[Ben Reeve Lewis has three film crews following him around …...]
Monday morning saw me earning my pay by playing Monopoly on the London Eye.
“Is that where my council tax goes?” says you.
All in a good cause, I was filming the end shots for a BBC 1 documentary about Generation Rent airing next month.
I’m out with Panorama on Friday who are concentrating on a different aspect and am enduring months of hell with a Channel 5 documentary crew for a 6 part series going out in September.
It seems, with the national elections looming that the world and his wife is suddenly interested in Rogue Landlords where normally I can’t get anyone to do more than stifle a yawn when I mention their heinous crimes.
But a different kind of TV prompts my first foray into the news this week. The story of solicitors firm TV Edwards and their involvement in the shaming of London Borough of Southwark over Gate-keeping allegations (honestly, the efforts I go to make creative, flowing links between stories!!!!!!!, yes I know that was a tenuous one).
It’s a homelessness issue but bear with me for a few lines. Gate-keeping is basically any practice whereby a council dodges its duties to homelessness applicants in order to stop them appearing on the homelessness statistics.
In Southwark’s case this involved making applicants prove their own case (the rules say it is for the council to prove or disprove) and only offering temporary accommodation to unemployed people.
Southwark signed a consent order agreeing to stop this practice in order to stay out of the High Court.
This is Huuuuuuuuge news in homelessness land because gate-keeping is very common. However, allow me a rant, then I’ll get back to the funny stuff.
A quick rant
- More people are in the position of having to make homelessness applications than government want the public to think
- If councils return their monthly statistics to the DCLG with a high number of cases on it, the government sends in a hit squad and makes it look like they are being inefficient
- Councils gate-keep to avoid bad publicity and government interference which could impact on budgets
- Result? – government can make it seems as if homelessness isn’t as bad as it really is.
My call to all local authorities is “STOP GATEKEEPING” – not because it is illegal but because it protects politicians from having their incompetence made public.
Pick up every case owed a legal duty which will point the finger at the source of the problem, our elected representatives in Westminster and their collective inability to make intelligent decisions about housing.
They should have gone down the Council …
As you tuck into dinner tonight and look forward to the weekend ahead spare a thought for Tim and Donna Hillyer, dubbed by the Evening standard as “London’s unluckiest family”.
Their home received the unwelcome attention of a Mercedes with a blacked-out driver at the wheel, both of whom arrived unannounced through the wall of their Walthamstow Semi back in November.
Many of their possessions were destroyed but luckily nobody was hurt and the Hillyers were insured, so they moved into rented accommodation nearby while the house was set for repair.
Only to have the cooker blow up and the rental house destroyed by a fire which took their remaining possessions.
One thing doesn’t ring true here though. The family are reported as homeless and a fund has been created to help them out – but with two kids and nowhere to live they would be eligible for homelessness assistance, albeit it temporarily until their house is repaired.
Give Southwark a try
Now that Southwark are in the dog-house over Gate-keeping, maybe the Hillyer’s local authority will contact them and offer assistance. The couple are employed so even if Waltham Forest Council are gate-keeping in a Southwark stylee, they would at least get temporary accommodation.
My advice to them is this, quickly apply as homeless to Southwark who will by now be so terrified of turning anyone away that they will have a uniformed commissionaire on the door saluting and handing out sweets.
Help to buy – not radical after all
Prize of the week for completely shameless electioneering pledges goes to George Osborne who announced to the world an idea to gift £30,000 to social housing tenants to help them buy property elsewhere without using the right to buy.
Before you go thinking “Ooooh George, you old radical”, bear in mind that schemes like this have been around for years in many councils who introduced them to stop the blood draining out of social housing through the scalpel wound to the Carotid artery that is the right to buy.
A famous scheme being the CIS – Cash Incentive Scheme. One wag in the comments below the article refers to this as a “V.I.C scheme”…………..Votes Incentive Scheme. Couldn’t agree more.
Cuts in the Court System
Having been seasoned in the art of sitting it out in the county courts on emergency injunctions waiting hours for a judge to be assigned (tip – take a good book and don’t sit next to your nervous, talkative client) I was intrigued to read no less a luminary than Andrew Arden QC sticking the boot into county court administration.
Cuts in the system are, Andrew says limiting access to justice and worst affecting litigants in person.
“What it means is that no judge is assigned to the case in the hope that one will become free, e.g. because another case settles.
The result is that parties are often left waiting most of the day, a judge may still not become available and the case is adjourned – an enormous waste of money for all concerned and another illustration of putting the burden of state cuts on individuals.“
Mr A also points to the danger of more increased court fees (not just repossession cases) saying:-
“The impact that the increased issue fees will have on litigation remains to be seen but the rise risks making the courts prohibitive to even more people than now”.
If Arden says it, then you better feel it. He’s a tough old bruiser and in no mood for pleasantries.
What made me smile this week
I had to go to North London on Saturday to train Renters Rights London. My nearby station is bad for parking so I drove the car about 3 miles and parked at a more convenient spot, assuring Frazzy I would be home in time for her to drive to a girlie night with her mates.
I came back by train and finally a bus to my door. Had dinner and a chat. Frazzy put her coat on and picked up her keys saying “Where’s the car parked babe?”…………………
Er….later…….in the dog house……..
See ya next week.