Friday, 25 April 2014

Simon Hughes rallies Liberal Democrats to challenge the removal of security of tenure

Lifetime tenancy row threatens coalition

One of the Liberal Democrats’ most senior MPs will hit out at Conservative opposition to security of tenure at his party’s conference this weekend.

Deputy leader Simon Hughes has submitted a motion to the Liberal Democrats’ autumn conference, which starts in Liverpool tomorrow, calling for the government to rule out the removal of lifetime tenures for social tenants.

This contradicts prime minister David Cameron’s announcement in August that he was considering scrapping tenancy for life in favour of fixed-term tenancies, which would end when a tenant’s economic circumstances improved.

Mr Hughes’ motion, which delegates will choose whether to debate at the conference, comes as party backbenchers wage a growing campaign against the coalition’s proposed cuts to housing benefit.

The motion calls on the government to ‘rule out removing secure tenancies for current and future council tenants’ and to ‘investigate alternative ways of managing occupancies when circumstances change, such as different levels of rent’.

Mr Hughes said: ‘Proposing this motion for conference is one obvious way we could move the debate forward and ensure the voice of Liberal Democrats is clearly heard.’

Meanwhile, Mike Hancock, Lib Dem MP for Portsmouth South, has written to work and pensions minister Lord Freud, condemning plans to cut housing benefit. Other Lib Dem MPs, including Stephen Williams and Andrew George, have also written to ministers asking for more detail on the cuts.

At an adjournment debate on Tuesday Bob Russell, Lib Dem MP for Colchester, accused the government of ‘economic cleansing’ through its cuts and said low-income families would be ‘forced out of their neighbourhoods’.

The rebellion comes after chancellor George Osborne announced he would make a further £4 billion in cuts to the welfare budget, on top of the £11 billion already announced in the Budget. But work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith said he ‘did not recognise’ the £4 billion figure when giving evidence to a committee of MPs on Wednesday.

Twenty MPs, including four Lib Dems and Tory MP Peter Bottomley, signed an early day motion by Mr Russell, challenging the decision to link benefits to the consumer price index.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson also warned this week that 17,000 families could be forced to move in London as a result of the caps to local housing allowance.

A Conservative spokesperson said there was ‘no split’ in the coalition over tenure. He added: ‘The government is absolutely committed to protecting the security of tenure and rights of those currently living in social housing.’

Readers' comments (9)

  • "A Conservative spokesperson said there was ‘no split’ in the coalition over tenure. He added: ‘The government is absolutely committed to protecting the security of tenure and rights of those currently living in social housing.’..."

    Excuse me Simon Hughes, Boris Johnson and all are not talking only about existing lifetimes tenancies but also about future ones. Presnt and future go hand in hand.
    So there is a split there - and to deny it is trying to fool social housing residents that they are safe when they clearly are not... Another example of politicians treating social housing residents like they were idiots and would not see a split even when it's as wide as a gap.

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  • Sidney Webb

    Semantics at work I'm afraid. The no split in the government is because the backbenchers, although of the same party, are not in the government. Such hair splitting is the same self-delusion that enabled the Tory Blair party to convince itself all was well and the nation rejoiced. It is normally a parrallel for the first half a dozen nails in the coffin for a government, but rarely so soon after an election.
    We live in intersting times - ironically the Chinese curse of may you live in interesting times is now supported by their control of our economy - intersting times indeed.

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  • The weasel words are "rights of those currently living in social housing". Future tenants will not have security of tenure and, like the American 'projects', may well be asked to leave when their income reaches a certain level. Into the private rented sector no doubt, adding to the impetus being given by all three political parties to creating an insecure, servile rentier society. This is an appalling proposal but I expect the LibDems to back down after 'seeing all the facts' (and there to be not a squeak in protest from a Milliband led New Labour Party). And don't foget that the leader of the LibDems believes that welfare (and housing - for me anyway - is the fourth pillar of the welfare state) isn't there "to mitigate the effects of being poor", its "an engine of mobility". Only a public school educated, silver spoon stuffed parasite, born to wealth and privelege (and who incidentally has only ever worked in the public sector, albeit mainly in Europe) would believe such a thing. So the LibDem conference motion is little more than crocodile tears.

    The only people who rent and are able to feel that they belong, to commit to their homes and communities, are those in social housing. If you are renting privately or on an insecure tenancy, why invest in your home (e.g. decorating), your garden (e.g. plants), your community (e.g. joining local groups, getting involved in neighbourhood life) when at the whim of your landlord you can be forced to move every six months. Simply paying the rent to a private landlord (or a newly emboldened de-regulated social sector managed increasingly by City-wannabees) isn't enough to guarantee a long time in your home. Unlike for example Germany, where a rented home is as secure as buying one as long as you pay the rent (or mortgage ofcourse if you opt to buy).

    We all perhaps need to accept that no longer will even lip service be paid to creating stable, cohesive, prosperous communities by our new ConDem rulers. If your are poor, or low waged, then the message is clear: "Tough - and just to make sure you understand that, we'll make it all a little tougher for you".

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  • Progressive Solutions Required. Whatever happened to the Partners story? It's vanished off the site. Reader power ... the trusty sword of truth ...

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  • Sidney Webb

    Do you mean 'Islington clears PFI partner of fraud', which is still there? Otherwise - damn ghosts in the machine I suppose!

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  • When the last Government announced its proposal to withdraw the excess Local Housing Allowance that claimant's could keep, up to £15 per week, Frank Field was prominent amongst the backbenchers who opposed such a change, even supporting an early day motion of opposition to the change.Since the even more swingeing Emergency Budget cuts in LHA were announced by the Coalition Government he has remained silent.He surely hasn't been bought off by David Cameron with a role as Poverty Tsar? Principles and Politicians? Don't make me laugh.

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  • With more people wanting social housing than is available, and many house blockers living in houses too big for them, and many more who could easily afford the market rental as opposed to the highly subsdised rent. This is somthing that must be addressed.
    Lifetime tenancy attached to a particular property is nonsense. If you really need social housing and its available, so be it, but the actual property, should change depending on your cicumstances, and income.
    the case of a single parent and child living in a 5 bedroomed house she had 'inherited'! from here mother is the extreme example of where 'tenancy for life' gets you. She even had the gaul to fight to keep it. ( I dont know the outcome, I'm sure someone will let me know!!!)

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  • Is this the same Frank Field who was originally a member of the Conservative Party?

    Back to the story - and yes it is a 'story' as this is just political spin ahead of a potentially damaging further Coalition split at the conference. The Liberal rank and file will be and are disillusioned at the complicity of their MPs with the Tories and will vent their anger at the conference.

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  • Sidney Webb

    What the same Frank Field who worked under the former Tory Party Member, Tony Blair - Yep, that's the man.

    What a term - 'house blockers' - does anyone else remember the No Turning Back Group coining the phrase 'bed blockers' as an excuse to remove access to health care funding and give rise to the ever dwindling funding of care in the community. Seems the sick apologists of extremism are still alive and well, and as ever anonymously shifting blame onto the vulnerable.

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