Independence...Integrity...Value

18th September 2017

Sep 18th, 19:29

Blog 18th September 2017

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Homelessness, the National Audit Office, Government Housing Budgets, the Chartered Institute of Housing, Right to Buy receipts, Rents, Housing in Scotland, Cumbria County Council, Vale of Glamorgan Council, Rory Stewart MP, the 'Cumberland & Westmorland Herald' and Local Authority Housing Finance.

The October edition of the ‘AWICS Housing News’ was published last week. It features articles on:

  • Chartered Institute of Housing protests about Government Housing Budgets
  • National Audit Office publishes report on Homelessness
  • Councils ask for more flexibility with Right to Buy receipts
  • Update on Rent Policy
  • Housing Statistics for Scotland provide mixed news
  • Housing (Amendment) (Scotland) Bill
  • Cumbria County Council invests in housing for the elderly
  • Vale of Glamorgan – Community Infrastructure & Affordable Housing
  • Editorial note, AWICS Surveys
  • Housing Business Planning in an Uncertain Environment

Your copy of the newsletter can be freely downloaded from HERE

While the ‘AWICS Housing News’ covers problems with United Kingdom government housing budgets, the ‘right to buy’, rents and other issues, the article on homelessness makes especially depressing reading. There was a time when I thought that as society got more prosperous and enlightened, problems like homelessness would be addressed and eventually everyone would be housed. However, homelessness in all its forms is increasing and the National Audit Office has felt in necessary to point out that it considers the government’s approach to be inadequate.

What many people find difficult to understand is why the government does not take more effective steps to reduce the use of temporary accommodation as this would both benefit homeless people and save money for local authorities. There have been numerous studies that demonstrate that using the resources to build social housing would not only enable councils and housing associations to house more people but would produce a net saving for the public finances because the investment would be fully recouped (and more) through savings in temporary accommodation budgets.

Cynics (if they were inclined to use Latin legal phrases) would ask the question: ‘Cui Bono?’. This is defined as follows:

" ‘Cui bono?’, literally ‘for whose benefit?’, is a Latin phrase which is still in use as a key forensic question in legal and police investigation: finding out who has a motive for a crime. It is an adage that is used either to suggest a hidden motive or to indicate that the party responsible for something may not be who it appears at first to be.”

Neither the government, nor the local authorities, nor the homeless benefit from the increasing use of temporary accommodation. However, there appears to be a significant financial benefit to the private landlords and ‘hoteliers’ that provide the temporary accommodation. Cynics may suggest that the United Kingdom government is actually more interested in promoting the interests of private landlords and ‘hoteliers’ than they are in protecting either the homeless or public budgets!

It is often said that all political careers end in failure because, to get elected, politicians must promise things that they know they cannot deliver. Allied to this is a tendency to base arguments on sentiment rather than evidence or logic. In some cases, misleading or inaccurate information also appears to be used. Examples of this can be found in recent general election campaigns and in last year’s referendum on Britain’s membership of the European Union.

My Member of Parliament, Rory Stewart (Conservative) writes an occasional column in the local newspaper, the ‘Cumberland & Westmorland Herald’. In a recent edition, he wrote that:

“By focusing more on the detail of real problems, and less on instant solutions, we (politicians) could begin to restore some patience, trust and common purpose in our politics. And perhaps, instead of hating ourselves for our inability to achieve the impossible, we could begin to focus instead on getting things done.”

If politicians were to focus more on real problems, facts, evidence and practical solutions; I would find this very welcome. However, it appears to me that the current direction of travel is generally in the opposite direction!

There has never been a greater need for good quality information and analysis.

Our next seminar on ‘All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance’ that will be held in London next week is now fully booked. I am grateful to all those who are attending and am looking forward to seeing them all. Our next session of this seminar will be held in London on 13th March 2018. For further information or to make a booking, please click HERE

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