No sooner had I written about a vintage week for Shapps watchers than another one followed quickly behind like a No 19 bus. Could this week be yet another?
Last week for our esteemed minister began with housing topping the agenda on the Today programme as Newham prepared to ship its homeless people to Stoke and all points north, south, east and west. This was proof, surely, of the impact of a combination of cuts in investment and housing benefit and the weakening of the homelessness safety net. Shapps on the ropes?
So we’re in a double-dip recession and construction is to blame.
You don’t have to be part of the construction lobby or a Keynesian or even Ed Balls to think that something is badly wrong here. The coalition’s strategy of cutting public spending to reduce the deficit to pacify the markets to keep interest rates low to produce a private sector-led recovery is not working and it is way past time for Plan B.
The news about Newham and Stoke has touched a nerve like few other housing stories this year. I wonder though if the coverage so far has identified the crucial issue.
The story broke on the Today programme on Tuesday morning. Newham had written to 1,179 housing associations around the country asking for help in finding homes for people affected by housing benefit cuts. The reason Stoke is in the headlines is that a housing association there went public with the letter (here). Housing minister Grant Shapps appeared alongside Newham mayor Robin Wales and accused him of ‘playing politics’ with the issue (something that Shapps himself would of course never do). I blogged my initial take on the issue for Inside Housing here but there are excellent blogs out there too from Polly Curtis, Steve Hilditch, Nancy Kelley and Toby Lloyd.
Stoke? Hull? Newham? Croydon? Westminster? Housing benefit cuts are a story in search of a location.
What I mean by that is that the story that dominated this morning’s Today programme could have been about just about any borough in London and any city in the north and midlands. We all know that sooner or later there will be real faces to put to the victims of the housing benefit cuts and real places where the problems will emerge. Up to now, though, and with several of the more draconian cuts still to come, we’ve had largely anecdotal evidence.
Read more on Inside Edge, my blog for Inside Housing.
In a vintage week for Shapps watchers, I’ve experienced a mixture of horror, admiration and amazement at the antics of our esteemed housing minister.
Take Thursday. Shapps somehow found time in his busy schedule to find a bag from the Tenant Services Authority (TSA), put it in a bin, take a photo and then share it with his followers on twitter.
The London mayoral race is throwing up some interesting new ideas on how to tackle the housing crisis in the capital – but will they make any difference?
Thanks to the voting system (the supplementary vote, which gives people two votes in order of preference), the race is not just about Boris Johnson and Ken Livingstone, even if one of them will eventually become the mayor (see part one of my blog here). And, thanks to the mayor’s new powers over investment and land, housing policy features heavily in the manifestos of many of the other candidates too.
Read the rest of this post on my blog for Inside Housing here.