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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #57

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis is going a bit deaf, I SAID, BEN REEVE LEWIS IS GOING A BIT DEAF  ..]

I’m going deaf. Honestly. Every few years I had to have my ears syringed and was always amazed at the clarity that comes after the act. You can even hear the breeze rustling past your lug ‘oles and suddenly the volume of the TV where you turned it off last night is deafening.

I recently had them syringed again and was disappointed to notice little change.

Ben’s band

Between working in homelessness night shelters and becoming a homelessness case worker I had a 3 year sojourn out of housing and became a professional bass guitarist.  I’m the one in the white leather jacket who slowly morphs over the years into looking, as the Daily Mirror’s music reviewer said at the time, “Like a zombie Nazi”

It was a heavy metal outfit, not my favourite type of music but a pro job is a pro job. Trouble is I think that’s when I started to go deaf. Three years standing in front of a bank of towering Marshall stacks just trying to get over the sound of those bloody drums.

the clashAs a youth I would be chewed out by my parents for listening to The Clash, “Turn that racket down”.

On Saturday I got chewed out by Frazzy for having the radio in the kitchen too loud, I was listening to people talking quietly on ‘In Business’ on the radio. Is this how far I have come? Getting told to turn down Radio 4? All that’s left to me now are the Werthers originals, the spiky purple hair having long since retired.

Frugal innovation

But ‘In Business’ were running a fantastic piece about frugal innovation. No point me putting the link to the programme here it will be down by now but there is an article on it in Forbes Business Magazine last week

Frugal Innovation is also commonly known as ‘Jugaad’, a Hindi word meaning “Low cost fix-around” and is a new business model which looks at small scale local solutions that don’t require massive finance or input. Immediate localised solutions to pressing local problems, created by people in those communities who know best what needs to be done.

Cameron is a big fan and the Jugaad model is probably the inspiration for Localism.

I am enthusiastic about such front-line led ideas and an article title on 24 Dash titled, ‘What would you do if you were Grant Shapps?  connected with my thoughts on Frugal Innovation.

What would you do if you were Schapps??

Grant ShappsOf course my immediate thought upon reading “What would you do if you were Grant Shapps?” was that I could load the pistol before passing it to him to leave him alone in the study.

But then as I day-dreamed about my footsteps faltering down the corridor at the sound of the single shot (maybe 2, you couldn’t trust him to do anything right) I realised that all that would happen is that Cameron would simply replace him with a clone. A smiling new Tory prefect, all earnestness and just the right side of middle age.

Nothing would change because for politicians, politics is their career. Housing is mine and we see different solutions. For any politician, solutions will only be workable where they fit into the grand design of running the country as a whole. For people involved in housing we can see the solutions as obvious as anything, just sitting there waiting to be picked up.

This was the basis of the answers to the question in 24 Dash’s article, effectively looking for Jugaad in housing.

The Answers

The 5 candidates responding to the question all displayed great awareness of how housing problems impact on communities and what to do about it.

Joanne Claridge of Stockport Homes talked of the false economy of cutting certain services that would normally be perceived as woolly, when she says:

“The evidence for wider multi-agency working is compelling as she cites that a typical family could cost in excess of £150,000 to support currently. “Getting in early and offering a keyworker service like Act Family costs as little as £16,000,”

Money well spent.

Trainee solicitor from Midland Heart housing association Hannah Boyd suggested creating separate housing courts to tackle specific problems with specialist staff and systems in place just for housing. This would she argues get around costly delays and adjournments and speed things up all round:-

“Constant adjournments and constant challenges and appeals is all using money that could be better spent in our communities. With a Housing Court, there’d be less people going to court and less legal action in the end.”

I heartily agree.

Bedroom tax

Staying with 24 Dash I read another excellent piece by Ross MacMillan  who sat in on an inter-organsiational meeting in Sheffield on how the various housing concerns around the table will deal with bedroom tax when it comes in next year.

Bear in mind that social housing in the North consists largely of family homes and moving people to smaller properties, which they don’t have, to avoid the reductions from universal credit is going to be a major headache for the landlords and their tenants.

Halton Housing Trust’s Nick Atkin pointed up part of the problem when he said:-

“If we weren’t to re-house anybody else off our waiting list – and just re-house those under-occupying – it would take us seven years,”

Obviously during those 7 years everyone would be losing around £14 per week per bedroom from their already minimal budget. Rent arrears accrue and the housing organisation runs into deep trouble along with the tenants.

Steve Hepworth, the Operational Director of North Lincolnshire Homes added:-

“We’ve got around 3,900 three-bedroom properties – and 1,049 of those households are on benefit and under-occupying. Within those, a lot of them are parents with children. So if they want to move it’s a two-bedroom home they require. We’ve only got 49 two-bedroom houses”

The bit that really points up the nonsense of this is when Ross states:

“Equally challenging is the families who have different sex children under nine? The Department for Work and Pension’s plans state that these children would have to share a room, and thus the family would have to move to a smaller home, then potentially move again as the eldest child turns 10. The estimated £1,000 cost of moving – which some landlords are funding – is more than the annual cost those families would contribute if they stayed and lost benefit”.

This is the hard, front-line end of broad brush stroke policies to introduce a bedroom tax. Nice headline grabbing policy for a country stripped to the bone, a population cutting back on food to meet the new SVR mortgage rates with little patience for those who receive state handouts. A policy that neatly pours scorn on those under-occupying without taking into account the logistics of how it will work in practice.

The polar opposite of Jugaad and enough stupidity to make you weep don’t you think?

Maybe losing my hearing by the day is becoming a blessing. I wont have to listen to all that rubbish that our government spouts.

And as if that isnt bad enough, with my impending deafness in mind I also read that the price of hearing aids has doubled recently. All over the country outraged deaf people are saying “HOW MUCH?????”

Don’t blame me, the joke was there, it would have been rude not to pick it up.

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.

Picture : the clash

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7 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #57

  1. I’m responding to Hannah Boyd’s suggestion about creating separate housing courts to tackle specific problems with specialist staff and systems in place just for housing. I think it’s a good idea.

    I am a volunteer lawyer in New York’s housing court. (New York has a pro bono programme to help low income parties in housing court.) There are specific courts (called “parts”) which deal with specific housing issues. There’s a non-payment part and a housing disrepair part. The judges and staff are expert in the particular area of law their court tries. On the day their case is listed for trial the parties arrive either at 9.30am (for morning trials) or 2.00 (for afternoon trials). The hallways outside the court is frantic with parties doing deals and coming to settlements. When the parties either reach agreement or agree they cannot reach agreement the file is put in the judge’s tray – from which the judge calls the case. The parties then appear before the judge. If the parties reached agreement the judge explains the agreement to the parties to ensure they both understand what they’ve agreed to (even if they have lawyers) and then issues the stipulation/court order (which the parties wrote that day) reflecting the decision. If the parties didn’t agree then the judge listens to both parties, looks at evidence presented and makes a binding decision.

    In this way, one court can deal with hundreds of cases in one day.

    It’s sad that there are so many cases in housing court but it is a fact of life.

  2. Hi Donna, thank you so much for your comment. It is always interesting to know what happens in other parts of the world.

    There have been discussions here for years about having separate housing courts and there are arguments for and against.

    However I suspect the biggest argument against is that it would involve funding which puts it out of the question for a while at least.

    Thanks again for contributing.

  3. Thanks Donna, that is inspiring stuff to read.

    I defend repossession cases in London County Courts which deal with everything you can think of and they are often heaving, with lawyers having to interview their clients on the stairs because all seats are packed and the strains on court time mean that an adjournment to the first available date after 28 days will often mean several months in reality.

    Most cases are housing ones so it makes perfect sense to my mind to have a seperate court, although in the UK we also have what is called Rent Property Tibunal who are an admin court whose role could be extended to deal with other more administrative matters, such as mandatory possession claims.

    Personally I think the British legal system strated a downhill slide when they stopped being allowed to send unsavoury people to Australia haha

  4. “Nothing would change because for politicians, politics is their career.”


    And none of them, not the Cameroons, not the Cleggites, and definitely not the Milibeans, represent ordinary people like us who have to work for a living. It’s all pandering to the upper-middle-class North London / Notting Hill set and students, and treating the lower orders as either cornered rats or lost sheep that must be shown the right way by their munificence.

    Should be that you can’t stand for elected office unless you can prove you’ve had a proper job (i.e. in business or industry or something else not politics/PR/charidees) for at least 10 years beforehand.

    I also looked up Thunderstick on Encyclopaedia Metallum. The EP that you played on got a 57% for being “Commercial yet fun AOR.”

    Still, metal is awesome beyond awesomeness, apart from that ridiculous whiny nonsense with backwards hats “nu-metal” dross that appeared in the late 90s. That stuff is diabolically unintelligent.

    (Yes, every metal band ever is on E-M. Seriously.)

  5. There is some sort of encyclopedia of rock that used to be in WH Smiths that has a review of every album ever made. Our first album is in there with a quote from a review in the now defunct ‘Sounds’ which said “This utterly horrible piece of plastic” haha Always my personal favourite review.

    We definately werent AOR though, we were more Kiss meets Alice Cooper, there’s a few tracks on Youtube I believe.

    As for the polticos, I think it was Tony Benn who once said “The desire for political office should automatically exclude you from holding it” which I always thought was a bit of a tall order, given he is a career politician himself.



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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