More and more tenants have been forced from their homes in the North after landlords took steps to take back their properties.
In parts of the region, possession claims have risen to their highest levels in over a decade – with the number rocketing by more than 70% in some areas in just a year.
MPs say they are are “deeply concerned” by the trend, and that for too long, in the face of a rising cost of living, “Generation Rent” has been forgotten.
“Many households in the North are really struggling with the cost of living – and one of the most significant issues facing so many families across the region is housing costs, whether they rent or own their home,” said Newcastle North MP Catherine McKinnell, Labour’s shadow economic secretary to the treasury.
“The steep increase in the number of tenants losing their homes across the North East is deeply concerning, but unsurprising in the face of rising household bills combined with falling real terms wages, and the prevalence of low-paid, insecure work for those who are in employment.
“Of course, many thousands across the region have been hit by the unfair bedroom tax, leaving many in rent arrears for the first time.
“For too long, those who rent their homes have been forgotten about – and this number is increasing.”
Nationally, the number of claims by private landlords were up 4.1% year on year in 2013/14, while social landlord claims rose 17.8%.
But in Middlesbrough private landlord claims jumped 71.1% – one of the biggest increases in England and Wales – and the number of both private (65) and social (573) landlord claims reached their highest levels since 2002/03.
The number of social landlord claims in Stockton-on-Tees also rose sharply, up 43.9%, from 253 in 2012/13 to 364 in 2013/14, while Northumberland also recorded its highest number of claims in more than a decade at 691.
“These figures have been released just over a year since the bedroom tax was implemented,” Kevin Williamson, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said. “We have long warned of the stresses that the bedroom tax is placing people under, and housing associations are working hard to help their tenants.”
A spokesman for Northumberland County Council urged anyone affected by such proceedings to get in touch with their local authority, who may be able to offer support and advice.
“Possession proceedings will only be taken by registered landlords as an action of last resort.
“We would urge anyone who finds themselves in a position where they may be in danger of losing their home to contact the council’s housing options team, who can offer advice and support,” he said.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle 11 May 2014
The wage gap between the highest and the lowest paid Sunderland council workers is now more than £163,000.
At the top, Sunderland City Council’s chief executive – currently Dave Smith – takes home an annual wage of £175,699 before tax, while a cleaner earns £12,435 per year for a 37-hour week.
Union representatives have now called for the difference to be slashed ahead of TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight, which starts today.
The campaign comes as the full council is due to meet on Wednesday, when members will be asked to recommend approval of the draft pay policy statement for 2014 to 2015. If passed, it will then be formally adopted and published by the end of the month.
In justifying the salary level, a report – to be presented at the meeting – says the post is in line with a large city authority, with responsibility for the provision of wide-ranging services to 275,743 residents and a £678.8million service budget.
It reads: “The chief officer pay policy is designed to be easily understood and be transparent to the post holders, key stakeholders and the public.
“The structure and level of the pay arrangements is designed to enable the council to attract, motivate and retain key senior talent for the authority.”
Sunderland Unison branch secretary Diane Peacock said the union has campaigned for the difference in council salaries to be addressed as part of the Living Wage Campaign – which says people should be paid the amount needed for a basic standard of living.
She said: “Public sector workers have lost on average £4,000 since 2009, due to the pay freeze and increase in the cost of living.
“Many workers in the council earn below the Living Wage, forcing working families to rely on food banks, and hitting the local economy as people don’t have money to spend in it. The TUC’s Fair Pay Fortnight campaign starts next week, and our branch in Sunderland will be playing a part to urge the authority to work towards reducing this ratio and reward public sector workers for the excellent service they provide.”
Other high-earners within the authority, include the deputy chief executive, executive director of commercial and corporate services and executive director of people services, which all fall within a salary range of £117,572 and £128,063 per year. Deputy executive and corporate directors, of which there are four, are on between £81,960 and £97,327.
The lowest paid employees at Grade A are newly-appointed cleaners for the first six months of service.
Apprentices are not included in the report.
Source – Sunderland Echo, 24 March 2014