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Social Housing and branding – Never knowingly sold anyone?

A flurry of very good articles about social housing as a brand have appeared in the last day or so and not before time. Unlike the John Lewis Partnership strapline of Never Knowingly Undersold, social housing is merely never knowingly sold.

Colin Wiles who is always thought-provoking covers most of the contributors in a piece in Inside Housing and cites Tom Murtha – who I suggested (in jest) on Twitter last week has had more influence now he has retired than when he was a housing chief executive – who is a key player in the SHOUT campaign to give good press to social housing and what social housing is which I said two years ago here is all about its economic benefits yet it is and has never been sold that way!

Tom Murtha has and is beginning to sell housing and get the message out there.  However, Tom has retired and who currently working in housing is selling housing?  Should it not be every housing professionals job and backed up by a national body?  Of course it should but that national body is not there. So it is to Tom’s personal credit that he is getting the message out yet to the housing ‘sector’s’ eternal shame that it is not.  Every industry has a lobby for it yet social housing does not!

Social housing provides the best quality rented housing option over the PRS, the best quality service and the best price and is hugely in demand (waiting lists) YET bizarrely it is portrayed as the housing of last resort and vilified.  In no other industry would the best product and best service all at the best price have such a woeful reputation.

In no other industry would it be ALLOWED to happen…Yet that is what HAS happened to the social housing model – and regrettably the people who have allowed that to happen are the people who work within social housing and because they have never SOLD social housing. Social housing has NEVER BEEN SOLD let alone undersold.

There is also not one single body or agency to do this as CIH does not do this, NHF look after the 60% of social landlords who are HAs and a myriad of others lobby for parts of social housing; EROSH for sheltered housing, SITRA et al for supported housing and Shelter and Crisis and Homeless Link etc for homelessness.

Yet that does NOT exclude all the Chief Executives of the 1000+ housing associations and other social landlords – errantly referred to as the ‘sector’ when the absence of any unifying body exists – for their ineptitude over the last 30 years or so.

In 1981 social landlords had 3 in every 4 properties that were rented and now they have less than 1 in 2 and has recently been overtaken by the PRS.  Again I ask in what other industry or that misused term ‘sector’ would the model with the best product, best service and at the best price be ALLOWED to reduce so dramatically?

While the sector can rightly state this is largely the fault of Right To Buy it still, unfortunately, has an ambivalence and resistance to any criticism of its role in this fall – and business fail – of the social housing model.

Social housing is ONLY cheaper because it is subsidised goes the refrain, yet the £4.5bn over 4 years, the £1.125bn that social housing receives in capital subsidy from central government returns rent levels which save the taxpayer the best part of £5bn per year AND it is the ONLY place where the sick, the old and the disabled – the SODs can live.  That is what social housing gives in return for the ‘subsidy’ which correctly HAS to be viewed as a very efficient invest to save model.  YET when have you heard that no-brainer of an economic argument be stated by anyone in the housing ‘sector?’

Never knowingly sold!

The (naive?) optimist in me senses that the ephemeral ‘sector’ is beginning to change and the debate over branding social housing is evidence of that.  Yet the realist, not cynic, within me has to accept that the social housing ‘sector’ is as quick to accept criticism and as quick to change as an elephant on skis going down a giant slalom!

Why – with social housing being a hugely cost-effective invest to save initiative that saves the country and the individual taxpayer a fortune – is it that no political party advocates it and why Joe Public maintain it is the housing of last choice?

That is the question social housing professionals refuse to face and consider as mea culpa is not in its lexicon of thought.  It is long overdue that they should and even more overdue that social housing is knowingly sold else it will go under!

 

 

 

Prisoner entitled to 4 times the bedroom space than a social tenant!

A prisoner is entitled to a room four times the size that the DWP maintains is a bedroom for a social tenant.

I was alerted to a Ministry of Justice document called Certified Prisoner Accommodation which sets out the minimum sizes for prisoners and the relevant size issue is detailed below and is from ppage 45 of the MoJ document

prisoncellmimsize

Note it says minimum size for a single cell is 6.8msq or 73.31 square feet of floor space

Now skip to the DWP guidance issued in HB circular U6 of 2103 (Yes that’s the one they rushed out after the Fife room size bedroom tax wins aka the Capt Mainwaring guidance!)

Paragraph 5 of this says: -

In determining whether or not a room is a bedroom the landlord may consider a number of factors, but one of these must be whether or not a room is large enough to accommodate at least a single bed

To read that literally it says if a room can fit in a single bed (and nothing else) then its a bedroom. That is the view of the DWP.  You could have no space at top, bottom or any side of the single bed in such a room according to DWP ‘guidance.’  It could also mean literally a room is a bedroom if it can fit a single bed in it standing on its end about 3ft x 2ft or 6 square feet! Yet a single bed is typically 6 feet 6 inches in length and about 2ft 9 inches at the narrowest making 17.88 square feet which the DWP by definition say is big enough for a bedroom.

Hence a prisoner is entitled to 73.31 square feet or more than 4 times the floor space of the 17.88 square feet the DWP deem is big enough for a social tenant!

 

 

Dangerous mistruths from Lib Dem bedroom tax apologists

Today sees the NPI think tank release a report saying the Lib Dems are right on the bedroom tax -

This is a lot of hot air based on ignorance of fact and a totally false premise:

It says:

“The concern that we should make better use of the social rented sector is legitimate: 8% of social rented households are overcrowded while 40% are under-occupied.

What a load of very dangerous nonsense this is, the 40% of social housing is under-occupied when the actual figure is just 10% as the English Housing Survey 2013 says by contrast:

• Under-occupation remained much more common in the owner occupied sector: around half (49%) of owner occupiers were under-occupying their homes in 2012-1 3, compared with 15% of private renters and 10% of social renters.

However, there was a decrease in the proportion of overcrowded households in the social rented sector

• Between 2010-11 and 2012-1 3, the rate of overcrowding in the social sector declined from 7% to 6%; with 241,000 overcrowded households in the sector in 2012-13, compared with 278,000 in 2010-11.

Hence the fact and the premise for the above arguments and the resultant comment that the Lib Dems are right to take their ridiculous position on the bedroom tax is a case of garbage in garbage out.

Note under occupancy was reducing even before the bedroom tax was introduced too and that there is 50% MORE under occupancy in the private rented sector than in social housing!

How dangerous is it that a national think tank quadruples the actual number of under-occupied properties and provides some more myth that the Tories would gladly make use of and represent, as they invariably do, a case of tell a lie often enough and it becomes fact.

As a classic example of this we see the Tory Chairman Grant Shapps also attacking the Lib Dem bedroom tax position in an article in the Telegraph today.

The journalist says

“The policy cuts £500 million from the welfare bill.”

Then he quotes Grant Shapps:

Mr Shapps said: “People will come to their own conclusions when they see parties u-turn on policies they’ve stood up for in the past. I would have thought the Liberal Democrats with tuitions fees would have learnt that.” “Them voting for that, never in private or in public arguing against it, then suddenly u-turning on it, people will come to their own conclusions.”

Where are they going to get that half a billion pounds from?

So here we have Grant Shapps Tory Party Chairman and the Housing Minister when the bedroom tax was introduce saying the bedroom tax saves £500m or half a billion which of course is the same thing.

Yet the DWP official data reveals that 471,000 households are affected each having a £14.30pw cut in HB. Multiply that to get the absolute MAXIMUM saving and we see it becomes £353m or so per year and a long way short of £500m

Tell a lie often enough (even when it has to be a KNOWN and DELIBERATE lie from Grant Shapps) and people take it to be fact.

So NPI are you going to amend your scurrilous and inept report which says under-occupancy in social housing is 4 times greater than the fact?

Facts are pesky eh reader!!

Scooby Doo investigates the bedroom tax and IDS

We have stopped the burgeoning welfare benefit spend the country cant afford chirps IDS ad infinitum

dwpspend97to2013

 

We have cut Housing Benefit spend with the Bedroom tax and Benefit Cap (blah blah blah)

aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa

It is only workless scroungers who claim Housing Benefit (blah blah blah) Here’s a graph of those in work and claiming HB!

%ofworkign tenants on HB

Oh by the way dear reader all the above simple graphs come form figures produced by …Yes you’ve guessed it IDS’s own Department of Work & Pensions.  Would you like a few more?  Oh ok then!

What about we can’t afford the burgeoning welfare state argument (blah blah blah) How much do we in the UK spend as a percentage of our GDP compared to other European (boo hiss!) countries.  The Economist tells us:

_71423324_social_security_expenditure_464gr(3)

 

Yes those well known welfare benefit spendthrifts the Germans can manage to afford to send 12% more than the UK on their welfare state.

Surely then the Germans must be taxed more to afford this largesse on welfare benefits. Lets’s see what the Economist says on that:

effective tax rates on £100pa

As you can see the Germans pay the same effective tax rates but receive more in employee social security

You care for some more lies IDS’s DWP says about welfare benefit spend?  Here is what they said this week after they released the allegedly independent report into the bedroom tax

dwpliesover interim report

 

And here again in a form so simple even DWP can not misunderstand is the official DWP figures for the Housing Benefit spend

coalition hb bill

Can you spot the hidden £6bn HB savings the DWP claim? No neither can I!!

What about the head honcho himself the Prime Minister as he is not afraid of throwing in some whopping porkies.  You will recall numerous occasions that Cameron has said the disabled are exempt from the bedroom tax. Try here and here for example.  So if Cameron is not fibbing through his hat can you tell me why the bedroom tax report this week had this nice little pie chart?  It shows that local councils take into account the disabled claimants DLA as income in whether to award a DHP to mitigate the bedroom tax!  Yes that’s the same disabled applicant who Cameron tells us is exempt from the bedroom tax so why are they applying for a DHP then Prime Minister?

dlaasincomefor DHP

 

Do you recall read reader IDS and Lord Freud saying only a small number of vulnerable households had the bedroom tax wrongly imposed?  Their estimate was between 3,000 and 5,000 in total across the country when research from a FOI request revealed their was likely to be over 40,000 households affected – the same as I predicted.  Has the coalition ever released the final figure? Has the Labour Party forgotten to follow this up and tell us just how many vulnerable households had the bedroom tax wrongly imposed?

Here is an oldish graph which compares actual figures (which will have risen) compared with the DWP estimates:

 

PRE96EXEMPT

 

But then what is a bedroom and what is under occupying?  On that latter point see this from the then Housing Minister Grant Shapps as Hansard recalls:

shappsbedroom

“Under-occupying households are those with at least TWO bedrooms more than they need..”  Yes that does say TWO dear reader!

So what is a bedroom?  Oh yes the DWP steadfastly refuse to define that don’t they? They also say outside of a kitchen, bathroom and living room that all rooms must be bedrooms.  Yes that’s the same DWP who administer other welfare benefits such as Job Seekers Allowance (JSA) or dole.  And looky here what the JSA Online claim form says: -

JSAO2 other

Yes the same DWP allows the claimant to have rooms other than bedrooms and even offers STUDY or UTILITY ROOM or a PLAYROOM as an example of what a claimant may legitimately have in their property. Yet woe betide the HB claimant who says a disputed room is not a bedroom its a study eh!

Ah cake and eating it dear reader? Why of course that’s the case!

awileystairlift1 awverticallift1 awverticallift2Yes the 3 pictures above are a bedroom according to DWP and the local authority in this case Sefton MBC …and because the tenancy agreement and the landlord says so.  Of course a bed could not even fit into this room but hey the landlords asset register which they transmitted to the council had not been updated with the vertical lift taking out one of the former bedrooms.

Yes dear reader that is the basis on which the bedroom tax decisions were taken and one other council Bury MBC kindly revealed precisely what information they got back from landlords and the entirety of how their decisions were taken was commonplace across all councils in the UK

burydetailfromlandlord

Hard to believe that a family’s life has been turned upside down with the life changing bedroom tax decisions based on the above isn’t it?  Well that’s the stark reality dear reader!

I could go on and on with this pictorial representation of the bedroom tax.  But I will finish (for now) with an excerpt from the Welsh Quality Housing Standard below.

Note this is just a pointer as is the Housing Acts of 1985, 1988 and 2004 over what constitutes the term ‘bedroom’ in terms of floor size. Just a pointer dear reader yet in the absence and steadfast refusal of DWP to define the term bedroom we are left with Tribunal judges having to determine what the term ‘bedroom’ means and the diagram below does help in that regard by giving accurate dimensions of a bed, bedside cabinet, dressing tables and wardrobes – the usual and normal furnishings which make a room a bedroom – and the necessary space needed between these necessary furnishings too.

whqs bedroom

 

 

I was going to conclude with some words here.  Yet words can be ambiguous and downright misleading cant they IDS…you know as in the “I believe it to be right” piffle you spout when the likes of the ONS and NAO find you and your DWP mislead, dissemble and overtly and knowingly lie.

If a picture paints a thousand words then each one is 3 letters long begins with L ends in E and has I in the middle when it comes to your version of the bedroom tax and welfare reforms.

Let’s unmask the villain here and think of Scooby Doo – IDS would have gotten away with it if it wasn’t for those pesky facts!!

 

 

Cleggs opens up bedroom tax debate and confirms he is an idiot!

So we are loudly told with front page banner headlines Clegg and the Liberal Democrats are now against the bedroom tax. Oh but hang on that U-turn changed within the hour late last evening as Clegg & Compo and the rest are only for a partial revision of the bedroom tax.  I see so its what the Joseph Rowntree Foundation advocated (without credulity see here) a few months back and the bedroom tax should not apply to “the disabled” and not to those who have nowhere to downsize to…or at least that is what it appears and as per usual this is soundbite politics not detailed written policy.  Still lots of publicity that serves to highlight that Clegg (a) still has a pulse and (b) that Clegg still has a knack of what Prince Philip calls pedidentary – that is putting ones foot in ones mouth without any forethought!

Politics is the art of the possible and is pragmatism writ large and just as I explained with the normally excellent JRF report such a position of the bedroom tax not applying to anyone ‘disabled’ (however defined) and only applying where there is nowhere for the tenant to downsize to (however that is defined) is utterly impractical.

As it is often stated without any challenge that 63% of bedroom tax households have someone resident with a disability then this would take 63% out of the bedroom tax being applied.  What flows from that is that 63% of the (alleged) savings would be lost to central government.  So lets look at some numbers.

Currently 471,000 households have an average yearly bedroom tax of £748.80 applied making a theoretical maximum saving of £353 million.  Note that is THE maximum possible the bedroom tax policy could save yet the coalition still maintain the saving will be £500m per year which is mathematically impossible from the above factual figures though doesn’t stop the likes of the BBC still reporting them a that is what Freud et al still disingenuously maintain!

“Ministers say private sector renters do not get spare rooms for free, and argue the policy will save around £500m a year. But critics say it is forcing households into arrears”

says the BBC today here yet as the basic arithmetic above reveals the Ministers have overestimated the maximum an theoretically possible savings by £147m per year or by 42% whichever you prefer!

So as 63% are disabled the maximum theoretical saving to central government reduces by 63% to £130 million or a whopping 74% less than the aforesaid innumerate Ministers still adhere to!

But presumably the government would then not have to provide the £60m of DHPs they allocate to local government to mitigate the impacts of the bedroom tax (and see HB circular SI/2014 which details this allocation).

So the maximum saving becomes £190m per year and £310m less than the coalition (oh yes that include Clegg and Compo et al) still illogically maintain it holds and seek. But hang on then we would need to reduce that figure by taking out of the bedroom tax those current tenants who could not downsize due to no smaller properties being available.

The DWP proudly proclaimed in April that 6% of social tenants had downsized and the sham of an alleged bedroom tax monitoring report released yesterday said much the same.  Hence 94% cannot downsize as the smaller properties are not available.  Ergo the £190m maximum theoretical saving must reduce by 94% leaving just a maximum theoretical saving of £11.4 million per year – which is some £488.6m less than the innumerate coalition ministers claim it does save and seek!

So we arrive at a point which sees the absolute maximum ‘saving’ from the bedroom tax become £11.4 million or thereabouts.

To set against this we have the added public purse costs of administering the bedroom tax which is done by 340 or so local authorities on the government behalf.  471,000 or so additional HB decisions means if each decision costs more than £24.20 each then this extraordinarily cheap cost per case would see the cost of the bedroom tax outweigh the maximum £11.4m it could save!

Oh hang on what about the estimated £1500 per case each bedroom tax appeal cots central government as this too is an additional cost of the bedroom tax.

Sorry reader, I realise the above contains sums and many of you don’t really like sums but then you are in good company as clearly the coalition don’t like sums either!  If you didn’t already think Clegg was an incompetent buffoon you must realise that now, though I do have to admire his outrageous optimism as he clearly believes he and his Liberal Democrats have any power or influence now within the coalition or will be in any such position after the May 2015 general election.

He is almost as deluded as anyone who asserts the bedroom tax in its current pernicious guise saves any money such as IDS and Freud, though their delusions are they can fool all of the people all of the time with their repeated lies which still get repeated even after they have been found out.

While I am constructively criticising this charade I cannot leave out the Daily Mirror who are tweeting like mad across social media sites that “Its the Mirror that did it” and similar nonsense. Did what dear reader..oh yes… claim a victory for the bedroom tax with this even more back of a fag packet idea that Clegg has come up with that is just as much back of a fag packet as the original delusion of IDS in the bedroom tax itself.

Though of course the real scorn needs to be directed at Her Majesty’s official Opposition, that is the Labour Party.  Not once have they challenged the innumerate and delusional assertion of the coalition that the bedroom tax saves £500m per year.  As all that takes is the ability to multiply the number of households (471,000) by the average yearly cut (£749) which gives a maximum of £353m and reveals the coalition is over egging the maximum possible saving by 42% and is therefore must be lying as well as being incompetent and innumerate.

Sorry reader I cant be bothered wasting any more of my time or yours with this charade.  The idea put forward by Clegg and immediately revised cant work and is a nonsensical and illogical idea by a politician and the party he leads desperate to hold onto any last vestiges of ‘power’ he believes he and his party has.  The fact the media hype this into a story while not knowing what the hell they are talking about and without the competence to do some basic maths on a £1 calculator…well what’s new!

10pm UPDATE

I have just watched what can only be called car crash politics with Lib Dem Danny Alexander attempting to explain the new Lib Dem bedroom tax policy…and if Clegg is an idiot which he is then Danny Alexander is the biggest incompetent f*ckwit!

Not only does he squirm and wriggle and finally give in and watch here as it is so cringeworthy to be amusing BUT Danny Alexander states he is going to put a new DUTY on councils and housing associations to reduce under occupancy.

A DUTY is a mandatory action that can ONLY apply to a PUBLIC body yet of course the real name of housing associations is PRIVATE REGISTERED PROVIDERS and no government can put any form of DUTY upon a private body.  It seems the erstwhile Mr Alexander does not know this and why should he as he has only been in high politic office at the centre of government for 4 years yet a  spotty 16 year-old kid studying any form of government or law could tell you this fact that Danny Alexander clearly does not know!

Do you think dear reader that the Lib Dems are a tad unprepared and a tad incompetent to be trying to wriggle out of their vote FOR the bedroom tax and making a huge pig’s ear out if it?

Politics is like a septic tank, the big chunks always rise to the top!!!

PS Do watch the C4 interview it is so funny!!

 

The bastard bedroom tax report

Bastard n. – illegitimate

The Welfare Reform Act of which the bedroom tax is part had huge numbers of debates and I think was knocked back on 8 occasions (?) by the House of Lords before the coalition steamrollered it through using financial privilege.  It received Royal Assent I recall in March 2012 and then in June 2012 the DWP published what it alleged was an impact assessment.

Any decision and one that involves radical change by any individual, organisation or government should be considered as to the impacts and consequences of that decision before the decision is taken.  That is what an impact assessment does and is commonsense and also stating the obvious and it is an essential part of democracy and democratic legitimacy .  Yet the June 2012 alleged impact assessment by the DWP into the bedroom tax stated it did not know what the impact of the bedroom tax policy would be on gender, race or disability.

I often get stereotyped as some ‘lefty’ against this coalition and especially against the bedroom tax yet those who make this false presumption clearly haven’t read how I constantly attacked the last Labour government over the Supporting People programme or SP which included being ‘asked’ to come into the ODPM as was now CLG and ‘asked’ to tone down my comments and offered employment by the department in order to silence my dissention to SP.  In short, I challenge any policy of any government which shafts vulnerable people.

Check out my Twitter alter ego SpeyeJoe (yes keeping an eye of SP) and it reads: -

Housing consultant either a lateral thinker or i’m planking – hates ANY vulnerable people being shafted by ANY incompetent govt.

So my real concern is or at least starts from an apolitical perspective and my first degree being in Politics means I have high regard for democracy and democratic legitimacy.  In the bedroom tax and to preserve any ounce of legitimacy the policy was implemented on the condition that an ongoing monitoring of it would take place.

The result, and very late and out-of-date result was the sham that appeared yesterday.  A report without any legitimacy – a bastard of a report in other words.

No government should impose a policy that is at the same time radical in changes sought and irrational in how it is to be implemented and operated without forethought.  Yet that aptly describes the bedroom tax in seeking radical change of social housing and the social housing model and rides roughshod over vulnerable people and all based on local government believing the word of a social landlord out of expedience when the same local government officials would not dream of believing the word of a private landlord: Indeed the local government decision-making officers are guided in regulations to seek independent assessment of what a bedroom is and how many a property has through the Rent Officer service yet are disallowed from doing the same for a social tenant.

Instead a life-changing cut in benefit is imposed on the social tenant on this flimsy and irrational and illegitimate way.  Again, in simple terms, the bedroom tax tenant is shafted and while the report includes the consequences of this with so many tenants choosing to heat or eat and go without other necessities that is just reporting of what we have all known for a long time.

The report – the illegitimate or bastard report – holds no recommendations at all either.  Yet surely that must have been the purpose and the only legitimate purpose of allowing a policy to go ahead with ongoing monitoring in that the evaluation would provide recommendations for change, yet it does no such thing.

In summary the bedroom tax policy only had any semblance of legitimacy in being implemented dependent upon iterative oversight and that has not happened.  The same report also says the next report will be in 2015 and we know from Steve Webb ex-minister at DWP that this will be in summer of 2015 and critically, after the next election.  The British public and the great democratic history of the country has been duped by this government and yes they are a bastard of a government for that. Three full years and more of an ill-considered and dangerous policy with no legitimacy whatsoever is what we have in the bedroom tax.

Doubtless after yesterday’s reshuffle which was used to mask this bastard of a report we will see a more Eurosceptic government which will shout about the ‘democratic deficit’ at the heart of the European Union while conveniently ignoring its own bedroom tax policy has even less democratic legitimacy than the EU.

Plus ca change ou l’etat c’est moi mon cher lecteur?

 

 

 

Lies, damn lies and failing DWP bedroom tax reports

On the same day as the cabinet reshuffle the DWP released a 163-page interim report into the bedroom tax.  Unfortunately this deliberate burial of a report is the best that can be said for it as it really is that bad.

Firstly it only records the first 5 months of the bedroom tax from April 2013 to August 2013 and so this report is already ELEVEN MONTHS OUT OF DATE.

Secondly, the authors of this report who include some well known and respected figures should hang their heads in shame for the content, the quality and the outrageous bias in this report…which I remind is 11 months out of date and purposeless.

Let’s begin with the Executive Summary which starts on page 13.

This Interim Report presents early findings from the evaluation of the Removal of the Spare Room Subsidy (RSRS) undertaken by Ipsos MORI and the Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research. A final report will be published in 2015.

We have already been told by Steve Webb, then a minister at DWP, that the final report will be published in Summer 2015, that is AFTER the next general election.  Hence this sham of a report is to be the ONLY coalition report on the bedroom tax in this parliament which you would not know from reading this cleverly worded sentence.

Note too that this 163-page report claims to be an evaluation, that is an assessment of the bedroom tax policy yet it fails to mention in all of its 163 pages whether the bedroom tax produces any savings at all which was the claimed rationale for the policy.  How can you ‘evaluate’ something by not evaluating its principal rationale?

If that doesn’t tell you what this report doesn’t say – that the bedroom tax is a costly failure, then nothing will.  It is staggering that the claimed saving is not mentioned in a report consisting of 163 pages.

The opening of the Executive Summary continues:

The objectives of this project are to evaluate:

• the preparation, delivery and implementation of the policy changes by local authorities and social landlords;

To decode and put into simple English, we asked councils and landlords for how they judged themselves! Hardly likely to get any form of objective evaluation from that are we!  The summary continues:

• the extent of increased mobility within the social housing sector leading to more effective use of the housing stock;

Hang on a moment!!  What increased mobility does this report presume? The last financial year in social housing was April 2013 to March 2014 and the same as the first year of the bedroom tax.  Look at my post from April 2014 some 3 months ago which shows that in 2013/14 FEWER social tenants moved in that year than in the previous ten years. YES you read that correctly dear reader LESS social tenants moved in that year meaning that the bedroom tax impact was NOT increased mobility as this report errantly states but REDUCED MOBILITY.

To evaluate an increase in anything means you have to have a benchmark, that is what was movement BEFORE the policy change yet this report  - in all its 163 pages – fails to state what mobility was before as the benchmark.  The report merely mentions what the movement was and fails to assess whether this was an increase or a decrease.  Yet as my blog referenced above shows mobility DECREASED yet staggeringly this is not mentioned in the report…in all of its 163 pages!!

Are you starting to get a flavour of just how biased, inept and overtly political this report is dear reader?  Good, but don’t get too expectant as if you want me to notify you of all the faults in this report then I can easily make this commentary longer than the 163 pages of whitewash this report contains.  To all those in social housing time to look again at some of the well-known ‘experts’ who have put their name to this charade!!

WHY DIDN’T THIS REPORT HOW MUCH THE BEDROOM TAX IS CLAIMED TO SAVE?

That is a huge and of course  a deliberate and stark omission from this report and after all we have Webb, and IDS and Freud and McVey all stating ad infinitum that the bedroom tax saves the taxpayer £500m per year.  Yet scour these 163 pages of whitewash and there is no mention of any financial saving!

Let’s now begin to look at the facts this report gets wrong and deliberately wrong as it deliberately chooses ‘facts’ it likes but not those it does not.  Top of page 14:

The DWP’s Housing Benefit data show that in August 2013, 522,905 households1 were affected by the RSRS2, which equates to 11.1 per cent of all social tenancies.

The report could and should have used the most up to date data which was released over two months ago and reveals just over 471,000 households affected or even the official data released 3 months before in February 2014 which had 498,000 or so affected.  Yet it chooses to use the highest ever figure recorded for those bedroom tax affected. Why does it do this when there have been two further lots of quarterly data released and the last one being two months before this report was published?  It can ONLY be that the report wished to convey higher numbers affected by the bedroom tax than is actually the case – a shameful piece of bending allegedly independent research to the whim of government.

Note here that the June 2012 DWP estimate said the bedroom tax would affect 660,000. So why would this report not use the 471,000 figure released by DWP in May?

  • Could it be that the DWP being a mere 189,000 or a mere 29% out in its figures and the embarrassment this would cause be the reason?
  • Could it be that 189,000 fewer households affected means the alleged ‘savings’ DWP sought are reduced by 189,000 lots of £751.37 per year and in total £142m less than DWP sought?
  • Or is it because they have absolutely NO explanation whatsoever for this 29% reduction in numbers?

That last point is very pertinent reader as the only explanation this DWP sham of a report gives is that more people downsized or moved.  Yet that is a known mistruth as I stated earlier and the authors of this report know that.  So yet again this report is overt in its political bias and KNOWINGLY seeks to mislead the reader and put a false gloss on the bedroom tax.

Let me remind you again of the context – This is the ONLY report the coalition will make on the bedroom tax in this parliament!  So when you go back and read the 2012 (purported) impact assessment which says we don’t know the impact on gender, race or disability but we will be monitoring this on an ongoing basis, you now know the coalition misled there too and of course the policy itself being introduced without knowing the impacts and consequences reveals it for what the policy is – a back of a fag packet piece of politicking.

Unsurprisingly despite the authors of this sham of a report being (formerly?) well-respected researchers they do not conclude that reader; rather they pad out a report of huge bias, of no significance whatseover as its 11 months out of date and serves no useful purpose at all, in order to take the 30 pieces of silver.  And you thought it was only in the USA where academic research could be bought!!

Above I commented that the research pre-assumed an increase in mobility (downsizing) yet there was an actual reduction in it.  The context of this bias is emphasised when it comes to arrears as we see on page 20 of this sham report:

Landlords reported that, five months into the RSRS, 41 per cent of tenants have paid the full RSRS shortfall, 39 per cent have paid some and 20 per cent have paid none.

I extrapolated and put a low figure on this of around a £140 million increase in arrears here.

Yet this DWP (sham) report denies the correlation of the bedroom tax with this huge increase a few paragraphs down when it says:

Total arrears (for all reasons) held by social landlords increased by 16 per cent between April and October, although it must be emphasised that the cause of this is uncertain and we cannot directly attribute this increase to the RSRS.

So the DWP is prepared to start with an errant hypothesis (increase in mobility) which the report fails to state actually REDUCED not increased and also we see a denial that the bedroom tax led to increased arrears! Just how biased and discredited can any report get?

Perhaps dear reader the £140m or so increase in arrears is all due to fairy dust?

Another convenient use of carefully chosen fact, which in fact is not fact, occurs on page 17 and says: - 

Nationally, 11.1 per cent of all social tenancies are affected by the RSRS5 

Hmmm! The source of this assertion is the 2011 census says the report.  Yet dear reader you know my penchant for numbers (what IDS and DWP call pesky facts as 2 + 2 always = 4) so if 547,000 affected is 11.1% of all social housing then the size of social housing must be 4.928m properties.

Yet the English Housing Survey for 2012/13 has the social rented sector having just under 4m properties (3.864m) and so 547,000 bedroom tax affected would 14.16% not 11.1%.  Yes reader the DWP and their paid lackeys in this report cannot do basic arithmetic.

However look again at the wording and recall what I said above that this very politically sensitive document will have been proofed long and hard before it was released.  “Nationally 11.1 per cent of ALL social tenancies are affected by the bedroom tax”

We all know that those of state pension age are exempt from the bedroom tax and if we return to our old reliable friend in the EHS we see that 1.05m social housing tenants are over 65 years of age or some 28.5%.  Take these exempt bedroom tax households out of the figures and we see the 542,000 originally bedroom tax affected represented 19.3% of all social tenants that could have been hit with the bedroom tax.

And did you know this sham report is an independent report reader?  That is what the DWP press office released on twitter today:

dwpliesover interim report

Yet the biggest lie, and known lie is the claim that the HB reforms save money.  As I have commented many times (see here for example and sources) the official figures published by DWP show the HB bill at May 2010 to be £20.8bn per year.  In June 2010 after the first mini budget DWP said HB reforms (such as bedroom tax) would reduce the HB bill by “nearly £2bn per year” giving a target of £18.8bn. The latest HB bill – again by DWP official figures – is £23.7bn and nearly £5bn per year OVER target.

Yes dear reader the DWP has been at the fairy dust again hasn’t it!

And by the by the £6bn claim the DWP Press Office say is in the report is not to be found anywhere in the 163 pages of whitewash and bull!

I will make one final point and include one final picture of a graph in this scurrilous sham of a report which shows that over 75% of local councils include DLA as income when assessing a disabled person for a discretionary housing payment.

dlaasincomefor DHP

 

What’s that reader?  You say you have heard Cameron say on numerous occasions that the disabled are exempt from the bedroom tax?  Yes you’re right he has and here is one of those occasions from another blog

So to summarise:

  1. This sham report presupposes errant hypotheses and fails to acknowledge that LESS tenant have moved due to the bedroom tax
  2. This sham report says it is not the bedroom tax fault for the £140m increase in arrears
  3. This sham report makes no purposeful comment on why there are 471,000 households affected by the bedroom tax and not the original 660,000
  4. This sham report is 11 months out of date and serves no purpose whatsoever
  5. This sham report is overt in its political bias and those responsible for it should be ashamed of themselves

Finally – This report makes no comment on the alleged bedroom tax savings the coalition constantly states the policy achieves whatsoever.  NO COMMENT AT ALL.  That alone shows just how much of a failure this policy is and just how political this sham of an ‘independent’ report is.  Don’t bother wasting your time in reading it!

UPDATE

This sham report says there is no correlation between the bedroom tax and the significant rise in arrears I quantified at about £140m in my immediate comments yesterday.

Today I have just quickly re-read the DWP’s impact assessment for the bedroom tax of June 2012 (here) which is of course riddled with the savings rationale for the bedroom tax and also how this will be monitored on an ongoing basis which it has not.  Yet significantly the DWP says this about the link or correlation between bedroom tax cuts and arrears and says the link is straightforward!!  Yet in this sham report the link has no apparent correlation!!!!

savings bedroom tax

…it is straightforward to identify those reductions as having been generated as a result of the introduction of the size criteria!!”

Oh and finally dear reader I am being called a sceptic and a cynic for mentioning that a 163 page evaluation report on the bedroom tax fails to mention savings at all and fails to mention that mobility reduced – You know the bits the sham report missed….oh and the bits the other commentators missed!!  Ok I missed them first time round in my immediate comments of yesterday so we can all sometime not see the wood for the trees!

Yet, how the hell can you have an alleged evaluation of the bedroom tax that runs to 163 pages and NOT mention the alleged savings one bit!!

Oh dear there I go again being cynical in stating the bloody obvious

 

 

 

Bedroom Tax DWP report – immediate comments eg arrears up £140m

The DWP has finally released the first interim report into the bedroom tax today – 163 pages of mostly waffle on first reading but some really interesting issues emerge.

P17 for example has this:

Paying the shortfall
Landlords reported that, five months into the RSRS, 41 per cent of tenants have paid the full RSRS shortfall, 39 per cent have paid some and 20 per cent have paid none.

Let’s do a quick extrapolation and a more up to date one than this report.  The bedroom tax has 471,000 affected households at an average of £14.40 per week cut in their Housing Benefit at February 2014 and this is a falling number from the 542,000 first reported.  This means the total bedroom tax cut for the first year will be between £360m – £390m and here I use the lower £360m cut.

  1. If 20% of tenants have not paid that means landlord arrears have increased by £72m
  2. If the 39% who have paid some average 50% of the bedroom tax being paid than that is a further £70m of arrears landlords now have.

Combine the two and we see the bedroom tax has increased social landlord arrears by £140m

That is a good ballpark estimate although there are so many variables which can adjust that by as much as 20% either way giving a range of £112m – £168m.  The decreasing number of affected households could reduce it although I use the 471,000 number of households which the lowest figure yet and is 190,000 or 28% fewer households than the DWP expected in their estimate the bedroom tax would affect 660,000 households.  The longer the bedroom tax goes on the more tenants that wont be able to pay could increase landlord losses which will of course be added to by their possession costs which can average about £7,000 per property.

The DWP interim report is as vague and woolly as you would expect on this point (and every other point) and frankly the report is 163 pages of turgid indecisive nonsense and anyone expecting some revelatory insights will be seriously disappointed.

Arrears
Total arrears (for all reasons) held by social landlords increased by 16 per cent between  April and October, although it must be emphasised that the cause of this is uncertain and  we cannot directly attribute this increase to the RSRS. Landlords state that they will eventually evict RSRS-affected non-payers, though at the time of the research most were currently only in the early stages of this process. Many landlords expressed concern that
collecting rent from people who can’t afford to pay whilst in their current circumstances is  damaging relations between landlords and tenants.

The above also on page 17 explains exactly what I mean.  Arrears have risen but this is not due to bedroom tax!  No we can’t possibly say that! So what is it down to then?  Do you offer any explanation for this? Er…no! Ah I see so this is a whitewash then?  You may say that I couldn’t possibly comment…blah blah blah!

Then we have the one genuine insight that the bedroom tax is damaging the landlord:tenant relationship.  Yet this (a) comes from landlords, (b) is not commented upon at all and (c) is massively understated.  Tenants no longer trust their social landlord and this is a huge matter with future planned reforms such as direct payment of HB to the tenant scaring the life out of social landlords and rightly so.

This report is as much of a charade and sham as the bedroom tax decision making process an the next report is due AFTER the next election.  How convenient eh reader?

I do leave you with some mild amusement and look at page 13 for a real FREUDIAN slip and I wonder how long it will be before social landlords state there will be no effin funders?

interimrpt nofinfunders

There is no F in funders lending to social landlords eh DWP?

 

If I haven’t dissuaded you from reading this whitewash of a report you can enjoy it here though please make sure no sharp implements are near and you are sitting comfortably.  And just to be on the safe side make sure the smelling salts are handy so when you fall over in shock at just how inept, wish-washy, incompetent and frankly offensive this report is… You have been warned!

 

 

I’m old, sick or disabled…where do I live?

In Social Housing of course!!

Private rented housing doesn’t do sheltered housing or adapted housing for those disabled!

Yes a simple question and a bloody obvious answer so: -

  • Why is the social rented sector (SRS) always being compared to the private rented sector (PRS) when their nature is as different as chalk and cheese?
  • Why does the SRS not get that message out there to the general public that if the SRS did not house the elderly, the infirm, the sick, the disabled then they would have nowhere to live at all?

Social housing know thyself!

The SRS allowing itself to be compared with the PRS takes many forms for example:-

  • Social tenants are welfare dependent as a greater number of SRS tenants are on Housing Benefit.

Yet that is only because the pensioner and the sick and disabled don’t have the option of living anywhere else

I could write tens of thousands of similar points yet it all comes down to two simple matters.

Firstly, social housing does not have a voice and not one single body speaks on its behalf

Secondly, that lack of a single voice allows the general public to castigate and deride social housing by perpetuating the myth that all social tenants are scum / feckless / layabouts / ne’er do wells.

How that manifests is seen below in a classic and unfortunately all too typical comment that even more regrettably is the norm for the general public.  It is a comment under an online article about how Wigan and Leigh Housing the former Wigan Council housing department has seen the bedroom tax lead to an increase in arrears and evictions - a common issue across all social landlords with the bedroom tax.

scumsocialhousing

The comment above is commonplace under any online article about the bedroom tax or the welfare reforms in general.  Joe Public thinks the social tenant is a layabout, a benefit scrounging piece of scum.  Social landlords and the social housing ‘sector’ may rant all day about this is the product of Benefit Street and other TV programming.

Yet it is not.  Social housing’s reputation has been in the gutter for decades, the housing of last choice and even pre-dates the Thatcherite notion of a property owning democracy with the massive sell off of council housing under right to buy.

The fault for social housing – which is the cheapest, highest quality, most in demand form of rented housing – having its reputation in the gutter is the lazy bone idle incompetent landlords who have failed to promote that best product and best service at the best price.

Know thyself social housing and stop blaming the latest incarnation of the social housing myth that you who work in social housing have irresponsibly ALLOWED to fester unchallenged.

Know Thyself was the keystone at the Oracle in Delphi yet for social housing its more like the keystone cops!

 

 

 

 

Lord Freud deliberately misleads House of Lords over bedroom tax…again!

Did you know – according to the ignoble Lord Freud – that:

  1. 200,000 1 bed properties become available in social housing each year
  2. There have been “a matter of more than 100 FTT (bedroom tax) appeals.”

That is what he told the House of Lords this afternoon and he is yet again being totally disingenuous

1)  200,000 one bed SRS properties each year?

The actual and universally accepted figure is 68,000 not 200,000 and so we see Lord Freud tripling the amount of the real figure as is his want. See my blog here from March 2012 with the 68,000 figure.

2) “…a matter of more than 100 FTT appeals?”

Having personal knowledge of over 80 bedroom tax appeals myself just from one small part of Merseyside alone and further knowledge, some first-hand and some second-hand of a further few hundred bedroom tax appeals in Merseyside and hundreds more across the UK we again see Lord Freud knowingly misleading the House of Lords yet again.

There may well be one hundred bedroom tax appeals this week alone in the Liverpool Tribunals now that the large number of appeals from neighbouring Sefton are finally reaching the Tribunal in Liverpool

_______________________________________________________________________________

Please don’t make the mistake by assuming my comments above are party political; they are in fact apolitical as any politician who deliberately and knowingly misleads Parliament should be censured and brought to book.  If any employee did this act of gross misconduct – which deliberately and knowingly misleading is – they would be sacked. In any other workplace it is called barefaced lies yet we are not allowed to say that Parliamentarians lie are we?  Yet in doing precisely this Lord Freud affronts democracy and the democratic process in overtly and knowingly misleading Parliament and the electorate.

Lords and MPs are public servants and should not be allowed to overtly and knowingly mislead.

Yes I know that reads as really naive but it is not at all.

The deliberate deceptions by Lord Freud here are not semantic they are simple numbers and numbers are matters of fact not matters of subjectivity that semantics or sophistry can be manipulated. That is why these matters are so important and go way beyond the bedroom tax or any other policy. Those in political positions of power and influence should NOT be allowed to knowingly mislead Parliament or the electorate yet we the meek British public allow them to do this time after time.

We reap what we sow by our indifference and ‘Britishness’ in not saying what this is  - a pack of lies, deliberate and knowing lies that will just keep on happening until we say enough is enough. The more we bite our lip and say nothing the further we allow politicians to become despotic and believe their own hype and their self-perceived Master of the Universe position continues.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

And here is that session today in the House of Lords

With some use of red ink to highlight

Housing: Underoccupancy Charge

Question

2.50 pm

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government when they expect to publish their interim review on the under-occupancy charge.

Baroness Quin (Lab):

I welcome that reply although I note that last October the Minister said that he expected the report to come out in the spring, which has now come and gone. Can he assure me that in the meanwhile, he and his colleagues will be meeting some of the many people who have indicated their willingness to downsize but for whom there is no alternative accommodation and nevertheless end up having to pay a bedroom tax that they cannot afford?

Lord Freud:

There are some 200,000 smaller premises in the social rented sector available through each year. We are now seeing a good increase in the number of home exchanges. Some systems are going up and the housing partners’ HomeSwapper scheme, for instance, has now had a 25% increase partly because of the effect of this change.

Baroness Turner of Camden (Lab):

Is the Minister aware of disputed cases being referred to the Local Government Ombudsman for decisions? If so, have there been any decisions in favour of the claimant as I understand that some people have disputed the charges that have been made under the bedroom tax?

Lord Freud:

I am not aware of the ombudsman process. The process of which I am aware is when people appeal to the tribunal; there have been more than 100 such cases, which have gone one way or the other—some have gone to appeal and some have been accepted.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes (Con):

My Lords, many older people do not want to leave the property in which they have lived for many years, and I have suggested in the past that they should be able to take in a lodger, which would help pay their costs. However, I have been told that many authorities do not allow people to take in lodgers. Is the department is aware of that and is anything being done to ensure that people who wish to take in a lodger—many people are looking for accommodation—can do so in order to stay where they are?

Lord Freud:

We are encouraging people to take in lodgers when appropriate for them (NICE CAVEAT!! anyone define “appropriate” for me?). Housing associations and local authorities are looking at that and tend to accept that that is a way of doing it. There is some confusion between strictures against subletting, which is a different matter entirely, but lodging tends to be accepted around the country.

The Lord Bishop of St Albans:

My Lords, the Ipsos MORI report, undertaken by the National Housing Federation in February this year looked at 183 housing associations. It found that two-thirds of tenants affected by the underoccupancy charge were in rent arrears and 38% indicated that they were in debt. That is the equivalent of 72,000  tenants in housing associations in debt in England alone, which seems to be allied in some way to the underoccupancy charge. What assessment have Her Majesty’s Government made of the impact on housing associations of rent arrears because of the underoccupancy charge?

Lord Freud:

We have a general look at the level of arrears through the Homes and Communities Agency, whose statistics show that arrears have fallen—not risen—for the past two quarters in a row. The average rent collection rate for associations remains at 99%, a very high figure, which is very much at variance with some of the stories that we hear and the data that the right reverend Prelate referred to.

Lord Richard (Lab):

The noble Lord was asked by noble friend Lady Quin when the Government expect to publish the interim report. I may have missed it but I did not detect any Answer from the Minister as to when the Government expect to publish the report. Can he tell us why it is so delayed?

Lord Freud:

My Lords, I must learn how to enunciate better. I will repeat my Answer: we expect to publish the interim report by the Summer Recess.

Lord Deben (Con): (This is John Selwyn Gummer by the way)

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that, if he is going to visit and meet people who have been concerned with this, he will also meet people who have lived in overcrowded conditions for long periods of time because of the underoccupation of homes that ought to have been available for them?

Lord Freud:

My Lords, that is clearly one of the points of getting a better match for our very scarce housing. There are long waiting lists for social housing and substantial overcrowding. Depending on the data at which you look, there are more than 250,000 overcrowded homes in the social rented sector. On the census basis, that figure rises to 361,000.

Baroness Howe of Idlicote (CB):

My Lords, can the Minister tell us whether the interim review will include an assessment of how the underoccupancy charge affects people with conditions such as Parkinson’s, which can involve night terrors and uncontrollable movements that make it completely impractical for their partners to sleep in close proximity?

What a good question!! Clearly yet another matter the coalition couldnt write on the back of the fag packet!

Lord Freud:

My Lords, for obvious reasons, I have not seen the report. It will be published but I am not aware of that kind of detail at this stage. Clearly once the report is out we can look at the issues that remain uncovered. There will be a full report, which will be published next year in 2015.

Baroness Sherlock (Lab):

My Lords, the Minister has often complained about councils underspending the discretionary funds that mitigate the effect of the bedroom fax. Did he see the report in Inside Housing last week which stated that £7 million of the extra £20 million allocated by the Government last July remains unallocated to councils by the Government? An FoI request showed that 27 councils did not get the money they asked for mostly because the department decided that this would allow them to buy out the effects of the bedroom tax. So people asked for money, were turned down because it would have the effect that was wanted, and then it is claimed that the underspend shows that they did not need any more money in the first place. How can the Minister explain that to the thousands of people affected by the bedroom tax?

Good question and very specific! So dis Lord Freud answer? (Sorry reader that was rhetorical!)

Lord Freud:

My Lords, some of my more sharp-eyed colleagues here will have seen the information we put out on the discretionary housing payments for last year. That showed that there was a £13 million underspend by 240 councils and that of the £20 million bidding fund, £7 million was not spent. The £20 million was not applied for in its entirety. However, we allocated that money on the basis of parity of requirement. There was an extensive process to make sure that we gave the appropriate amounts of money to those councils.

Lord German (LD):

My Lords, the Ipsos MORI review, of course, is much awaited, not least by the Master of the Rolls who, in making a judgment in favour of the Government, said that the DWP had informed him that,

“the scheme may need to be modified in the light of experience”.

When the independent review comes out and my noble friend sees it before the Summer Recess, will he agree to act upon it and take decisions to make changes to the scheme so that it fits the experience shown by his independent review?

THE ABOVE MAY PROVE TO BE VERY INTERESTING INDEED

Lord Freud:

My Lords, we always look very closely at any research that is done and we will do no differently with this research.

__________________________________________________________________________

And dear reader that is it, the full extent of the sham and knowing deceit of Lord Freud – Forgive me if “The knowing deceit of Lord Freud” sounds like the title of a book or play which it does.  Is this because it is said so often do you think?

 

 

 

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