“DWP forced to admit more than 111,000 benefit deaths”

“The Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) has been forced to release updated Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) mortality statistics, in response to a Freedom of Information request from disability campaigner Gail Ward.

The shocking statistics reveal that 111,450 ESA claims were closed following the death of claimants between March 2014 to February 2017.

However, the DWP stress that “no causal effect between the benefit and the number of people who died should be assumed from these figures”.

This is because the Department “does not hold information on the reason for death”, meaning they cannot be directly linked to any benefit problems faced by those claimants or whether some of these people had died after wrongly being found “fit for work”.

The DWP has since been urged to update these statistics to include individuals who flowed off ESA after being found “fit for work” and who died soon after this time.

The data also shows that more than 8,000 Incapacity Benefit and Severe Disability Allowance claimants died over the same period.

Gail Ward told Welfare Weekly: “The fact the DWP know that disabled people are dying in such large numbers and refuse to adjust policy to reduce the stress on claimants and make sure the right outcome is 100% all the time, and with Universal Credit coming with such strict criteria, doesn’t bode well for the future for the disabled community”.

https://welfareweekly.com/dwp-forced-to-admit-more-than-111000-benefit-deaths/

“Help to Buy mess as taxpayers subsidise thousands of homes for couples earning more than £100,000”

“Thousands of wealthy families are taking advantage of a taxpayer scheme designed to help struggling first-time buyers get on the housing ladder.

More than 6,700 households with incomes over £100,000 have bought homes using Help to Buy, according to the government’s own figures.

The scheme provides taxpayer cash to people seeking a mortgage. But despite its original aim to help people who could not afford big deposits, nearly one in 20 households with support have six-figure incomes.

And families with incomes of £50,000 or more have now received 40 per cent of loans, according to the report by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

Of the families who used the scheme, 136,700 were first-time buyers. A fifth of families using the scheme were not first-time buyers.

There is no maximum income on the Help to Buy scheme, which applies to new-build homes.

The scheme allows house hunters to purchase new-builds worth up to £600,000 using deposits of only 5pc – or £30,000.

The Government loans up to another 20pc interest-free for five years – or £120,000. In London, the taxpayer loan can reach 40pc of the value of the property – or £240,000.

When the house is sold, the government takes the same proportion of the sale price. If it goes up, the government makes money. If it goes down, the taxpayer makes a loss.

Campbell Robb, Joseph Rowntree Foundation chief executive, said a lack of cash invested in affordable housing meant more pressure on families forced to rent.

A government spokesman said: ‘The majority of those using our Help to Buy Equity Loan scheme had household incomes of £50,000 or less.’ “

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6068919/Help-Buy-mess-taxpayers-subsidise-thousands-homes-couples-earning-100-000.html

“Chief exec suspended over election failures leaves council by mutual consent”

Amongst other things, our CEO “misplaced” 6,000 voters by using inadequate means of registering them and had to explain himself (not terribly well in Owl’s opinion) to a Parliamentary committee:

https://eastdevonwatch.org/2014/10/14/official-transcript-of-eddc-ceo-evidence-to-parliamentary-committee-on-voter-engagement/

“A chief executive who was suspended over failures in the running of the 2017 general election process has left by mutual consent.

John Sellgren was suspended from his post at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council in November 2017 after a review by Andrew Scallon, of the Association of Electoral Administrators, which found that more than 500 postal voters were disenfranchised, and close to 1,000 potential electors not included on the register.

A statement from the council on Sellgren’s departure said: “We would like to place on record our thanks for John’s efforts during his seven years with us. The council recently had its first all-out elections and the new administration has an ambitious manifesto and many significant projects to deliver in the years ahead.

“With this in mind the authority will now consider what management leadership arrangements to put in place to support this programme.”

Sellgren said: “I have enjoyed my time at Newcastle and send my best wishes to the dedicated team of staff and partners with whom it has been a pleasure to have worked.”

The council said it wanted to point out that there had been no additional payments made to Mr Sellgren.

Labour’s Paul Farrelly held the Newcastle-under-Lyme seat by 30 votes with 21,124 to his Conservative rival’s 21,094.

The Scallon report was commissioned shortly after the election when claims were made that some students at Keele University and postal voters were unable to vote despite following the correct procedures.
Some said they were turned away from polling stations despite having polling cards with them, and others who said they had registered to vote by the deadline were turned away for not having provided extra information required.

Scallon’s report said: “Human error and judgement and a lack of knowledge were responsible for the things that went wrong and led to the disenfranchisement of a significant number of people, raising questions about the mandate of the candidate declared elected as Newcastle-under-Lyme’s member of Parliament.”

He noted inadequate performance by Mr Sellgren (as acting returning officer/electoral registration officer) and consultants, worsened by a lack of experience among elections office staff and over-reliance on a software system, which was not properly managed.”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36393%3Achief-exec-suspended-over-election-failures-leaves-council-by-mutual-consent&catid=59&Itemid=27

“New Zealand bans sales of homes to [many] foreigners”

It can be done.

“New Zealand’s parliament has banned many foreigners from buying existing homes in the country – a move aimed at making properties more affordable.

The ban only applies to non-residents. Australians and Singaporeans are exempt because of free-trade deals.

New Zealand is facing a housing affordability crisis which has left home ownership out of reach for many.

Low interest rates, limited housing stock and immigration have driven up prices in recent years.

Is it a total ban?

No, only non-residents are affected by the Overseas Investment Amendment Bill, which was passed in a 63-57 vote on Wednesday.

They are now banned from purchasing most types of homes – but they will be able to make limited investments in new apartments in large developments.
Foreigners with residency status in New Zealand – as well as non-resident Australian and Singaporean nationals – are not affected by the ban….”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-45199034

Social housing: sticking plaster on a haemorrhage

“The Government’s long awaited social housing green paper has concentrated on improving relations between residents’ and landlords but has disappointed councils by offering no new powers to support house building.

Among the main proposals in A new deal for social housing are publication of key performance indicators to allow residents to compare landlords, a revived stock transfer programme, a right-to-buy exercisable in stages and more effective resolution of complaints.

Judith Blake, the Local Government Association’s housing spokesperson, said: “This green paper is a step towards delivering more social homes but it is only a small step, compared with the huge and immediate need for more genuinely affordable homes.

“The Government must go beyond the limited measures announced so far, scrap the housing borrowing cap, and enable all councils, across the country, to borrow to build once more.”

National Housing Federation chief executive David Orr – who represents housing associations – said: “Our members fully share the Government’s commitment to ensuring tenants get the quality services they need – and that they can hold their landlords to account if they don’t.”

He added: “Without significant new investment in the building of more social housing, it is very hard to see how it can be a safety net and springboard for all the people who desperately need it.” …”

http://localgovernmentlawyer.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=36407%3Acouncil-concern-at-lack-of-new-powers-in-green-paper-to-support-housebuilding&catid=60&Itemid=28

“CEO pay soars as working wages flatline”

“Pay for chief executives at Britain’s largest listed companies rose more than six times faster than wages in the wider workforce last year. The average boss’s pay packet hit £3.9m. A worker on a median salary of £23,474 would have to work 167 years to earn that.

Chief executive pay at FTSE 100 businesses surged 11% while average worker earnings failed to keep pace with inflation, rising just 1.7%, according to the High Pay Centre’s annual review. The report comes after years of workers’ pay being squeezed by weak pay growth and rising prices. The mean figure for female bosses was £2.8m – less than half the £5.9m average for men – and men got more than women in eight out of 10 companies and organisations that reported figures under government rules

Frances O’Grady, the general secretary of the Trades Union Congress, said: “Workers should get seats on boardroom pay committees to bring a bit of common sense to pay decisions. And the government should put the minimum wage up to £10 an hour to give more workers a fairer share of the wealth they create.” Meanwhile, unions have rebuffed a call from the transport secretary to cap train fare rises if rail workers agree to cap their pay claims accordingly. “As you will be aware, one of the industry’s largest costs is pay,” Chris Grayling wrote to rail unions. The RMT said rail staff would not pay for “the greed of the private train operating companies”.”

Source: Guardian e-briefing

Fiddling while social housing burns

“When she first came to power Theresa May promised to address Britain’s “burning injustices”. A few weeks ago, MPs were asked to quietly drop the phrase. Tied up in the complications of Brexit, the government has done very little to help the poor and disadvantaged – those who voted in protest against their own circumstances in the referendum. Neglecting this group has not helped past governments, and this one seems to be making the same mistake.

A new green paper on social housing seems unlikely to buck the trend. It recognises that there is a problem with social housing, but fails to recognise the nature of that problem: that there simply needs to be more of it. Instead, it talks about making social housing “fairer”, and “better quality”, and “challenging the stereotypes that exist about residents and their communities”. It says, rather patronisingly, that no social housing tenant should feel a “stigma” about their situation. That is not the pressing issue.

There are almost 1.2 million people on the waiting list for social housing. As they wait, people are forced to pay rent they cannot afford, and as a consequence they cannot afford to buy food. It is no coincidence that the use of food banks in Britain is soaring. But the government is doing little to help. Experts say we need between 70,000 and 90,000 new homes for social housing a year to meet the need in England. Last year fewer than 6,000 were built – a record low. And there are no new funds in the offing to increase supply.

Instead, the green paper concentrates on initiatives such as league tables for social landlords, which it says will “rebalance the landlord/tenant relationship”. But even this is unlikely to work. With such a short supply of social housing, landlords at the bottom of the league aren’t going to suffer from a lack of interest. Neither is it going to be easy for social tenants to flit between houses, depending on their ratings. And social landlords aren’t really a problem either, as these tend to be housing associations or local councils, and bound by professional codes and regulations. Much more dubious are the amateur landlords in the private sector – able to chuck tenants out on a whim – which is where people end up when they cannot get social housing.

This is not the first time the government has tried to distract from a funding crisis by introducing new league tables: it has done this with universities, and rail operators, and lately with nursing and midwifery. It’s an underhand technique – an attempt to shift attention off the government and on to the competition, and to show that the system is at least working for some. But it’s time it started to address the real problems – and for houses that means more building.”

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/14/tories-houses-build-landlord-crisis-league-tables