£113,000 increase in UC rent arrears in less than two months

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At the recent council meeting the ruling Conservative Group Swindon Council rejected a Labour resolution in support of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group’s proposal that Universal Credit claimants should continue receiving their current benefits whilst their UC claim is being processed. This would prevent them being driven into rent arrears as a result of the ‘waiting period’ when their existing benefits are stopped.

Instead the Conservative Group’s amendment committed them to “carefully monitor” the situation and do whatever was necessary to support people in financial difficulties. In other words they defended the status quo and support stopping tenants’ existing benefits. More


Swindon Conservative Group supports stopping Universal Credit claimants’ housing benefit

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Press Release on Universal Credit.

The issue of Universal Credit and rent arrears was debated at the recent Council meeting. The Labour Group had put down a resolution supporting our proposal for a change of policy whereby Universal Credit claimants should continue to receive their existing benefits whilst their claim for UC is being processed. That would prevent them needlessly being driven into rent arrears.

Unfortunately the Conservative Group amended the resolution in such a way as to completely negate it. They will apparently monitor the situation and “take such steps as are necessary in order to assist people in financial difficulty”. They are going to “keep our MPs informed on the matter”. More

Universal Credit: end the punitive regime

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STCG’s call for people ‘transferring’ from existing benefits to Universal Credit to be paid their existing benefits until the UC claim has been processed, has been questioned on the grounds that those on ‘legacy benefits’ (the six benefits that will be subsumed into UC) are not transferring to UC yet. To understand what’s going on we have to get beyond the confusing vocabulary of the DWP. There is, it seems, a difference between ‘natural migration’ and ‘managed migration’. The latter will not take place until 2019 when all those in receipt of ‘legacy benefits’ will be transferred or ‘migrated’ onto UC. It currently only applies to ‘new claims’. Here’s where the bureaucratic language of the DWP obscures what is actually happening. It’s not just people who have never previously claimed benefits who are going onto UC. People are going from existing benefits onto UC now. (Read on below or download a PDF here january2018) More

Stop penalising Universal Credit claimants


Swindon Tenants Campaign Group put in a Freedom of Information request to Swindon Council in relation to the impact of Universal Credit on rents arrears. We discovered that there were 1,080 council tenants on UC on December 3rd . Of these, 829 were in arrears, with a staggering average of £845.09 arrears. This is largely the result of the 6 week minimum wait for a UC claim to be processed. Because people who are transferring over from one of the old benefits to UC, are treated as new claimants, their housing benefit is stopped.

It is a complete injustice for people to be thrown into a financial crisis simply because of the introduction of a new system. Swindon Tenants Campaign Group is calling for a change of policy which will end the penalisation of UC claimants. We are suggesting that existing benefits are paid whilst the UC claim is being processed. This will prevent people building up rent arrears.

We have written to the ruling group on the Council, the other political groups on it, and our two MPs, calling on them to press for a change to the system along these lines. Below is a PDF of an STCG leaflet which you can download. Please add your voice to this call for existing benefits to be continued until the UC claim is processed.





Council housing sham

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This is a letter published in the Swindon Advertiser today.

In the lead up to the Great Leader’s conference speech we were told to expect, in the words of government Minister Damian Green, nothing less than “the rebirth of council housing”. An excited media was predicting “under the PM’s housing plan, ministers will join forces with housing associations to build hundreds of thousands of new homes” (The Sun).

However, instead of the hundreds of thousands we discovered that May’s “plan” might add up to 25,000 “affordable homes” over 5 years. That is, 5,000 a year. At that rate it would only take 240 years to produce enough homes for the 1.2 million households on the waiting lists, always assuming nobody else was added to the list in the meantime. More

SBC should withdraw the proposal to introduce compulsory “affordability assessment”

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Swindon council currently offers advice and support to tenants in relation to finances, benefits and employment for anyone who wishes to receive their help. However, the council is now proposing to introduce a compulsory “affordability assessment” for all households registered on the Council’s housing waiting list, and all current council tenants applying to move to an SBC home which would have a rent higher than their existing property.

When people apply to go on the council’s housing waiting list they are subject to an assessment to see if they have an household income sufficient to be able “to afford a suitable property on the market”, whether that be private rent, a mortgage or part-ownership. If it’s judged that they can afford this then they are blocked from joining the list. The council introduced this against tenant opposition (See Throwing people off the waiting list 1). We believed it was a convenient means of cutting the numbers on the waiting list. It fell from over 16,000 households to less than 4,000.(Read on below or download a PDF here allocationschanges )

House price to earnings ratios continue to rise

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The latest statistical release from the Office of National Statistics shows that house prices in Swindon continue to race ahead of earnings. Prior to the credit crunch and the housing crash the price of lower quartile homes reached a peak of 7.28 times lower quartile earnings. As a result of the crash, prices dropped considerably. In 2010 the price of a lower quartile property was on average £120,000. By 2014 it was only slightly higher, but the two years after that saw a steep rise to £150,500 in 2016. The price was 7.20 times earnings, higher than the previous peak of 7.14 times earnings in 2008. At these levels low earners have no chance of getting a mortgage for even the cheapest properties. More

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