What could you do with 70p?

1st November, 2013 6:12 pm

There can be no doubt that those on the lowest incomes have seen their living standards plummet. Jobseekers Allowance claimants saw their incomes increase by just 70p this year.

70p cannot possibly make a significant difference to living standards, even if jobseekers were currently able to afford food and clothes: an inflation rate of over 5% means that food alone would cause extra hardship.

Food banks, anyone?

But the poorest claimants are suffering from more than just inadequate Jobseekers Allowance: they are being forced to pay a Council Tax contribution for the first time – generally over £2 a week; they face huge increases in water rates above the rate of inflation – and that’s before we start talking about energy bills.

But it is not just claimants who are seeing their living standards fall. When I surveyed women in my constituency recently, almost everyone had a tale to tell about rising bills and frozen wages. Travel, childcare, food, fuel and of course, housing are all so much more expensive than they were last year, whilst overtime has become harder to get and wages are static.

Islington is a good example of an area where rents are rocketing and house-buying is out of the reach of all but a few.

During PMQs this week, I asked the Prime Minister about one type of “affordable” housing: shared ownership. I have been concerned for some time that shared ownership homes in my constituency were out of the reach of teachers, nurses and firefighters, but we now have a number of shared ownership properties valued at over half a million pounds – and one on offer today at £720,000!

This “affordable” property would cost you over £2,400 a month. Not surprisingly, David Cameron ducked the question entirely, and started wittering on about other schemes.

In the context of central London and probably a lot of the South East these days, affordable housing is what we used to call social rented housing. Now the Government’s bright idea is that social renters can afford to pay 80% of market rent – and some Housing Associations are obliging by charging over £200 a week for new lets of one-bedroom flats.

The Mayor must put an end to this – but so far he has failed to respond in any sensible way to pressure from Islington Council and other Councils.

Of course a real Living Wage would be a step in the right direction, but we also need to take action on the cost of rent in the public and private sector and the cost of household energy, which are all currently spiralling out of control.

So many people are struggling at the moment, and that’s why I’ll be speaking at the first policy conference held by the Centre for Labour and Social Studies tomorrow – where one of the key themes will be the living standards crisis faced by ordinary people.

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  • treborc1

    During PMQs this week, I asked the Prime Minister about one type of
    “affordable” housing: shared ownership. I have been concerned for some
    time that shared ownership homes in my constituency were out of the
    reach of teachers, nurses and firefighters, but we now have a number of
    shared ownership properties valued at over half a million pounds – and
    one on offer today at £720,000!

    Well of course out side of London the teachers Fire fighters police officer all can afford affordable homes most poor people in my area cannot afford affordable homes and the police or teachers or others in that range would not want to have an affordable home , this is like Caroline Flint saying to people that we need Council houses for Police officers teachers and fire fighters so we need to get rid of the unemployed.

    Pity she did not say to people we need more council houses.

    In the end of course the poor cannot afford to much in London anyway unless they are renting and getting housing allowance, just as they cannot even afford affordable homes in my area.

    We need council housing desperately for the poor, but sadly Labour not seen these days as the party of the poor it’s a party of the police teachers and now the middle class.

  • JC

    Wouldn’t it be better if housing were cheaper for all? There’s a lot of discussion on how to help people with expensive housing costs, and very little on how to reduce the cost of housing to 1970’s equivalent levels. When I bought my first house it cost £16,000,or 3 times my salary. The same house was recently sold for £85,000, or about 4 times the equivalent salary. That’s in Whitehaven! My London flat was £40,000; again 3 times my 1984 salary. Now it’s worth about £350,000.

    • treborc1

      My old home I bought for £24,000 it has just been sold for £278,000 now the garden has been sold and another house built on it, the garden I thought was small seems not small enough.

      You cannot look back you have to look forward the land prices are now far far to expensive even the sale of Brown field sites has gone through the roof, in my area the council see this type of sales as a means of getting in money so sell at the highest prices, then builders have to make that money back.

      An affordable home in my area is £120,000 that’s not affordable, none of these so called affordable homes are for rent

      • JC

        I wasn’t looking back, I was illustrating my point. In the 70s and 80s planning permission was easier to obtain and therefore cost less in legal and other expenses currently required. Houses were generally worth twice as much or more than the value of the land they were built on. Now it’s the other way round. We should want to change this.

  • Housing would be cheaper for all if the Govt stopped pumping money into the housing sector via paying social rent with taxpayer’s money.

    As a taxpayer. I pay other people’s housing benefit, and then I lose out because this pushes up the price of housing making it unaffordable for me to live near my work in London. That’s not very fair is it?

    It’s the govt that makes markets unaffordable by paying ever-increasing market rates on behalf of claimants. Normal supply and demand rules don’t act as a regulator, because the Govt will pay whatever rate is charged to keep council tenants in their homes (while the rest of us are forced to leave areas when they become unaffordable)

  • swatnan

    Emily made the same point at yesterdays CLASS Conference about lack of affordable housing in London. And about caps on rents. Apparently we still do have a ‘Regional’ cap on rents. So in places like London there’s a different weighting to say up North in Durham, even though bits of Durham are pretty affluent. But having said that I still feel uncomfortable with putting tenants up in a £3m council house, instead of finding them a home more suited to their income, if they have any other than benefits. Because its the rest of us subsidising them. What the solution is I’m not yet sure. The best brains must surely be set to work on it.

  • BusyBeeBuzz

    Michael Meacher reports:

    “Even more distressing, I recently received a letter about a woman who took her own life when the stress of having to find extra money to stay in her home in the face of the bedroom tax became too much. Stephanie, 53, had the auto-immune system deficiency Myasthenia gravis, an illness that weakens muscles. On constant medication she was told she needed to pay an extra £80 a month or leave her 3-bed home after her two children moved out. Already cutting back on food – Stephanie had just tinned custard in her cupboards – and too poor to put the heating on in winter, the demands of the bedroom tax drove her to walk out in front of a lorry on the M6 in May this year.” http://www.michaelmeacher.info/weblog/


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