Speech to Wandsworth Council, 28 January 2015
This paper covers council rents, money to tackle the homelessness crisis and elements of councillor Govindia’s new housing strategy. There are positive and negative sides to each.
On council rents, the average increase this year will be 2.2%. This is fair – but in reality almost no one will actually pay it.
Sometimes you just have to look at a policy and apply a common sense check. 10,000 of our tenants will get less than £1 a week rent rise but 3,500 households on historically lower rents will get more than £8 a week rent rise, with almost nothing in between.
1,300 of the families facing an extra £400 in rent next year receive no housing benefit at all. We know most of these will be older people: some too proud to claim, others working for minimum wage.
In terms of the number of people affected and financial impact this is comparable to the Bedroom Tax. The council is taking an unnecessary risk.
Wandsworth has yet to get to grips with its homelessness crisis. It should be praised for committing to spend £20m on temporary accommodation. It’s about time.
Unfortunately it’s too little and it’s too late.
The new properties bought with the £20m will almost all be outside Wandsworth.
I wrote to the council about a Tooting mother who became homeless with her three children after a difficult family situation. She works and studies locally but the council made a final offer that she should move to a private rented home in West Bromwich, 100 miles from her friends and her children’s school.
When she said the property was unsuitable, the council responded with an eviction notice. This behaviour damages the reputation of the council.
Wandsworth has been condemned by Sandwell Council’s leader for treating people “like cattle” and moving them around the country to cut costs.