Lst week's File On Four, on council housing
, was an absolute cracker. Recommended.
Tragically the 'listen again' webcast has been overwritten by this week's edition. But there is a transcript
(pdf) with all the ghastly details.
What the programme basically tells us is that Margaret Hodge's
allegations on housing were correct. Recently arrived economic migrants and those granted asylum can go straight to the top of the queue - because it's needs-based rather than entitlement-based.
Ms Hodge asked whether that was fair, for asking which question she was accused of using the language of the BNP
So is Margaret Hodge right when she says that economic migrants with urgent needs, will usually be housed in place of local families who’ve just been waiting a long
time? The Borough’s Director of Housing, David Woods says Yes, but…
WOODS: That statement needs to be qualified. First of coming from abroad first of all you have to have the right to live in the UK, secondly you have to have been here for at least a year and in some cases have worked here for a year.
NORTHAM: And if a migrant family has been in the borough for at least a year, would Margaret Hodges’ case then be right that they would usually get priority if they had multiple housing need ?
WOODS: Yes they would, but they wouldn’t get priority over other local people who’ve got the same priority need and who’ve been here longer.
NORTHAM: So when she says that a recently arrived migrant family with multiple housing needs will usually get priority over a family who may have lived in the borough for three generations and are stuck at home with the grandparents, she’s right?
WOODS: She’s right provided she means by recently arrived, people who’ve been here for the qualifying period.
NORTHAM: Do you want to rethink that policy as Margaret Hodge clearly thinks you should?
WOODS: I think it’s very difficult to move away from a position where we allocate housing on the basis of need.
So there's no doubt that if you've arrived in Barking with damn-all from Kurdistan, got asylum then brought over wifie and five kids, you're in and the locals are out.
Not all councils are like Barking and Dagenham. One of Hodge's points, echoed by Lib Dem Lynne Featherstone
, was that it isn't just the evil racist whites (who could probably be ignored) moaning about unfairness. In Newham borough, not exactly a white ghetto or BNP stronghold, the leader Sir Robin Wales has an innovative strategy, bending the law to its limits by putting as many applicants as possible into the 'priority' category, then allocating by time on the list.
The elected Mayor of Newham, Sir Robin Wales, regards the needs-based allocation system with nothing short of disdain.
WALES: Essentially what we’ve got at the moment is a race to the bottom, What we do is we allocate properties on the basis of how you present yourself to a local council, so you walk in and say I’m homeless you get a greater priority then you walk in and say I’ve managed to do something for myself but I’m still looking for a council property. And so the whole way we allocate is unfair, it doesn’t necessarily enable us to support aspiration.
NORTHAM: Are you telling me that you don’t think there are people who are genuinely homeless and need urgent housing?
WALES: Well what do you mean by that, do you mean there…
NORTHAM: I mean they haven’t got anywhere to live?
WALES: Yeah and then we’d house them, we’ve got private sector accommodation we’d get them in. We’ve got almost, we’ve got…
NORTHAM: But they wouldn’t have access to council housing?
WALES: Ah they would, they’d have access to council housing on exactly the same basis as everybody else…
NORTHAM: They’d have to wait?
WALES: They’d have to wait the same as everybody else, but what they would do is get into the private sector. That seems to me right and we should support that.
NORTHAM: Even an elected Mayor can’t instruct his housing department to break the law. But the Council has devised a way of trying to minimise the impact of the law giving preference to needs. It crams as many applicants as it can into the priority band, well over two-thirds of its 28,000 strong waiting list, and then treats them strictly in order of waiting-time.
WALES: We’ve got 19,000 in priority and we try and put as many people in there as possible so that we can have a fair system…
NORTHAM: A fair system meaning?
WALES: The fair system would be the longer you wait the higher up the list you are. Now I think people understand that, if you say look we’ve all got to wait it’s a queue, you wait in the queue and when your turn comes you have a chance that’s the right way to do it at least partially.
NORTHAM: And the way that you’re doing it is to put as many people as possible into the priority band?
WALES: Yes, yes absolutely.
NORTHAM: And you’re allowed to do that within the law are you?
WALES: We operate absolutely within the law but we try and push it the furthest we can because we believe that everybody should have the same fair access.
NORTHAM: So you say that you’re pushing the law as far as possible does the law need to be changed?
WALES: Absolutely, the law should be changed to allow us to do the allocations policy we want, we think we should have local discretion but even if the Government doesn’t want to do that we think something round queuing is fair. People understand queues. The British people are essentially fair minded people and if you say to them it’s a queue you’ve got to wait your turn they understand that.
The needs-based system rewarded not only the unfortunate, but the feckless and criminal. It's (along with a needs-based benefits system) created the underclass.
When applied in a world of open borders, it's creating an 'otherclass'.
Frank Field the MP for Birkenhead, has become a trenchant critic of the current housing law. He argues that the system of allocation according to need serves to make losers out of the very people who should win.
FIELD: I object to the way council houses are allocated. The vast majority of my constituents in Birkenhead do and my guess is in the country as a whole in that they feel the form of allocation is unfair, people believe that it’s wrong as a primary aim to give that scarce resource on the basis of need rather than on the basis that I’ve actually earned my right to that. That society goes round because people work, because people play the game, because people are decent citizens and that should be rewarded rather than ‘ah look I’m actually homeless or I’ve managed to persuade people that I am deemed to be homeless therefore I should shoot to the top of the list’.
NORTHAM: So your view is that the law which currently places emphasis, great emphasis on the priority of people in need, your saying that law is simply wrong?
FIELD: I’m saying the law is wrong, I’m saying that we in Parliament should actually change that law, that we should reward citizenship we should give it a greater weight than we should award being deemed homeless.
NORTHAM: Are you recreating the 19th century distinction between the deserving and the undeserving poor here?
FIELD: Well we’ve got it and that is that the decent citizens are deemed undeserving and I think that’s wrong.