In apparent confirmation both that the Times is now a tabloid newspaper and that today was a quiet news day, this was the lead story in Saturday’s Times.
I’ll just quote the opening sentence:
Council tenants are being offered £30,000 bribes or cottages by the sea to vacate their homes for credit crunch victims as Britain faces a critical social housing shortage.
The only accurate part of that is the social housing shortage. Funny how that only becomes news when Times readers are getting worried they might need social housing themselves. Nonetheless, there is a critical social housing shortage and it is a serious issue. Sadly not one the Times felt able to actually deal with.
The whole tenor of the piece is that LAs are frantically bribing tenants with tens of thousands of pounds in order to clear space for credit crunch casualties. Of course the casualties will usually be so far down the priority scale on a Part VI application, they may as well wait for the end of the recession and buy their repossessed property back. Perhaps LAs are anticipating that their homeless prevention services will be breached, resulting in a flood of homeless applications…
Apparently, payments for transferring to a smaller property for ‘underoccupiers’ are to be considered as bribes. This is quite unlike proposals to support those in trouble with their mortgages by buying part or all of their property and letting them remain as, in part or whole, social tenants. That is merely support, or prevention, or doing the right thing.
I haven’t come across the payments to leave a secure tenancy and go to the private sector, apparently operated by Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and a number of other Councils. Westminster apparently adds a condition that the (ex) tenant will not be rehoused again should they become homeless. In ignorance of any details, my first impression is that I’m not sure that that would stand up to challenge – can one sign away the LA’s Part VII duties in a private contract? I could also see the criteria and procedure by which the LA assess the tenant’s suitability for such an offer as being open to challenge, or even falling under consumer contract terms regulations.
The article’s quote from the Taxpayers’ Alliance is merely dimwitted, but for real if inadvertent humour, one has to head to the readers’ comments. These are people scandalised, nay horrified, at the ridiculous waste of taxpayer’s money on such scroungers, when the money could be better spent on, well, subsidising their own mortgage payments.
But the main article set the tone to follow. Truly dreadful, cynical and lazy work by Jill Sherman and Fiona Hamilton – those being the names on the byline – and obviously by the editors.