Posted by: iangilbert | October 19, 2012

Who needs a house?

Unfortunately I couldn’t make it along to the last night’s YMCA question time event, so have to rely on reports from people who were there.

I’m told that Councillor Courtenay staunchly defended the Conservatives’ proposal to cut housing benefit from the under 25s. This is not surprising, since Councillor Courtenay was one of only two councillors to break the cross-party consensus protesting at the effect of the housing benefit cap in driving people on low incomes out of central London (and by extension, putting more pressure on housing and services in places like Southend). It should be stressed that we are not just talking about the unemployed when it comes to housing benefit, we are talking about the increasingly large number of people who are in work, but can’t find enough hours or high enough pay to make ends meet. If I seem too much of a bleeding-heart lefty when it comes to this issue, it’s worth remembering that Tory favourite Boris Johnson called the policy ‘Kosovo-style cleansing’ of the poor from London.

Councillor Courtenay at least deserves some credit for defending his party’s position. I can’t remember the last time one of our MPs broke their silence to defend what they themselves are voting for in parliament, and the vast majority of the Conservative group on the council seem very reluctant to do so.

I wonder though what Councillor Courtenay makes of the latest news surrounding his colleague David Amess. It is unfortunate timing that today the press have picked up on the fact that Mr Amess is claiming expenses on a second home in London, costing taxpayers £1,570 a month. Whether or not an MP needs a second home while living this close to London is a moot point. I have sympathy with the fact that your presence can be required in Westminster till very late at night. I know that my colleague Angela Smith felt that she couldn’t function as a minister without a (very small and modest) flat in London. However, in Mr Amess’s case, he apparently already owns a flat in London that would serve him perfectly well.

Expenses should be claimed for things that you really can’t do your job properly without. David Amess could easily function as an MP without his taxpayer-funded second (or should that be third?) home. This misuse of taxpayers’ money would be bad enough at any time. To do it whilst enacting policies that are forcing people from their only home is despicable.




  1. I actually defended the current position, not the proposed position (of removing housing benefits (HB) from those under 25), as that was what was being discussed.

    The Conservative-led government has reduced the amount of money that under 25s (who are single) can claim for their HB. The rate is now the shared accommodation rate (i.e. enough for you to rent a room in someone’s house or thereabouts). You are no longer entitled to enough to rent a 1 bedroom house.
    You are entitled to rent somewhere that costs more than your HB, but you have to top up the rent from somewhere else (difficult I would imagine if you are getting full HB, but people do manage it!)

    Why should someone who is say 22, single, no dependants be provided with sufficient money to live in a one bedroom flat, by a taxpayer earning £12,000 (a year full time worker, on minimum wage)? That taxpayer may well be 22 themselves and staying at home, not moving out into a taxpayer funded property!

    Now, before I get accused of being a middle-class Tory toff who had mummy and daddy to look after them, let’s get some facts straight:

    If you are not single – i.e. you have a partner, a child or an adult dependent then you are not affected by this, you can still have a one (or potentially two, if your child is old enough) property provided by the taxpayer or enough funds to do so.

    If you are a 22, single and no dependants you will not be left out on the street, far from it. In Southend-on-Sea you would receive £300 a month to rent a room. (A quick rightmove search reveals there are rooms to rent at that price or below)

    State benefits are not there to enable people to have better provisions than those who work. They are there to enable people to get into work to help themselves.

    We will have to see what actually happens with the proposed under 25 cuts in HB. It is just Labour scaremongering to suggest that under 25s will be made homeless though.

    • “…, you can still have a one (or potentially two, if your child is old enough) property…”

      I’m assuming you mean one or two BEDROOM properties rather than one or two properties? I’m sure multiple housing at taxpayers expense is the preserve of the Members of Parliament…

  2. To correct a factual inaccuracy the HB age has been changed twice. Once in 2008 to u25 and from 1st January 2012 (I believe) to U35’s. The facts about vulnerable groups, non single people etc still stands.

    And yes Jack – I meant bedrooms not houses!! No comments re members of parliament of all parties from me…

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