“Progressive” Government Decisions

Posted: 07 May 2012, in Blog

The perverse outcomes of “progressive” decisions by government

Have you spoken to any Housing Association (HA) leaders recently? Chances are they will have had a scunnered demeanour caused by the perverse decisions of [UK] government. In plain English, the decision to change the system of housing benefit payments is a disaster for the sector.

Previously, rent was paid direct to HAs but the new move by the Coalition to pay housing benefit to individuals carries with it the very real danger of HAs losing out because a significant proportion of their tenants may/will not pass the cash on.

 The Government argues that this will help ease the transition into work by replicating a monthly salary and improving benefit recipients budgeting abilities. They also argue that mechanisms will be in place to protect social landlords from bad debtors etc. “Aye right” seems to be the view of folk from the HA sector.

It is truism in life that if things ain’t broke then don’t fix them. Unfortunately, politicians who undergo Damascene conversions, (e.g. Iain Duncan Smith (IDS) in Easterhouse) and civil servants trying to come up with their latest wheeze are often minded to do just that.

So here is a suggestion. HA directors and their stakeholders should gum up the works. Start by using social media to campaign on this issue but don’t use political parties or politicians to front it. That kills your chances straightaway.

I would get every HA Director and every service provider or associated business partner of HAs to write an individual letter to Baron Freud* (multi-millionaire Coalition welfare advisor) and IDS and copied to every Lib Dem Minister and bag carrier. The former should advise that they are considering resigning their position and the latter should advise that weakening the financial position of HAs will have a knock on effect on their own businesses and the local economy.

It is not the job of government to weaken the financial position of social landlords but this is the perverse outcome that will arise. This is because the Directors of HAs know that if their business fails to manage bad debt, loses income and possibly even sustains losses the terms of their banking covenants will not be met.

The worst case scenario is that banks then get further involved in the operation/management of HAs. I don’t think that this is what IDS wants but that is what will happen if it all goes pear shaped.

On trying to make sense of the Coalition’s motives for this, it never fails to amaze me how life is far more ridiculous than anything that writers can make up. We now have IDS and Baron Freud trying no doubt to improve social housing but actually weakening and potentially destroying much of it. So my query is; when did a couple of millionaires know anything about social housing (or welfare) in the first place?

* http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Freud,_Baron_Freud


NOTE: This blog does not necessarily reflect the views of Social Enterprise Scotland or endorse any political position