Let’s face it folks we do not expect Tories to know much about social housing and to care even less but the latest proposals from Grant Shapps about tenure for social housing show are bonkers and show a complete failure to join up Tory policy in this and other fields.
So let’s get the gist of the proposals right shall we? We will create a new social tenancy with a minimum fixed term of two years but with the council checking on the tenant’s need for housing with a view to terminating tenancies if it is felt that they no longer ‘need’ the property. What would be the effects of this twaddle?
- It would remove from individuals and their families the desire to find employment. “Get a job and be chucked out”, is hardly the incentive that people need.
- Most of them will not get high paid jobs. That means they will be unable to buy a house. They will therefore, move into a home owned by a private landlord who charges more rent for their property than a council or RSL which means a higher HB subsidy.
- You will move out of an estate the most capable and stable families. Their place will be taken by people with problems and so an area will, over time, be typified as a sink estate with sink people living there.
- You will damage the social and family networks of people leading to more pressure on a range of services including social services as people.
These proposals run counter to two things which I believe are important:
Firstly, there is no place for these ideas inside the context of Big Society. In so far as I understand this concept (and I am seeing Lord Wei tomorrow so might know more) it is an attempt to be inclusive; to pull communities together; to help communities help themselves. This is just the opposite of these corrosive ideas.
Secondly, in the CSR a strong start was made for the concept of community budgeting through the 16 pilots involving 30 councils looking at the needs of complex families. The CB approach is one that tries to look at all the needs of individuals and communities and deliver services around those needs. The housing proposals run counter to this.
So do we need to man the barricades? No, because the main work has already been done. The Government originally intended to make these proposals mandatory now they have been made permissive. Councils can choose to adopt them if they wish. They won’t! Well a few loony right councils in London might but the conversations that I have had with councillors of all Parties indicate that this is not an Eagle but a Dodo.
So let’s all respond to the White Paper not with anger but with sorrow. Let’s try and get some parliamentary Tories out to meet some of the people on our estates so that they really understand the problems of those they so glibly create policies for.
If we do that there is some hope that they will see that council tenants are not the demons of Daily Mail creation but people just like the rest of us with ambitions for neighbourhood and family life just like us.