Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Discretionary Housing Payments 2013

I've been trying for a while to find the annual circular stating how much authorities would be getting from the government for Discretionary Housing Payments. I have finally found it. This was a lesson in picking your search terms...

For 2013/4 NCC will get £696,031, an increase from last year's £274,621 (although this included a one-off carry-over of £62,741 from 2011/2, this was apparently quite common). This means that, in theory, NCC could pay out up to £1.74m although, on past experience, the chances of them going over the level of government funding (or even reaching it) is quite slim. I don't know how much they actually paid out last year.

This year they have to deal with the 'bedroom tax' which will upset the apple cart somewhat. Conversely, although the replacement of Council Tax Benefit with a local scheme means an effective cut in support of around 18% for those of working age, the DHP scheme will not be available to help. Bad news for tenants but a slight lifting of pressure on the DHP budget.

Interestingly though, according to a report from NCVS on a briefing from Cllr Liversidge (available here), NCC are setting up an 'emergency fund' for those unable to pay their Council Tax as a result of the change. I only heard about this today and have absolutely no idea of what's planned, how it's being paid for or why the money for it wasn't used to offset further the cuts in Council Tax support.

Anyway, what is clear is that there is an overall cut in support and a much increased role for 'discretionary' support to partially fill the gap. Interestingly, the DWP has announced it will now be monitoring the administration of DHPs from now on, something the Audit Commission never got round to doing. Will this make a difference, one wonders?

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Final Decision on Council Tax Benefit Replacement Due

The Full Council is meeting on 28 January to decide, amongst other things, whether to ratify the final version of the Council Tax Benefit replacement which was agreed by Executive Board in December.

I say 'whether', it is of course merely a rubber stamping exercise and the scheme has to be approved by 31 January or the Council will be saddled with the 'default scheme' which, being similar to the current system, will be more expensive.

As you'll be aware if you visit here regularly, the original proposals have been softened a bit to ensure that NCC qualifies for the one-off transitional grant from central government. However, after this first year it will be back to plan A, 20% minimum contribution and all. The report before full council says -

"NCC considered a number of options based on modelling of different levels of contribution from all working age households varying from 10% to 25%. As a result of this modelling, claimant contributions of 10% and 15% were found to be unaffordable in the long-term for the Council."

I find it interesting that 'not affordable' is always seen as a perfectly adequate excuse for NCC not to do something yet they don't afford this luxury to the citizens of Nottingham. If I find that my 8.5% and later 20% contributions are 'not affordable' due to the amount of money I have to shell out for housing, food and heating etc I'll simply get a visit from the bailiffs.

It could be even worse in 2014. DCLG has been forced to deny that further cuts to the funding for Council Tax reduction schemes are due in 2014. Reports were claiming that a further 8.5% would be lopped off.

They've denied it yes but do you feel lucky?

Sunday, 20 January 2013

The IT Crowd

Nottingham City Homes has someone running a public blog providing updates on social housing issues and the like. It's quite useful if you're interested in the field so I've added it to the blogroll (thought I'd added it ages ago tbh but it wasn't there so must have removed it, heaven knows why).

I did have to giggle at a recent post. The City Council does their IT for them and runs a blocking feature for social media to stop those naughty council worker scamps spending all their time on Facebook*. Apparently it randomly blocked Phil Meadows, NCH's blog admin, leaving him unable to update the blog.

Took NCC's IT mob 10 days to fix it back, presumably by turning it off and turning it back on again.

I'm sure you'll agree, Phil hides his frustration very well!

*Blocks you from Facebook but not, apparently, from Google Mail. Although I do remember that when I worked for NCC all webmail services were blocked. Does make you wonder whether certain employees were given special permission to use Google Mail and what for...

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Chapman Plays the Striver/Skivers Game for LOLs

Deputy Leader Graham Chapman has had the opportunity to pop down to that London and tell the Select Committee on Welfare Reform how bad the government's ideas are. Good stuff. Its how he's chosen to publicise it that pisses me off.

You see, like a number of mainstream Labour politicians he seems to have bought into the 'strivers v skivers' divide, the latest revamp of Victorian deserving/undeserving poor attitudes. The Victorian era is where such bigoted claptrap should remain.

You see, it is NOT the only thing wrong with government plans to limit benefit and tax credits increases to 1% per year that it will affect a lot of working people. It is wrong because it will also affect all unemployed people. Even if Chapman is just trying to highlight the Tories clumsy attempt to hide the affects of this real terms cut, he couldn't bring himself to highlight the government lie that disabled people will be exempt; the cap will also be applied to Employment Support Allowance too, many of whom are, in the common sense and/or technical legal term, disabled.

By buying into such divisive language Chapman is fueling the exact same image that the government and its tame poodle media are trying to embed. Labour has form on this of course, playing the exact same tricks like exaggerating benefit fraud and, in fact, the invention of Employment Support Allowance itself. In fact this left many with real terms cuts in benefits too as the amounts paid are often less than the Incapacity Benefit most claimants were previously paid.

Happy New Year by the way!

PS According to a source Chapman later felt bad about the use of language, so the above link will send you somewhere more friendly now.

Just so you know I didn't make it up, here's what it used to look like.

Fair play he felt bad. Maybe an apology Cllr Chapman?

PPS the Tories' 1% cap will probably affect most less than NCC's decision to insist on the poorest paying at least 8.5% of the full Council Tax. He blames central government for this too, with some justification. He will blame all of us when we can't pay it from our real-terms reduced benefits. The only people he won't blame is himself and his councillor colleagues.