More social cleansing

Today Westminster City Council launched what it described as a pilot flagship scheme to provide priority housing to single West End workers. They are to be offered shared accommodation with rents set a third cheaper than the private sector.

It’s a press release that must have warmed the heart of 82 year old former Westminster City Council leader Shirley Porter. In 2006 Porter moved back to the West End after Westminster Tory’s let her off £30m owed for her part in the homes-for-votes scandal during the 1980’s. After being let off the debt Porter moved back to London from exile in Israel purchasing a £1.5m flat in Curzon Square, on Park Lane in Mayfair.

The council’s latest pilot is to be called the Fair Share Housing Scheme and has received backing by Housing Minister, Grant Shapps.

The Government’s changed housing benefit rules preventing single people under 35 from receiving Housing Benefit if living in one bedroom self-contained accommodation.

Cllr Jonathan Glanz

Cllr Jonathan Glanz

Cllr Jonathan Glanz, Westminster Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing and Corporate Property, said:

“The aim of this innovative scheme is to highlight and address the housing needs of London’s dynamic workforce.”

“With recent changes to housing benefits for single occupants and with living and transport costs increasing, local authorities must come up with alternative ways to accommodate those on a London Living Wage who keep our local economies thriving.”

“In Westminster, we are working to provide fairer and more affordable housing options to lower-earning individuals who play a vital role in the economic life of the West End.”

But he did not say what will happen to single tenants who lose their jobs or why priority is not being given to families currently on the council’s waiting list.

Westminster Council has 800 families in temporary accommodation (often in B & B hotels with some being shipped as far out as Hackney) and 1,000 families stuffed into overcrowded accommodation (many have children sharing a room with adults and with no place to study).

Westminster Council also has 400 empty Council properties waiting for renovation.

Last June the council reduced the number of rough sleeping bed spaces by 170 following the closure of Look Ahead’s hostel on Castle Lane. Claiming that although the hostel did have considerable success in working with rough sleepers there was little prospect of finding capital funding for the scheme. However the council’s Community Services Peer Group managed to rustle up £23,847 in order to as they put it “Assist clients to move on from Look Ahead’s Castle Lane hostel following their decision to close the hostel“

At least the council’s ‘move on’ grant has enabled some of the homeless to be able to afford a parking space to sleep in at one of the council’s recently leased off car parks.

Councillor Guthrie McKie, Labour Spokesperson for Housing says,

“It is quite astonishing that the Council can come up with a scheme like this when they have nearly 2,000 families in serious need of being housed. What is even more astonishing is that a Government Minister should give such wholehearted backing to it. We know what Westminster Conservatives think about housing the poor and vulnerable and now we know what the Coalition Government thinks. The money used for this scheme should be used to build or convert more housing for families who live in Westminster. This initiative is a slap in the face of those families living in appalling housing conditions.”






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