“Elderly should do community work or lose pension, peer says”

Members of the House of Lords who are not paid a salary may claim a flat rate attendance allowance of £150 or £300 for each sitting day they attend the House. All they have to do is sign in and 5 minutes later they can leave and collect the money. Or, they could dine in their highly-subsidised restaurants first, of course.

“Older people should lose their pensions if they refuse to do community work to stop them being a “negative burden on society”, a former senior Whitehall official has suggested.

Lord Bichard, an ex-chief of the Benefits Agency, said the elderly should get rewards and fines to make sure they are taking a more active part in the world.
The crossbench peer, who also chaired an inquiry into the murder of two Soham school girls, suggested the same tough attitude towards benefit scroungers should be taken with older people.

“Older people who are not very old could be making a very useful contribution to civil society if they were given some incentive or recognition for doing so,” he told a committee of MPs.

“We’re prepared to say to people if you’re not looking for work, you don’t get a benefit. If you’re old and you’re not contributing in some way, maybe there should be some penalty attached to that. These debates never seem to take place.

“Are we using all the incentives at our disposal to encourage older people not just to be a negative burden on the state but actually be a positive part of society?”

His remarks were condemned by pensioner groups as “little more than National Service for the over-60s”.

Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners Convention, said: “This is absolutely outrageous. Those who have paid their national insurance contributions for 30 or more years are entitled to receive their state pension and there should be no attempt to put further barriers in their way.
“We already have one of the lowest state pensions in Europe and one in five older people in Britain live below the poverty line.”

Dr Ros Altmann, director-general of Saga, said the idea was “very strange indeed”.

“Those who have retired have already made huge contributions to our society and are already the largest group of charity and community volunteers,” she said. “The Saga website has been buzzing all day with angry messages of incredulity.”

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/9630862/Elderly-should-do-community-work-or-lose-pension-peer-says.html

“New “affordable” housing in Devon is anything but, investigation reveals”

“Most new “affordable” housing in Devon is anything but, a major new DevonLive investigation has revealed.

Affordable housing is an umbrella term used by the government to describe lower-rent properties that are available to eligible households unable to afford the full market rate.

This includes both traditional social rent housing – which is similar to what most people know of as council housing – and “affordable rent” housing, which was first introduced in 2011/12.

Social rent is based on a formula that combines local wages and local property values, and typically sees rents set at around 50 per cent of private rents in the same area.

“Affordable rent”, however, is capped at 80 per cent of the full market rate – meaning that in many areas it will still be out of the reach of people on low incomes. …

… Some local areas see “affordable rent” housing dominate more than others. In Mid Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge and West Devon, 100 per cent of new affordable housing was “affordable rent” rather than social rent last year.

Meanwhile, in East Devon the figure stood at 97 per cent, in Torridge at 67 per cent, and in both North Devon and Exeter at just 13 per cent.
In Plymouth the figure also stood at 100 per cent, while in Torbay they made up 58 per cent of the total.

In comparison, the national average saw 81 per cent of new affordable housing built or acquired across England in 2017/18 classed as “affordable rent” rather than social rent.

The most common type of affordable housing found in Devon is general needs properties managed by private registered providers, such as housing associations.

These cost an estimated £86 a week on average for a social rent property, compared to £121 a week for an “affordable rent” property – meaning “affordable rent” in Devon is typically 42 per cent higher, or £1,854 more a year. Private renters in Devon pay an estimated £150 a week, on average.

Kate Henderson chief executive of the National Housing Federation said: “In 2010, the government stopped funding social housing altogether, and announced it would only fund homes for “affordable rent” instead.

“This left housing associations in a really difficult position where they had to choose between building homes for “affordable rent” or building nothing.

“In the face of a dire housing shortage, many housing associations chose to build affordable rented homes, but continued to argue that social housing shouldn’t be neglected.

“While affordable rents do work for some people, there are many more who desperately need social housing.

“In 2017, the government announced some new money for social housing for the first time in seven years, but this is nowhere near enough.”

https://www.devonlive.com/news/property/new-affordable-housing-devon-anything-2543061

“Local Government on life support”

“Almost all councils in England plan to increase council tax from April and three-quarters intend to raise it above 2.75%, research reveals. Most councils have also warned they will still be reducing a range of services, from adult social care to libraries and recycling, while raising charges and fees.

The Local Government Information Unit thinktank says eight years of austerity have cost English councils 40% of their central funding. Last week Somerset and Northamptonshire county councils reversed winter gritting cuts amid outcry when untreated roads caused car accidents, while unrepaired potholes and cuts to libraries have grated with residents.

“Years of chronic underfunding has left local government on life support,” said the chief executive of the thinktank, Dr Jonathan Carr-West. The local government ministry says councils are to receive an extra £1bn in the coming year.”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/feb/14/thursday-briefing-up-goes-council-tax-as-austerity-grinds-on

“Almost half of England’s bus routes ‘at risk due to lack of funds’ “

“Almost half of England’s “vital” bus routes could be scrapped due to a lack of funding, according to local authorities.

Local Government Association (LGA) analysis found the free bus pass scheme was underfunded by about £652m in 2017-18.

It said councils were having to fill the gap between government funding and the cost of the scheme, with free bus passes for off-peak travel being a legal entitlement for those over 65, or those with a disability.

However, the constraints have meant local authorities have been spending less on discretionary services such as free peak travel, post-school transport and supported rural services.

Almost half of all bus routes in England receive partial or complete subsidies from local councils.

The services are at risk as councils struggle to maintain the current levels of support, the LGA warned.

It called on ministers to bring back full funding of the costs of the concessionary travel scheme.

More from UK

“An estimated funding gap of £652m a year for concessionary travel is unsustainable for councils already struggling to protect other subsidised bus travel in rural areas, or helping young people with their travel costs,” said LGA transport spokesman Martin Tett.

“Properly funding the national free bus pass scheme is essential if the government wants councils to be able to maintain our essential bus services, reduce congestion and protect vital routes.

“If this is not addressed in the spending review it could lead to older people having a free bus pass but no bus to travel on.”

Department for Transport figures showed local bus journeys in England fell by 85 million – or 1.9% – in the year ending March 2018.

The councils say more than 3,000 supported bus services since 2010-11 have been either withdrawn, reduced or altered.

“It is for councils to decide which bus operations to support in their areas, but we help to subsidise costs through around £250m worth of investment every year,” a Department for Transport spokeswoman said.

“£42m of this is devolved to local authorities and a further £1bn from government funds the free bus pass scheme, benefiting older and disabled people across the country.”

https://news.sky.com/story/almost-half-of-englands-bus-routes-at-risk-due-to-lack-of-funds-11632137

“Government housing delivery plan ‘flawed’ “

Well, cover me in tar and call me the M5! Owl has been saying this for YEARS. The only question that needs to be asked is: Is this deliberate or unintentional? Either way, it’s a damning indictment of its mendacity and incestuous relationship with developers or a damning indictment of its totally inept ability to govern. Or, of course (and more likely) BOTH!

“The government’s housing planning system is unable to demonstrate it is meeting housing demand effectively, public spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) has said.
The government wants 300,000 new homes a year from the mid-2020s onwards.

The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government has a standard method, developed in 2017, for local authorities to assess the number of new homes needed.
The NAO says this has weaknesses.

It says these weaknesses will result in a cut in the number of planned new homes in five of nine regions, while in London, the method will mean that new builds need to double in order to meet what the department thinks is needed.
The Local Government Association (LGA) said the current formula did not take into account the needs of local communities.

‘Free-for-all’

Local authorities – by law – need to have an up-to-date plan for building new homes.

If they are unable to prove that they have a five-year supply of land for housing, developers have greater freedoms to build where they want.

The NAO points out that this risks ill-suited developments, while the LGA says it risks a “free-for-all”.

The NAO says that between 2005-06 and 2017-18, 177,000 new homes per year were built on average, with the number never rising above 224,000.

To meet its ambition for 300,000 homes a year, the department will need to oversee a 69% increase in the average number of new homes built.

The NAO recommends the housing department should regularly monitor the gap between its ambition for 300,000 new homes and what is being planned.

It also says it needs to work with local authorities and other government departments to ensure that infrastructure is delivered more effectively.

Amyas Morse, the head of the NAO, said: “For many years, the supply of new homes has failed to meet demand.

“From the flawed method for assessing the number of homes required, to the failure to ensure developers contribute fairly for infrastructure, it is clear the planning system is not working well.

“The government needs to take this much more seriously and ensure its new planning policies bring about the change that is needed.”

Councillor Martin Tett, the Local Government Association’s Housing spokesman, said: “We remain clear that the government’s housing needs formula does not take into account the complexity and unique needs of local housing markets, which vary significantly from place to place.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-47157413

“Millions more on incomes too low to have acceptable living standards – study”

“Two million more people are on incomes considered too low to have an “acceptable” standard of living compared with 10 years ago, new research has found.

A study by Loughborough University suggested three quarters of lone parent families had earnings too low to meet their minimum needs – up by 65% since the financial crisis in 2008.

And the number of single women in their early 60s – a group affected by an increase to the state pension age – living below the minimum standard of living was found to have doubled in the last decade.

The University’s Centre for Research in Social Policy (CRSP) conducted the research as part of its Minimum Income Standards programme, which calculates the minimum budget individuals require to cover their material needs and to participate in society.

Its findings suggested that, compared to 2008, two in five women aged 60-64 who live alone have incomes too low to meet their minimum needs, up from one in five. …”

https://www.itv.com/news/2019-02-06/millions-more-on-incomes-too-low-to-have-acceptable-living-standards-study/

“Local authorities forced to cut council tax support sees surge in unpaid tax bills” (well, duh!)

“Around 90% of English councils have been forced cut council tax support for working age claimants, meaning many low-income households have fallen behind with their council tax bills, according to new research.

A report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has highlighted the impact of the government’s decision to abolish the centralised council tax support (CTS) for low-income households in 2013, which has seen an extra 1.3 million working-age households sent a council tax bill.

Nearly five million households received localised tax support in 2017-18, costing local authorities a total of £4.1bn – and 2.4 million working-age people received support, with an average benefit of £770 per year.
But the IFS has estimated that councils have failed to collect one-quarter of the extra council tax that low-income households have been billed as a result of the funding cuts.

This explosion of unpaid council tax is around 10 times higher than the 2.5% of council tax uncollected by local authorities under the old CTS system.

CTS schemes have also continued to become less generous since they have suffered funding cuts and were brought under local council control – and the report reveals that low-income households in poor parts of England are more likely to have been affected than those in affluent areas.

Director of welfare at the Nuffield Foundation, Mark Franks, said: “The fact that local authorities are unable to collect around one quarter of the additional council tax they have asked for indicates that support schemes are not working as effectively as they could.

“This important research should help in reviewing the design of council tax support schemes and the benchmarks they are based on.”

The report stated that giving people an entirely new bill is what seems so problematic with this type of tax collection.

Thomas Pope, one of the authors of the report and an IFS researcher, commented: “Many low-income households do not pay this new bill, almost regardless of its size. From their point of view, these changes have clearly increased problems with council tax arrears.

“From councils’ point of view, they are likely to receive significantly more council tax if they increase bills for those already paying some council tax than if they try to raise the same extra money from those who currently have no bill to pay.”

http://www.publicsectorexecutive.com/Public-Sector-News/local-authorities-forced-to-cut-council-tax-support-sees-surge-in-unpaid-tax-bills