The local Labour Party housing spokesman, Cllr Mike Hayward, criticised me in this week’s Gazette for supporting the Coalition Government’s proposals to radically reform housing benefit.
I make no apology for wanting to reform the benefit system “so that we do not subsidise people to live in the private sector on rents that ordinary working families could not afford”.
I am surprised that Cllr Hayward and his colleagues do not support that policy because only six months ago at the General Election those are exactly the words included in the Labour Party manifesto!
The truth is that the current outrage from Labour politicians is just so much hypocrisy. The Labour Party left the country with a 43 billion pound deficit that has resulted in us having to pay £120 million every single day in interest charges on the Labour debt.
Part of the reason for that deficit is the scandalous way in which the previous Government allowed the housing benefit bill to rocket. Now I have no problem with paying benefits to those who need them, but it is simply wrong that some people are able to claim over £100,000 a year to live in large houses in the most expensive parts of London. Such extravagance is unacceptable when hard working individuals and families are struggling to find affordable private rents or to pay their mortgages.
The Government is proposing to place a cap on housing benefits of £250 per week for a one bedroom property and £400 per week for a 4 bedroom property. I appreciate that those caps will from next year be less in areas outside London, but then property prices are much lower outside London. Just turn to the To Let pages in the Gazette and check out the sort of house you can rent for £1600 per month!
The Labour Party compounds its hypocrisy by itself proposing a cap on housing benefits whilst at the same time refusing to tell us at what level that cap would be set!
In addition to hypocrisy, a charge of scare mongering can be levelled at the Labour Party also. Up and down the country they are concocting stories about thousands of vulnerable people being hit by the reform of housing benefits. Cllr Hayward points out that Swale has 8000 social houses, insinuating that the tenants of those houses will be worse off under the changes. He knows, or should know, that the proposed benefit changes do NOT apply to social housing, only homes in the private sector.
Cllr Hayward also points out that there are 4000 households on Swale Borough Council’s housing waiting list and claims that these people will be displaced from the housing register by people migrating to our area from London.
Perhaps Cllr Hayward would like to explain why he thinks that the council of which he is a member should give people from London preference over local people who are already on the housing list.
Finally, Cllr Hayward says that we need an MP who stands up for the area rather than toeing the party line. I think my record over the past six months proves that is exactly what I do!