Forget heartless, IDS is INCOMPETENT

The man whose policies have single handedly managed to increase the housing benefit bill by a billion pounds per year in real terms  – or about £2.74 million per day if you prefer – with the bedroom tax, benefit cap, LHA cap and SAR cap; policies which all sought to reduce it, is now concerning his pea-brain with what work those migrated from Incapacity Benefit onto ESA could do!

Yes the God-fearing Christian himself Iain Duncan Smith now wants to blame the lazy disabled bar stewards for his back of a fag packet inept policy cock-ups.

Here he is in fine form as usual in yesterdays Daily Mail:

ids can do

A new test designed to assess what work long-term sick people COULD DO!

Leaving aside that this is all about IDS seeking to blame anyone and everyone else for HIS incompetence let us explore what that wonderfully superficial phrase means.

Take the man below as a starting point:

ids fit for work

  1. The IDS plan is firstly imagine the man above with 180 less of an IQ score as (a) the work any person COULD do is infinite, and (b) 180 less on an IQ score than the man above is perhaps 99% of the population in any case.
  2. THEN take off both his legs.
  3. THEN cut off one arm
  4. THEN cut off three fingers and a thumb from the remaining hand.

Now could such a person man a supermarket checkout and scan your groceries?

Of course he COULD!  And this is what IDS means that everybody COULD DO SOMETHING and ergo if you are not doing anything you must be a lazy scrounger!

Yet any such person would also be able to do a better bloody job as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions rather than the truly incompetent and incumbent buffoon IDS.

Here once again is the excerpt from the Institute of Fiscal Studies think tank report from a few a months ago with regard to housing benefit…ah HB that burgeoning welfare benefit IDS said the last Conservative-led coalition would reduce from its £20 billion per year by nearly £2 billion with the bedroom tax, benefit cap, LHA cap and SAR cap (the HB reforms.)

ifs hb real terms

Yes over £1 billion per year MORE and in real terms for his HB reforms.

The DWP said in its magazine called HB Digest published in early July 2010 that:

The Chancellor announced a package of Housing Benefit (HB) reforms in his Budget statement on 22 June. Ministers are clear that the overall cost of HB, forecast to be around £20 billion this financial year, must be controlled and reduced. The package of reforms will save nearly £2 billion by 2014/2015

And here is Cameron telling bare-faced lies to Parliament on HB cost back on 11 January 2012 Cameron lies about Housing Benefit at PMQs today. He said:

All parties are committed, as I understand it, to reform housing benefit. That was Labour’s commitment before the last election. The housing benefit bill is completely out of control. Labour’s own welfare spokesman said last week that at £20 billion, it was unacceptable and it had to change and what we’ve seen so far, as housing benefit has been reformed and reduced, is that actually we have seen rent levels come down. So we’ve stopped ripping off the taxpayer.”

Cameron said “…as housing benefit has been reformed and reduced”

Yet the HB bill had INCREASED by 2012 and surprise, surprise, it increased again in 2013 and in 2014 and yes in 2015 just for good measure.  And Cameron has lied about HB cost a few times more at PMQs too but then given Cameron has also stated the disabled are exempt from the bedroom tax…..

The HB bill now stands at over £24 billion per year and despite the HB reforms that all deduct HB at source which means their increased real term costs are down to the HB reforms creating other and higher HB costs elsewhere.  Maybe we should all send IDS a bigger fag packet on which he can formulate policy, but please no donations or sharp pencils…

It is not what job anyone COULD do that matters is it?  It’s the performance of the person in the job that really matters and the performance of Iain Duncan Smith has been one of rank incompetence and very costly failure.

Forget that he is a truly heartless bastard which he may well be as that is the image he seeks and craves and keeps him in his job. He is incompetent.

The real issue with IDS is that he is an incompetent and dangerous chancer and it is about time we all recognised that and stopped damning him for being a heartless bastard which only serves to increase his chances of staying in post.

Room use, disability and bedroom tax – A favourable UT precedent

If you have a reasonable alternate use of a room in your home that can be supported by professional evidence then a therapy room or store room can be deemed NOT to be a bedroom.

The Upper Tribunal issued a judgment dated 6 May 2015 that in exceptional circumstances the usage a tenant makes of a room that

  • (a) would otherwise be a bedroom; and
  • (b) would be a bedroom if the property were vacant; and
  • (c) had even been previously used as a bedroom…is NOT a bedroom.

This legal precedent is god news for many disabled households and can provide a solid basis for a successful bedroom tax appeal.  It is also surprisingly little known and hopefully this will change that very low level of awareness and provide some hope in light of yesterday’s offensive attacks on the “sickness culture” by IDS in which he singled out those with mental health issues.

The much greater awareness of this significant legal precedent in the bedroom tax could not be more timely.

IDS behind bars? (If only!)

British Secretary of State for Work and Pensions Iain Duncan Smith arrives for a Cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, on May 15, 2012. AFP PHOTO/BEN STANSALL        (Photo credit should read BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages)
BEN STANSALL/AFP/GettyImages)

The case [2015] UKUT 0282 (AAC) when read carefully can be used to include any former or potential bedroom that has been deemed as necessary for any other purpose with regards to a mental health condition or need if there is supporting evidence from a professional for such a new and necessary purpose of the room.

If a room that can be a bedroom or even was has a necessary use for (a) mental health and/or (b) therapeutic reasons and, critically (c) there is professional evidence for such purposes, then the room is not a bedroom.

This precedent is significant for two reasons:

  1. It is all about room use for  a mental health / therapeutic reason and not just a physically adapted room such as a wet room.
  2. There is no need for any landlord permission or even cognisance of this room use.

It comes down to the key issue of the individual facts of the individual case and not the landlord’s designation.

The critical issue is stated at [15] when after a summary of submitted arguments and both sides used the Nelson Fife precedent the judge says this:

15.    I am of the opinion that the Nelson decision goes no further than saying that normally the family designation and choice is not a relevant factor, but leaves open the question of whether or not there might be exceptional circumstances when re-designation might be appropriate.The Nelson decision does recognised at paragraph 29 that issues as to the designation of rooms can arise and specifically refer to the conversion of a room to a bathroom or wet room which could normally only be done with the consent of the landlord.I therefore see no reason why designation on professional advice for a mental health or mental disability condition could not also be one of those circumstances that a tribunal can take into account in determining whether or not a room is available to “be used as a bedroom” – paragraph 28(ii).  If re-designation is limited to physical conversion only for a physically disabled person, but that this re-designation is not available to a mentally disabled person when required on profession advice, then I consider that would amount to discrimination for no rational reason.

Or simply if a room can be adapted for a physical disability such as a wet room then to disallow its necessary and reasonable alternate room use for a mental health condition is preposterous and discriminatory.

That is perfectly cogent and strongly substantiates my consistent argument to be found in para [54] of the Nelson cases which said the council have to consider all relevant circumstances on a case by case basis as that was and is the intention of Parliament.

As the judge signs off  at [18]: –

“In the present case there was a sufficient factual basis for the FtT’s decision and therefore I am not in a position to reach a different view on the facts.”

The facts once again prove to be the key and it is the individual facts of the individual case which are important and which your council has to consider when making the bedroom tax decision.

This precedent guides disabled tenants in appealing this bedroom tax and  note exceptional circumstances does not mean rare as hen’s teeth, it means simply if the use to which a room is put is (a) reasonable and (b) has supporting medical evidence.

This precedent can be applied to a great many therapy rooms and the many store rooms for the disabled household which lazily councils wrongly state to be a bedroom and nothing else.

If you have a viable and reasonable alternate use for what could be a bedroom, whether that be:

  • the necessary storage of disability equipment and there being nowhere else for such storage, or
  • whether a room has been identified as a form of necessary therapy room and whatever that therapeutic use is…

Then IF you have support for that use from a doctor or social worker or any other professional then make sure you include that in your appeal.  I cannot stress the importance of this form of medical / professional support being in your appeal papers.

If the supporting evidence is in your First-tier appeal such as it was in this case (see [14] ) then the First-tier judge is able to rule in your favour on the alternate use of a room.  If it is not then regardless of the merits of your case it is likely to fail at the first hurdle.

For the full judgment click here

Full text follows in blue and is easier to click above and download and I include here just for completeness.

THE UPPER TRIBUNAL

ADMINISTRATIVE APPEALS CHAMBER

DECISION OF THE UPPER TRIBUNAL JUDGE

Before: Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt QC, Tribunal Judge

Attendances:

For the Appellant: Philip Simpson QC instructed by James Clark, Solicitor, of the Office of the Solicitor to the Advocate General

For the Respondent:   Mr Chris Orr

For Local Authority:     No appearance

The appeal against the decision of the tribunal given at Glasgow on 12 June 2014 is refused. The appeal is dismissed and the decision of the tribunal is confirmed.

REASONS FOR DECISION

General

1.            I held an oral hearing at the request of the claimant’s representative on 6 May 2015 at Edinburgh. In accordance with my directions, the parties put in Notes of Argument which can be found at pages 102 to 105 (Secretary of State) and pages 132 and 133 (Claimant). I refer to these Notes of Argument.

2.            This is an appeal by the Secretary of State against the decision of the FtT given at Glasgow on 12 June 2014 in which the FtT allowed the appeal in part on the grounds that one downstairs bedroom was no longer a bedroom because it had been converted to a living room for the disabled claimant. The FtT said it found “it credible and reasonable that the appellant required her own living space because of her disability and was satisfied that due to its long established use as a living room, the room in question has ceased to be a bedroom”. The FtT also accepted that the room had originally been used by the family as a bedroom.

Secretary of State’s grounds of appeal and submissions

3.            The Secretary of State appeals on the ground that having regard to the 3 judge decision in SSWP v Nelson and Fife Council [2014] UKUT 0525 (AAC) (the “Nelson decision”) the test is not what use is made of the room, but whether the room could be used as a bedroom looking at the property as if it was vacant. It is argued that it is clear from the FtT decision that the house was let as a four bedroomed house and that the room in question could be used as a bedroom and therefore the tribunal had erred in applying a long established use test which was not supported by authority. In the Note of Argument the Secretary of State set out in full paragraphs 27 to 30 of the Nelson Decision and then summarised the import of the decision as follows:

4.            “4.        Putting these propositions in a slightly different order, the Upper Tribunal’s decision was:

a)         the test is how many rooms are available to be used as bedrooms (paragraph 28(ii));

b)         accordingly, the assessment should be done on the basis that the property is vacant (paragraph 28(ii));

c)         a starting point for this assessment is the landlord’s designation of the rooms, but that is not conclusive (paragraph 29);

d)         the main relevant factors are the objective physical characteristics of the room (paragraph 31);

e)         if rooms have been converted by material works from one use to another, this may be taken into account, in particular if the landlord’s consent was obtained to those works and the landlord may thus be regarded as having changed the designation of the room (paragraph 29); but

f)          in the absence of any works, mere use as one type of room rather than another is unlikely to have any material effect on the assessment of whether the room counts as a bedroom for the purpose of the relevant provision (paragraph 27(iii)).”

Reference was also made to CSH/673/2014 in which the FtT’s decision that a room used by a severely disabled adult daughter which was necessary for the continued occupancy by Miss (G) of her home as carer for her dependant daughter was overturned.

5.            It should be noted that the FtT’s decision was given on 12 June 2014 before the Nelson decision which was given on 18 September 2014.

6.            At the oral hearing Mr Simpson basically emphasised the Note of Argument and reiterated that the tribunal was concerned with primarily the landlord’s original designation of the rooms, which was important although he accepted as not conclusive and that it was only where a room had been physically converted by works that it might change from a bedroom.

Claimant’s Note of Argument

7.            Mr Orr’s Note of Argument (page 132) submits that the Secretary of State’s proposition means that if the landlord classified a room as a bedroom then that is and end of the matter. He goes on to refer to the Nelson decision and points out that properly read:

“This clearly allows that there is room for a redesignation.

The relevant facts in this case point to a reasonable medical basis for redesignation. The likelihood that the new use will be permanent or long term.

The examples given of redesignations that are given only related to examples involving physical alterations to the property for persons with physical disabilities. If this is taken to be the only type of case where redesignation is possible then I would regard that as unreasonable as it would discriminate with no rational basis between those with mental health problems or learning disabilities and those with physical disabilities.

If Nelson is taken to have excluded any redesignation in a case such as my clients then I would regard it as incorrectly decided”

8.            I raised Mr Orr’s discrimination point with Mr Simpson during the course of his submissions and asked him if he accepted that if a room could be re-designated by physical changes would it not also be reasonable to re-designate a room if it was required for mental health reasons. We discussed the example of a physically disabled person who required a room to be converted into a wet room to be compared with a mentally disabled person who medically required a “quiet” room and asked if it would be discriminatory to say that the physically disabled person could re-designate a room but a mentally disabled person could not re-designate. As I understood his position, it was that while this might be theoretically possible this was not one of those cases and that the tribunal had gone too far.

9.            Mr Orr had nothing to add to his Note of Argument after I had raised these issues with Mr Simpson.

Discussion

10.          The Nelson decision makes clear at paragraphs 27 to 30 that generally the test is whether the room could be used as a bedroom and regard is also had to the landlord’s designation. Further designations or choices made by the family were “unlikely to have an impact on the application of the regulation”. In the present case there is no doubt on the FtT’s findings that the room was originally used as a bedroom and could have been used as such.

11.          However, in paragraph 27 of the Nelson decision the tribunal states:

“In our view, when read as a whole Regulation B13 provides that in determining whether there is under occupancy that triggers a reduction in housing benefit:

  1. … and

iii)           designation or choices made by the family as to who should occupy rooms as bedrooms or how rooms should be used is unlikely to have an impact on the application of the regulation.

            (We have not expressed point (iii) in absolute terms because it was not the focus of argument in this case and without such focused argument we do not consider that it would be appropriate to say that such designation or choice can never be relevant and the qualification made in paragraph 29 below is relevant.)”

12.          Sub-paragraph 27(iii) raises a potential issue in this case in that the tribunal recognises that they could not at present say that the choice made by a family “can never be relevant”.   Paragraph 29 states:

“29.      However, this does not mean that issues concerning the designation of rooms as between living room(s), kitchen, bathroom, lavatory, storeroom and bedroom do not arise.  For example, issues could arise (a) as to what should be designated as the living/dining areas of a property, and (b) the impact of a conversion of room to a bathroom or wet room (which could normally only be done lawfully with the consent of the landlord).”

13.          Paragraph 29 recognised that issues of designation of a room can arise and that there can be an impact from the conversion of a room, for example into a bathroom or wet room, in deciding whether or not a room is a bedroom. It is clear to me from the FtT’s decision that the tribunal has in fact decided that the claimant has reasonably designated this room as a living room. Of particular relevance in this case are the following findings of the FtT:

“6.        The appellant is a single woman.  She is 54 years old when the decision under appeal was made. She has severe learning disability and autistic traits. She is unable to live on her own. …

  1. … Shortly after returning to the property in 2009, the downstairs bedroom was converted into a living room for the appellant’s use. Mr and Mrs (X) use the original living room.  Both parties require some privacy.  In particular, the appellant can get unsettled and agitated and wants her own space to watch television programmes she likes and listen to music. She has a television in her bedroom but does not use it.  She has carers who call twice a week to take her out and spends some time in her living room with them.

  1. … I concluded that whether or not a room is a bedroom is a question of fact to be decided in light of the circumstances pertaining to the case at issue. I found it credible and reasonable that the appellant required her own living space because of her disability and was satisfied that due its long established use as a living room, the room in question had ceased to be a bedroom.”

14.          These findings are supported by the Money Matters appeal letter which says “Above tenant has health reasons meaning that she requires using the extra bedroom as living space” and includes a letter from the Glasgow City Council Social Work Services (page 52) which states:

“I was the social worker who was involved in planning around Mr and Mrs (X) moving in with (the claimant) to care for her. During the planning process it was planned that we should try and maximise the living space in order that (the claimant) could have her own lounge area and in turn provide a degree of private space for her carers.  The reason for this is that (the claimant) likes to watch her TV and listen to Music as therapeutic activity. However, due to her disability, autistic traits and behavioural issues she can get very obsessive about certain programmes and or DVD’s and CD’s that she uses repeatedly.  (The claimant) can also be vocally repetitive which can be challenge for her carers.  It was therefore felt that both (the claimant) and her carers would benefit if (the claimant) had a separate lounge to use for the above therapeutic purpose and carer support and privacy.”

15.          I am of the opinion that the Nelson decision goes no further than saying that normally the family designation and choice is not a relevant factor, but leaves open the question of whether or not there might be exceptional circumstances when re-designation might be appropriate. The Nelson decision does recognised at paragraph 29 that issues as to the designation of rooms can arise and specifically refer to the conversion of a room to a bathroom or wet room which could normally only be done with the consent of the landlord. I therefore see no reason why designation on professional advice for a mental health or mental disability condition could not also be one of those circumstances that a tribunal can take into account in determining whether or not a room is available to “be used as a bedroom” – paragraph 28(ii).  If re-designation is limited to physical conversion only for a physically disabled person, but that this re-designation is not available to a mentally disabled person when required on profession advice, then I consider that would amount to discrimination for no rational reason.

16.          I therefore refuse the appeal. I consider that on the material before the FtT, in particular the Social Work Letter on page 52 that the FtT was entitled to find “it credible and reasonable that the appellant required her own living space because of her disability”. The Social Work letter set out clearly that this designation of the room was “to use for the above therapeutic purpose and carer support and privacy”.  It was therefore not a family choice or designation, but was set in place by the Social worker who planned the claimant’s return to living in her own home with carers. I consider that as this is a question of fact for the FtT that the decision on the reason for the designation is not one with which I can or should interfere. There was a reasonable factual basis for the decision.  I see nothing in the Nelson decision that prevents this decision made on the exceptional facts in this decision.

17.          I have had regard to CSH/673/2014, but I only have access to the UT decision, whereas Upper Tribunal Judge May would have had access to the whole file.  It may well be that there are factual differences between that case and the present appeal that justified the decision.  Judge May was not asked to consider the discrimination point raised in this appeal. I therefore consider it neutral for my decision in this appeal.

18.          For all the above reasons I refuse the appeal.  I hold that it is a relevant factor for a tribunal that a room has been designated on professional advice for a particular use by a claimant with mental health disability in deciding whether or not a room is now available for use as a bedroom. In the present case there was a sufficient factual basis for the FtT’s decision and therefore I am not in a position to reach a different view on the facts.

(Signed)

Sir Crispin Agnew of Lochnaw Bt QC

Judge of the Upper Tribunal

Date:  6 May 2015

____________________

HA’s – the spineless within to the enemy within?

One of the huge benefits of working for yourself is you only have yourself to answer to and it can be extremely liberating. It allows me to say things I know others are thinking yet they can’t afford to say. This permits me to raise topics that are controversial or inflammatory – which I correctly call moot – as frankly any anti orthodoxy posit to social housing’s conservatism and we have always done it this way mentality is perceived that way.

The we have always done it this way posit is however not a moot one and even David Orr agrees with that in large part when on the day of the Homes for Britain rally he said this:

nhfnofuss

Housing people don’t make a fuss!  I couldn’t agree more and few if any housing people‘ could possibly disagree with that – “…that’s not us.” Whoever ‘us’ means to which I will return.

I unashamedly and freely call the ‘we don’t make a fuss‘ position spineless yet more importantly say that it is a chronic failure and simply does not and never has worked and the leadership of NHF to the majority of social landlords who are housing associations has been woeful – and again always has been.

The very next day after the HfB rally at which David Orr said that housing is on the agenda and the government fully take on board ‘our’ arguments etc, etc., saw Osborne reveal the right to buy for housing association tenants; the very antithesis of what the HA’s wanted.

This has developed into all sorts of rage and apoplexy by ‘housing people’ with the Genesis issue and huge criticism of Genesis and some support as to this being realpolitik and inevitable and a clear schism has emerged. It has also led to an absolute focus by HAs on RTB2 alone and ignoring many potentially worse housing policies and to even more purported realism of often the most superficial kind (one HA CEO saying we have a majority government there is nothing we can do) as if coalition government was the norm!

Yet in all of this rage, apoplexy, introspective navel gazing and even hostility, nobody within the housing sector – what even Orr can’t come to call a sector – there has been no criticism whatsoever of David Orr, the NHF more widely or the decades old orthodoxy of the we don’t make a fuss strategy!

Are housing people spineless, deluded, incompetent, set in their cautious introspective ways or just petrified to even begin to criticise the man regularly voted as the most influential person in social housing?

My only having to answer for and to myself permits me to raise this and while I have no personal axe to grind with David Orr, he is the CEO of the NHF and his strategies have failed and the buck stops with him.

There is and cannot be any doubt whatsoever that the “we don’t make a fuss” strategy has been deliberate National Housing Federation policy. There is and cannot be any doubt whatsoever that the “we don’t make a fuss” strategy has been a colossal failure and for the entire social housing sector.

Yes I am hammering that point home because it needs to be hammered home and 14 years of David Orr at the helm of the NHF has seen little, if any, positive results for the social housing model.  The (at best) acquiescence to the original Affordable Homes Programme as a stop-gap compromise to the failure to even keep the then woefully inefficient grant levels which were further cut by 60% to the now realisation of its bastard devil child in the AR model being utterly financially toxic to all social landlords is a case in point.

The ridiculous hype of the HFB rally and 200,000 homes per year for a (woefully vague and wholly impractical) generation has become A Plan for Homes with a 40% drop in the number to 120,000 and not 1 of those being a social rent property.

selloutnhf

Yet still the NHF received n criticism whatsoever from the (spineless?) housing people who purport to be a sector – not even the mildest of mild constructive criticism has flowed from the spineless within to the enemy within!

Did that throwaway phrase raise your blood pressure housing people?  It was meant to and it was deliberately provocative…and of course allows you to carry on as before in the same spineless way and label the very real issues here as some form of outrageous rant by the Maverick author.

Regrettably and dangerously for the survival of the social housing model any criticism of anyone within the ethereal and imaginary housing sector is met with the most defensive form of response from the sector – the how dare you say that response!

David Orr said on 12 August 201 just a week or so ago:

“Like most of the housing sector and much of the country at large I was glued to the TV on election night. Greater political minds than mine will be assessing those remarkable results, but coming off the back of our massively successful Homes for Britain campaign I was confident…”

Ye Gods!  If Homes for Britain which led to the cancer of RTB2 is a massive success !!!

To a lesser degree we see this delusion of HfB ‘success’ lead to housing people saying what a wonderful success it is for RTB2 to be front page news in the Independent!  As I said here yesterday …SO WHAT!

What has changed? Has the government dropped, withdrawn or amended RTB2 in any way?  No, so there is no impact whatsoever yet still many housing people think the front page of the Independent is significant and are milling around patting themselves on the back at this totally meaningless development.

Perhaps this perverse delusion stems from the ‘untouchable’ reverence around David Orr amongst housing people and whatever the most influential person n social housing says and does has two coats of Teflon sandwiching Kevlar?

The NHF’s “A Plan for Homes” besides seeing a 40% drop and especially seeing zero new homes for social rent coupled with the untouchability of David Orr gave the greenest or green lights for the Genesis issue yet of course once again the untouchable David Orr / NHF saw no criticism or support from within the sector!  I also note the same sector were mute back in October 2014 when Affinity Sutton said they were pulling out of the AR market and no one thought to ask are they developing any properties for social rent!

If they are not then Affinity easily pre-date the opprobrium that Genesis have received and for whatever reason Genesis can be seen once again to be the convenient target for the sector…when the real ‘enemy within’ is the incompetent strategy of the NHF led by David Orr.

An article today in Inside Housing by Matthew Gardiner called the False Dichotomy discusses the internal schism within housing associations over the Genesis issue – an issue that the NHF ‘line’ plays a huge part in as explained above with their giving of the green light for this. This led to an exchange on Twitter between Matthew and Tom Murtha and others and (as is often the case with Twitters 140 character limitation) also led to misinterpretation of some very complex issues some of which are above.

One comment I made to Matthew as CE of Trafford Housing Trust was that the schism is not a two position issue (the dichotomy) and there are way more than 2 main premises.  The housing conditions and variables and ‘market’ varies even within Trafford; is radically different to say the housing market in Bury that is also on Greater Manchester and vastly different still to other LA’s within the North West region, e.g. Blackpool and Copeland as two polarities in the UK let alone the NW and then again different from the NW to the NE to the SE and to all other areas in terms of housing market conditions.

Housing is radically different in every single local authority area in GB (circa 400 LAs) and there is no such thing as a national housing issue and the National Housing Federation have never ever mentioned this despite purporting to be a national body.  They are led by and focus almost exclusively on the atypical and perverse London housing market issues that represent just 17% of the social housing GB market.  They prioritise this 17% and largely ignore the other 83% of 5 in every 6 social housing properties that are NOT in the capital.

All of this comes together in one simple example and my old friend the benefit cap reductions.  Guildford and much of Surrey and much of Hertfordshire has higher social rent levels than Inner London as the HCA’s statistical data return confirms.  The NHF must know this so why didn’t they say excuse me minister but why is the reduced benefit cap £3k per year higher in Inner London than in the higher rent area of Guildford or Elmbridge?

Such a simple question exposes the ridiculously under considered nature of this cap reduction policy that is hugely damaging to all housing associations yet the NHF chose yet again to “not make a fuss” over an issue than can do more damage to HA survival than RTB2!

I say CAN do far more damage to HA’s unless of course the HA’s simply abandon what may be called their social purpose and simply evict and pass the problem onto LAs!  This is one of the many other significant premises in the current schism and one which it would appear sees the NHF saying go ahead and evict and abandon your social purpose. Even if that is speculative what it definitively reveals is that ‘we don’t make a fuss‘ is an euphemism for we don’t do leadership!

It also neatly avoids drilling don any further as the above abandon the social purpose or not is bound to involve the anathema of Ground 8 given the average HB cut of £75.73 per week making such an eviction the only way for many HA’s to survive.  The chronic lack of leadership emanates from the we don’t make a fuss strategy which also translates to all housing associations as you are on your own guvnor!

The NHF gave a 90,000 household figure estimate to the Guardian over the reducing benefit caps (with no apparent evidence base by the way) and gave the distinct impression that this woefully inadequate estimate is somehow a form of acceptable collateral damage and/or not an issue upon which housing associations SHOULD make a fuss over!  Even the DWP’s wholly inept 126,000 households containing 330,000 children at severe risk of imminent homelessness – a figure that is 40% higher than the truly incompetent and inept NHF figure – fails to bring any fuss at all from David Orr and the Nat Fed!

Just the stating of social purpose and National Housing Federation in the same sentence must appear to be wholly false given the strong messages David Orr is sending out by his incompetent silence and not making a fuss!  Yet still there is not a jot of the mildest of mild constructive criticism of Orr and NHF from the alleged sector who claim to have a social purpose!!

I could easily draft a further 5000 words on the crass incompetence of the NHF led by David Orr and the bloody awful and suicidal spineless silence of the rest of the housing association sector with regards to the seachange this parliament will have for the social housing model and for their own survival.

I just hope all those mute HA CEO’s DO NOT get the huge golden handshake they are expecting when the super HA’s  – the real PRIVATE Registered Providers who with even more delusion than David Orr has over the success of HFB and think they can hack it in the private sector – prance into the arena on their white chargers to rescue you all!!

Now that does explain your disgraceful silence doesn’t it!

#fakeNHFstories anyone?

RTB on front pages – So what!!

UK Housing once again wets its knickers before getting them in the usual twist…and…probably….I will get the usual why are you being so negative comments from within UK Housing for stating the bloody obvious!

I am talking about the fact of 40% or so of former RTB properties costing the UK a fortune in HB as they are now in private landlord hands being front page news in the national newspapers and the deluded euphoria this creates within social housing professionals.

so what

So What!  Miles Davis above aptly springs to mind and that link is no all that jazz which UK Housing once again puts on this issue.

Has government changed its mind on RTB? No!  Has housing a hope in hell’s chance that government will relent on the right to buy for housing association tenants? No!

So RTB is on the front page of the Independent and my answer is ..so what!  Or more accurately so f*****g what!

It means nothing, diddley squat, nil, zip, nada, zilch, absolutely bugger all apart from an understandable bit of kudos for Inside Housing’s research which they are entitled to shout about.

ih so what - impact

As usual housing people exaggerate to deluded levels.  I have no issue with IH saying hey we did a good job which they did but IMPACT?  What impact?

Regrettably this epitomises housing people and includes the same poor deluded souls who similarly got deluded over the Homes for Britain rally proclaiming back in March that housing is on the agenda and the government are seriously considering our arguments and saw a £750,000 outlay and copious amounts of congratulatory imbibing and backslapping….only for less than 24 hours later seeing Osborne announce the right to buy for HA tenants!!

Another variant is housing people saying its just that we can’t get our message across – yet when you ask the same people what messages they are referring to you are met with…er..cough…splutter…er…cough…oh you know…. and all non housing people are left none the wiser!

A common factor with all variants is there – hey let’s dress this up with nice graphics or the latest bit of software and hopefully everyone will think Marshall Mcluhan was right – though its more of ….casual viewing, head buried in the sand (Oh shit I’ve mentioned Genesis, I’m definitely excommunicated by housing people now!)

When will housing people finally seek medical advice to extract their craniums out of their rectums when it comes to any form of promoting the many huge benefits that the social housing model gives?  Excuse me reader that’s a rhetorical question, don’t hold your breath!

If you’ve read this and feeling Kind of Blue then click here – enjoy!

Corbyn and housing – a welcome shift.

Despite my first degree being a BA (Hons) in Politics I rarely comment directly on political party matters.  I have a great interest in politics yet not on party politics for which I have little time and there is a critical distinction in that.  While I believe everything is political or has a political context I am often misconstrued as an old reconstituted leftie eager to attack the Tories.

Part of that is valid yet those who wish to see how I tore into the disgraceful policies of the Blair and Brown governments with regard to SP and the feckless and idiotic policies they had there which saw vulnerable people get shafted saw many no holds barred comments from me.  I will attack any policy from any party that shafts those who are vulnerable as that is part of me and a part I can and never will compromise.

The spineless abstaining of the Labour Party over the Welfare Reform Bill which has given great traction to the Corbyn campaign – he was one of the 48 who voted against it and ignored the scurrilous spineless abstention tactic – is symptomatic of the main problem with the Conservatives welfare reform policies – the absence of scrutiny by the political opposition; and because of that the absence of democracy.  Her Majesty’s official opposition is the Labour Party and they have not opposed!

Cutting to the chase and not wrapping it up, the Labour Party has been shit scared to oppose welfare reform policies in case they could be labelled as ‘pro-welfare.’

[That deserves a blue typeface; unworthy of red and cowardly yellow doesn’t come across]

As a result the Tories have increasing tightened the ‘welfare’ screw.

The Labour Party have thus been putting PARTY concerns above the best interests of the country and the best interests of democracy in not opposing.  That exemplifies the flaws in the party system which politicians see as primary above democracy. It also stinks to high heaven!

The latest Welfare Reform Bill is scary as hell and will severely shaft the most vulnerable as it includes the benefit cap reduction that will see 255,000 families made homeless and at least we now know with the bookies having Corbyn as 2/7 or even 1/4 on to be the next permanent Labour leader that these austerity policies will, at long last, have some genuine opposition.

That means they are 80% or so certain in simple terms and the nearest challanger is Burnham with a 20% chance. The bookies are rarely wrong and never that wrong!

With Corbyn we will have something resembling scrutiny and democracy and that can only be a good thing and especially for those I correctly term as vulnerable and the Conservatives seek at every turn to label scroungers.

Politics is a game and a highly superficial one with the first move advantage (aka no smoke without fire) being a key weapon.  Why should the taxpayer allow a scrounger to have a spare room the hardworking family cannot afford to have is a classic example of how the bedroom tax was sold to the electorate who lapped it up, at least initially.

Yet the constant imagery of severely disabled people on TV and across social media changed the public view and they now oppose this policy by a majority.  The Labour Party made a belated and frankly half-arsed attempt to oppose the bedroom tax as I have detailed in dozens of blogs over the last year or so.  They saw an opportunity that an anti bedroom tax stance held potential votes in simple terms – Imagine if they had any competence or balls in scrutinising other welfare reforms….!

Corbyn has cleverly sidestepped all the barbs put his way by the right wing media, sorry I mean the left-winger Corbyn as the truly impartial BBC and the rest of the media always label him!  You get my point.  He has even sidestepped the Clause 4 question which journalists have been queuing up to put to him and Corbyn must know that the British public are overwhelmingly behind the renationalisation of the railways and will vote for that too – so much for public ownership being the policy of the dinosaur.

The BR example is significant as here we have an inefficient nationalised industry that needed to be freed up and run effectively by the much more efficient market….only for the market to have failed catastrophically and the public who still believe the inefficient public sector tag of the neo-liberal Conservatives now know from daily experience that the privately run BR is much worse than the old and supposed inefficient publicly run BR.

The renationalisation of the railways is hugely popular with the public and, significantly, it changes the orthodoxy of public inefficiency and private sector uber efficiency that the Conservatives and Labour have promoted as fact when it is largely myth and in my professional context has exacerbated hugely the housing supply crisis to which I return.

Austerity is the next stage of the neo-liberal let’s privatise everything experiment begun by Thatcher and yet without any real scrutiny from the official opposition the public’s view of the bedroom tax has done a complete U-turn.  With scrutiny that Corbyn is fully expected to provide (or in simple terms he is not shit scared of opposing ‘austerity’) then the rest of the welfare reforms will unravel and quickly so.

Even if my strongly evidence based projections of 255,000 families containing 850,000+ children made homeless with the reducing benefit caps are wholly wrong and the DWP’s non-evidence based 126,000 families with 330,000 are correct then that is still a city the size of Liverpool made homeless and Corbyn, or should that be how-dare-anyone-oppose-austerity Corbyn, will ensure that this is totally not acceptable and an outrage for any decent society to allow and especially when even the IFS think tank and dahlings of the Conservatives have admitted the benefit cap actually costs MORE!

Challenging the many huge myths and superficialities of the Conservatives ‘welfare’ reforms (sic) presents a whole new political paradigm and PMQs is going to be very interesting indeed.  Corbyn is a renowned parliamentary debater and his own brand of politics being totally against this meaningless bullshit term we all call “austerity” will be worth watching.  We will have debate and scrutiny and much greater democracy because of it.

That is why I positively welcome Corbyn as Labour leader.  He will oppose and he will scrutinise and he will bring back democracy and God forbid even political principle and not accept the neo-liberal orthodoxy that “New Labour” adopted and still seek to hold onto with the Blairite other candidates, that has failed in terms of the railways, and in housing terms as well as in many other areas.

I am not a member of the Labour or indeed any party as I have grave misgivings over the primacy of the party system in relation to democracy.  On 11 May 2015, the day after the last general election I thought that Labour has no chance whatsoever of winning an overall majority at the 2020 election even if they had Marvo the Magician as it’s leader unless the EU referendum blows the Conservative Party apart, which it may well do.  Then again it could also blow Labour apart though to a lesser degree.

What is certain is the uncertainty of the rest of this parliament and the certainty that it is far from all being about austerity or whether Corbyn was ever pictured reading Das Kapital or even ate more than a tin of cold beans which must have severely disappointed the Daily Mail dirt diggers!  You never know Corbyn may even highlight that the Daily Mail is not registered in the UK to avoid tax yet presents itself as the epitome of Britishness (which businesses avoiding tax it probably is the epitome!)

Politics is about to become a lot more fun and a lot more democratic should Corbyn become leader of Her Majesty’s Official Opposition and whatever your political leanings we should all welcome that increase in transparency and democracy.

whill2

NB – The odds above are to become the outright leader not just win the first ballot and rarely, if ever, are the bookies so wrong.

In a professional context I have only looked at Corbyn’s policies, such as they are, in terms of social housing for which he is strongly in favour of and in favour of increasing.  That will come as a welcome change and frankly sticks out like a sore thumb amongst all politicians of all parties and even the many right wing professionals in social housing should welcome strongly.

The tenants of social housing, often the most vulnerable people as that is the only place that does house them, should also welcome Corbyn if only for the fact he will scrutinise the ridiculous current housing policy.  It is well worth remembering as this point that the SHOUT report which said any government would be a foll not to fund more social housing was drafted and presented by a neo-liberal laissez faire economist.  Again much for social landlord and social tenant to welcome.

As I said in my opening I am very interested in politics (not parties) and the political landscape and debate and every other aspect of it will change dramatically and mostly for the better if Corbyn becomes Labour leader.  We will have radical opposition which is needed when you have radical (if not rabid) policy emanating from government.

The cigarette paper width between current Labour and Conservative policies is damaging to democracy and has to change and change radically.  A consequence of this is the Labour manifesto supported the reducing benefit caps and its interim leader emphasised that Labour supported them and Frank Field as Chair of the Work and Pensions Committee says he is ‘really happy’ with the benefit cap reduction.

The lack of scrutiny to this nefarious policy which sees a mum with a day old baby having to work or face imminent eviction and homelessness is what this policy means.  If she cannot work and cannot get child care than the average £75 per week reduction in her housing benefit will see her evicted post haste for arrears – that is precisely how this policy impacts.

If anything ever exposes the complete lack of any scrutiny it is this.  The current Labour Party is a spineless regime concerned only with itself and fearful of opposing anything that could be deemed to be “welfare.”  That is an affront to any society even non democracies yet aptly describes the same as before realpolitik of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall.  The ‘hope’ many say Corbyn has brought to the arena is really an enough is enough position of so many.

The ‘hope’ that Corbyn has engendered in many dormant voters as evidence in the numbers registering and which currently dominates social media must transfer and translate into real hope that finally the policy excesses of this Conservative administration are scrutinised and we start to have a healthy opposition.

_________________________________

Housing and Corbyn position?  Here is something from his website which is undated yet clearly has been written shortly after the 2007 Labour Leadership and Deputy Leadership campaigns.  Corbyn’s views n social housing will accord with a great many working in UK Housing

Housing

Filed under:

During the Deputy Leadership Campaign, the issue of housing came to the fore, thanks to questions from party members, and the readiness of Jon Cruddas to take the issue up. John McDonnell also quite correctly, made a big pitch about housing in his leadership campaign.

[The above opening must date this undated piece sometime shortly after the 2007 Leadership and Deputy Labour Leadership campaigns – JH]

It seems that at last the higher echelons of the Parliamentary Labour Party have recognised that the crisis of the lack of council housing and other forms of social housing is very damaging to Labour supporters and to our prospects for the future.

The government has now produced a Green Paper for consultation, which is rather vague on actual proposals, but does acknowledge that unless there is a big increase in the building of houses for controlled rent, the lives of many people, particularly inner city Britain, will be permanently scarred and blighted.

The consultation period ends in mid October, and it is essential that representations are made to the Department of Communities to set out the key issues surrounding housing. Firstly, the Government must accept the terms of the 4th Option. At the moment, local authority tenants have the choice of Stock Transfer to a Housing Association, the establishment of an Arms Length Management Organisation (ALMOs), or full privatisation of their estates. If they opt to remain as Council tenants they are then punished via an inability to invest and improve the estates through government inspired loans or grants. Despite this, thousands of tenants all over the country voted to remain as Council tenants because they believe this will give them greater accountability over their landlord. It is high time this issue is resolved and Council tenants are given a genuine choice.

Secondly, the only way that the housing crisis for the majority of people can be resolved, is by the building of large number of Council houses. The last Labour government, (1979) even towards the end, was building 100,000 new Council homes a year. This eventually fell to 0 under the Tories, and under the early years of New Labour. The philosophy of the government since 1997 has essentially been to tack social housing as an add-on to private sector development, and say that social housing is only affordable if accompanied by high priced private developments. This philosophy has to be challenged. We should be building Council housing because we need it as a national priority.

Thirdly, many people are tenants of housing associations, or leaseholders through part-rent, part-purchase arrangements, and feel unrepresented by those associations who are increasingly behaving like private sector property developers rather than responsible social organisations. It is time that real democracy was brought to housing associations and real accountability for their expenditure, and they were legally prevented from selling off vacant properties in order to fund new developments.

Fourthly, many people, especially in major cities, are now leading precarious lives in the private rented sector. This is largely unregulated and very expensive, for people who can ill afford it. The1974 Labour government, despite being in a parliamentary minority, introduced comprehensive protection for private sector tenants and rent controls. Whilst this might go against the grain of New Labour thinking, it is necessary to prevent the exploitation of people’s desperate housing needs, by burgeoning private landlords who are given tax incentives to build places for rent.

For a government that is dedicated to getting value for money in the public sector, it is incredibly wasteful to refuse Local Authorities the opportunity to build new Council houses whilst at the same time, through the Housing Benefit system, shoring up the worst aspects of the private landlord system. I am constantly shocked by the disgraceful conditions that many otherwise homeless families are forced to live in when they are placed in privately rented accommodation by housing authorities. I frequently come across families for whom housing benefit pays rents of £300 per week for appallingly maintained flats. This is a crying shame, a waste of public money, and a benefit trap for those unfortunate families placed in this position.

We have the opportunity to turn things around and produce housing for need, and to stop our obsession with feeding the voracious private sector market.

http://jeremycorbyn.org.uk/articles/housing/

 

Social Housing in Jericho

Social housing:-

  1. The best product
  2. The best service
  3. The best price.

Yet it has the worst reputation!

This is the ultimate perversity of any good or service as this simply should not happen and goes against every conceivable business tenet and tract and defies logic and common sense.  It is all the more perverse when that same product and service is so hugely in demand: Yet all the above is reality and fact so…

…what the hell is going on here?

That is the question that everyone in social housing needs to address and quickly.  That same question has been met with the lazy ostrich swan syndrome or LOSS for the past 35 years since the original right to buy.

  • Lazy – everyone has thought it was someone else’s job to promote the social housing model
  • Ostrich – everyone has buried their heads in the sand over this
  • Swan – Mute!
  • Syndrome – All the above has been a pervasive consensus and commonplace and easily recognisable

In the UK you either buy or rent a property in broad terms.  The rental market, outside of Mayfair penthouses et al, is between the social rented sector, the SRS of council and housing association landlords or the PRS the private rented sector. Whether you rent in order to save for a mortgage deposit or will never be able or even inclined to buy matters not a jot, the choice is the SRS or the PRS.

The simple comparison between these two sectors has universal agreement that the SRS average property is of a better standard which for example Decent Homes criteria proves beyond any doubt, the customer has a better service level backed up by statute and case law and of course it is much cheaper to rent.

I am not disparaging private landlords as many of them are very good,  I am simply saying all the above is true and valid and has very little moot points or disagreement. Yet the laziness amongst social housing professionals is stark as they have always failed to promote the social housing model – and even that assumes they have even attempted to do so.

JERICHOWALLS

The best product / best service / best price arguments are simple and very powerful and they apply right across the very diverse housing markets we have in the UK whether we have £1 houses for sale in the North East or whether referring to Mayfair.  These best product / best service / best price arguments form the social housing model which underpins social housing yet they are never sold and never have been and that is gross negligence!

Irrespective of the inevitable housing silo mentality that sees widely different housing issue on a regional and intraregional basis, the social housing model, the best product / best service / best price arguments still pertain yet are never stated.

Instead we have the housing sectors umbrella organisations in CIH, NHF etc now squawking like headless chickens over the Housing Regulators VfM agenda yet best product / best service / best price arguments just blow that VfM non-argument out of the water!

The current context of social housing sees best product / best service / best price arguments has never been more necessary too. (Yes if only repeated red ink was one-thousandth as annoying as the ineptitude of social housing these past 35 years!!)  The context sees two main issues:

  1. The first is that this government has no time whatsoever for the social housing model and the main opposition is petrified to even scrutinise government housing policy in case it appears as ‘pro-welfare.’  This also sees social housing adopt its non-challenging and apathetic there is nothing we can do role position.
  2. The second is that ‘customers’ are demanding more and more genuinely affordable housing as they cannot afford to buy and cannot afford to rent privately which presents a massive opportunity for social housing as it is largely the ONLY option for many.

The irony of the above is the non-challenging apathetic position leads to housing being blamed for the general public desire for more social housing not being available: There is in short an intrinsic and indisputable link between the two that sees ‘housing’ being blamed for government policy failure.

Yet still housing (a) does not challenge and (b) carries on as before in not promoting the social housing model.

However, we do see murmurings of some in housing finally realising they need to promote the social housing model and who they need to promote that model to – the general public.  Anyone recall cartoons or comics when a light bulb would appear over somebody’s head?  Unfortunately and true to social housing form the ‘comms teams’ take on a huge increase in importance and increase in visibility…yet nobody has told them what messages they need to promote! Psst here’s a clue but don’t tell anyone!

Best Product, Best Service, Best Price.

I have even taken away the red ink and reduced the font to conform to the belittling of these simple yet incredibly powerful and persuasive messages that social housing does and has always done.  It seems that my 20+ years in it have not made me immune to this pervasive virus that afflicts social housing professionals!

Let’s go back to the second contextual issue above “... ‘customers’ are demanding more and more genuinely affordable housing as they cannot afford to buy and cannot afford to rent privately…” and seriously consider what this means.

As they cannot afford all other options at a pragmatic as well as cynical level means that many more potential customers or tenants are having to consider social housing; and they are having to despite the perceptions they have of it as being sink estates and replete with neighbours such as White Dee and other numerous poverty porn television programmes.

The general public has this perception because nobody has ever promoted the social housing  model to them and its best product, best service and best price arguments.

  • Staying on that point why has the perception been allowed to foster that future home owners rent privately in order to save for a mortgage when they can save so much more and so much quicker if they rent social housing?
  • Then ask yourself why social housing has been labelled as welfare dependent when its average rent of half the price of privately renting means the ‘benefit tenant’ can afford to take up a job paying far less than his privately renting neighbour?

The above two bullet points illustrate the negligence and incompetence of social housing professionals as the widely held perceptions I describe are simply ludicrous.

These (mis)perceptions hold sway and have been allowed to hold sway because the social housing sector is (a) often mute,  (b) it never promotes the social housing model and (c) even when it does act it does so reactively and never proactively and at all times (d) it is bloody awful at doing it!

It’s time the Teflon-coated social housing professional self-medicated with a liberal dose of mea culpa