DCLoG which, by all accounts, was cockahoop over Ahmad has issued a new draft Code of Guidance on allocations for consultation: Fair and Flexible. This amends parts of the 2002 Code and the 2008 Code on CBL. The new draft Code is obviously aimed at correcting the old Codes in the light of Ahmad, which it does at paras 52-81 (also dealing with local lettings policies). But the draft is also designed to deal with the BNP brigade and how to counter the “false perceptions” and “myths” about local allocations schemes through information provision, local consultation before and after the creation of the new policy, simplicity over complexity in framing the scheme, and publicity/transparency (paras 32-51). All of this is undoubtedly good stuff, but there’s a lot of dumbing down that’s going on here, and one reason why is that the draft suggests that allocations schemes which are too complex are liable to be challenged (amongst other problems – see para 67).
They have also taken the trouble to set out the government’s view of what it would like allocations schemes to be achieved; and at para 54 suggested the following:
It is strongly recommended that local authorities put in place allocation schemes which, not only meet the requirements in the legislation to ensure that reasonable preference for an allocation goes to those in the reasonable preference categories, but also:
a) reflect the Government’s objectives, and
b) take into account the particular needs and priorities of the local area.
I kind of liked that partly because I don’t remember seeing any requirement in Part VI for local authorities to reflect the government’s objectives (remember the tories’ first post 1996 Act Code which said that local authorities should prioritise married couples – ah, those were the days). At paras 23-31, the government sets out its objectives. Here, I think there are (or will be) interesting things to get ones teeth into. One particular government objective is the worklessness agenda and it clearly, post-Hills and Flint, sees social housing allocation as offering assistance. At para 31, it says that authorities should see how they can use allocations policies to support those who are in work or who are seeking work. They could do this through local lettings schemes; or by giving some preference to existing tenants who are willing to move to take up training opportunities (eg where there’s a need to address skills shortages and worklessness). I wondered how all this ties in with the equalities duties (discussed in paras 21-2), eg if a household is unable to work for one reason or another.
Other than this, I was left marvelling at how New Labour’s approach to government has altered the local authority environment to the extent that it has – I lost count at the number of strategies, assessments, impact assessments, to which the draft refers (try paras 52-3, which refer to the strategic housing market assessment; the regional housing strategy; homelessness strategy; and the sustainable community strategy).
Anyway, comments to (the very nice) Frances Walker by 23.10.09. The foreword from John Healey says that they will issue the revised CoG in November (which would be a bit of a record bearing in mind the time it took to get the CBL Code out)