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Ben reeve Lewis Friday newsround #112

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis considers the spending review ]

Well. Osborne’s spending review announced on Wednesday was fun wasn’t it?

Austerity Britain

Austerity Britain will be with us for another 10 years apparently, with even Labour saying they will continue the measures if they get back in at the next election.

The Telegraph unsurprising used their first paragraph to point out that “Dashed foreigners” will be forced to take English lessons if they want to keep their benefits

Writing in the Daily Mirror, Kevin Maguire highlighted the news that the newly unemployed wont be able to claim for the first 7 days of joblessness.

Bad enough to happen once but as Kevin points out many people on short term contracts may well lose that week more than once during a year.  I have several clients who earn their living this way.

Reported on the BBC news site Osborne said of this:-

“Those first few days should be spent looking for work, not looking to sign on,”

job queueAnd what, pray, are people supposed eat and pay their rent with during this period?. Signing on doesn’t take all week. It takes an hour or so. Plenty of time to sign on AND look for work at the same time surely?

No pay rise, no problem

Now I know what you are all thinking. Ben works for a local authority so he is pissed off about the axing of automatic pay rises. Well, not a bit actually. I couldn’t care less. I don’t solely earn my living from the council. I run Easy Law Training Ltd with Tessa and Graeme and our products seem to be finding a ready market at the moment.

Also I actually agree that automatic pay rises are unfair. You can turn up for work and be totally crap but still get the pay rise. I’m all in favour of performance related pay and I think that in my office it should be linked to the amount of homeless people we see.

We could also get bonuses for the added trauma of sitting in an interview room with tearful, suicidal people who don’t know where they are going to be living next week. I’ve worked this out and reckon this time next year, I’ll be able to retire to Barbados with Frazzles.  [Yes, but you’re rubbish with maths, aren’t you Ben? Ed]

Spend, spend, spend …

If you have kept up with Osborne’s latest attacks you will have noticed that it wasn’t all about cuts. He also announced some capital spending which will impact upon housing. At the time of writing £3.1 billion is being earmarked for a three year development programme.

One un-named source in Inside Housing said:-

‘It is about as close to a good news story as we could have hoped for. Politically there has been a shift in emphasis and it appears the Treasury has bought into the argument that it needs to invest in affordable housing.’

Affordable is the new sky high

Not such “good news” for tenants however as the aim of the new grant money is to increase the amount of social rented properties to affordable rent levels. Which for those of you who have missed this nonsense over the past couple of years means raising the rent to 80% of the market level.

And while we are on the subject of affordable rents…..I don’t often quote material from the housing blog “Red Brick”. The clue is in the name.

It’s not because it is a rubbish blog. Steve Hilditch is spot on the money very often but I regularly get accused of being a Trotskyite just for speaking about tenants rights and don’t wont to compound this completely erroneous assumption by liberally quoting them but this week they ran an interesting article on affordable rents

Steve pointed out:-

“A new independent report on the affordable rent programme by Future of London shows that, at December 2012, there were 543 lettings of new build affordable rent homes in the Capital but 2,571 conversions from traditional social rent – nearly 5 conversions for every single new build home so far. It effectively means that these homes have had an imposed rent increase of 40-50%.”

Steve goes on to say:-

“While Labour is busy developing policies to turn ‘benefits into bricks’, the Tories and LibDems are busy making the system ever more reliant on benefits.”

You don’t have to be a Socialist to see the sense in what Steve is saying there.

From the start the government have banged on about cutting the housing benefit bill. However, since the start of these cuts the bill has gone up as more and more people need to claim it, and not unemployed people either. The rise has been among those in work whose wages don’t meet their housing costs.

Raising rents from normal social rent levels to 80% of the market level is raising costs even more and the announced capital grant will add to the pool of people in the same position, so the housing benefit bill will continue to rise.

MonopolyMonopoly money

Finally the Independent are suggesting that the George Clooney of board games Monopoly should be re-invented to reflect current pricings

When the game was invented you could buy a house in Mayfair for £400 and a house in the Old Kent Road for £60. Nowadays the prices are £1,426,689 and £192,714 respectively with an average London house price @ £788,106.

Overall the most expensive and the cheapest areas remain as they were in 1936 but all of the other areas on the board would need changing. For instance Angel Islington would now go up the scale beyond Pentonville Rd and Euston Rd.

Back in the real world off the board, I live in East Dulwich. Originally from Deptford, a mile away I can safely attest that East Dulwich, or “ED” as locals are increasingly referring to it, was really nothing special at all when I was growing up and Lordship Lane, the main route through it was nothing more than a road that you travelled to get to somewhere else but then the cheese shop moved in, followed by a wine bar, an Italian delicatessen, an organic butchers etc.

Now you cant move for media types generally. I regularly stand in the queue at Sainsbury’s Dog Kennel Hill behind Jo Brand, James Nesbit, Timothy Spall etc. Its like a scene from the sit-com Celebrity Street and the house prices and rents have risen accordingly, with a standard 3 bedroom Victorian terrace going for £500,000 – £600,000.

Maybe ED should be added to the new monopoly board and if the property areas need updating, how about the cards to something more modern? We could change the “Go directly to jail” card to “Claim housing benefit”.

Ideas for new cards?

The card you draw that tells you that you need to carry out emergency repairs to your houses could be amended to read “Apply for a payday loan from Wonga”.

“Your interest only mortgage matures and leaves you still owing the bank £100,000, go straight to the homelessness unit”

Or how about “You’ve been priced out of the area, move directly to Luton”.

Got any ideas for updated monopoly cards?

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One Response to Ben reeve Lewis Friday newsround #112

  1. Penny Anderson in The Guardian had some fine points to make about Wonga weeks, I think you’ll find, Mr Reeves-Lewis. But yep – more homes means cheaper rents. That’s why it’s not popular with rentier-class, I suspect.



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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