If you want a Westminster council house, get a job

People who ‘do the right thing’ and find employment will be given priority

People who ‘do the right thing and get a job’ will be given council housing priority over those who are unemployed, Westminster Council has announced.

Residents classified as low-income working applicants would have their waiting time cut by up to three years to reward those in work and ‘encourage’ those out of work to get a job, under council proposals put forward this week.

The plan comes as part of a shake up in Westminster’s housing allocation which would also see priority given to people who have lived in the borough for 10 years.

Cllr Philippa Roe, cabinet member for housing, said: “We are looking to reward people who have done the right thing and got a job.

“Under the previous administration you could have a better standard of life on benefits than you could working.

“If people are able to work then they can get a job and move their way up the list. It’s the motivation that we want to give.

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“It seems unfair that people on a very low income should be paying taxes for someone else who isn’t working to move into a house that they want.”

The council defines working households as those where the main applicant or their partner has been in work for a minimum of two years.

“We have got one of the most vibrant business communities in Westminster so there are always jobs,” she said.

“Within Westminster there are enough opportunities out there for people to find employment. When you are looking at a city centre that’s one of the driving forces of the country it’s hard to say that it’s impossible to get a job.”

Cllr Roe says giving priority to long-term Westminster residents will help stop the numerous complaints the council receives from residents upset that newcomers to the borough are going ahead of them on the housing list.

The council claims it will continue to give priority to those who are homeless or threatened with homelessness, occupying overcrowded housing, or needing to move on medical or welfare grounds.

But North Westminster MP Karen Buck criticised the proposals arguing the new policies would be hard to implement.

“Policies like this often sound superficially attractive but unravel in the face of real lives and real circumstances,” she said.

“If somebody loses their job the day before they get a flat, will they still get it or will they lose it?

“If they get a house and then leave their job the next week will they keep their house?

“The more complications you create, the more difficulties you create.

“These are the sort of policies that are not unreasonable in a time of low unemployment but is it fair to do it at a time of rising unemployment?

“I have spent my whole career trying to encourage people to work but I don’t think it’s a sensible idea to mix different policies together. It’s not the job of housing policy to get people into work.

“There will be plenty of rough justice arising from this, and some of it will cause real misery.”

The proposals will be put before Westminster Council’s cabinet in February before possible implementation by April.