Damning report shows homelessness will rocket due to Tory housing bill

An LGA report report released today shows that councils fear that the Conservative housing bill will see a sell off of homes that will not be replaced and a rocketing of homelessness in communities across Britain.

The survey of local authorities, treated as a snapshot by the LGA laid out their concerns starkly.

The key statistics from this survey are:

–          78% said there would be an increase in homelessness

–          90% of councils surveyed said their number of council homes would decrease

–          74% said the homes sold under RTB would not be replaced

–          82% said there would be less estate regeneration

The Liberal Democrats have called on the government to think again and take advantage of the remaining stages (Report and Third Reading) of the Housing Bill to change the law to help families in housing need.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said:

“The rise of homelessness because of the Government’s housing reforms is utterly appalling. The most vulnerable people in our communities are being completely overlooked. The blame for this lies firmly at the Government’s door.

“When is the Government going to do a proper assessment of the impact of their housing reforms on those most in need?”

Commenting on the results of the council survey which was initiated by Liberal Democrats within the LGA, leader Gerald Vernon-Jackson said:

“This survey confirms our fears about the devastation that will be caused by the Government’s housing reforms. Liberal Democrats asked for this survey to be carried out because we suspected this disastrous impact.

“A huge reduction in affordable housing is forecasted across the country. The Tories are intent on destroying housing for those most in need.

“The housing crisis in Britain is desperate, yet the Government is busy giving cash handouts to help those with wealthy parents buy a nice home while the numbers of homes for everyone else is being slashed.

“We need to stop this before it’s too late. Liberal Democrats in the Lords have launched a major attack on the reforms and will be fighting them to the bitter end.”

Lib Dems condemn Conservative stance on Housing Bill

Local Liberal Democrats have expressed shock and regret at the failure of the local Tory administration to support hard-working local families.

Lib Dem Leader Chris White roundly condemned those in the Conservative group who sought to belittle the threat or who urged colleagues to take no action until the Bill had become law.

He said: ‘In the council chamber this week, the Conservative Administration refused to accept the support of all members to try and lessen the impact of the Government’s Housing and Planning Bill.

‘This Bill is a clear attempt by the Government to destroy social housing in our country, and districts like ours may need to sell a huge proportion of our housing stock, with no realistic possibility that these houses will be adequately replaced. (more…)

Lib Dems call for improved maintenance inspections in council owned housing

The Lib Dems have called for an improvement in the maintenance regime in council owned or managed property after a spate of leakage problems across the estate.

Chris White, speaking after Wednesday’s council meeting where he asked a question specifically about Thirlestane, in Clarence Ward said: ‘I am coming across too many residents with drainage or flooding problems – and the council itself has admitted that there were 30 call outs in the past 12 months.

‘There is also a major problem with communications with elected councillors. Under the Liberal Democrat administration, councillors would visit the various council owned blocks with council officials and talk to local residents. This has now been abandoned and we often don’t find out how bad things are until we have knocked on doors ourselves – something I have recently done in Thirlestane.’

Chris welcomed oral assurances from the administration that communications would be looked at.

He also welcomed the fact that the council is increasing its maintenance inspections which in the latest survey had covered less that 20% of the council’s housing stock.

District Council announces its plans over St Claire’s

District Council press release – Chris White is not responsible for its content

Council listens to residents’ concerns and agrees to fund ten units of temporary housing in St Albans

St Albans City and District Council is making money available to address the need for more accommodation for people finding themselves temporarily homeless.

The intention is to use this money to help fund a proposed housing scheme in Church Crescent, St Albans.  A grant from the Council of £500k is being earmarked should the scheme go ahead. A further annual revenue grant of up to £63k will also be made available.  The Council’s annual contribution can be funded from money currently spent on hotel or bed and breakfast accommodation.

Hightown Praetorian and Churches Housing Association wants to develop St Claires, a former registered care home in Church Crescent.  Hightown is a charitable housing association.  The proposed housing scheme will be used for people who are waiting for their housing application to be determined or who have been accepted for permanent rehousing.  A stay of around six months would be typical for people waiting for permanent accommodation to become available.  The proposed scheme will have a concierge worker on shift every night and a Housing Support Worker on shift in the daytime. (more…)

Are you entitled to discretionary housing benefit? Advice from the district council

If someone is currently receiving partial Housing Benefit i.e. the amount does not cover the rent in full, they could apply to the Council for a Discretionary Housing Payment. This is an amount of money which can ‘top up’ the Housing Benefit on a temporary basis to help people struggling financially.

There does not need to be any specific reason why only partial Housing Benefit is received–reasons could include the removal of the spare room subsidy, the benefit cap or because people are working. Private tenants, housing association tenants and council tenants can all apply. (more…)

Shelter Closure will hit the most vulnerable hardest

County Councillor Ron Tindall (Hemel Hempstead St Pauls) has today
called for action from Herts County Council following the news that
Shelter Hertfordshire is to close.

Councillor Tindall said ” I have today learnt of the closure of
Shelter Hertfordshire which will be a serious loss to the county in
terms of advice and advocacy to the vulnerable members of our
communities across Hertfordshire.

“Shelter has since 1976 provided an essential service to those needing
help, particularly families and adults with learning difficulties and
mental health issues.
“What is Hertfordhire County Council doing about the situation?  Who is
going to step into the breach to protect the most vulnerable members
of our society?  What discussions are taking place with the Districts
to ensure that the county has a viable advice service available by
April when the new benefit regime is introduced?”

Council publishes draft Strategic Local Plan documents ahead of public meetings

St Albans City & District Council has published a number of draft planning documents. These documents will be considered at two public meetings to be held on Wednesday 19 and Monday 24 September.

The documents include a draft housing target for the District over the next 17 years and the draft Strategic Local Plan.

Once formally adopted, the Strategic Local Plan will set out planning policy in the district, including a framework for infrastructure and development policy, up until 2028. The Plan will partially replace the 1994 Local Plan on which planning policy is currently based.

Both draft documents are available on the Council’s website.

The documents are nearing completion and the Council is keen to showcase them. The Council is also seeking preliminary views as to whether they have been produced in line with planning and legal regulations and are ‘sound’ in legal terms.

The meeting on 19 September is an opportunity for people to hear where we are in the process and the constraints under which the Council is operating. There will be an opportunity for questions and answers.

Councillors and members of the public are invited to submit comments on emphasis, clarity of the document and issues arising. These will be considered further at the meeting on 24 September.

The Local Services Scrutiny Committee meeting on 27 September will consider the documents and comments from the public meetings, before they go to Cabinet on 18 October.

The documents will then be considered by Full Council in November. Council’s agreement will be sought to publish the Strategic Local Plan, for its final procedural stage.

Once agreed by Council, the final draft version of the Strategic Local Plan will progress to what is known as ‘pre-submission publication’ in late 2012. This is a final opportunity for people to comment on the plan’s legal soundness. This ‘pre-submission publication’ phase is the final stage following the series of detailed consultations conducted over the last few years. Once responses have been considered, the final version of the Strategic Local Plan will be submitted to the Secretary of State for examination.

The meetings on 19 and 24 September begin at 7pm and take place in the Council Chamber. The meetings can also be viewed via webcast either live or after the event.

Lib Dems to push for council house rent freeze

When the Budget of St Albans City & District Council is discussed at the next Council meeting on Thursday 23rd February, the Liberal Democrat group will push for a freeze in council house rents, instead of the Conservatives’ proposed 8.3% increase.

The previous rules governing the amount that the Council can charge council tenants, which applied until recently, meant that the Council would have been penalised for variation from the formula set by Whitehall. These rules have been changed by the Coalition to allow greater local flexibility. While the Conservative administration at the District Council is content to accept the Whitehall-recommended guidelines for rent increases, local Lib Dems are convinced that there should be no rise at all next year.

Cllr Roger Axworthy, Lib Dem Council Resources Spokesperson, explained: “We are well aware that many household budgets are being squeezed at the moment. Many of our hard-pressed tenants could do with a financial break to help. This is especially true for those tenants who are working but who earn just too much to qualify for housing benefit. Our proposal to keep rents in 2012/13 at the same level as this financial year will be very good news for them – provided that we can get this agreed at the Council budget meeting next week.”

Changes to housing allocations

The way that Council houses and housing association properties are allocated to people on the waiting list – Choice Based Lettings system – was updated to reflect people’s needs and to make the best use of available properties, at a meeting of the District Council’s Cabinet 7 December.

The changes follow a review of the system which was introduced in May 2009.

The main changes, which will make it easier for people to change their property for one which better suits their needs are:

    Up to 50% of properties advertised in St Albans district through Herts Choice Homes, will now be prioritised for Council and Housing Association tenants already living in the district. This will increase the number of Council and Housing association properties that become available in the district.
    The lower age limit for anyone wishing to apply for a bungalow has come down from 60, to 50 years of age. They must already be living in a Council or Housing Association property in the district.
    Council or housing association tenants in the St Albans District who are living in a property that is larger than they need, will be given a high priority, if they are willing to move to a smaller property that has the right number of bedrooms for their current need.
    Council or Housing Association tenants in the district, living in a property that has been specially adapted for a previous tenant, will be given a high priority if they are willing to vacate it, in favour of someone with special needs who would benefit from the adaptations within that property.

However, there are also changes to the qualifications for separate bedrooms for children, meaning that in the following situations siblings will have to share:

– same sex siblings with less than 9 years difference in age
– siblings of opposite sexes but are under 8 years of age