1% tenant rent cut = 15% tenant service cut!

When does a 1% tenant rent cut become a 15% cut in tenant services?

That is precisely what is happening in social housing! Confused? Read on.

numberjumbleJoe you’re an annoying git with your numbers – I have lost count (pun intended) of how many times this has been said to me and meant and taken as a compliment. Numbers are incredibly powerful as a means of explanation to everyone of almost any issue yet we rarely use them to explain (and some especially landlords don’t even try!)

An exception to numbers applies if you are IDS or Osborne as you can’t use numbers to explain because 2 + 2 always equals 4 we find numbers reveal policy failure and the direct opposite of the huge political spin Osborne and especially IDS’s “I believe it to be so” mantra when discussing ‘welfare’ is the obvious case in point as the collective HB reforms (bedroom tax, benefit cap, LHA and SAR cap) actually cost the taxpayer £1 billion per year MORE and in real terms according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies report from March 2015.

ifs hb real terms

That is exactly what this says – the HB reforms cost the taxpayer more after inflation or as they put it “…real housing benefit spending was still £1 billion higher in 2015-16 than in 2010-11.” YET the public fail to see how a cut and a cut at source can lead to an increase in cost – yet it does because the numbers say so and 2+2 always equals four.

Yet some don’t even bother to attempt to explain with or without numbers and of course I mean housing!

Imagine the ‘humble’ social tenant who is getting a 1% rent cut each year for the next 4 years.  That should be good news for tenants yet in direct response we see social landlords cutting staff by 15% on average.

This means, all things being equal, that the tenant gets 15% less service, 15% less maintenance, 15% longer to get a repair done, 15% cuts to anti-social behaviour services, 15% cuts to EET and any other service the social landlord provides – in all ways 15% less than they did before …and in return tenants get a 96 pence weekly reduction!

Social landlords are a bunch of bastards becomes the obvious social tenant perception.  96 pence per week cut and the bloody landlords who made a 25% increase in profits (surpluses) last year  – a mere £2.2 billion for the top 75 housing associations too – and now they are cutting 15% of staff!!!!!  Thieving money grabbing bastards and they are supposed to be charities FFS!!!!

Ok you get the message housing people and your reputation among your tenants is shot to pieces due to your failure to even bother to communicate!

You may recall on the day that Osborne announced the 1% per year cut I said this is a huge cut within an hour of it being released on the day of the emergency budget and I refresh your memory below:


That was 4 months ago on 8 July and yet social landlords have never in that time communicated to tenants precisely what this 1% cut means and never told tenants WHY a 1% rent cut means a 15% reduction in staff and services.

I saw this within an hour or so of the surprise announcement yet social landlords simply DO NOT COMMUNICATE with tenants who they also have the audacity to call customers!

What your communication incompetence means is that tenants blame you and tenants have a woefully low opinion of you that is getting worse by the day and you sit idly by and do absolutely bugger all to change this highly damaging tenant perception. This is made all the worse by your constant comms teams thinking social media is the dog’s bollocks and you all patting yourselves on the back saying aren’t we bloody wonderful at communicating!

There are a number of realities here:

  • Social landlords do not see the need to communicate with tenants
  • Social landlords think tenants are irrelevant and do not need to know the reality and adopt the usual landlord knows best arrogant as hell attitude
  • Social tenants couldn’t give a stuff about an average 96 pence per week rent cut or the 15 pence per week reduction in bedroom tax this means
  • Social tenants do however care greatly that your service level is to reduce by 15% and you haven’t told them why

Tenants have been kept in the dark by arrogance and inactivity and failure to communicate so would you blame tenants if they adopted a you can just wait 15% longer for your rent position?  How about if tenants said As you’re providing 15% less service we will pay 15% less then? Isn’t that what tenants would do with any other contract?  Isn’t that what any customer would do?

A 1% rent cut in isolation would seem to be an issue of contention between the tenant who would want it and landlord who would not.  Yet it is a bloody woeful deal for social tenants and when they see that it means a 15% cut in services they will be angry about it and their anger is directed at…..yes the landlord rather than at Government who imposed it!

Landlords know best?  The tenant won’t understand? We do a great job communicating with our customers?  Take you pick social landlord as to which one of these excuses and positions you take best covers your incompetence in these matters.

Once again we see landlords oblivious to their own reputational risk or perhaps it is that landlords simply do not care what their CUSTOMERS think?


A tenant is a tenant not a customer.  As the above proves the tenant is being kept in the dark and if anyone in housing can offer an argument to say the tenant is the end goal of the business please do so!

If I as a customer of say Tesco decide to change my shopping to Aldi or Fortnum & Mason’s I am a customer.  A customer is ethereal, is flighty and has choice and has no constraints in such choice.  Yet a tenant is seen by both landlord and tenant as something a lot more permanent than that and by the nature of the tenancy agreement is constrained and have little if any choice.

Oh and when a business reduces its service level by 15% (and especially by stealth) then isn’t the customer free to decide to pay 15% less for it too?

How about a Twitter hashtag #CommsZero is very apt don’t you think?


Landlord Service Cuts

Staffing cuts – New Charter to cut 150 of 1000 workforce; Gentoo in Sunderland between 330 – 500 jobs and dozens more with new cases appearing daily.

How about social landlords seeking legal advice as to what repairs they can cut out altogether? See here which begins “Housing associations are seeking legal advice about their statutory requirements as they look to cut back on repairs and maintenance services without breaking the law.

How about social landlords seeking to deregister so that they can avoid the imposed 1% per year rents cuts? ” Housing associations have sought legal advice on deregistering as social landlords, as they consider their options following the Budget’s rent cut.

Or social landlords seeking overall 25% cuts (while of course keeping the rent they charge for this at 99%!) here and they are just some of the cuts to tenant services they are seeking and planning.

Of course we shouldn’t forget that while HAs are hand-in-glove with Government over the right to buy that Cameron in PMQs spoke of the need to ‘reform housing associations and make sure that they are more efficient‘? 

I would take huge issue with that Cameron point as social landlords provide 10 times the service levels of private landlords and at a rent of half the price and that must prove the social housing model beats the uber-efficient market everyday of the week and hands down.

Oh yes another reason for the hashtag #CommsZero


Just a thought, and not making mischief as there is a serious point here, the landlord tenant relationship is a contract with rights and responsibilities both sides detailed in the tenancy agreement.  So as landlords are cutting their tenant responsibilities by (minimum) 15% which may also mean they are reducing your contract by 15% then should tenants offer 15% less in rent?

Is this a variation and diminution of the tenant contract and rights by imposition? In essence it is both so is there any legal redress to tenants who suffer this loss of right?  Put another way why do we simply assume landlords are able to reduce their contractual obligations by 15%?

These are serious points and not merely mischief.

If you had a 24/7 call out contract with say a plumber  / British Gas / insurance company and they then said this doesn’t apply on a Sunday (a reduction of 14%) would you then demand a 14% reduction in the cost of that service?



Deconstructing the bedroom tax?

The Sunday Mirror today runs a story of a social landlord in Liverpool, Cobalt Housing, who are knocking down walls to turn their very large numbers of 3 bedroom properties into 2 bedrooms for bedroom tax purposes.

Yet all it not what it appears and this requires a lot of comment.

Firstly, this is a practical and commonsense move by one landlord and one landlord alone, and secondly, it is not social landlords finally ‘seeing the light‘ as  tenants are saying on Facebook and other social media anti bedroom tax groups.

Cobalt’s move is practical and if the Chancellor does go ahead with the 10% cut to all Housing Benefit plans as many forecast he will in Wednesday’s Autumn Statement it is a remarkably clever move for Cobalt, although I as conclude a hugely dangerous one and one that is not likely to be replicated elsewhere.

Cobalt Housing has some very unusual housing circumstances brought on by the bedroom tax:

Primarily that 73% of its total (and former council house) stock is 3 bedroom properties and ‘family homes’ and this is double the national average of 35.9% of 3 bed properties across social housing.

Secondly, the vast majority are in an area called Norris Green which 30 years ago was a highly desirable area and very hard to access a council property.  In housing jargon it was ‘dead man’s shoes’ given the minute possibility of ever getting a council house there.  Yet then the opposite perception happened and it got a bad reputation and the council couldn’t give them away and a single person could have their choice of whatever 3 bed property they chose.

The bad reputation was not entirely deserved and a huge amount of community rebuilding of its reputation back has been going on for a number of years and for which some credit is due to Cobalt as the main landlord in the area.  Yet this meant when the bedroom tax began a number of tenants abandoned properties and the risk of community blight was all too apparent.

Cobalt’s MD Alan Rogers is quoted in the local Liverpool Echo saying this about the scheme

The conversions cost £700–£800 and this figure is expected to rise to £1,300 next year alongside other improvement works.

So far, Cobalt have completed 83 properties and plan to convert a further 120 and make three-bedroom properties into more spacious two-bedroom houses. Mr Rogers said the tax was unfair, adding: “The problem with the bedroom tax is that it is retrospective, it isn’t fair as it affects people who didn’t expect it when they signed a tenancy. “The rent will be less but it is a sustainable outcome as the houses will be let. “We are looking to find other ways to make housing affordable such as doing away with pre-paid meters.”

Yet for me Alan Rogers misses a much bigger issue and much bigger selling point of this idea and I highlight.  The average bedroom tax in Liverpool is £771.72 per year currently and may rise by 52% to £1,173 per year from Wednesday if Osborne’s proposed plan to limit HB to 90% of the rent level charged does emerge as many expect.

The payback time for the £750 median cost of conversion is less than a year and will fall to 7 months if the max 90% HB to rent plan happens.  So for those landlords with similarly very high bedroom tax issues as Cobalt have the knocking down of walls makes huge financial sense.

Also note well the entire programme is for 200 houses which is about 3% of Cobalt’s total stock and just 4.5% of its 3 bed total properties.  Yet Cobalt will have a higher percentage of bedroom tax affected households than the Liverpool average which is 22% .

The physical alteration from 3 to 2 beds or knocking down walls is very much a last resort and used when all other ideas fail or fail to be considered.  This is because landlords lose asset value as instead of having 70% 3 beds and 30% 2 beds they become 65% 3 beds and 35% two beds and as a 2 bed is worth less than a 3 bed landlords risk the asset value loss and potentially as their borrowings have interest rates set against the total value.  If that value falls then interest rates may increase as the risk of default increases.

ALL landlords are much better served adopting the approach taken by Coast & Country in Redcar and supporting their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax and for one key reason I have stated before and stated until I am blue in the face!!

If the tribunal says the property only have 2 bedrooms and not 3 bedrooms then the tenant wins and so does the landlord as the rent stays the same and the asset value stays the same.  The landlord does NOT reclassify the property and does not reduce the rent or reclassify the property as 2 beds from 3.

There is absolutely nothing the councils HB department or central government can do about this as there are no powers with HB regulations to force a cheaper rent or a re-designation of the property.

HCA (housing regulator) figures sees the average difference between a 2 and a 3 bed of less than £6 per week and so what you may call a 2 bed plus boxroom property can ALWAYS be said to be a reasonable rent level by being £6 higher per week than a straightforward 2 bed property.  The only powers local council HB departments have is to say the rent in “unreasonably high” and less than £6 per week on top of a typical £90 per week two bed for a 2 bed plus boxroom can never be argued as being unreasonable.

This is worth restating again and again and IF Osborne goes ahead with his plans in the Autumn Statement on Wednesday for Housing Benefit to only cover a maximum of 90% of the rent level this means the bedroom tax increases 52% and landlords as well as tenants are so going to be in the brown smelly stuff!

The bedroom tax appeals route has already become a stronger option with a number of Upper Tribunal decisions recently on what is and is not a bedroom and by way or size, usage and reasonable alternate usage.  Yet more importantly for social landlords and their stubbornly closed minds over the bedroom tax the UT issued a decision which is binding which said explicitly that how they designate a room (as bedroom or not) is of little legal consequence when it comes to the bedroom tax.

The final sentence of this Upper Tribunal decision (CH/4631/2014 of 22 September 2015) says it all – the 3JP (Fife- Nelson) decision makes it clear that:

“…the landlord’s designation is only a starting point and IS NOT DETERMINATIVE…”

landlord designationnot determinativeWhen landlords and their staff invariably said you signed for a 3 bed therefore it is a 3 bed or similar they were and are legally incorrect.  Also this week the UT clarified that many First-tier Tribunals and indeed the vast majority of councils have the appeal procedures wrong and they have been denying appeals unlawfully.

A thorough and definitive briefing note has been produced by Peter Barker on this and is required reading for social tenant and social landlord. This is here and it includes template letters and is a game changer for landlord involvement and supporting tenants to appeal the bedroom tax.  IF and as many suspect when Osborne revives the old Conservative policy idea of only paying a maximum of 90% of rent in HB on Wednesday then it makes landlords supporting tenants to appeal the bedroom tax a necessity!

The 90% maximum HB to rent issue sees the national average bedroom tax that now stands at £795 per year will increase by 52% to an average of £1,208 per year and in aggregate what is now a £360m risk to arrears becomes a £547 million risk of arrears to social landlords – a £187 million increase in their financial risk.

For each property on average the bedroom tax HB deduction increase is £413 per year and the best part of £2000 extra during this parliament and until the policy can be got rid of.  Tenants cannot stand such an increase and neither can landlords and evictions and eviction costs are bound to rocket and over large swathes of England outside of London and the South East.

YET it should NEVER have taken the need for a 52% increase for landlords to support their tenants in appealing.  When the tenant wins at appeal the landlord wins and rent does not fall, and HB paid increases and there is no reclassification and no asset value loss either for the landlord.

The vast majority of social landlords have been stupid and obstinate in the bedroom tax by not supporting their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax and the you signed for a 3 bed therefore it is a 3 bed legal fiction is a big part of that.

Now with the yearly average bedroom tax risk even in the lowest rent areas becoming over £1000 per year and nearing £2000 per year in London the landlord decision NOT to support tenants appealing the bedroom tax becomes all too apparent as to how wrong it was.  It always made financial sense to begin with and saying nothing about improving landlord tenant relationships and the impact a good reputation has for landlord finances generally.

To return to Cobalt to conclude I have personal knowledge of Cobalt’s housing stock and know of 3 entire streets in which the alleged 3 bedroom properties have a tiny L-shaped boxroom often no more than 35 square feet in floor size which are designated as bedrooms when any tribunal would rule they are not.

Supporting their tenants to appeal the bedroom tax which would cost far less than £750 per household would see many hundreds of tenants taken out of the bedroom tax altogether.

These are 2 bedrooms (of decent sizes) and a tiny boxroom and there is no need to knock down wall at all and the only reason knocking down walls CAN make sense is IF Cobalt are then re-letting these former 2 bed+ boxroom properties as 2 bed properties and at the misnomer of “affordable” (sic) rent levels which even in low cost Liverpool are much higher then the 3 bed social rent levels they were charging before.

IF that is the case then Cobalt’s PR in this matter which they have clearly sought by getting this story in the national Sunday papers takes on a whole new meaning entirely and is a case of a shameful smoke and mirrors variety and highly dangerous too for ALL housing associations nationally.

The former impossible to let 3 beds typically had a social rent of £83 per week and the new 2 beds have become an ‘affordable’ (sic) rent of £95 per week. In very necessary specific terms £83 pw less 14% bedroom tax saw £71.40 or so in housing benefit income to Cobalt.  Changing that to £95 per week sees £95 per week in housing benefit being paid and is a clever clever move and a 33% increase in income and no bedroom tax arrears risk is very very clever indeed…superficially!

It works … IF the new tenant is always on housing benefit yet does not function and the tenant gets a raw deal if that tenant works as he or she would be better off in the ‘old’ non-converted properties and paying £83 per week rather than £95 in rent which is a 14% increase.

There is a certain symmetry in that as tenant is 14% better off if not working and 14% worse off if they do work.  Yet Cobalt is 33% better off if the tenant is on benefit and 33% better off if the tenant is in work which is much cleverer symmetry altogether!

If the tenant is on benefit then the HB bill will increase by 33%  from £71.40 to £95 per week and incur the wrath of IDS who will then say all social landlords are taking the mickey and use this one example to castigate all others and penalise all others too.  That is the real danger in this plan and a far greater danger than the smoke and mirrors PR as when social landlords get penalised for this you can bet your life it will be the tenant who bears the brunt of that.

I’ve just had a bit of a Twitter spat with a former HA board member over this who when I explained the £83 and bedroom tax position goes to one of £95 and no bedroom tax said that I never have a good word to say about HAs!  A case of losing the argument and resorting to blame the messenger by labeling me!

Yet the fact that this scheme does increase the HB bill by 33% it is bound to see IDS fume and Osborne – the same chancellor who only a few months back called HA’s inefficient – will make sure that all other housing associations suffer.  Blame the messenger all you like but I am just reporting what I see and MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY revealing once again that it is the social tenant who will suffer for this contrived plan.

Just another reason social landlords would be far better supporting the tenant to appeal the bedroom tax too!

Tories to privatise all housing in Manchester


The Conservative government policy is to privatise ALL housing in Manchester?  What am I talking about?  A 2 minute read explains what is stated government policy!

  1. The Conservative policy is to extend the right to buy to housing association tenants.
  2. The discounts the HA tenant receives is paid back to the housing association by the Conservatives
  3. To get that money to pay back – £4.5 billion per year – the Conservatives are forcing the sale of 15,000 council houses per year each with an average value of £300,000.
  4. That is 75,000 ‘high value’ council houses forceably sold in this parliament that could accommodate the 395,000 population of Manchester

It also means that council housing will have 75,000 fewer properties and also means that social housing (council and housing association) capacity MUST fall by at least 75,000 in this parliament.

A report today by JRF says that the HA RTB extension known as RTBe  COULD see 75,000 fewer yet this report MUST be fundamentally flawed.  It says in opening:

The report, Understanding the likely poverty impacts of the extension of Right to Buy to housing association tenants, estimates that there will be 75,000 fewer low-cost homes becoming available to let over the next 5 years if the homes built to replace those sold are available as shared ownership rather than as low-cost rentals.

This refers to the issue of whether housing associations replace their homes sold with rented properties at a social rent level.  Yet if completely ignores the bloody obvious that 75,000 social homes – the council housing forceably sold off to fund the housing association tenant discounts – which MUST and CAN ONLY MEAN that 75,000 social sector houses have ALREADY been sold and already taken out of the overall social housing capacity.

That existing 75,000 forced sales of council houses means the starting point for English RTBe (it does not apply in Scotland or Wales) is at MINUS 75,000 and any further reductions such as HAs replacing the properties they sell with shared ownership or direct private sale or for private renting ADD to the MINUS 75,000 social housing capacity figure.

Moreover, each of the 15,000 council houses per year forceably sold is NOT expected to be replaced until year 3 of the programme.  A 3 year time lag between being sold and being replaced and so that is a reduction in the social housing capacity of  between 30,000 and 45,000 before replacements begin.  Or enough to house a city of 225,000 men woman and children!

Unless of course JRF are aware of some other funding for this £4.5 billion per year giveaway by the Conservatives.  Or unless JRF believes the Conservatives claim that 2 replacements for each sale will happen!

On that latter point I have been running a poll here asking if anyone believes the RTBe will have a 1 for 1 replacement never mind a 2 for 1 and the current response is that over 90% do not believe the RTBe will achieve a 1:1 replacement.

In summary, Conservative policy does equate to privatising enough council housing to accommodate every man woman and child in Manchester and is costing you the taxpayer £4.5 billion per year and can ONLY reduce the capacity of social housing, that this same Conservative government tells us has 1.4 million families on the waiting list and they must do something about (!!) and telling us how wonderful right to buy is!!


Bedroom Tax appeals have been unlawfully stopped by FtT judges!

An Upper Tribunal decision dated yesterday 16 November 2015 is required reading as it stops the outrageous practice of FtT judges (especially common in the North East Tribunal Service) refusing to hear legitimate bedroom tax appeals.

UTappealsand decisions

First-tier Tribunal judges have issued Direction Notices like confetti on the same subject and saying that the bedroom tax decisions made in 2014 and 2015 were (a) NOT decisions merely ‘upratings’, and (b) as such they have no right of appeal.

Now the UT has said what the hell have you been doing!!

Just how many legitimate bedroom tax appeals have been prevented from being heard by the ludicrous ‘uprating not a decision’ stance is unclear yet what is clear is that these FtT judges got it hugely wrong in law.

These judges believed that when the rent changes as it does each year which prompts a new bedroom tax decision (bit of a clue there!!) that these decisions were just ‘amendments’ to the earlier and original 2013 bedroom tax decision and hence did not carry rights of appeal!

The decision itself contains the full detail yet one point that has just sprung to mind is that as social rents reduce next year by 1% one wonders whether these bumbling FtT judges would have ruled that the 2016 bedroom tax decisions were “downratings!”

The UT clarifies at the end of this that in essence whatever change affects the claimants pocket is a decision that carries full appeal rights and that is a lot easier than explaining what is the definition of decision or determination and uprating for housing benefit purposes…and even the concept of downrating too!

I would also draw attention to the following extract which can be decoded as legalese for ‘what the bloody hell did you think you were doing Judge!’ that comes on page 2 of this 7 page judgement:

c4page2uT appealsIn legal terms ouch!!!

The judge amended his reasons (!!) and added a further 10 paragraphs (!!)…In lay terms oh shit I f*cked up and been caught out so I will just make it up further as I go along!

The “I leave to one side….” bit I have highlighted I will let you decode reader else I will really go off on one here!

Yet the real issue here are (a) just how many legitimate bedroom tax appeals have been denied by this ‘uprating not decision‘ nonsense, and (b) all of these appeals that were denied a hearing now have to be given a tribunal hearing.

The link to the decision is here (pdf) and yet another major hat tip for Peter Barker is well deserved.


For the absolute avoidance of any doubt whatsoever I have not spoken with Peter over this and my comments above are all my own work and words not Peter’s.

Tenant Campaign Group – Update 19 Nov and views sought

A week ago I put out the idea of the TCG as being urgently needed in light of the Financial Times front page which said in simple terms that Osborne is seeking to privatise social housing.

fthaprivatisationNext Wednesday (25th) sees Osborne’s Autumn Statement (think mini budget) and perhaps we will find out more then and/or find out more about whether his apparent plans to only pay a maximum of 90% of social rent in housing benefit – as stories in Sunday Times, Inside Housing and Guardian all speculate – is true or not and if so it will increase the bedroom tax by 52% as I reported here.

Until next Wednesday afternoon we don’t know precisely what new or revised issues the TCG will need to challenge and this hiatus I welcome as despite being just 7 days ago the response to the TGC idea has seen hundreds of emails to the 10anthelp@gmail.com temporary email I set up.  I have also had hundreds to my personal and work email, phone calls, PMs on Facebook and DMs on Twitter and a large number of enquiries on the temporary TCG Facebook page (here).

So while any notion of social housing being privatised must be the number one priority for the TCG the Autumn Statement could increase the importance and urgency of the bedroom tax or not.

The responses, which have ALL been supportive, have come from tenants, official and unofficial tenant groups, tenant activists, private tenants, private tenant lobbies, community lobbies, journalists both local and national, trades unions, political parties and landlords large and small – to name just a few.  Yet despite being a tad overwhelmed keep the correspondence coming by whatever means suits.

Bank details for donations and membership will be available soon as will a specific and permanent TCG website and funding is as always the critical issue.  In the first update I included a poll asking should the TCG take start-up funding from landlords and was at pains to point out this had to be on a non-strings one-off basis to get it off the ground.  This was after the idea had been put to me by landlords as they have a mutual interest in challenging the potential privatisation of the social housing model and other tenant issues imposed by Government.

I have included that poll again below and to date over 90% said Yes the TCG should take such no-strings one-off funding and I will keep this open until the end of November as originally stated

As yet no funding has been received just to clarify yet the huge response to that poll is encouraging and so I have put out a series of questions below and or now just one question on just 4 of the new social tenant issues since the May 2015 general election.

Q1 – Extension of the Right to Buy to Housing Association tenants

Q2 – Pay More to Stay

Q3 – Welfare Benefit Freeze


I have deliberately made the last question as leading as possible so that the point hits home.  Welfare benefit levels (pensioner and DLA/PIP excepted) were frozen this year at 2014/15 levels and will remain at the exact same level until March 2021.  This is a 14.6% cut in real terms using the Office of Budget Responsibility’s inflation estimates which the Government uses.

The social tenant’s gas, electricity, food, transport and other necessary expenditure will increase by this 14.6% (if not more) and as social housing is the only place where those who are unable to work (sick, disabled etc) and those not expected to work (e.g. mums with pre-school age children) tend to live.  As such the welfare benefit freeze – that rarely gets discussed or commented upon – is a huge issue for the social tenant.

Below is a pie chart showing who lives in social housing and the classification of “unable” is an official one from the English Housing Survey produced by Government and shows the importance of the welfare benefit freeze until 2021.

hb receipt Feb 2015

The chart above also shows that 3 times as many social tenants claiming housing benefit are in work than claiming Job Seekers Allowance.  The TCG is not all about the social tenant in receipt of any benefits as 36% of social tenants of working age are in employment and do not qualify for any housing benefit on top of the 22% above who work and earn so little they qualify for HB.

The TCG must have a role in changing the narrative of the social tenant as being a stereotypical White Dee or other Benefit Street caricature  or scrounger or shirker.  Not only is it bloody offensive it is also a proven lie as the above reveals

One final question and one area linked to that is should the TCG have a role in promoting that all social tenants need to claim all the benefits they are entitled to?  My view is that if you are entitled to it you should claim it and that is also the philosophy behind Universal Credit which is one assessment for all the benefit and tax credits you are entitled to and on a not a penny more not a penny less basis.  Yet the table below comes from the DWP official release of the non take up of welfare benefits from June this year.


The table using the official DWP figures from June 2015 and based in 2013/14 data shows that up to £4.27 billion of housing benefit goes unclaimed (17.7%) and it has to be in both the tenant and landlord interest for this figure – which is now higher than the total paid out in Job Seekers Allowance in 2014/15 that was just under £4 billion per year.

Q4 – Take up of Welfare Benefits?

I will keep all the above open until end of November so please share you views.

Finally, the above questions and data show a bit more of what I have in mind for a few key social tenant issues the TCG can take up.  Yet as much as possible the issues social tenants face will be the issues the TCG will take up on a local, regional and national level.

As always keep the emails and comments coming.

PS – Anyone know how to centre polls on WordPress

PPS – I am looking into an initial TCG conference for tenants to be held in early January and will put up some dates in the next week or so and will put on here and on the Facebook page

The Bedroom Tax to rise by 52% next week? Hmm!

In a weeks time George Osborne will give his Autumn Statement (think mini budget) and speculation is rife that (a) Housing Benefit will face further cuts  as (b) Osborne will abandon his Tax Credit cuts the Lords rejected and needs to find those savings.

Firstly, this is all speculation….though every day since 8 May 2015 is one of speculation as to further ‘welfare’ cuts so no change there!

Over the weekend the Sunday Times said (a) and (b) above and wrapped up in IDS won Osborne lost language or in lay terms disingenuous bull.  Today the rest of the mainstream press picks this up and the Daily Mirror (as is its want) goes hyperbolic in its speculation and as also usual misses the point and is best ignored though it has caused a storm on social media sites such as Facebook.

I do wish anti-bedroom tax groups would stop and think rather than create hysteria and anger over whatever bedroom tax bullshit the tabloids produce as it is wasted energy.

A much more informative and considered take on this is given by Jules Birch at Inside Housing here (no paywall on this) and is required reading and in line with the highly speculated “£2bn” HB cuts Jules looks at some options:

autumnstatementjulesIt is rare I disagree with Jules and as rare as hen’s teeth for me to be critical of his analysis yet the highlighted section above is a long way short of his usual very high standards of analysis ….as he has missed the bedroom tax dimension of the 90% max HB posit and that will have huge further repercussions.

The maximum 90% HB issue – this is an old idea previously rejected by the coalition but then so was pay MORE to stay and at much higher income level of firstly £100k then £60k on a voluntary basis and now £30k / £40k on a statutory basis! In short old Tory ideas put off or abandoned in coalition are now becoming policy intentions for real hence the maximum amount of HB any tenant can receive being 90% may well feature next week in the Autumn Statement.

Social landlords receive £15.31 billion per year in Housing Benefit and so limiting HB to 90% saves 10% of this and cuts a minimum £1.531 billion from the HB bill just from social tenants. It will also cut a much smaller amount from private tenants yet impossible to estimate so I assume this will be equal to the pensioner being exempted in social housing.

Additionally the maximum 90% of rent HB issue hugely increases the bedroom tax HB cut.  The 14% for one ‘spare bedroom’ and 25% cut for two ‘spare bedrooms’ are a % deduction from the maximum eligible rent which now is the full rent in social housing.  Yet with the 90% maximum HB policy those 14% and 25% deductions rise hugely and the simple example below explains.

Rent £100 per week and 1 “spare bedroom” equals a £14 HB cut (14%) so the tenant has to make up £14 per week.  This changes to become a 14% reduction on the maximum HB of £90 per week meaning that only £77.40 per week HB is paid and the social tenant has to make up £22.60 per week – or in other words the 14% bedroom tax deduction increases to 22.6%

The same £100 rent and 90% max HB but with 2 “spare bedrooms” sees just £67.50 paid in HB leaving the tenant with a £32.50 per week shortfall – or the 25% bedroom tax reduction increases to 32.5%

Oh shit goes the cry from tenants and social landlords as this is a huge issue for social tenant and social landlord. The numbers make even worse reading.

The current bedroom tax HB cut is £357.4 million and this will increase to £543.8m so an additional £186.4 million of bedroom tax is levied which is a 52% increase.

[That projection is based on 81% of bedroom tax households having 1 “spare bedroom” which was the original impact assessment estimate from DWP.]

What is perhaps more scary is that often LHA – the private rented version of HB – covers 90% of the actual rent or even less so I can see Osborne selling this as being fair and IDS selling this as fair and an incentive to get employment.

There are very strong arguments against both those posits yet since when has that stopped the Tory spin machine with the bedroom tax and despite polls regularly showing the majority of the general public are against the policy!

In summary this is speculation yet the last paragraph above and the figures this means in terms of cuts (and the not so small matter of abject misery and poverty to social tenants!) gives real cause for genuine alarm.  As does this 90% maximum HB to rent issue being a rehashed policy just like pay MORE to stay.

A 52% increase to bedroom tax will rightly see horror for tenants and landlords and local councils as evictions are bound to increase in number too.  It is abject horror for communities and families too and increased horror as that is already what the existing bedroom tax does.

As you will see me write with increasing regularity, the need for the Tenant Campaign Group grows by the day just as the need to save the social housing model created in the Welfare State grows by the day.  The demands on DHP budgets and homelessness costs will grow by the day too and the thinking of social landlords especially housing associations requires a total rethink too in light of this huge threat and however speculative it may appear today, this time next week I suspect it will be a reality.

So just one more challenge and fight for the TCG to add to the privatisation issue which will happen sooner rather than later unless we see that dark threat off.  The areas of mutual tenant and landlord interest for the TCG grow by the day.


All 2.73m HA tenants put in for your right to buy now!

Every one of the 2.73 million housing associations households should seek the average £63,500 discount (or bung) to take up their RIGHT to buy.

The Conservative Government who claim you have this RIGHT would need to find £173.36 billion to pay off housing associations if you did!

Unlike council landlords, the housing associations get back from Government whatever RTB discount they give to their tenants.  So if a HA sells a £100k property for £50k to the tenant the other £50k is paid to the HA by Government.

2.73 million lots of £63,500 would mean Government has to find £173 billion

At the moment we are told Chancellor George Osborne is struggling to find just £4.4 billion with the Tax Credit defeat.  So if you do have the RIGHT to buy your housing association property then Osborne only has to find 40 times that Tax Credit defeat amount to pay you your discounts that he says is your RIGHT!

£173 billion given away out of ideology

What a wonderful idea the extension of the RIGHT to buy for housing association tenants is reader.  At a stroke the Conservative Government would see the property owning democracy (aka the universal panacea that even cures cancer) would rise from 63% to 75% of the UK population!

But why not exercise that RIGHT as it is your RIGHT dear HA tenant and don’t worry about not affording it yourself as up to 3 family members can all put in together to make the RIGHT to buy stack up for your RIGHT to be sold your home.

I’m just wondering whether the UK population will play the same parlour game that we all did shortly before the last General Election? You know the one where every media article asked us to guess where the £12 billion of ‘welfare’ savings would come from.

We still have the data from that don’t we, so let’s see and below is a breakdown of the proposed £217 billion ‘welfare spend’ for 2015/16.

welfarecircle£217bnWe could stop the state pension altogether as that would save £92.1 billion per year and of course the Housing Benefit bill would reduce by £9.3 billion as that is the amount of HB received by housing associations making £102.4 billion.

Yet that still leaves Osborne to find another £71 billion to pay for the RIGHT that all HA tenants have to but their home.  So that would see Pension Credit being withdrawn ( £6.5bn) and Job Seekers Allowance (£2.4bn) and all Disability Benefits (£36.7bn ) and all Child and Working Tax Credits (£29.9bn) which when added to the removal of all HB for HA tenants and the State Pension would see a welfare cut of £176.9 billion….Well the £63,500 average bung is only an estimate after all so better be safe than sorry eh?

All of those cuts would pay for the HA tenants RIGHT to buy as we have been assured by Osborne, by Greg Clark the Communities Minister and even by Cameron himself that HA tenants do have the RIGHT to buy from their failing HA landlords no less.

Surely they are not fibbing to us are they?  They can’t be as the housing associations themselves say the HA tenant has a RIGHT to buy too.  That would mean that the housing associations are fibbing too wouldn’t it?  As the likelihood of HA’s fibbing is preposterous it must be your RIGHT dear HA tenant!

You think this is all sarcasm don’t you reader?

It’s not and I am being deadly serious and I do advocate that all 2.73 million housing association tenants do seek to exercise their RIGHT to buy today.  Every single HA tenant should do this and put in a request to their housing association landlord.

You think this is a gimmick?  No, it’s not. It is simple direct action to expose what a sham the extension of the RIGHT to buy is both by Government and by Housing Associations.

It is also not a gimmick as the Government has promised that there will be a 1 for 1 replacement for every housing association property sold under the RIGHT to buy which would see Osborne scampering round for the £173 billion he would need to pay back the housing associations.

It is also a financial no brainer for the HA tenant.  What a wonderful never to be missed bung this is!  The Government wants to give you free of charge on average £63,500 each and you would be a fool if you did not take up this bung at any time and with house prices still going up then you really do want to move quickly so your £63,500 bung buys a higher percentage of the RTB sale price and a lower mortgage cost.

I am surprised that the UK populace who believe the UKIP statement that the EU costs us £25m per day (£9.15 billion per year) are not ranting and raving that the Conservatives want to give 19 times that amount away with nothing in return to 2.73 million housing association tenants.

I am staggered that Joe Public is not up in arms at this £173 billion giveaway to housing association tenants when that is more than the cost of the Education (£57.63bn) and National Health Service (£115.42bn) budgets combined at £173.05 billion.

I note today that the Government is actively pushing this RIGHT to buy


Thousands every week – so that is 100,000 per year – and the Government wants more and is promoting the RIGHT to buy with TV and other adverts as it says here today.

So the Government is totally convinced it can pay for this RTB bonanza and can easily find the £173 billion to pay off the housing associations so why not let’s call their bluff and actively promote that all 2.73 million housing association households make a RIGHT to buy enquiry, after all who wouldn’t want a £63,500 bung for nothing.

The Government is saying that each property sold under RTB will be replaced 1:1 in fact the housing minister Brandon Lewis has said 2 replacements for each 1 sold is possible.  He also set a target of 1 million new homes this parliament and then backed down from this yet why be so sheepish my boy?  The universal panacea of RTB would see an increase of 2.73 million new homes on your 2 for 1 replacement notion. You would be feted!

If each enquiry to a housing association cost the HA a meagre £50 to administer it would cost theme the same as the 1% rent cut which is seeing them make 15% of staff redundant and the Government could ensure what it terms the ‘failing’ housing associations would indeed fail as the likely admin cost would be ten times that per case and equate to a 10% per year rent cut!  Still I am puzzled why the Government would want to get into bed with the housing associations it calls failing!

However given that the Government is clearly confident of finding the £173 billion out of the ether then I am sure it could turn around these failing housing associations.  It’s only a matter of the uber efficient private market coming in to solve surely!

£173 billion – yes it surely is time to call the Government’s bluff and start advocating that all 2.73 million HA households sought to exercise their RIGHT to buy.