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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #47

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis is shaking his head at the daftness of it all today ..]

I’ve made a difficult week for myself by purchasing Heston Blumenthal’s “Cooking at home” book.

Cooking at home

All my previous wisdom is being thrown on its head and I have been brining chickens in salt water, thawing frozen peas on kitchen paper to get rid of the liquid whilst keeping the colour, and cooking down tomatoes in a pressure cooker, which, Heston assures, squeezes double the flavour out of things.

I spent a merry hour watching the new steaming, hissing thing from behind the kitchen door, in case it blows up. (He states cook down tomatoes with 50ml of liquid but the cooker handbook states never use less than 300ml) It’s a stressful process that tests my faith and courage.

Results have so far ranged from approving looks from me lovely Frazzles, to scraping disaster into the bin as I tweak my cooking repertoire. Roast lamb cooked for 8 hours??? That didn’t work.

It’s a learning curve. We all go through them but some people learn faster than others.

If cheerful optimism fuelled my post last week, Daftness is my general theme this week and a rueful shaking of the head. When will these people we vote for learn?

In praise of Inside Housing

Before I get into this, I think I should point readers to a resource that constantly comes up trumps for me in writing this column. Inside Housing.

This has been around in magazine form for as long as I have been involved in this business. It is where housing managers go to find jobs and lets you know what is going on at policy and strategy level in housing as a whole.

Do yourself a favour and stick their news section in Google Reader, or whatever other site you use to keep your housing stuff together. It updates several times daily and lets you know what is really going on in housing land.

PRS landlords may not think it relevant but I can assure you the politicking they talk about impacts on you in the near future.

This week IH was the first to alert me to the shameful truth that many councils are demolishing houses at a time when we need them more than ever.

Shame on them

Councils survive on various funding streams and one such stream is the £35.5 million ‘Renewal Transition fund’ that has actually resulted in 13 local authorities deciding to use the money to demolish 5,125 homes and convert the land that they occupy into green-space

Although this may seem madness in the current climate, where the housing crisis is largely driven, not just by mad rent levels but by a lack of actual homes to live in, this would seem to fit government plans beautifully.

Warning, Rant Coming:

In the inside housing article Shapps is reported as being ‘concerned by the move’, but Shapps and the government hate social housing.

They hate the ethos and they hate the tenants, who are largely perceived to exist solely on benefits and are therefore viewed as a drain on decent people and society as whole.

The press join in with making social housing tenants a sub-human species of easily defined and caricatured dole scroungers, rioters, drug dealers and terminal recidivists. Just like Hogarth’s print ‘Gin Lane’ of the working class of the 18th century.

Every economy that is struggling looks around for a scapegoat. Pol Pot used people with education, Hitler used the Jews. The Con-dem government uses social tenants and people on benefits, I don’t know why Shapps pretends concern.

Surely better a small green-space than a family with problems eh Grant?

The bedroom tax

Sad fiasco number teo was covered in many places but rather nicely by 24 Dash, another very useful website for letting you know what is going on in housing at policy level.

The government’s much vaunted ‘Bedroom Tax’. A £14 per week deduction from benefits for having a spare room, even though that room might be used for a number of valid family reasons

I wrote about this the other week. There has been a lot of arguing and disapproval going on in the house of Lords about this, with votes defeating the government right, left and centre, but this week the vote went to the Commons and government won.Bedroom tax is going to be part of the new agenda, dovetailing nicely with universal credit to create more poverty and homelessness.

The article points out

“Under the Government’s plans, 670,000 working age social tenants – two-thirds containing a disabled family member – face losing an average of £14 per week from April 2013 because they are deemed to have one or more additional bedrooms. It hopes to save £490 million from the £23 billion annual housing benefit bill from the measure”.

Head of the National Housing Federation, David Orr said

” This unfair bedroom tax will penalise some of Britain’s most vulnerable families for under-occupying their homes when they have nowhere to move to.”

Let me set something straight here. We have had cuts in HB, raising the single room rate age limit from 25 – 35, lowering the percentage calculation that determines benefit levels from an average 50% to 30% and freezing the level on an annual basis from this April, all with a view to cutting 23 billion off of the housing benefit bill but while it does this the homelessness and assistance bill is rising.

What it all actually means

In order to deal with the social fallout of these enforced government cuts councils across the land are having to either find shelter for those displaced by the cuts or to pay millions in discretionary housing payments so that they don’t have to re-house people who private landlords no longer want.

When that £23 Billion is announced as being successfully achieved they will conveniently leave out how much it cost elsewhere to find that saving.

Eric PicklesTime for lunch

And finally, headline of the week goes again to ‘Inside Housing’ with “Pickles wants big lunch to help communities

Do you know what Eric Pickles looks like? No stranger to a Big Lunch himself I’m sure.

He wants to bring communities together for the Diamond Jubilee by having local communal meals. He has the mendacity to state

“I welcome the contribution of everyone but those who advocate separate lives are wrong. It is time to concentrate on the things that unite the British people.”

A comment that is laughable given government’s attitude to people on benefits.

A point not lost on F451, who often posts intelligent and insightful responses to Inside Housing stories, when he says

“They want division because they know it is the only way to get their programme of privatisation, wealth concentration, social depravation and internal repatriation through.”

Well said.

So there you go, a more political piece than I expected when I started writing this week’s column but as I examined the daftness I found myself getting more angry than usual at the lies and injustice of what the government is doing with housing.

While the USA is spending its way out of their recession we are going down the austerity route, fair enough but why does it seem that the people who are constantly being expected to give up the most are the people with very little in the first pace?

You don’t need to be a revolutionary socialist to see that is unfair, you just need to have a scrap of humanity in you.

Its enough to make you burn your tomatoes in anger.

Ben Reeve Lewis

Follow Ben on twitterBen’s runs  Home Saving Expert, where he shares his secrets on defending people’s homes from mortgage repossession Visit his blog and get some help and advice on mortgage difficulties,  catch up with him on Twitter and check out his free report “An Encouraging note on Dealing with your Mortgage Lender” and have it sent right to your inbox.

Gin Lane picture is Wikipedia Commons

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5 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #47

  1. When I interviewed Shapps he boasted that more social housing was built under the previous Tory government than under their Labour successors. But then he is a c…complete hypocrite, isn’t he?

  2. Hi Ben, as a private tenant, I take great interest in this blog and your weekly round-up. But I just need to correct you on your austerity remark. Overall UK public spending is set to continue growing over this parliement, and Obama’s spending plans are actually forecast as more sluggish than our own. The only real UK cutbacks are in local government, There technically is no austerity as record deficit levels still remain. What the US did do though was allow homeowners (and mortgages) to go under and house prices to fall. They took the medicine so to speak.

  3. Hi PT,
    You may well be right about the USA, Macro economics is not my strong point but I am perplexed by your remark “Technically there is no austerity” I think this would be a great surprise to the many people of the UK, especially the increasing numbers of homeless, unemployed and mortgage borrowers losing thier homes daily.

    Not to mention the vast army of people on housing benefit who are having to move from their home towns and relocate because they cant affford the rent.

    It may be that austerity has a financial definition, like the difference between recession and depression being based on figures for consecutive periods but the semantics are neither hear nor there in people’s daily experiences.

    In the UK at the moment it is not just mortgage borrowers taking the medicine but also people on benefits who are being turned into a new Untermensch by this government in order to make it easier to take more from them



About the post author:

Ben Reeve-Lewis

Ben is an enforcement officer for a London Local Authority, a housing law trainer, an author on housing law who writes for the Guardian & occasionally pops up wittering away on TV. He also runs Easy Law Training with Tessa & Graeme. Occasionally he sleeps. Find him on Google, and Journalisted. Any opinions expressed are Ben's personal views & don't reflect those of any organisations he may refer to.

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