In June last year, Westminster Council's - her again - Philippa Roe defended the forthcoming cuts to Housing Benefit. Lambasting its currently huge cost she said
we have no issue with the families who have been claiming these high levels of benefit, as it is the system itself that is at fault and not them.
The system she speaks of is one the Tories instigated, where few new council houses are built and huge quantities of them are sold off, making the remaining number available spiral down the plughole. So, almost everyone poor has to rent from a private landlord, which is far more expensive than council housing.
Private rent funds two things: money to cover the landlord's mortgage on a property, and extra money to give the landlord a profit for being the owner.
As George Orwell said,
the ground-landlord in a town area has no function and no excuse for existence. He is merely a person who has found out a way of milking the public while giving nothing in return. He causes rents to be higher, he makes town planning more difficult, and he excludes children from green spaces: that is literally all that he does, except to draw his income.
The Housing Benefit system will not buy a house for a family who are renting, yet it will happily pay that same mortgage plus a fat premium to buy that same house for someone who already owns fifty others.
It would clearly be cheaper if the landlord took less of a premium, as is the case with councils who own housing. But the private landlord's main aim is to maximise that premium, so the predictable and inevitable result of reducing council housing is that the Housing Benefit bill will increase. The expense Roe complains of is expense her party created.
The cuts in Housing Benefit will force people to move away, ghettoising them in wherever is cheapest. This will shred communities, with all the associated impacts on crime and mental health, and of course the places with the cheapest rents are the ones with no opportunities. Moving the jobless to unemployment blackspots is hardly going to increase their chances, yet the new benefits regime penalises those who don't find work within a few months.
Philippa Roe assured us last June
the new changes will not take hold until April 2011 and we have time to plan and forecast what the housing needs of Westminster will be.
By December, Westminster Council reportedly
admitted it plans to move 80 per cent of homeless housing benefit claimants needing temporary accommodation out of the borough.
When the Tories talk of 'forecasts' and 'rewards', they are speaking of whitewashes and penalties. Wherever you live, if you are unemployed it is your personal moral failing for which you must be punished.