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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #103

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis goes to Spain ...]

By the time most of you read this Frazzles and I shall be sunning ourselves in Marbella on the Costa del Sol.

Only 4 days but a much needed break staying with our mates Yolli (who is an estate agent down there) and her husband the mad Spanish communist Antonio.

Holiday tales

Last time we were there for their daughter Natalie’s confirmation Antonio looked the priest full in the eye at the church door and called him a “F**king Heepocreet”, in his comic Spanish accent.

MarbellaI presume the priest didn’t speak English but from his shocked expression I think he picked up the gist.

Of course being English Frazzles and I shook his hand politely and just pretended it hadn’t happened, while Yolli pushed Antonio through the church doors telling him off in rapid-fire Spanish.

It never happened …

Pretending things aren’t happening seems to be top of Ian Duncan-Smith’s agenda this week too as he announced that 8,000 people had obtained work since benefit cuts were mooted, which he claims proves the success of the cuts policy.

Now I’m not very politically astute but when I heard this announcement on radio 4 in the week my immediate thought was how would anyone know the reason why 8,000 people were in work who weren’t in work a year ago?

A point written up by New Statesman journalist Declan Gaffney on the blog “ l’art social”  where he said:-

“Of 82,000 clients contacted by Jobcentre Plus over the period May 2012 to March 2013, 8,000 moved into work. This does not of course tell us how many would have moved into work anyway,”

My point exactly. You get used to political spin but every now and again a connection made between two things can be so spurious as to be laughable. (Remember Thatcher claiming that UK policy was responsible for getting Nelson Mandela released?).

Even the DWP which is IDS’s own department agreed, saying:-

‘The figures for those claimants moving into work cover all of those who were identified as potentially being affected by the benefit cap who entered work. It is not intended to show the /additional/ numbers entering work as a direct result of the contact.’

Ian? Check with your civil servants before engaging your mouth.

Developments in Wales

Dave Smith at Nearly Legal reported on an interesting development in Wales…..again.  Not content with tinkering away with homelessness law there are plans afoot to completely overhaul housing law.

They are talking of going back to the old housing law reform recommendations first mooted a few years back by, I think, Martin Partington, which suggested ditching the 17 or 18 different types of tenancy and licence agreement and just having 2 types; Standard and secure.

Wales is also suggesting having 4 kinds of tenancy agreement terms:-

  1. Key terms- those terms which are unique to the contract and set out the property address, rent and so on;
  2. Fundamental terms- these are the important terms which deal with core rights and obligations such as repairs;
  3. Supplementary terms- these are further important terms which deal with the practical issues which make things work such as rent payment provisions and notice; and
  4. Additional terms- these are the terms which are specific to the agreement but which do not fall into other areas. This might include such things as break clauses or pets.

Extraordinary stuff huh?

Of course all this puts an incredible strain on me, as I do a lot of training in Wales and have to learn two different systems in order to earn a crust. Read Dave’s full piece for a comprehensive overview.

Right to buy results

And two things on the right to buy came up this week. Firstly Inside Housing reported on the findings of research carried out by trade union the GMB into the history of the right to buy in the London Borough of Wandsworth.

Despite the right to buy being ushered in as the late Maggie T’s flagship policy to revolutionise Britain and promote the home ownership aspiration it transpires that In Wandsworth nearly 40% of homes that started out that way are now owned by private landlords. One particular guy owning a whopping 93 of them.

The general secretary of the GMB, Paul Kenny said:-

“This investigation lays bare the harsh reality of the exploitation of our social housing stock.”

First right to buy purchase ends sadly

But what of the people who took up the baton and bought their property? There was a sad article on Planet Property about the Patterson family of Romford who were the very first family to do it in 1980.

A few years later their marriage collapsed. Years later Mrs P was forced to sell and after sale she only had enough money left to buy a caravan to live in. The article goes on to say that since the Patterson’s took on the house it has changed hands 16 times, currently being owned by a Lithuanian ex student.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame the right to buy for the Patterson’ misfortune, which could have happened anyway but it’s always sad to see the death of a dream and t’would appear that Mrs Thatcher’s dream of a home owning democracy is as now as dead as she is.

New tenancy deposit schemes

Finally I read that there are now 2 more deposit protection schemes on the market. Capita launched a big one this month  and the DPS also launched their own version of an insurance based scheme.

I have one question…..WHY?

What the hell do we need all these schemes for?

More confusion all round

Both landlords and tenants seem as confused as each other by individual scheme requirements, what is the point of adding more confusion? And also how much difference can there be between all these schemes that would sway a landlord either way in their choice?

If they start making special offers in order to compete will landlords keep changing schemes to take advantage of the better deals and what effect will that have on tenant’s ability to keep track of it.

For those that don’t know, Capita are huge in public services, particularly IT systems. In my council all our servers, computers and phone systems are run by them, so they are obviously a serious player.

On the 1st of April Northern Ireland joined the party with their own 4 schemes, Capita in there among them. The rules are a bit different though, the tenants get the money back in 5 days, not 10 as is the case in England and the penalty for non protection is levied by the council not the court.

Good job nobody asks me to train in Northern Ireland. I couldn’t cope with having to learn a third housing law system. I need a holiday as it is “Hasta La Vista Baby”.

Marbella picture from Henry Lawford on flickr

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4 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #103

  1. Simple right-to-buy idea – sell them but must be resold, or offered back to council that built them. Money to be ring-fenced for new council homes.

  2. I agree Penny but that simple solution doesnt address the other reason for introducing the scheme – to start the demolition of council housing stock and shatter the idea as an ethos

  3. Years later Mrs P was forced to sell and after sale she only had enough money left to buy a caravan to live in.

    It must be a lovely caravan if it cost £48650*:-

    “It was sold for £8,350 with a £5 deposit and Margaret Thatcher handed over the keys …
    “It broke my heart when I had to sell. It went for £57,000″

    *less transaction, maintenance etc costs.




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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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