Time loop

More than one MP compared Wednesday’s debate on the bedroom tax to Groundhog Day and it was not hard to see why.

Labour calls a debate that will not change anything but is designed to expose the Conservatives as callous and the Liberal Democrats as collaborators. The Conservatives (as personified by pictures of a laughing Iain Duncan Smith) duly live up to their billing. The Lib Dems accuse Labour of playing games but end up seeming to vote for something that they were against before they were in favour of it. We’ve been here many times before.

A Labour motion ‘that this House believes…the bedroom tax should be abolished with immediate effect’ was voted down by 298-266. A coalition amendment approved by 300-262 extols its record on cutting the welfare bill but also ‘notes’ that ‘the part of the coalition led by the deputy prime minister has proposed reforms to introduce other formal exemptions to the policy, including where claimants have not been made a reasonable alternative offer of accommodation’.

The net result of all that politics was that nothing much changed yesterday apart from UKIP’s Douglas Carswell voting against the policy he supported as a Conservative. But the sense of déjà vu hanging over the opposition day debate was about much more than just that. Here are some high (or low) lights:

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing


Bonus verdict

The New Homes Bonus, the government’s flagship policy on housing supply, is listing badly. Does it deserve to stay afloat?

Labour has pledged to scrap the policy introduced by Grant Shapps as a ‘powerful new incentive’ for local communities to support new homes. The National Audit Office delivered a damning verdict last year. And a Conservative member of the public accounts committee memorably described it as a Rolls Royce idea that ended up as a Reliant Robin in practice.

Now, the government has finally published an evaluation, which summarises the results of internal DCLG and externally commissioned the research. So what’s the verdict?

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing


Starter for 20

The government’s plan for starter homes with a 20 per cent discount begs all sorts of questions. Today we got some of the answers.

The scheme announced by David Cameron this morning was first trailed in his conference speech in October as an idea for after the election but has now apparently been brought forward to start early next year.

Some of the details of Dave’s Dream Homes seem to have changed along the way. According to a DCLG consultation also published today,  the starter homes initiative seems to amount to an extension of rural exceptions sites to urban areas. So how will it work?

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge 2, my blog for Inside Housing


Beyond coping

Housing costs have already stretched many people to the limit. What will happen if and when they rise again?

That’s the question raised in two reports out today on the plight of home owners and renters who have found ways to cope with current costs but may not be able to for much longer. A third report shows how the poorest households are only coping with help from food banks.

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


Shrinking the state

What would it mean if George Osborne succeeds in cutting public spending to its lowest level since the 1930s?

The scale of the cuts for the rest of this decade implied by the deficit reduction targets in the Autumn Statement takes us into territory uncharted since the war. Many people believe Osborne has moved from the realms of the unlikely to the realms of fantasy and it’s not hard to see why. If the chancellor missed the deficit targets he set out in 2010 by a wide margin, why should we accept what he says in 2014? Especially when he says he can cut taxes at the same time.

Osborne must have hoped that all the headlines would be about stamp duty reform. Instead, news coverage has instead been dominated by the Office for Budget Responsibility’s projections of what further austerity would mean for the public sector. This graph on government consumption as a proportion of GDP sums it up:

1930s

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Treating renters as imbeciles

In the last week parliament has had the chance to tackle two of the most glaring injustices for private tenants and flunked both of them.

After debates in the Lords on Monday and Commons on Friday, letting agents are free to carry on charging outrageous fees to tenants and landlords can continue to evict tenants in retaliation for complaining about unsafe conditions.

The last word on Friday afternoon went to one of the villains of the week proved to be ironically apt. ‘We must not treat the people who enter into these contracts as imbeciles,’ was the very last sentence uttered by Christopher Chope before the debate was terminated and he and Conservative backbench colleague Philip Davies completed their successful attempt to talk out the Tenancies (Reform) Bill.

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Devo questions

The devolution of new powers over the housing costs elements of universal credit raises questions not just for Scotland but for the whole of the UK.

The report of the Smith Commission published this morning only proposes two major changes to the existing arrangements for universal credit:

  • The Scottish Government will be given the administrative power to change the frequency of UC payments, vary the existing plans for single household payments, and pay landlords direct for housing costs in Scotland
  • The Scottish Parliament will have the power to vary the housing cost elements of UC, including varying the under-occupancy charge and local housing allowance rates, eligible rent, and deductions for non-dependents.

All other elements of universal credit, including the earnings taper, conditionality and sanctions will remain reserved to Westminster. Some other benefits outside universal credit, including discretionary housing payments, will be devolved. National media coverage was dominated by the proposals on income tax but other taxes that affect housing, including capital gains tax and VAT, will be reserved.

-> Read the rest of this post on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing


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