Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill

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Here is MP Karen Bucks speech in moving support for her Private Members Bill. Having opposed her previous efforts the government finally relented and agreed to  support it.

Karen Buck MP in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 19th January 2018.

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

Everyone deserves to live in a safe, warm and comfortable home, yet despite the undeniable progress made over many decades, millions of people—often the most vulnerable—still do not. Currently and extraordinarily, landlords have no obligation to their tenants to put or to keep the property in a condition fit for habitation. There is an obligation on the landlord to repair the structure of the property and to keep in repair features such as heating, gas, water and electricity, but that applies only when something is broken or damaged; it does not cover issues such as fire safety, inadequate heating or poor ventilation causing condensation and mould growth. There is a whole range of fitness issues that seriously affect the wellbeing and safety of tenants and about which tenants can do nothing. More


“Borrowing to build” is no solution to the council housing shortage


Is lifting the “borrowing cap” for council Housing Revenue Accounts the solution for large scale new council house building?

Councils in England are building very few council homes. In the seven years from 2010-17 only 10,840 homes were built. This compares with 18,220 demolitions and 60,567 sold through Right to Buy (RTB). In the six years to 2016 council housing stock in England declined by 174,000. One suggested remedy for the shortage of council housing has been the proposal that councils should be allowed to “borrow to build”. The Local Government Association, Shadow Housing Minister John Healey, and others have recently repeated the call for the borrowing cap, set for each council in 2012, to either be eliminated or at least raised. John Healey suggested that this would enable councils to build “tens of thousands” of new council homes. What his evidence is for this we don’t know.

It’s our contention that only central government grant towards the cost of house building can provide the resources necessary to build new council housing on a scale sufficient to begin to tackle the housing shortage. Proposing that councils increase their debt takes no account of the financial crisis being faced by local authority Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs). Read on below or download a PDF here  borrowing

Universal Credit and rent arrears – an exchange with MPs and Council Leader

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In December last year we wrote to our two MPs and the council Leader highlighting a spike in rent arrears as a result of Universal Credit. We called on them to press the government to change the Universal Credit rules so that claimants should continue to receive their existing benefits during the period when the UC claim is being processed. This would stop them being thrown into rent arrears. We also asked that claimants who received free prescriptions should be able to keep them during the waiting period when the UC claim is being processed.

We received a collective response from them which failed to address the issues we raised. You can judge for yourself be viewing their letter here 18.01.02 DR_JT_RB.dcc.MW 4825-1 .

What follows is a further letter we have sent them clarifying the situation faced by claimants, and asking them to actually answer the issues we have raised. More

Labour’s Social Housing Review

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The Labour Party is holding a Social Housing Review. It was announced by way of a brief article in Inside Housing a few days before Christmas. The deadline for submissions is January 31st. The text and questions which were sent to the Defend Council Housing campaign are shown below.

The Review provides an opportunity to tell Labour what we want them to do in relation to ‘social housing’. Anybody who did not read the Labour General Election Manifesto might imagine that Labour’s policy is for a large scale council house building programme. Unfortunately it is not. Although Jeremy Corbyn talked of Labour building 100,000 council homes a year for five years, this commitment did not find its way into the Manifesto. Labour’s official policy is for 100,000 “affordable homes” for rent and sale by the end of the next Parliament; that is year five. There was no indication as to the proportions of homes for rent and sale. 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

Universal Credit update

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The figures which were given me by the Council in response to a Freedom of Information Request were not accurate, owing to “IT systems updates that the reports had not calculated correctly that weekend”. The situation is worse than reported.

A council officer has given me corrected and updated figures for December 3rd.

  • There are 1,080 tenants on UC. Of these 829 are in arrears – 76%.

  • The arrears owed by UC claimants are £700,587. Overall arrears for council tenants are £1,308,547. So UC arrears comprise 53.5% of all arrears for current tenants.

  • The average owed by UC claimants is £845.09.

You can see the impact of Universal Credit when you compare the arrears for November 2016 when it went fully live. These were £894,903 as compared to £1,308,547 today.

Martin Wicks

December 8th 2017

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.





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