DisMayism

Theresa May is a dangerous incompetent who has promised 25,000 fewer houses to deal with the housing crisis despite presiding over the lowest house building figures since the 1920s.

Theresa May is a dangerous incompetent who has slashed the ‘National Living Wage’ by 10% from £9 per hour to £8.20 per hour. You are worth 10% less than George Osborne promised as mandatory and compulsory in his budget of July 2015.

By the way has anyone seen, heard or read anything on this 10% cut to the minimum wage?!

Theresa May is a dangerous incompetent who will take away the Winter Fuel Allowance from 75% of pensioners as that is what official figures show.

Theresa May is narcissistic. Every so-called Conservative battle bus does not have the word “Conservative” on them at all. This is the cult of personality epitomised as they only have her name on them!

In an election which is being fought largely on May versus Corbyn with the Tories saying you can’t trust Corbyn then it is only right that you ask Can I trust Theresa May?

You can trust Theresa May … to be dangerous and incompetent and narcissistic!

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75% of pensioners to lose winter fuel allowance? Yes!

Today saw John McDonnell the Labour Shadow Chancellor rip into Michael Fallon’s claim that the proposed pensioner means test for Winter Fuel Allowance would see £1.5 billion saved (and then paid into social care instead.)

The problem with this (apart from any likely savings would be lost given the cost of administering this new means test!!) is that the universally paid current Winter Fuel Allowance costs £2 billion in total.

Here are the governments own figures for the cost of the Winter Fuel Allowance:

As you can see in these official figures clawing back £1.5bn per year from the Winter Fuel Allowance mean that this leaves just £0.5bn to be paid out which means the Conservatives must be planning to take the Winter Fuel Allowance from 75% or 3 in every 4 pensioners!!

The right wing Tory media are running the (superficially correct) line that why should Mick Jagger and Alan Sugar and all other billionaires get the WFA and superficially that is a good point

YET

The figures show that 3 in every 4 pensioners will lose the up to £300 per year Winter Fuel Allowance not just the Mick Jaggers and Alan Sugars. It is a fundamentally errant argument!

Means testing the Winter Fuel Allowance is a massive issue and a massive political mistake by Theresa May IF the reality is known by the electorate that 3 in every 4 pensioners will lose £300 per year.

Pity for Theresa May’s sake that facts can be so pesky isn’t it!!!

 

Dismayism – Tories promise 25,532 FEWER houses under Theresa May!

The Conservatives promised 1 million houses from May 2015 to May 2020 which is 200,000 per year and 16,667 per calendar month.  The new Conservative manifesto released yesterday promises 500,00 more than this by the end of 2022 which is a reduction and fewer houses being built.

I do wish the nodding dogs of #ukhousing who have welcomed this could actually use a calculator which proves this is a reduction and fewer homes being built!!!

To explain:

1 million over 5 calendar years is 200,000 per year and 16,667 per calendar month and 3,836 per week.

Theresa May in the new Conservative manifesto has promised an extra 500,000 properties from 10 May 2020 to 31 December 2022.  This is a period of 137 weeks.

137 weeks at 3,836 per week is 525,532 additional houses yet Theresa May has only promised 500,000 in this time.

Therefore the Conservative manifesto sees a reduction and 25,532 fewer homes being built under the (Dis)May administration than the previous Conservative administration!

QED!

 

The ONLY way to solve the “housing crisis” is in Labour’s manifesto

There is only one way to solve the UK ‘housing crisis’ and ten simple words in the Labour Party manifesto hit the nail on the head on page 63:

We will remove government restrictions that stop councils building homes…

Currently councils can borrow to build anything at all except housing and that is perverse and especially so when (a) we have a crisis of housing supply and (b) an even bigger crisis of housing affordability which have both been caused by (c) the ideological madness of councils not being allowed to borrow to build housing.

All party politics aside this is the ONLY way that the UK can solve its housing crisis and whether you believe the bigger crisis is under supply or affordability.

Every country needs to house its population that includes those able to afford to buy and those who cannot … and those who cannot afford is a hugely increasing number in the UK.

Home ownership peaked under Blair at 71% of the population in 2004 and today it is 64% a fall of over ten per cent and in a very short space of time.  That is the real political issue as fewer home owners mean less economic growth and mean a much higher percentage have to rent.

In 2004 only 29% rented and now it is 36% an increase of twenty four per cent in little over a decade … a decade that has seen councils unable to build, housing associations have ever reducing grant / subsidy and led to the chronically insecure private rented sector taking up the demand … and a much greater reduced chance of ever getting on the ‘housing ladder’ for you, your children and your children’s children.

The market has failed. The ideology of leaving housing to the market has failed and you, your children and your children’s children have been failed by the perverse and wholly ideological decision not to allow local councils to borrow to build housing – a policy in place for over 30 years and a failure of all governments in that time.

There have been short-term benefits for those who are home-owners with ever increasing assets even after the banking crisis yet now the equity built up in their house by the bank of mum and dad is not enough.

What the decision to allow councils to borrow to build means is very simple, it means housing will be built for actual housing need and not for housing profit of the private housebuilders and housing associations.  HA’s are not public bodies, they have no public duties and they have no compulsion at all to build for actual housing need – and that housing need has increased by 24% since 2004 with the fall in home ownership rates.

It is said that 80% of housing associations do not build at all and the 20% that do managed just 40,000 houses last year, a record breaking year … yet only 5000 or so of them were for social rent – a record low post-war number of HA’s building for social rent (aka actual housing need) which says (a) what HA’s want to build is determined by their bottom line and not for their claimed social purpose; and more importantly (b) HAs do NOT have the capacity to build the UK out of its under supply crisis despite the deluded sophistry of the National Housing Federation umbrella body.

Councils used to build 200,000+ houses per year and they can and will easily scale up to that number again because it is in their best financial interest to do so and that includes Conservative run local councils too and this is an apolitical point!  It is what the UK needs to do to solve the housing crisis whoever is in power at central and local government.

The real political perversity is that this Corbyn council house building plan is shared by the Daily Telegraph and this plan is the exact same principle of the Militant Liverpool Labour council of the mid 1980’s!  In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Labour and Conservative governments used to fight over who had built the most council housing too – and the idea has never failed or never not been the right policy, it merely fell out of political ideological fashion with BOTH the major parties.

In economic apolitical terms it is undoubtedly the best and most cost-effective housing policy for the UK AND it will lead to more home ownership too as the less you spend on rent the more you can save more quickly for a deposit – a simple undeniable fact along with the easier take up of employment that are just two obvious points we have all (conveniently?) forgotten.

Yes, some council housing was appalling in its architecture and it has to be said in its management and operation, yet still much better than the worst of today’s private rented sector …. and …. many lessons have been learned so that many of the mistakes of the past will not be repeated.

If Labour do not win the election the Tories should adopt this policy as it will work and you, your children and your children’s children will have a real chance of housing and getting on.  It is the ONLY way to solve the housing crisis.

 

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Originally published on my Joe Halewood blog page today

 

Labour manifesto abandons the flawed WCA … YES!!!

Some seriously welcome immediate pledges in the Labour manifesto launched in the last hour

The IMMEDIATE scrapping of the bedroom tax we already knew and the scrapping of the work capability assessments is fantastic news coming the day after it was revealed that the mandatory reconsideration system is a rigged sham with a predetermined target of 80% not being changed and only 20% actually ‘reconsidered’ in a system that shows the courts overturn over 60%

Pages 56 and 57 above are where you need to look.

I will be posting a far more in-depth series looking at many other aspects but the IMMEDIATE changes above, especially the scrapping of the fundamentally flawed assessment process is extremely welcome and needs commending

The errant and misleading Tory benefit cap figures

According to the latest figures from the DWP 66,135 families are affected by the reduced overall benefit cap.  The figure in October 2016 the last month before the swingeing reduction was 19,095 thus (a) 47,040 families containing 143,000 children have been newly capped and (b) this is an overall 246% increase.

However: –

The 66,135 figure that the DWP issued does not contain any increased figures for some large areas such as Manchester, Sheffield or Southwark and these three areas alone could easily see an additional 7,000 families and a further 20,000 children

The DWP figure does NOT include those who are benefit-capped and in receipt of Universal Credit and so many more thousands and possibly tens of thousands

These are just two obvious and immediate reasons of many more as to why this 66,135 figure is a knowing and significant understatement of the real figure and needs to be viewed with extreme caution.

That said these knowingly understated figures place a further 150,000 children into poverty an issue that is abhorrent and an outrage yet largely met with the Not My Problem Thank You (NMPTY) response.  The scrounger narrative of the Tories has done its job very well given the lack of outrage among the general public to the overall benefit cap policy aided by some highly skewed (I am being overly kind!) TV documentaries by Dispatches and Panorama recently.

It’s a national issue affecting everywhere …

In October 2016, the last month before the overall benefit cap cut London had 43% of all capped families and now it has just 23% revealing that the policy now affects every village, hamlet, town and city across Great Britain (No figures for Northern Ireland where the OBC is fully mitigated.)  London has seen an 85% increase in families affected whereas the rest of GB sees an increase of between 313% in Yorkshire & Humber to 430% increase in capped families in the East Midlands.

Some areas have seen increases of over 1000% including RoyalTunbridge Wells – that well known hotbed of benefit scrounging anyone? – to emphasise the point that the overall benefit cap’s swingeing cut of 23% in social security benefit hits everyone.

It is not all about families however …

London pre OBC had 1005 single persons and now has 6505 affected – a 6-fold increase while the regions see much higher increases with the North East going from 0 to 60; the North West 23 to 210; the South East 16 to 436; and Scotland from 103 to 1689 with the biggest increase being in the West Midlands going from just 8 persons to 338 – an increase of more than 37 times of single people hit by the overall benefit cap’s swingeing 23% cut.

The latest figures say 91% of benefit-capped households get Child Tax Credit which suggests that 9% of all who are capped are childless when the October 2016 or pre OBC cut position had just under 6% so a 50% increase in the proportion of those capped are single.

That says a lot about rent levels and how unaffordable they have become yet single people are very much a NMPTY case of lack of any public sympathy compared to families with children yet this 50%+ increase cause huge knock on effects to the provision of housing and the actions of landlords in terms of allocation.  It strongly suggests the private landlord will be evicting more existing single tenants and taking much fewer new single tenants and creating a much bigger single person housing demand on social landlords just as the banning of under 22s and the shared accommodation rate policies kick in – so expect a huge upsurge in single homelessness!

It is most definitely not about numbers either…!

That leads nicely into one of the more complex arguments over the validity of the DWP figures in that many private landlords will have evicted single persons (and families) ahead of and by consequence of the reduced overall benefit cap level.  Yet these will not be recorded as victims of the benefit cap policy by local authority homeless teams, merely just as the (non-detailed) end of an assured shorthold tenancy.

It IS all about homelessness…

The homeless figures become much less detailed as to their meaningfulness unless much more detailed end of AST figures are recorded by every local councils homeless departments, which they will not be, and this also means that the reports that come out of Shelter, Crisis, JRF, Homeless Link and others will by definition be more generic and less meaningful when they simply say the ending of an AST is the main homeless driver!

Local councils will also not record homeless presentations as benefit cap when both private AND social landlords refuse to allocate a new property to a single person or family which is a huge issue given that social landlords have 385,000 new tenancies each year and statistically 36% of them would be families not hit by the pre OBC cut yet are affected now due to the £115 per week reduction in the OBC outside of London.

Specifically it is about non-existing cases and homelessness …

Well over 100,000 families will be refused social housing each year due to the reduced OBC and they go straight to the homeless queue yet will not be recorded as benefit cap victims which they will be.  As I have maintained the real key issue with the swingeing reductions to the benefit cap is NOT existing tenants, it is the refusal to accommodate new families who would have received housing if the OBC had NOT had the swingeing 23% cut an which is taken from housing benefit.

The OBC cut impacts hugely on the prospective tenant and the churn in social housing.  If my cautiously low figure of 100,000 families are refused social housing allocation due to the OBC then these 100,000 households will contain over 300,000 children who add to the yearly homeless figure.

That 300,000 yearly increase in children made homeless is just from social housing and will be doubled or more than doubled by private landlords refusing to accommodate – both out of the affordability problems that the OBC cuts directly give.

As I acknowledge there are some very complex and highly nuanced impacts of the overall benefit cap cut yet ones which are obvious and inevitable.  Landlords will be refusing OBC-hit families in their hundreds of thousands per year and they have no choice but to do so.  No landlord will accept a family who only gets £50 or less per week in housing benefit when the rent is £100 per week.  The risk is way too high and that risk applies to all social landlords not just private landlords and all can an will refuse to accommodate on affordability grounds.

No job no house is a crude saying yet it is, regrettably, very accurate.

The media focus in huge error on the numbers affected and not the consequences.  The numbers ONLY relate to existing tenants and not to future tenants and hence miss the real impact that this ill-conceived policy holds.  To focus on the numbers is extremely poor analysis and hides the consequences which are devastating.  Some of the practical problems such as recording WHY people become homeless which they will do in sharply increasing number is also missed and like any issue if you don’t figure out what the problem is then you have no chance whatsoever of solving it.

To summarise the figures are knowingly low and the real issue is not the number and to focus on the numbers is pitifully flawed analysis.  The real numbers that will matter will not be seen until December 2017 when Shelter reveal their annual figures on homelessness that does hit the public glare and when the public at least seem to care over how many children are homeless at Christmas.

If the number of children homeless at Christmas 2017 is not at least double the number at Christmas 2016 (120,000) I will stop ranting about the overall benefit cap policy and find a hat to eat.  I will be surprised it that figure is less than triple that number at 360,000 children homeless at Christmas 2017 and which will be directly the fault of the overall benefit cap.  A homeless child is a child in poverty and by whatever means you use to measure poverty and come the purported season of goodwill everyone in the country will be saying how did we let this happen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disability benefits – Tory lies and the ‘failing’ welfare rights system

The Tories when they introduced Personal Independence Payment (PIP) to replace Disability Living Allowance (DLA) expected that 600,000 FEWER disabled persons would receive PIP.

The House of Commons Library report from 2015 states:

When fully introduced, it is expected that around 600,000 fewer people will receive PIP than would have got DLA, and expenditure will be £2.5 billion a year lower than it would otherwise have been.

The policy without any ambiguity and with very credible reference says the Tories purpose behind PIP replacing DLA was threefold in:

(a) to cut significant cost of £2.5 billion per year and,

(b) to do that by means of 600,000 FEWER recipients of this benefit and,

(c) the mechanism was more stringent predetermined assessment.

Government ministers and the ubiquitous and always anonymous DWP spokesperson always seek to deflect and dissemble and never state that PIP was introduced to save £2.5 billion per year and to take away disability benefit from 600,000 disabled persons.

 

Media coverage such as the pathetic BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme yesterday (see here) always focus on whether the disability benefit assessment mechanism is fair or not and NEVER mention the express purpose of that assessment process which was – with absolute predetermination – to cut the number of working age disability benefit recipients by almost 20% and to save £2.5 billion per year.

As the trailer for the BBC Victoria Derbyshire says disabled people are forced to go to court to get their rightful disability benefits.  Yet the programme failed to mention the purpose behind the fundamentally flawed and overtly contrived assessment process was, is, and always has been to take £2.5 billion per year away from disabled people.

Just another example of how ‘human interest stories’ enable the media to hide the basic facts and promote fake news with calculated errors of omission and politically biased commission.

“Our top story today is that 300 disabled people A DAY are appealing against cuts to their benefits and its costing you £1 million per week”

Is how Victoria Derbyshire starts the programme.

How awful that the taxpayer is having to bail out these disabled scroungers is the basis of this outrageous programme!

  • Not once in this programme does it mention the £2.5 billion per year intended cut.
  • Not once does it mention that the latest official government figures reveal that 63% of those that do appeal their PIP decisions see them changed in their favour.
  • Not once does the programme mention that this must surely mean the assessment process is fundamentally flawed!

The programme follows the case of Debbie (and please BBC can you edit the film as it shows her full name when you zoom in on her medication!!!!) who was failed by the assessment process then had to wait a full year to get into the tribunal, a year full of stress anxiety and poverty … to have the tribunal reverse the decision and award her disability benefits for TEN YEARS!

The programme does have the hapless Tory MP Richard Graham member of the DWP committee admitting that disabled people need a welfare rights organisation to help the appeal these discredited assessments and subsequent DWP decisions that are made by a non medically qualified person, a civil servant and it is only the tribunal comprising of a judge, medically qualified person and a disability expert that CAN give a true decision – and this also explains why only 5% of disabled persons do appeal as the system works wholly against them doing this.

The programme also assumes that there is welfare benefit support to enable such appeals yet that is NOT the case at all.  In Liverpool there are 8 CABx offices yet I am informed just 1 of them takes such appeals.  That is not a slight on the CAB or the Liverpool branches I hasten to add, it much more reflects that the costs of appealing are too much for ALL welfare rights organisations an especially with their conditional funding they receive.

The case of Debbie in the programme saw a full year between negative decision and the correct one being put in place.  That is not unusual in terms of time and not just stress-ridden for the disabled person, it is incredibly costly to meet and each such appeal needs a good 30 hours of support to formulate and deliver a successful appeal.

Strange then that the BBC Victoria Derbyshire programme which opened with the taxpayer cost of tribunals wholly failed to mention the cost that it takes for a disabled person to get a legally correct decision under the Tories fundamentally flawed system.

300 appeals a day every day each with 30+ hours of support and advice necessary and let’s say a low unit cost of £25 per hour for any welfare rights organisation is a cost of appealing of £225,000 per day and £1.25 million per week … and far higher than the £1 million per week stated tribunal cost.

Those figures explain precisely WHY the CABx and other welfare rights organisations cannot afford to help disabled persons appeal and get what they are entitled to which has been taken away from them in a premeditated ideological policy with PIP.

Finally, after outlining the reasonable if not low level of costs of appealing, ask yourself why just 5% of disabled persons actually appeal their failed PIP decisions and especially when they know that the official government figures reveal 63% or almost 2 in every 3 appeals overturn the original PIP decision?

The answer to that is the lack of capacity and funding to take appeals.  That is loud and clear what the figures reveal.  It is not an attack or slight on CABx or other welfare rights organisations in any way; it is, regrettably, the cold hard facts of disability and other social security benefit appeals.

The Tories have stacked the system against social security benefit appeals with for example the large scale removal of legal aid that used to see every high street solicitors have a welfare rights officer doing this free for the claimant.

The Tories also introduced a further blocking stage called Mandatory Reconsideration before a claimant can appeal to a tribunal (which surprise, surprise upholds 82% of the original assessment based decisions!)

The Tories have massively reduced funding to local government who invariably are the main funders of advice services and so funding has reduced dramatically since 2010 and across the nation.

Most important of all is the Tories rely on the general public ignorance of the capacity of CABx and other welfare rights organisations and the public believe, like and want to believe that the capacity to challenge benefit decisions is freely available.

As my outline figures above reveal the capacity is simply not there in the advice sector and the Tories clear, deliberate and premeditated ideological message to disabled persons is we are taking away your quality of life and if you don’t like it tough because only 1 in 20 of you is able to challenge our knowingly flawed system of decision making.

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A quick update for housing  people and social landlords who have in-house welfare teams or co-fund external advice agencies and claim to do ridiculous notions and terms such as ‘welfare benefit maximisation’ and the like.

The figures above on cost of appeals and that government seeking to take 600,000 working age disabled persons off DLA is just another alarm bell for your bottom lines and drilling down for benefit cap cases too.

The fact that most disabled persons live in general needs social housing (eg 63% of bedroom tax households contain a disability in DWP figures) and they cannot get the advice and support needed to get their lawfully entitled to disability benefits due to a lack of capacity in the advice sector is a major issue.

The fact the FRS survey revealed a huge increase in disabled persons (of 15% and 22%) just in the last two years as well and these numbers were not included in the Supported Housing Review as part of the LHA maxima cap policy that also includes no detail of how capacity increases will be met (and neither does the SHA alternative you like so much!) … and the fact that just 13% of benefit-capped households have tenants ready and able to work means that you seriously need to rethink whether your much (self) vaunted EET programmes are targeting the wrong and huge minority of your customers with such programmes