How Westminster profits from housing benefit system
A few things need to be straightened out. regarding the recent concerns expressed in your columns over housing benefits. We need to remember that Westminster Council makes a profit out of housing benefit. When the government adjusted rent assessments so t
A few things need to be straightened out. regarding the recent concerns expressed in your columns over housing benefits.
We need to remember that Westminster Council makes a profit out of housing benefit. When the government adjusted rent assessments so that a standard rent figure applied to each borough based on the average rents in that area, Westminster, which has the highest rents in the UK (including its council rents), unlike other boroughs, had a windfall.
The rent Westminster had negotiated with hotels and private landlords for families living in temporary accommodation was below the new rent figure set by the government for that borough.
The council will say that they will use that 'windfall' to house some of these families. Let's look at their policy. The latest performance monitoring report shows that the council failed (again) to meet the target of housing families living in temporary accommodation (2,290 were in this category against a forecast of 2,062).
The council is now considering restricting access to the lettings system to new single applicants (these will be homeless vulnerable people). At the same time we have the announcement of a new scheme to help single working people who earn up to �30,000.
This scheme will be funded by the general taxpayer (not from the council's funds) and will cost �7million.
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The scheme will offer subsided rents to single working people. There is no evidence base for this scheme other than a theoretical view about how people might get on the housing ladder.
There is, of course, sufficient and detailed evidence of those families and single people in housing need.
We know the level of their vulnerability, the impact on children of inferior housing conditions, and the support families need from various agencies whilst living in these appalling housing units.
With all that knowledge of the problem, why would the council embark on a mad cap scheme that will have no guarantee of meeting the council's objectives and will be open to abuse of public funds?
We, as politicians, have to ensure that compassion steers our social policies in the way that they impact on people's lives. If we fail to then we allow our senses to be numbed by political ideology.
CLLR Guthrie McKie
Labour Spokesperson for Housing
Westminster City Council