‘Homeless families and the B&B crisis’ – NextDoor Project in the Guardian

In this article published yesterday the Guardian examines the realities of life in temporary accommodation such as B&Bs for those made homeless.

As the article points out there has been a huge increase of 44% over the past year of the number families being housed in B&Bs, with the most dramatic rise in central London. This situation is bad for all concerned as councils are forced to fork out huge sums for insecure sub-standard accommodation that has proved severely damaging to children.

The experience of our clients at Z2K shows that this dramatic rise has been driven by the cap and other changes to Housing Benefit payments alongside a chronic shortage of affordable housing. As Romin Sutherland, Manager of our NextDoor Project, is quoted as saying in the article:

“[the housing benefit cap] is driving a huge rise in homelessness, which is itself costing the taxpayer many millions. And this doesn’t account for the longer term costs of uprooting established communities and dumping them without support in unfamiliar areas that are unable to provide for their needs.

“Instead of capping housing benefit, perhaps the government should be focusing on providing low-cost housing that gives back to the taxpayer over generations, rather than squandering our money on exorbitant rents”

Economic Injustice and the Disintegration of Mixed Communities

by Rev Paul Nicolson, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust.

Delivered at the Defend Council House Lobby in Committee Room 7 at the Parliament at 1pm on 11 Oct 2010.

The decision to cap housing benefit is a spectacular example of economic injustice. It continues decades of the disintegration of economically mixed communities, and hits the poorest households below the belt – while protecting the speculators and landlords who profit from high rents and therefore high housing benefit.

I was a Parish priest in a beautiful village in the Chiltern Hills from 1982 to 1999. Most people have seen it on television, where it is called Dibley.  During that time, a combination of the sale of council houses and private speculation ended the mixed community of rich, middle class and poor. The right to buy led to the sale of council houses to sitting tenants for £25,000 they are now being sold on at around £250,000; the villagers’ rented cottages were bought by a speculator in the 1940s and sold off for a fortune every time a tenant died. You have to raise at least ££400,000 to live in Dibleyland now unless you are a servant, a farm labourer or a vicar in tied houses. Continue reading

Apply the cuts across the board

The Evening Standard 15 September 2010

DAVID Cameron and George Osborne should hold their nerve over the threatened wave of strikes — the sabrerattling from public sector unions shows they are on the right track.

Unions are naturally worried that their members will lose jobs or pay. But most public sector costs are in the workforce, and these must fall to make the public sector affordable again. In any case the coalition will only win political support if as well as making cuts its programme succeeds in changing the way public services work so they deliver as much (or more) while costing less.

Some of the loudest wails have come from the police but Britain has the most expensive law and order in the developed world as a share of GDP; no exception should be made here.

Speaking last week in London, Ruth Richardson, New Zealand’s reforming finance minister, described “the scourge of special interests who will argue for preserving the privilege of the few at the expense of the many”. Ministers have made a rod for their own backs by ring-fencing certain areas of spending — not just the NHS but child benefit, international aid and so on. How much easier and more truthful it would have been to argue savings must be made in every budget. Andrew Haldenby, director, Reform. I WATCHED the firebrands at the TUC calling for co-ordinated action against the cuts. What was telling was that the two principal union leaders urging this, Bob Crow and Mark Serwotka, have in recent times called strikes in which less than 50 per cent of their membership took part in the ballot, but officials insisted there was a legal mandate to strike because half of those who did vote backed strike action.

Surely, in the name of democracy this government should amend the law to stipulate that only where 50 per cent + 1 of a union’s entire membership votes in favour of industrial action is it legal.

This would stop an active minority in unions with an unrepresentative agenda from bullying the majority. Second, any vote that did approve a strike would carry real weight.

With strikes harder to achieve it might even make some union leaders more reasonable in their demands. Pete Dobson MATTHEW d’Ancona claims David Cameron’s cause of radical deficit reduction is just. This illusion will be shattered when bankers’ bonuses go through the roof while thousands of families and individuals have their roofs snatched from over their heads by courts imposing evictions because they cannot pay rent arrears caused by proposed housing benefit caps.

Very high rents came about through the deregulation of lending and of rent controls, which inevitably increased the payment of housing benefit in an under-supplied housing market. The 1979 government started this process and the 1997 government let it rip. In addressing these errors we should not be making the poorest households poorer but spreading the burden to those more able to carry the load.

Rev P Nicolson, Zacchaeus 2000 Trust.