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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #141

Ben on a chair[Ben Reeve Lewis has gatecrashed the party ...]

Well I did it….gate-crashed the Travel Counsellors bash at Gleneagles to see Frazzles get her award (pic 1)

A weekend of two extremes. While Frazzles luxuriated in palatial splendour, I was resigned to the Glendevon B&B up the road in Auchterader (Pic 2) Coz Travel Counsellors wouldn’t shell out for me to share her room.

In Gleneagles they have a shopping arcade where a bottle of Johnny Walker Whisky retails at £3,000. (pic 3)

When I returned to work at 6:30am on Tuesday morning I did a dawn raid with cops on a house where this was the bathroom (Pic 4).

Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous……That bathroom is used by a woman and 6 kids, living in one room and sharing a three bedroom house with two other families.

Bens Pictures

Bens pictures

But this (pic 4)  is absolute luxury compared to the people I read about this week in that industry stalwart “Inside Housing”  which ran the title “Waste workers confirm homeless people are sheltering in bins”.

The new bin men

A survey carried out by the Chartered Institute of waste Management and Biffa found that 1 in 5 refuse workers had found people living in bins.

Curiously the article reports:-

“Fifty eight per cent of the people found in bins were recorded as homeless and 73 per cent were found in wet or cold weather conditions”

What a bizarre figure. If 58% were homeless what were the other 42% doing there? Hanging around for a laugh?

It goes on to say:-

“One third of people were discovered immediately but 38 per cent were found during the lifting operation and 16 per cent when they were tipped out of bins.”

Whoever thought they would one day read percentages of people being tipped out of bins with a straight face?

I didn’t manage it myself. I confess to laughing at these statistics. Not because it isn’t absolutely tragic or a sign of how bad things are out there despite waffle from the CBI about financial growth, but simply because all the crap I see each day gives me a warped sense of the ridiculous.

In fact if you talk to anyone who works at the sharp end of human misery in any sphere, you encounter a black sense of humour. We leave the politically correct hand wringing to those who look on from the outside and just get on with our job.

More legal aid restrictions

A cheer went up from homelessness units across the land (well at least my mate a homelessness reviews officer) at the announcement by government that they intend to restrict legal aid for challenges to areas of public decision making, including homelessness decisions.

Shelter wrote this week

“local authorities may be less likely to reconsider unlawful decisions, because they know we’re less able to mount a judicial review.”

Judicial review, or ‘JR’ as everyone calls it isn’t the only way of challenging homelessness decisions, as Shelter point out:-

“Preparation and negotiation takes up a great deal of a Shelter lawyer’s time. With the support of Legal Aid to prepare for the case, we often negotiate a satisfactory outcome before proceedings are issued.”

In all seriousness this will have an impact on people’s ability to challenge dodgy homelessness decisions if it goes through and Shelter are right to flag this up, it isn’t just self preservation with them protecting their income.

I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Shelter, I fully support their overall aims as an organisation but when it comes to dealing with them on a front line basis they, quite frankly, get on my tits.

Sam publishes a book

Congratulations are in order for the genuinely lovely Samantha Collett who I met at a recent landlord’s do run by David Lawrenson.

Sam writes the humorous blog “What Sam saw today” about her life as a property investor and announced to the world the publication of her book “How to buy property at auction”

In my entire life I have never won a game of Monopoly, in fact I have been taken to the cleaners every time, which is why I have never looked at the property market as something I could ever do. Plus you need cash to start you off. But hopefully, for those with the inclinations Sam’s book might help you make the most of it.

Go girl.

Key Amnesty ends in Newham

Newham Council have been in the news yet again reporting the success of their ‘Key amnesty’, which ran from October to January.

In case you don’t know, sub-letting social housing became a criminal offence through the Prevention of Social Housing Fraud Act 2013 and Newham’s amnesty brought in 26 properties where the keys were handed back by worried sub-letters. 50 calls were received, some from people reporting sub-letting in their area.

You can expect, now that the amnesty is over, for Newham’s vast enforcement machine to swing into action against those left. Of course they can afford to do this because they have around 80+ officers in their enforcement team, a previous cut on around 120 from last year.

Hotel horrors in Sochi

And finally. I have been watching the winter Olympics. I’m not a sports fan at all but I like the snow based ones, simply because I like snow. All those mad people hurtling down ice at a zillion miles per hour on a tea tray and that mad Mogul run that must knacker your legs, not to mention the snowboarding.

The Washington Post ran some crazy reports of Journalist’s living conditions in the hotels of Sochi.

One German reporter talking of stray dogs and construction workers walking in and out of his room.

A tweet from journo Stacy St Clair  reads:-

“My hotel has no water. If restored, the front desk says, “do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.”

And my favourite quote from a dialogue between a CNN Producer and the head of the Olympic committee Dmitri Chernyshenko:-

“Media hotels are opened, undergoing final testing. Apologize for inconvenience. Pls contact press operations or accommodation service.” When the producer incredulously asked “can you believe this is the Winter Olympics?” Chernyshenko helpfully encouraged him to look around at the mountains and “believe.”

Lets hear it for Mr Chernyshenko. Give that man a job in…………in Local Authorities. Ha-ha

See ya next week



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9 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday Newsround #141

  1. We all end with a twisted sense of humour. The problem is knowing service users share this twisted humour. Sometimes they do… sometimes they don’t. One day, we’ll meet and I will tell why singing Pinball Wizzard got me into whole of trouble.

  2. @Penny I dont expect the people at the sharp end of the stories to find it funny but I see so many people with miserable tales but when I bump into them at lunchtime I dont know them from Adam.

    If you took each person’s misery home you would kill yourself.

    Would love to hear the Pinball Wizard story. We were in Edinburgh on Saturday staying with mates. Whats the coup with that park off George St with all the lightbulbs?

    @Sam No problem and good luck with it. as for me doing property investment????? Think Steven Hawking playing for Chelsea!!!!

  3. I hold completely the opposite view of Shelter.

    I think their comments about the recent legal aid decisons are purely out of self interest. I disagree with their overall aims and do not support Campbell Robb at all. I find the staff on the front line to be extremely helpful (most recently the Bournemouth office – thank you guys). They have helped a number of our tenants suffering from mental health problems and destitution.

  4. Well thats personal experience for ya Jamie. I’ve done oodles of training for Bournemouth council and from what they tell me I’m not sure they have had your working relationship.

    I’ve also been a Shelter trainer since 1998 so have some insider knowledge.I stand by my own personal experience.

    Of course you are free to just bash councils…why not? Everyone else does

  5. Re JR and Homelessness – it is a tool we have to threaten a lot during the week against the LA to ensure they fulfil their duties.

    Though the more I look and deal with this the more my belief that a “mediation” between LL and CL / LA and CL should be first call before pre-action phase as a call solves issues more and more.

  6. Arfan….spot on. It’s a Matrix, not a single issue thing.

    And what all parties need to also understand is that councils can only administer services within legal parameters that are imposed upon them by central government.

    In many case common sense goes out of the window. Not because the staff lack common sense but because of the rules they have to work by

  7. “Talk about the sublime to the ridiculous……That bathroom is used by a woman and 6 kids, living in one room and sharing a three bedroom house with two other families.”

    Can you explain how a mother with 6 kids ended up in a single room?
    What happened to state aid?




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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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