Banning under-25s from HB – No a smokescreen for SAR in social housing

It is Sunday and I’m trying to find a nice respectful phrase that says….oh here we go again with some more rehashed absolute total b*llocks…in a more diplomatic way – Oh and also includes… its Sunday for f*cks sake so why do you believe this absolute sh*te!

Let’s just call it ban the under 25s from receiving Housing Benefit and I see this kite-flying nonsense that first reared its ugly head back in April has reappeared in today’s papers.  Any suggestion that this has appeared on the day the England football team has the media in a jingoistic frenzy and this sees the right-wing press trying to appeal even more to the John-Bull-Middle-Englander-kill-an-Argie-and-win-a-Mini-Metro brigade is of course pure coincidence.  That would be a cynical suggestion. God forbid!

When this story first broke back In April I released a blog which said this was a non-runner and quickly followed it up with a further one. My opinion hasn’t changed one bit and the idea is still nonsense.

The first blog said quite correctly that any savings from it would be more than wiped out in higher costs the policy would cause.  I note today the Telegraph is saying the under 25s cost nearly £2bn pa in HB and Cameron says it’s time to debate this.  Yes lets debate it and as I said it would cost more in homeless costs it would directly create, more in police and NHS costs – sending Miss Jones aged 23 fleeing DV back telling her sorry no room at the inn you’re under 25 – and a few other direct, inevitable and foreseeable consequences.

The second blog looked at a returning 22 year old soldier from Afghanistan  – it’s ok to put your life on the line for your country, get a wondrous reception at Royal Wootton Bassett but get a job you lazy bastard as you’re not getting any HB.  In fact even if Johnny Soldier comes marching home straight into a full time job, such is the state of Britain’s low wage economy; he would still qualify for Housing Benefit.

Of course the government and the media don’t like to admit – or is it doesn’t know – that Housing Benefit is an in-work benefit.  I mean who would know that since the coalition took office that 232,340 of the 263,120 new HB claimants since the election are in work – just a mere 88% of them.   So 88% of the indolent workshy bar stewards claiming HB are also paying taxes – Not quite the same story is it Mr Cameron.

Even fewer would know or realise that the nearly £2bn per year of savings this coalition promised its Housing Benefit reforms would deliver currently see the HB bill £4.78bn OVER this target!  Yes I am talking about those HB caps that the public lapped up and had 76% support until the public realised their direct impact in the attempted movement of homeless families from Newham to Stoke last month.

How convenient that back in June 2010 this Coalition stated their HB reforms would save “nearly £2bn” and today we see the same Coalition saying the under 25s cost “nearly £2bn”  Anyone would think the Coalition is trying to blame the HB rises on young people under 25!!  And from last month we have the Housing Minister saying the now revised HB figure is £5bn per year more than the original coalition target such is the competence of it in handling Housing Benefit!

Cameron is asking for a debate we are told on Housing Benefit and says:

“…that some young people lived with their parents, worked hard, planned ahead and got nothing from the State, while others left home, made little effort to seek work and got a home paid for by the benefits system” and the ‘A couple will say, “We are engaged, we are both living with our parents, we are trying to save before we get married and have children and be good parents. But how does it make us feel, Mr Cameron, when we see someone who goes ahead, has the child, gets the council home, gets the help that isn’t available to us?”

I see Cameron wants a highly skewed and limited debate based on old myths.  The old nugget of having a child (before marriage too how feckless are these people!) is the key to getting a council house and a life on benefit.  Would that be any of the 45,000 LESS council tenants claiming HB since the election?  Surely you mean they get a private tenancy along with the 125,000 new HB claimants since the election in the private sector.  Those same figures apply to the feckless workshy young people who use condoms too or the really good ones who just say no!

They also apply if the single young person is working full time on minimum wage as they would still be eligible for HB.

They would also be eligible for working tax credit too.  Let’s debate that Mr Cameron as it’s also very topical and linked and as it’s the Lord’s Day a moral issue.  Yes those that seek to avoid tax are immoral people work hard and pay taxes and shouldn’t avoid them as you (selectively) say.  So your government which knows and admits that £8.4bn per year of WTC goes unclaimed is deliberately withholding benefit from hard working families who pay tax and entitled because they work hard full time yet you decide to withhold what they are due!

If you want a real debate over HB Mr Cameron perhaps you should ask the public if they think it’s fair that we spend £2.6bn more by paying private landlords, oops unregulated private landlords, on average £40 pw more for their 1.64m HB claimants, that’s 170,000 more scrounging feckless sods, sorry HB claimants than in council housing.  Sorry let me clarify that. We, the taxpayer, pay out of public funds in HB, £40pw more to a renter in private property than we do to one living in a council house.  We pay in total £2.66bn per year more for the same property if the landlord, who remember sets the rent level not the tenant, is a private one. Sorry when I say same property, of course a council house is more secure, better managed, better standard, better repaired than a private rented house.

No I haven’t forgotten that social housing (council and housing associations) properties are subsidised and that’s why they’re cheaper – it must be the private sector is always more efficient and cheaper than the public sector.

Let’s have a debate on that too as that’s Housing Benefit Prime Minister but a real debate and not the ones you have down at the club with the Colonels. Monty old chap, you’ll be glad to hear this coalition has reduced this outrageous subsidy and it’s down to £1.2bn per year! Though yes it’s still £1.2bn per year bloody outrageous!!!

Still I hear that the Coalition is considering taking away this damned awful subsidy propping up the inefficient public sector housing.  In fact that Pickles chap said it a few weeks ago.  Nothing further to report as yet but as this under 25s ban was mooted before that and now it’s coming in so we live in hope.

Well….how can I put this……if we stop this outrageous subsidy then the council housing and housing associations won’t receive any public money at all and this is a problem.  Even councils have no duty to provide housing and so councils and housing associations could say, ok no subsidies we are private not public providers now and put up their rents to market rates and this would INCREASE the yearly housing benefit bill by £5.7bn.  So it’s a non-runner unfortunately.  No it’s not the added cost of course, there has long been a policy of letting HB take the strain – it’s the fact it would expose that the market is more expensive and we can’t have that notion getting out now can we!!

Between us old chap public sector housing especially the old council house model – yes that post-war dinosaur – is actually the best thing we could do in many ways.  Far and away the cheapest option and as you can see readily the £1.2bn we invest realises a saving of £5.7bn a year.  Bloody good value old bean we just can’t admit it of course but it’s why we paint social housing as a left-wing monolith, keeping it political so everyone ignores the bloody obvious economic benefits.  And building new housing would produce even more of a saving and get the proles out to work too and off benefit, imagine the growth and the profits for our friends in construction.  The problem is it all sounds a bit Keynesian (it’s ok I can say that I’ve a glove of garlic round my neck) and we’ve spend the last 30 years getting rid of council housing and condemning it as the housing of last resort, etc, etc.  We can’t be seen to suddenly have a U-turn, it looks weak, and especially after 30 or so of them already this year.

Still, old chap, what a spiffing photo of that penguin in the Falklands with the Union Jack waistcoat on in the Telegraph today. That should stir up the troops even if this benefit thing is a non runner…too early for Sherry you think?

To return to serious comment the issue is not a specific one of HB or not to under 25s.  This is a headline for the journalists and something easy to rally the faithful and to position Cameron, as he says in the article, doing something more radical that Thatcher or Major.  It’s a campaign matter internally and externally; internally for Cameron and externally hoping the electorate will be as gullible over this as they were over the HB caps which led to the Newham to Stoke electorate outrage.

What I do expect and what the housing sector should expect is SAR being applied to the social rented sector.  The political line from the Coalition will be we are only putting the (still subsidised) social rented sector on the same level playing field the private rented sector plays its games on.  That is an easily-spun and compelling political argument and why should the ‘lazy consensus left-wing Guardian reading sandal wearing SRS’ complain about such equity?  We are still subsidising them and now they are moaning about bringing them in line with the private sector!

The under-25 HB issue is the Tory’s attempt to deflect blame away from their disastrous HB reforms which haven’t and won’t save money as they loudly proclaimed.  They know they can’t stop under 25s from receiving HB because it will cost more AND more importantly will increase homelessness and visibly on the street rough sleeping.  It will increase police and NHS costs of domestic violence and that is too much a politically sensitive area.  It will mean returning soldiers, war heroes will be excluded – electoral suicide and the many Tory councils will be vociferous about additional costs of care leavers and the fact they have to pay for them rather than older persons out of social services budgets.  That’s just not on old chap!

No this kite-flying nonsense about banning all under 25s from HB will lead to one thing only as a political compromise – the application of SAR to the social rented sector as I said would happen back in March and April.  That policy will be sold as merely putting the SRS on the same footing as the PRS  If the SRS still believe this wont apply to them the lazy consensus tag really does apply.  In economic terms it cuts HB to the under 35s by about 50% as the SAR rate is about half the cost of the 1 person HB or LHA rate and it applies to 888,000 young people under 35 rather than 100% to 385,000.

Crunch the numbers on that and it amounts to a significant reduction in the HB bill for a policy that will be spun as merely levelling the playing field.

Note: – the link to the SAR debate is here

4 thoughts on “Banning under-25s from HB – No a smokescreen for SAR in social housing

  1. I may be wrong but I think Dandy Dave, Georgie Porgie and Co are playing to the gallery. They know this will be impossible to implement without creating a social disaster. The number of under 25s who have come from care depend on the benefits system to get them on their feet. The under 25s with no families. My Mother was an orphan at 17. Its a joke. Once upon a time I had tory leanings, but never again. This is pandering to the worst extremism on the right. British tory tea-baggers.

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