Tagged: National Housing Federation

Tenant evictions reach six-year high amid rising rents and benefit cuts

The number of tenants evicted from their homes is at a six-year high, according to new figures, as rising rents and cuts to benefits make tenancies increasingly unaffordable.

County court bailiffs in England and Wales evicted more than 11,000 families in the first three months of 2015, an increase of 8% on the same period last year and 51% higher than five years ago.

The increase in the number of tenants losing their homes means 2015 is on course to break last year’s record levels. Nearly 42,000 families were evicted from rental accommodation in 2014, the highest number since records began in 2000.

Rental prices have soared in many UK cities but wages failing to keep pace with rising costs and caps to benefits have left many poorer tenants unable to make payments.

Separate figures also published on Thursday showed almost 59,000 households have had their benefits capped in the past two years. Nearly half of those families were in London, where the the average monthly rent for a two-bedroom home is £2,216.

Housing charities said the figures were a glaring reminder that many tenants were struggling to maintain a roof over their heads, and they called on the new government to do more to tackle a housing crisis in the UK.

The latest repossession statistics, published by the Ministry of Justice, reveal the highest number of evictions in a single quarter since 2009, when comparable records began, with nearly 126 families forced out every day.

Between January and March, 11,307 tenants and their families were evicted by bailiffs, compared with a figure of 10,380 between October and December last year, and 10,482 in the first quarter of 2014.

The record figure comes as the number of landlord repossession claims – the first step of the legal process leading to an eviction – also rose. Claims were up 10% on the last quarter, but at 42,226 they remained below a six-year high of 47,208 in the first quarter of 2014.

Claims by both private and social landlords were up, the figures showed, although most of the rise was explained by claims by the latter. Social landlords were behind nearly five times as many attempts to recover properties than private landlords, the figures showed. These landlords are typically housing associations providing homes at lower rents than the market rate, often to tenants who receive housing benefit.

In the first three months of the year, 64% of possession claims were made by social landlords. These 27,204 court actions came alongside 5,551 made by private landlords and 9,741 accelerated claims, which could have been by either social or private landlords.

In May 2014, when the threat of evictions reached its highest level for a decade, the National Housing Federation, which represents housing associations across England, told the Guardian the bedroom tax was causing problems for social landlords. The policy cuts the amount of housing benefit paid to social housing tenants whose homes are deemed too large for their requirements. Benefit sanctions were also thought to be causing problems.

But many housing associations, particularly in London and the south-east, have turned out tenants as they have sought to redevelop generations-old estates to take advantage of the big rise in property values. This has in turn led to an increase in the number of grassroots campaigns to oppose evictions, such as the Focus E15 mothers.

In one case of eviction resistance last week, activists from Housing Action Southwarkand Lambeth in London answered a call from a 14-year-old girl to successfully resist her family’s eviction from a flat in an estate that Southwark council had marked for demolition. Elsewhere in the capital, shorthold tenants in Brixton’s Loughborough Park estate, owned by the Guinness Partnership housing association, have defied eviction orders by occupying their flats.

The MoJ figures came on the same day as the Department for Work and Pensions revealed that 58,690 households across the UK had their benefits capped to a maximum of £26,000 a year since April 2013. Londoners were the worst affected, with 26,636 families facing a cut in benefits over the period to February 2015, followed by 5,953 in the rest of the south-east.

DWP proposals to meet the Conservatives’ pledge to cut £12bn from the welfare budget, in documents leaked to the Guardian last week, included barring under-25s from claiming housing benefit, increasing the bedroom tax on certain categories of tenants, limiting welfare payments by family size and freezing welfare benefits at current levels.

Responding to the eviction statistics, Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

“Today’s figures are a glaring reminder that sky-high housing costs and welfare cuts are leaving thousands of people battling to keep a roof over their heads.

“Every day at Shelter we see the devastating impact of a housing market at boiling point, with the cost of renting so high that many families are living in fear that just one thing like losing their job or becoming ill could leave them with the bailiffs knocking at the door.

“The new government must make sure people aren’t left to fall through the cracks and hurtling towards homelessness by preserving, if not strengthening, the frayed housing safety net to protect ordinary families desperately struggling to make ends meet.”

Betsy Dillner, director of the campaign group Generation Rent, said:

“These record eviction figures and signs that they are accelerating are a stark reminder of the housing crisis that the government must urgently start taking seriously now they’re back in power.

“Whether it’s an inability to pay expensive rents or a landlord’s desire to take back their property, the fact that more than 40,000 families were forced out of their homes last year is a symptom of the government’s failure to create a sustainable housing market.”

The housing minister, Brandon Lewis, defended the government’s performance, pointing out that mortgage repossessions had fallen drastically, keeping owner-occupiers in their “hard-earned homes”.

He said:

“Mortgage repossessions continue to fall at 56% lower than this time last year, and the lowest annual figure since the series began in 1987. Meanwhile, numbers of county court mortgage possession claims continue to fall to the lowest quarterly number since records began. This is thanks to our work to tackle the deficit and keep interest rates low, helping more families to stay in their hard earned homes.

“There are strong protections in place to guard families against the threat of homelessness. We increased spending to prevent homelessness, with over £500m made available to help the most vulnerable in society and ensure we don’t return to the bad old days when homelessness in England was nearly double what it is today.”

Source – The Guardian,  14 May 2015

Leazes Homes chairman pens open letter to David Cameron on extending Right-to-Buy

A stark warning setting out “grave concerns” about extending the right-to-buy to housing association tenants has been issued to Prime Minister David Cameron.

Bill Midgley, chairman of Newcastle-based social housing provider Leazes Homes, accuses the politician of using “the sanctity of a person’s home” as an “election bargaining chip” after the pledge was revealed in the Conservative Party Manifesto last week.

Mr Midgley echoes fears voiced by others in the sector as he outlines how a policy that forces associations to sell off their assets would mean they have less borrowing power.

Because of this, he says, associations could not build more homes for some of the most vulnerable in society, including “older people, those with learning disabilities and those with mental health problems.

The letter reads:

“If organisations like us are unable to secure loan funding for supported housing properties then the potential damage is unthinkable. It is essential that such accommodation can be provided by the affordable housing sector.”

The Tories say the plan opens the possibility of home ownership up to thousands of people who may otherwise be locked out of the market.

The National Housing Federation estimates there are 19,620 people in the North East who would be eligible for a mortgage under the plans and that it will cost £808m to implement the policy.

But Mr Midgley fears poor people may be forced to pay higher rents in the private sector.

Signing off the letter to Mr Cameron, he said:

“I urge you to reconsider this proposal. We have a duty as a society to provide our citizens with good-quality, affordable housing, but the sanctity of a person’s home is not something to be used as a bargaining chip to secure election votes.”

Guy Opperman, the Conservative candidate for Hexham defended the policy –

“We want more people who work hard and save up to be able to enjoy the security of owning their own home.

“Right now it is too difficult for housing association tenants to buy their own home. Until now the Right to Buy has only been available to tenants in local authority properties. This means there are around 500,000 housing association tenants who have no right to buy their home.

“The Right to Buy scheme has already helped around two million families to realise their dream of owning a home. By now extending the Right to Buy to housing associations tenants, we will help more people who want to move on and up the housing ladder.

“Our proposals will increase house building, increase home ownership and reduce waiting lists. Right to Buy improves social mobility and builds mixed communities.

“It gives something back to families who worked hard, paid their rent and played by the rules and gives people a sense of pride and ownership not just in their home, but in their street and neighbourhood.”

The Conservatives have pledged to improve their help-to-buy scheme and have also committed to 200,000 new starter homes in their manifesto.

Similarly Labour says it will build 200,000 new homes by 2020 and that private sector rent would be capped should Ed Miliband be Prime Minister.

The Lib Dems have pledged 300,000 homes a year, and ten garden cities as well as a rent-to-buy ownership scheme.

UKIP plan to build one million homes on brownfield sites by 2020, and Nigel Farage wants to restrict right-to-buy and help-to-buy schemes to British nationals.

Should the Greens win power they will regulate private sector rent and build 500,000 social homes.

Source –  Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 20 Apr 2015

Universal credit ‘a nightmare’, says claimant who advertised welfare reform

A Universal Credit claimant who featured in a government film to promote the reform now says the system is riddled with computer problems and could make people destitute.

In the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) advert, Daniel Pacey explains how the reform helped him to find work.

But he now says a six-week delay before the first payment and subsequent monthly payments are “a nightmare“.

The DWP said monthly sums replicate the world of work and tackle dependency.

A spokesman said:

“Universal credit is simplifying the benefit system and [makes] the transition into employment smoother.

“Our work coaches discuss budgeting support with all claimants and nearly 80% say they are confident in their ability to manage a monthly budget.”

> Is that 80% of work coaches or claimants ?

Mr Pacey, 24, from Wigan, Greater Manchester, said:

”It might be easy for a government minister to make their wages last a month. But I’d like to see them make £250 last four weeks while looking for work.”

The government has announced that a national roll-out of universal credit is starting in earnest across the country. The aim is for it to be offered in all job centres in England, Scotland and Wales by 2016.

> Whether it works or not, presumably.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith told BBC News the new benefit was £600m under budget and had been implemented gradually on advice.

But Mr Pacey, who lives with his father, said his job centre struggled with failing computer systems, adding:

“I hate to think about how I would have coped had I lived on my own. I know I couldn’t have.”

The DWP spokesman added:

“People can apply for advanced benefit payments if they need extra support and we are working with local authorities to make sure people get budgeting and debt advice.

“The IT system adapts smoothly to claims as they become more complex, which we have already seen across the North West.

“Computer problems in offices are separate issues and are resolved quickly but these do not impact the operating system, or have an impact on claims.”

The scheme was initially piloted in Ashton-Under-Lyne nearly two years ago.

Under the old system, payments were bi-weekly, with housing benefit paid directly to landlords.

Under universal credit, claimants are instead paid monthly and are expected to pay their rent themselves.

Housing Associations in Ashton-Under-Lyne say rent arrears and debt are on the rise amongst universal-credit claimants.

The chief executive of the National Housing Federation, David Orr said:

“This scheme isn’t even ready to fully roll out in Ashton-Under-Lyne, where it’s been piloted for two years, let alone the rest of the country.”

The DWP spokesman said:

“In some cases, we can arrange for alternative payment arrangements, including rent being paid direct to landlords.”

The government says it is important for people to learn how to handle their own monthly budgets, as this replicates the world of work.

> Oh for fucks sake – how stupid do they think we are ?  Do they think every unemployed person has never worked ?  Do they think anyone having to survive on benefits doesn’t already know all about handling budgets ?

But Mr Pacey’s new job in a call centre pays bi-weekly.

He said: “In my experience, most low-paid jobs pay weekly or every other week, not monthly. You can’t make small sums of money last a month.

“It’s not about dependency, it’s about living, being able to get a bus to go to the job centre. The government needs to rethink this.”

 

The scheme has also been criticised by the National Audit Office as badly managed and failing to deliver on its targets.

It is concerned that a roll-out from pilot areas in north-west England is taking place with fewer resources to spend on staff training and less time for staff to get accustomed to the changes.

About 50,000 people in selected areas have claimed the benefit since it was introduced in April 2013 – far fewer than the government originally said would be getting it by now.

Computer problems have also caused delays and seen ministers write off tens of millions of pounds.

Source –  BBC News,  16 Feb 2015

Rise in Tyneside working families having to claim housing benefit

More working people in Tyneside than ever before are claiming housing benefit to get by despite being in full-time jobs.

Around 15.5% of households that claim housing welfare are in work and bring home a regular salary, a figure which has doubled since 2008.

The statistics have been described today by the National Housing Federation (NHF) as evidence of an ‘affordability crisis’ in the region’s housing sector.

Monica Burns, the organisation’s regional affairs manager in the North East, said:

“The property market isn’t working and will only get worse for working people, local families and the next generation if we don’t take action.

“Building the right houses in the right places, and improving the ones that are already there is integral to creating stronger communities where people want to stay.”

The NHF’s research shows that the average person in the region spends £482 a month on rent, a quarter of their monthly income.

In Newcastle a monthly private rent averages out at £478, in North Tyneside £528 and in Gateshead £510.

Nationally middle income households of between around £20,000 and £30,000 are making two out of three new claims.

Ms Burns added:

“This is the new phenomenon that working people are claiming housing benefit. This is hard-working and people in respected jobs who still can’t make ends meet.”

The NHF’s report North East Broken Market, Broken Dreams also reveals that despite having the lowest average house price in England at £141,210, the North East also has the lowest salaries, meaning workers in the region are expected to pay six times the average income to eventually own a home.

In the rest of the country people are expected to pay 3.5 times their income to own a home.

The difficulty in getting on the property ladder is felt most acutely in Northumberland where there is the largest gap between the average house prices at £172,640 and the average salary of £23.863.

In Newcastle the average house price is £169,887, in Gateshead it’s £137,823 and in North Tyneside it is £153,768.

The average house price in England is £251,879, and the average salary is £26,520.

While the housing crisis in the South of England is characterised by a shortage of properties, in the North East Ms Burns said housing is far more than ‘a numbers game’.

The NHF would like to see the next Government take action on the North East’s housing situation, which they argue is part of a larger community crisis, where many people are living in poverty and are unable to access secure jobs.

They are backing the Homes for Britain campaign which seeks to pressure politicians into taking housing in the UK seriously by getting them to commit to reversing the housing shortage within a generation.

They also seek to lobby the Government to allow a housing associations to set their own rents and create a national Housing and Infrastructure bank.

Ms Burns said:

It’s taken us a generation to get into this housing crisis and will take us a generation to get out of it. Successive governments have failed to tackle the country’s major housing challenges and we are calling on the next Government to commit to end the housing crisis within a generation and to publish a long term plan within a year of taking office, detailing how they will do this.”

She said the number of empty homes in the region is often used as a reason not to consider more new builds, but it was essential for the North East to build homes where they were needed – and former pit villages in Northumberland and County Durham were not always the right places.

She said: “Quite often there is not a housing need.”

Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle,  14 Oct 2014

Homeless Families Forced To Live In ‘Unsafe’ Temporary Accommodation Soars To Five Year High

The number of homeless families housed in temporary accommodation across England has risen to a five-year-high, the latest figures show.

Figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government show that 59,710 homeless households were living in temporary accommodation in England, including B&B’s, at the end of June 2014 – 6% higher than June 2013 and the highest level for five years.

The startling figures have been blamed partly upon a significant rise in the number of private sector tenants losing their homes, as landlords cash in on a resurgent housing market.

Charities raised concerns earlier this year about an apparent rise in the number of ‘revenge evictions‘ (This is Money).

30% of all homeless applications between 1 April and 30 June 2014 came from private sector tenants. The figure represents a 27% increase on the same quarter in 2013 and is the most common reason given by households for becoming homeless.

Gill Payne, director of policy and external affairs at the National Housing Federation, said:

This shocking rise in the number of families stuck in emergency housing is down to our desperate shortage of affordable homes.

“It’s completely unacceptable that we have thousands of people living in so-called temporary housing, including B&Bs, that are expensive, often in poor condition and offer no stability from which to rebuild their lives.”

Figures also show that the number of homeless families with children housed in bed and breakfasts (B&B’s) has risen by 2% to 2,130 by the end of June 2013. The number of households without children living in B&B’s increased by 6% to 4,600.

Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said:

Behind every one of these shocking statistics stands a person or a family who’s gone through the tragedy of losing their home. And what’s more worrying is that we know these figures are only the tip of the iceberg.”

Jacqui McCluskey, director of policy and communications for Homeless Link, said:

The fact that so many people are being placed in temporary accommodation should send another clear signal that there is a desperate shortage of homes that are genuinely affordable to those in greatest need. The alternative of housing people in accommodation like B&Bs is not only unsafe, but is also expensive to taxpayers.”

13,140 households were accepted as being homeless in the second quarter of this year (1 April – 30 June 2014), 2% lower than the same time in 2013.

Source – Welfare News Service, 25 Sept 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/homeless-families-forced-live-unsafe-temporary-accommodation-soars-five-year-high/

North East Sees Sharp Drop In Building Of Affordable Homes, Figures Reveal

Housebuilding has collapsed in most of the region – despite Government claims of a “success story”.

 

The number of ‘affordable homes’ being built has fallen in 13 of 17 areas since the Coalition came to power, after housing programmes were axed.

And it has plunged sharply in many areas, including in Hartlepool (down 62.5 per cent), Middlesbrough (down 59.1 per cent) and Stockton-on-Tees (down 54.5 per cent).

The lack of new homes is even more acute in North Yorkshire, in Hambleton (down 76.9 per cent), Ryedale (down 66.7 per cent) and York (down 85.2 per cent).

In Richmondshire, not a single affordable home – those available at lower rents, or for shared ownership – was completed in 2013-14.

Yet, in 2010-11, the year the Coalition came to power, 60 were built, the official figures show.

Only South Tyneside, where 1,050 affordable homes were completed last year, bucked the trend, cutting the decline across the region to 15.3 per cent.

Last week, the department for communities and local government (DCLG) claimed its record on affordable housing since 2010 was a “clear success story”.

 It said that nearly 200,000 such homes had been built, including 2,380 in the North-East and North Yorkshire.

But ministers totted up four years’ of figures to reach that tally – and the statistics for previous years reveal a different story.

Rachel Fisher, head of policy at the National Housing Federation, said: “It is nowhere near enough.

“Demand is still far exceeding supply. England needs around 240,000 new homes a year. We need to build more of the right homes, in the right place, at the right price.”

Emma Reynolds, for Labour, said: “We have repeatedly called for action on housing supply, particularly on the need for more affordable homes, but this government has failed to act.

“Under David Cameron, the number of homes built has fallen to the lowest level in peacetime since the 1920s.”

The chronic shortage of housing is an issue rising up the political agenda, with hundreds of thousands of families languishing on council waiting lists.

Meanwhile, town halls remain barred from borrowing money to build homes, as the Government relies on the private sector to step in.

But Kris Hopkins, the housing minister said: “Our affordable house-building efforts are a clear success story, with nearly 200,000 new affordable homes delivered since April 2010.

“It means families have new homes available to them, whether to rent at an affordable rate or to buy through our shared ownership schemes.”

Across England, 41,654 affordable homes were built last year – well down on the 53,172 in the year before the last general election.

Source – Northern Echo,  20 June 2014

Bedroom tax pushes northern households into debt

Northerners hit by the bedroom tax are cutting back on essentials such as food and heating, according to new research from the National Housing Federation.

 An Ipsos MORI survey carried out for the Federation found that nearly a third (32%) of people affected by the bedroom tax in the North say they have cut back on food and more than a quarter (26%) have cut back on heating as a result of the tax.

Nearly half (45%) of those affected in the North have needed to borrow money to help pay their rent since the introduction of the bedroom tax in April 20131.

The research also found that:

· Four in five (80%) of those affected in the North are concerned about falling behind on rent.

· Nine in ten (90%) of those affected in the North are concerned about meeting their living costs.

· Nearly three-quarters (74%) of those affected in the North are concerned about eviction.

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr said: “People stung by the bedroom tax are being forced to make difficult choices on which bills to pay and which essentials to go without. They are living in fear that they will lose their homes and have resorted to borrowing from friends and family to try and get by.

“Housing associations have spent millions of pounds working more closely with their tenants, introducing projects to tackle fuel poverty and working with food banks to help alleviate food poverty. But these services have costs, which leaves less money for building new homes.

“The results of our latest survey are depressing. As we feared and warned, the bedroom tax is having a disastrous impact. The only solution is to abolish this policy which fails on every level.”

Source – Berwick Advertiser,  04 June 2014

Queen’s Speech: David Cameron Has Failed Britain

By Jenny Howarth

Her Majesty the Queen has delivered the final speech at the opening of parliament before next year’s general election.   A speech that Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described as ‘bold’.

In a joint statement issued alongside the Queen’s speech, the prime minister and his deputy said: [The coalition was] “still taking bold steps” [to] “take Britain forward to a brighter future”, adding:

 “We may be two parties, with two different philosophies but we understand one thing, countries rise when their people rise. So this Queen’s Speech is unashamedly pro-work, pro-business and pro-aspiration.”

Among the measures announced in the speech were:

  • A bill implementing reforms to annuities announced in March’s Budget. In future, people will not be required to buy an annuity with their pension savings and will be able to draw their retirement income in one go if they choose
  • A separate bill to allow employees to pay into collective pension funds shared with other workers, a move it is hoped will cut costs and encourage saving
  • A new state-funded childcare subsidy worth up to £2,000 a year, replacing the existing employer-funded scheme
  • A Social Action, Responsibility and Heroism bill offering extra legal protection for people being sued for negligence or breach of duty if they acted heroically or in the public interest
  • Curbs on “excessive redundancy payments” for highly-paid public servants
  • Tougher penalties for employers who fail to pay the minimum wage and a crackdown on the abuse of zero hours contracts
  • Plans for a 5p charge for plastic bags in England as announced at last year’s Lib Dem conference
  • Reforms to speed up infrastructure projects, including new freedoms for the Highways Agency and allowing fracking firms to run shale gas pipelines on private land without getting prior permission
  • New criminal sentences for those assisting organised crime syndicates, tougher sentence for cyber criminals and tougher powers to seize the assets of crime bosses – and making the possession of written paedophilia a criminal offence
  • A modern-day slavery bill with tougher penalties for human trafficking
  • Help for pub landlords including a statutory code and a body to adjudicate disputes
  • Giving voters the power to trigger by-elections where MPs have committed serious wrong-doing

With polls showing a Labour Party average lead of 6.6%, the speech, written for the Queen by her government highlights how out of touch and removed from reality the coalition government is. With Labour sources for the BBC saying it was “staggering” that the NHS and immigration were not mentioned in the Queen’s Speech.

You would assume that David Cameron would have ensured that this final speech would have contained elements to woo voters. But sadly, it has failed, just as Cameron and his coalition government has failed the people of Britain and here is why:

National Health Service (NHS)

This week in a letter to The Guardian, top health officials including Rob Webster, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals, and the chairs or chief executives of acute hospital trusts in London, Nottingham, Teeside, Kent, Sheffield, Oxford and elsewhere, warned that the NHS “is at the most challenged time of its existence.”

In a separate article, Rob Webster, speaking to The Telegraph, warned, that if “significant changes” were not made and the “decline” was to continue that:

  • Hospital patients would be forced to pay for their meals, bed and even for patient transport.
  • Swathes of the country would be left without a GP, because family doctors refuse to work in areas where they cannot keep up with demand.
  • Accident & Emergency departments would be increasingly shutting their doors without warning, because they are unable to cope.
  • Hospitals would go bust overnight because bills cannot be paid.
  • There would be Longer waits for surgery, and increasing numbers of cancelled operations.

With the NHS so critical, it is something that should have been addressed in today’s speech but it would appear that Cameron and his Health Secretary are more determined than ever to place the NHS in private hands.

Welfare

Work and Pension Secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s (IDS) welfare reforms have been an unmitigated disaster.

His flagship Universal Credit Scheme has been beset with problems, with The Guardian reporting in May this year that The Major Projects Authority (MPA) – responsible for grading its implementation – has said that it has undergone so many fundamental changes that it is “reset” (gone back to drawing board).

In addition, Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures, also released in May showed that over half a million ESA claimants are still waiting for the results of their assessment.

Then there is the hated Spare-room subsidy (bedroom tax).   In a survey of 183 housing associations (HA), conducted by IPSOS Mori on behalf of the National Housing Federation in February this year, it was found that:

  • One in seven of those hit by the bedroom tax has now had a notice of seeking possession issued to them.
  • 66% of HA residents hit by the bedroom tax are in rent arrears
  • More than a third (38%) reported to be in debt because they were unable to pay the bedroom tax

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation said:

“If these notices of seeking possession turn into evictions it will be the direct responsibility of those who introduced a measure which is economically incoherent, socially divisive, disruptive of family life and causing real damage to real people. It really can’t be allowed to go on.”

The failure to address welfare reform in today’s speech would indicate that if the Conservatives were to win next year’s election then it is likely it will go on, inflicting more misery to more families.

 It is clear, that Cameron is not listening.   The recent local and European elections proved that the people of Britain are not happy.   Ed Miliband, picked up on this by saying ahead of today’s speech:

“The local and European elections show the depths of discontent with the direction of our country which people increasingly feel does not work for them.

“We need action, we need answers, we need a programme for government equal to the scale of the challenge our country faces.

“We would have a Queen’s Speech with legislation which would make work pay, reform our banks, freeze energy bills and build homes again in Britain.

“A Queen’s Speech which signals a new direction for Britain, not one which offers more of the same.”

So what would be in Labour’s first Queen’s speech if they were to win next year?

Mark Ferguson, writing for Labour List, has put together what he thinks would be in it, based on Labours plans so far:

Banking bill

A first year priority, that would mean breaking up banks to create competition in the banking sector – and reforms intended to boost lending and support small businesses.

Make Work Pay bill

Mark Ferguson acknowledges that this one still needs some detail adding to it, which he believes we should get in the months ahead. In short, this bill would see Labour legislating for a higher minimum wage (maybe even a statutory living wage?) and legislating on zero-hours contracts.

Housing bill

Currently Labour is talking about building 200,000 homes a year by 2020. For Mark Ferguson, that’s a little slow, believing that Labour should be aiming to build a million homes over the next parliament with the expectation for Miliband to upgrade Labour’s offer on housing before the election.

However, it is already pretty substantial, and this bill would act on land banks, legislate for new garden cities, crack down on fees for private sector tenants and provide more stable and secure long-term rents for those in the private rented sector.

Community bill

Nicknamed, the “taking back the high street” bill. This would give communities a say on payday lenders and betting shops on their high streets – thus reducing their volume and growth.

Immigration bill

Angela Eagle has stated that Labour would legislate on immigration. Such a bill would seek to stop workers being undercut and ban recruitment agencies from only recruiting from overseas.

A new Scotland bill 

This would  enshrine the recommendations of Scottish Labour’s Devolution Commission, introducing a form of “Devo-Max” – obviously this is in the event of a No vote in this year’s referendum.

Consumers’ bill

Or perhaps more accurately, the energy prices bill. Labour’s big energy price freeze pledge would be enacted in the first Queen’s Speech

Outlawing discrimination against armed forces bill

This would put discrimination against members of the armed forces on the same footing as other forms of discrimination.

Mark Ferguson, goes onto state the other priorities for Labour in the first year of the next parliament that don’t necessarily need primary legislation, but which would be mentioned in the Queen’s Speech. These include:

  • The jobs guarantee,
  • The return of the 50p Tax rate
  • The abolition of the Bedroom Tax.

Unlike Cameron and his Conservative Party, it is evident, although some may disagree, that Ed Miliband has thought through what the people of Britain need.

> More likely the thinks its the sort of thing people might vote for at this moment in time. Unfortunately, an increasing number of people believe that should Labour win the next election, it’d actually just be a case of neo-liberal policies as usual.

And In case you’re wondering where the NHS fits in, Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has said today that it would be a “joyous moment, when next year, Her Majesty the Queen says: “My Government will repeal the Health & Social Care Act 2012″. Assuming of course that there will be a Labour victory.

With 336 days to go to the general election, the stakes have never been higher.   David Cameron has to start listening to the people of Britain, has to axe the bedroom tax, has to curb welfare reform and stop privatizing the NHS.   Failure to do so will mean he will be out of a job – not only as prime minister but also as leader of the Conservatives.

Source – Welfare News Service, 04 June 2014

http://welfarenewsservice.com/david-cameron-has-failed-britain/

 

More and more North East tenants forced from their homes as possession claims rocket

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

Bedroom Tax: One In Seven Households ‘Face Eviction’

Two-thirds of households in England affected by the bedroom tax have fallen into rent arrears since the policy was introduced in April, while one in seven families have received eviction risk letters and face losing their homes, a survey claims.

The National Housing Federation (NHF) said its survey demonstrated that the bedroom tax was “heaping misery and hardship” on already struggling families who were unable to pay their rent but unable to find anywhere cheaper to live because of a shortage of smaller homes.

The NHF survey is one of three separate reports published on Wednesday which collectively criticise the design and implementation of the bedroom tax and highlight the negative impact it has had on the lives of many of the 522,000 people in the UK who are subject to it.

The disability charity Papworth Trust says that a third of disabled people affected by the tax have been refused emergency financial help, despite government guidance that disabled people who live in adapted homes get first call on discretionary housing payment funding.

The trust said many disabled people who have been refused emergency payments – which are intended to provide short-term financial relief to those struggling to cope with the bedroom tax – were now cutting back on essentials such as food or household bills. It called on ministers to exempt people living in adapted properties from the tax.

Meanwhile, the Labour party has published the results of a freedom of information request which shows the number of tenants wrongly subjected to the bedroom tax as a result of drafting errors in legislation is nearly 50,000 – at least 10 times as many as official estimates.

Chris Bryant, the shadow minister for welfare reform, said information from a third of councils showed that 16,000 people were affected by the error, which affects working age tenants in social housing who have occupied the same home continuously since 1996.

The reports herald a day of parliamentary activity around the bedroom tax. A bill to abolish the tax will be introduced by Labour backbench MP Ian Lavery, while Lord Freud, the welfare minister, will appear before a committee of MPs to answer question on a raft of welfare reforms.

Lavery said he believed that the bedroom tax had caused the most visible poverty and heartache of all the coalition’s welfare changes. “I have seen with my own eyes the absolutely astounding impact the bedroom tax has on disabled and sick people. I’m not sure the government is aware of the hardship and misery it has caused. We are talking about ordinary people who have been forced to move from the homes where they have spent a lifetime raising their kids. They have been cast out like dogs in the night.”

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) said: “We are determined to support those who might need extra help through these necessary reforms. That is why we have tripled the extra funding given to councils this year to £190m – some of which is specifically targeted at disabled people – and have announced that £165m will be available for councils next year to help vulnerable tenants.”

It said the NHF could not prove whether the rise in tenant rent arrears was accounted for by the bedroom tax alone.

The bedroom tax – also known under its official names of “spare room subsidy” or “under-occupation penalty” – affects 660,000 housing benefit claimants living in social housing across the UK. Introduced last April, the policy imposes an average penalty of between £14 and £22 a week on working-age tenants deemed to have more bedrooms than they need.

NHF chief executive David Orr said: “From day one we have said the bedroom tax is unfair, unworkable and just bad policy. It’s putting severe pressure on thousands of the nation’s poorest people and must be repealed.”

This article was written by Patrick Butler, social policy editor, for The Guardian on Wednesday 12th February 2014.

Source – Welfare News Service  12 Feb 2014