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.

take-up-table-unclaimed-2013-141

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

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13 thoughts on “Tenant Campaign Group – Update 19 Nov and views sought

  1. Joe
    You can’t lobby for tenants to take up all benefits due. You can provide financial advice and support to let them know what they are entitled to. Setting up something like this should be an aspiration that can be dealt with when T.C.G. becomes established and viable but we do not need to take on too much at the start we may get bogged down and lose focus.
    Jim Martin

    1. Good ad legitimate point – I included it for 3reasons. The first to pick up an example of what the TCG could do; secondly to raise awareness, and thirdly as just one point in changing the offensive narrative which sees ‘benefit claimant’ being used as a synonym for social tenant

  2. Being as in this country and since 1979, only the poor pay for the poor and if HB is cut by 10%, then TCG could campaign for that money to be ring fenced.

    TCG could demand the money is spent on building new social housing. Real social housing at real social rents, a basic product for a basic price. 10% of £50pw is a lot more affordable than 10% of current social rents and so called ‘affordable’ rents.

    As far as I see, that money is our money and the government cannot have any of it! It belongs to the poor and if it is to be taxed at 10% HB cut and 14.6% benefit freeze, then the govt cannot have it!

    24.6% tax on the poor, the cannots, the havenots, the retired.

  3. Whilst the TCG is a brilliant concept and whole heartedly supported. My HUGE concern is that MANY people cannot afford to join.
    Especially, those affected by the Bedroom Tax.
    I have seen questions on Facebook…….. Are there any discounts for those on benefits??
    It would be very difficult for those who need the help the most are prevented from joining for this reason??
    I believe it costs £20 to join??
    That is a huge amount of money for some, already struggling to eat, heat or pay the Bedroom Tax.

    1. Debbie
      1. There is no proposed joining fee.
      2. There is and needs to be a yearly membership fee of around £10 per year which may well be £12 at most and include quarterly payments of £3. – Nothing is yet set in stone and these are just viable options or examples
      3. The TCG in theory and on paper stacks up very well financially on these very low membership fees and this funding is needed as getting just 5% of all social tenants to join (1 in every 20) at £12 would make the TCG double the size of the largest (and non independent) tenant group we have now.

      So the affordability issue is for me a non-issue as if 95% cannot afford the TCG then it is still viable financially so that cannot be a huge concern by definition. I would be the last person to say £10 or £12 per year is a little amount and some social tenants cannot afford that and yes bedroom tax tenants being a prime example.

      However what I do say is that unless the TCG or something similar fight and challenge the probable change next week that could see bedroom tax increase by 52% – on average £414 per year – then the payment of £10 or £12 per year to see that challenge and prevent an additional £414 per year cost is bloody good value and a bloody good risk.

      That is just one issue of dozens of issues that the TCG could challenge and could win and the alternative is to simply moan about what the bedroom tax or welfare reforms or housing policy is doing to vulnerable social tenants and take no action and do not try to challenge these pernicious policies.

      I have moaned like hell about the bedroom tax (and benefit cap and other issues) and frankly I am sick and tired of moaning about the problems and convinced we need to fight these policies cleverly and urgently and finding a way to do that. The TCG provides not only the financial klout to do that, it will provide thousands upon thousands of the collective brains of social tenants and others to find ways to beat the bedroom tax and solutions to other issues.

      That all has to be worth a try and incredibly good value and as the original idea says, 4.3 million social tenant households with 5.6 million adults as voters is one hell of a potential influence on Government (and landlords)

  4. I and many others 100% support what you are trying to do……. I have been asked about the joining fee, by many, by PM. So I had to ask the question on behalf of those people…….. Thank you

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