is in direct response to thousands of tenants nationally being evicted for rent arrears because they were paid the Housing Benefit and chose to spend the money instead of paying their rent.
“This will save landlords many, many hundreds of pounds a year in lost rent and court fees for evictions.”
He added: “It will also prevent some rogue tenant going from property to property, collecting rent from the government and not passing it on as rent.”
Coun Allan West, lead member for housing and transport at South Tyneside Council, said: “We are working closely with landlords to make them aware of flexibility which exists within current legislation regarding payment of Housing Benefit.
“We welcome all measures that support people to stay in their homes and avoid falling into rent arrears.”
A spokesman for the DWP said: “Although the Department for Work and Pensions has overall responsibility for the scope and structure of the Housing Benefit scheme, local authorities have full statutory responsibility for its day-to-day administration.
“This department cannot give an authoritative interpretation of the regulations; that is a matter for authorities to decide subject to any legal ruling and dependent on the circumstances of each individual case.”
Source – Shields Gazette, 06 Oct 2014
An election candidate has been interviewed by police over allegations of campaign irregularities.
Colin Campbell was an independent candidate for South Tyneside Council’s Cleadon Park ward in South Shields at May’s local elections.
He polled 376 votes, losing to Labour’s Coun Jim Foreman, with 726 votes, and independent June Elsom, in third place, with 673 votes.
But Mrs Elsom, wife of Cleadon Park councillor George Elsom, subsequently made a complaint to the police regarding “lies and factual inaccuracies” in a leaflet Mr Campbell put out.
She also questioned the legality of a poster Mr Campbell put on display in a newsagent’s shop at The Nook during the campaign challenging his opponents to donate their attendance allowances to a local school.
Two detectives subsequently called at Mr Campbell’s home in Cleadon Meadows, Cleadon Village, to make him aware of the complaints.
No formal action has been taken, but Mr Campbell has labelled the allegations “vindictive and petty”.
Mrs Elsom, of Parkshiel, South Shields, said she raised concerns with police because of the “personal nature” of the statements Mr Campbell made in his election literature, labelling some of his comments “misogynist”.
Mr Campbell said: “I had a home visit from two detectives who do election complaints. Apparently, I had made an election misdemeanour.
“I put a flyer in a newsagent’s window at The Nook. It said I would be giving my allowance of £1,000 a month to Ridgeway Primary School and asked whether June Elsom and Jim Foreman would do the same.
“It was claimed that was bribing the public.
“Apparently, I didn’t say at the bottom of the leaflet who it was promoted and printed by, which is a legal requirement.
“The detective said giving me some advice for the future would be enough and that the bribery claim did not stand up.
“I regard contacting the police over this as just petty and vindictive.”
Mrs Elsom said: “There were two elements to the complaint.
“There were false and inaccurate statements, and there was the inference that, if I was elected I would do what George told me to do, which I regarded as completely misogynist.
“It suggests that I don’t have a mind of my own. The inaccuracies included his statement that George was the leader of UKIP in South Tyneside, which he has never been.
“They were personal statements made by a person I don’t even know. No one should have a right to do that.”
Mr Campell denied he was a mysogynist, saying he was merely questioning how independent a husband and wife councillor team would be.
A spokesman for the police confirmed that Mr Campbell had been spoken to and that no further action is to be taken.
This is the second time police have been asked to investigate events during last May’s election in South Tyneside.
Police also investigated a complaint by Coun George Elsom that Labour leaders in South Tyneside used town hall resources to promote the party’s local election campaign.
Police confirmed last week that they would not be taking any further action after an investigation.
Source – Shields Gazette, 15 July 2014