3 August 2011

Denial of right to challenge Shoesmith appeal

Department of Education and London Borough of Haringey denied right to challenge Sharon Shoesmith's appeal

Staff reductions at the Equality and Human Rights Commission

The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)  have published a press release countereacting media reports that there have been substantial job reductions at the EHRC since 2010. 

The EHRC has been facing budget cuts and threats to jobs other recent months.

More than 2000 charities and community groups facing cuts

Only a year after the launch of the Big Society when we are supposed to be relying on the community and voluntary sector more, based on 265 Freedom of Information Act responses from councils in England, the TUC has found 2,215 charities are facing budgets cuts caused by council cutbacks.  Children’s and young people’s charities have been hardest hit.

Of the charities affected, 382 work with children and young people, 112 in the adult care sector, 151 with those with disabilities and 142 support the elderly.  There are also a substantial number of homelessness charities facing cuts.

False Economy - More than 2000 charities facing cuts

Vulnerable at risk as charities face cuts of over £100m - Housing Dash24.com

Councils pass on severe budget cuts to hundreds of children's charities - Children and Young People Today

Taking the Sting Out of Housing Benefit Cuts

£4 million of funding designed to help council deal with the impact of cuts to housing benefit has been allocated following projections that 40,000 households could become homeless as a result of reforms with local authorities having to pick up the costs.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith announced £190 million in April in additional support to help councils' transition to the new arrangements.

Bidders were invited to tender for £4 million of this money by proposing innovative digital projects to assist both tenants and landlords.

The successful bids are:

Cambridge City Council Cambridge City Council on behalf of the Northgate Benefits Product Group will allow up to 168 local authorities across the UK to highlight tenants who may be affected by the changes using specialist software.

North London Housing Partnership
Two hubs in North London will provide monetary advice, support with rent negotiations and practical assistance to help households across six local authority areas. The initiative is led by the London Borough of Haringey in partnership with voluntary organisation Islington People’s Rights

East London Housing PartnershipA new Social Lettings Agency which will provide free services to landlords across eight local authorities in East London to avoid management costs and reduce rents, as well as support for tenants who may have to move.

London Borough of LambethThe London Borough of Lambeth, working in partnership with local voluntary groups, will launch a tenancy support service to target and support people who will be affected by housing benefit changes.

London Borough of BrentThe London Borough of Brent will be working with the voluntary sector to provide advice for Housing Benefit claimants.

Cardiff City Council A website for all of Wales run by Cardiff City Council will provide information and support for people affected by the changes to housing benefit.

Kirklees Council A new digital service which could help up to 50,000 households by matching landlords and tenants who want to rent at Local Housing Allowance rates across five local authority areas in West Yorkshire.

Bristol City Council A partnership between Bristol City Council, Bristol Credit Union, three neighbouring local authorities, the West of England Partnership and the National Landlords Association will establish services for landlords and tenants.

Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Tenants in 13 local authorities in the North West will be given help in negotiating rents as well as general money advice from the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities. Advice and support for landlords will also be provided.

Edinburgh CouncilA one-stop shop will be established with local voluntary groups to target those affected in Edinburgh.

Possession Proportionate

West Kent Housing Association has successfully recovered possession against a tenant who defended the claim on the grounds 'proportionality', made famous in the 'Pinnock' Supreme Court ruling. The housing association pursued possession against the tenant, Mr Alan Grant after receiving complaints of anti-social behaviour. Mr Grant’s main defences were that the possession process had been "unlawful" and was "disproportionate" within the meaning of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. His defences were dismissed summarily in the Tunbridge Wells County Court, the latter in accordance with the Supreme Court’s ruling in Manchester City Council v Pinnock . Mr Grant claimed that the housing association had other remedies available including an anti-social behaviour injunction. Dismissing the defence, District Judge Hebblethwaite found that Mr Grant had agreed to a starter tenancy and was aware of the consequences of breaching its terms. In light of the anti-social behaviour that Mr Grant had admitted, it was not seriously arguable that evicting him was disproportionate. Mr Grant's case was dismissed and an outright possession order was made, enforceable in 14 days.

Proposals to Cap Council Tax Benefit

Communities Secretary has unveiled plans to impose caps on council tax benefit from 2013 which follows the controversy over plans to cap housing benefit which is subject to a current judicial review in the High Court by the Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG). CPAG and other charities warned the housing benefit changes could amount to "social cleansing" and force thousands of poorer people out of expensive areas, such as central London, and increase homelessness. Caps to council tax benefit will only compound the impact and increase poverty.

The caps if they go ahead are projected to save the taxpayer up to £480m a year. Council tax benefit is claimed by 5.8m people and costs £4.8b a year. Under the new plans, the money paid to councils would be cut by 10% and local authorities would be given a pot of money to share amongst those people who need it most. The Government proposes that pensioners will be protected against any reduction in support but the consultation places a greater emphasis on back to work incentives, tackling benefit error and fraud and wider economic reform.

Eric Pickles said: "The new system will be a fairer one, where hard-working families and pensioners are not left to pick up a spiralling benefits bill and where work always pays. Councils will be much better placed to attract new business and industry, better placed to help their residents get off welfare and reap the benefits of work instead. They will directly benefit from improving the prosperity of the local area that will in turn drive down their benefit bill. Local authorities will have much greater freedom to administer rebates in a way that best meets local needs and best supports local people whilst safeguards will be put in place to protect the most vulnerable, including pensioners, from any reduction in the support that is on offer."

So the new system will be a fairer one where work always pays. Mr Pickles seems to be forgetting the thousands of public sector workers who have been made redundant due to local authority spending cuts as a result of budget cuts made by his department. He also seems to be forgetting that as a result of recent funding cuts to charities from local authorities, there may be community and voluntary sector workers at the risk of losing their jobs. And just a few weeks ago, one of his Tory counterparts announced that some disabled people should be able to choose to work for less than the minimum wage if it improved their chances of getting a job.

Former Blackpool Council Tenants take case to European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights is to scrutinise the procedures social landlords can use to evict tenants alleged to have committed anti-social behaviour following the application of former Blackpool Council tenants. The UK government will be required to respond as to whether the eviction of Blackpool council tenants Paul and Amanda Wilkes in 2007 complied with parts of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Mr and Mrs Wilkes and their two children, had their one-year introductory tenancy terminated following 57 incidents of alleged anti-social behaviour, which included threats to kill a neighbour and to burn down a block of flats. They lodged an appeal with the court later that year.
The European Court of Human Rights wants to establish whether Blackpool Council’s decision to evict the family was proportionate, and that the review panel which confirmed the decision was sufficiently independent.

The investigation follows the Supreme Court ruling involving Manchester Council tenant Cleveland Pinnock, in which the court ruled there must be proportionality when landlords carry out mandatory possession hearings - especially where landlords have an unqualified right to posses a home, such as on introductory tenancies.

Blackppol Gazette - 15 June 2011