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

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Stop penalising Universal Credit claimants

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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.

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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 )
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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

Labour should demand the suspension of Right to Buy Sales

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This is a letter to John Healey, Shadow Housing Minister

Dear John

Labour should demand the suspension of Right to Buy Sales

As you know Teresa Pearce, when she was in your current post, made a commitment that Labour would suspend RTB. She said that the policy “could only make sense in a time of surplus, in a time of shortage it makes no sense at all”.

Housing Minister Gavin Barwell has recently said that RTB is only “politically justifiable” if homes sold are replaced by new homes built. Since those homes sold are not being replaced then should not sales be suspended? Over the last 4 years the number of council homes in England have declined by 82,000. Only 5,520 replacement homes have been built, less than the 13,000 council homes demolished (see table below). There are only 1.61 million council homes left in England.

We would suggest that in the light of Barwell’s statement Labour should demand that the government suspends RTB sales and makes this a campaigning issue. Even the Tory majority LGA has called for councils to be allowed to suspend RTB sales where they cannot replace them. More

Suspend Right to Buy Sales

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Media Release

March 6th 2017

Suspend Right to Buy Sales

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group is calling on Swindon’s MP to press the Housing Minister to suspend Right To Buy sales of council properties. Housing Minister Gavin Barwell recently stated that RTB sales are only “politically justified” if homes sold are replaced. Since they are not being replaced then STCG believes that sales should at least be suspended. In the last four years 40,755 council homes in England have been sold under RTB and only 5,520 have been replaced. In the case of Swindon since 2011/12 to December 2016 285 homes have been lost to RTB, and council stock overall has fallen by 250: from 10,515 to 10,265 in December 2016.

A fall in stock numbers impacts on the homelessness situation because Swindon council has insufficient homes available. Over the last two and a half years the number of households in temporary accommodation has risen from 201 to 359. The number of households placed in private rented accommodation by SBC and local housing associations has risen from 110 to 230 in the last two years. Spending on homelessness in this financial year is expected to be more than £300,000 over budget, virtually double the original budget. This deteriorating situation will only be halted if we stop the decline of available council housing stock and start increasing it. More

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