The Public Accounts Committee who today released a report with serious concerns over AR still don’t get it and their ‘serious concerns’ as reported still understate MASSIVELY the con that AR is.
The above wording was my initial starting point for a blog which was to discuss 2 major points. Firstly, that AR is and always has been a con, a point I have made consistently and wanted to hammer home; and secondly, despite the PAC using unusually strong language for any parliamentary committee – that is has ‘strong concerns’ – the PAC report still doesn’t get how inept or how costly AR is.
That blog can wait and will show that the minimum added cost of AR in HB terms is at least 6 times the cost than suggested. This is because reading the report and researching the remit of the PAC a political scandal emerges and Eric Pickles, Secretary of State at the CLG must resign or be sacked because of it.
Strong words I know yet when you read what has clearly and evidently happened I don’t see any way this call for Pickles to go is not warranted.
Eric Pickles Department, the CLG, has refused to give information to the parliamentary scrutiny body known as PAC about AR for which he must take responsibility. To explain the PAC says the following in their conclusions and recommendation at point 1: -
“Where higher rents are paid through increased housing benefit, tenants may find
themselves caught in an even stronger benefit trap where it has become even harder to find sufficiently well paid employment to make working worthwhile, countering the Government’s objective of ensuring that the benefit system makes work pay. However, the Department does not hold information on the rent levels being charged for individual properties”
Of course we know differently thanks to the seminal FOI release obtained from CLG by Steve Hilditch which does show the actual rents and that FOI release concerned rent levels from the original AR bids. So the Department (the CLG) does know these figures and knew these figures over a year ago so how can it hold that the PAC can say the Department does not hold these figures unless it has been misled by CLG? Further it must have been knowingly and deliberately misled by CLG.
Read the summary of the PAC report which says: -
On the basis of a Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General, we took evidence from the Department for Communities and Local Government and the Homes and Communities Agency on the financial viability of the social housing sector and the Affordable Homes Programme.
So the PAC took evidence from the CLG the department who developed AR and that same department withheld known information from the PAC which we know it had as it gave that information out in a FOI request! The CLG must have withheld that information because the only way for the PAC to say CLG did not have that information on AR rent levels is that PAC must have asked for that information!
So Mr Pickles, your department knowingly withheld information THAT IT HAD from the PAC.
The FOI request commented: -
“The response from CLG – rather less tardy and grudging with the information than the Mayor, I have to say in passing – is based on the original bids made by providers last year..”
So are the PAC, that the CLG has knowingly misled, important then? The PAC has a remit and Terms of Reference of:
The Committee Name
The Committee of Public Accounts is appointed by the House of Commons to
examine “the accounts showing the appropriation of the sums granted by
Parliament to meet the public expenditure, and of such other accounts laid
before Parliament as the committee may think fit” (Standing Order No 148).
The Department (CLG) that Eric Pickles heads has prevented the PAC from doing its very important job of scrutiny and undermines any semblance of government and governance. Eric Pickles as the Minister must take responsibility for that.