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The Priorities of the Chancellor

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Chancellor Sajid Javid’s spending round, outlining departmental budgets for 2020/21, have proved a disappointment to housing professionals, local authorities and those in need of housing, failing as it does to prioritise housing. 

Most people would feel that housing the homeless, the over-crowded, those living in inadequate accommodation would be a priority for the Chancellor.  The sight of homeless people on our streets is stigma enough in the 21st century.  But no – little help was made available by the chancellor.

Next year, there is a slight increase in funding of 2.7 per cent for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This generosity however should be compared to recent performance; this is the first increase in 10 years. We are all aware that homeless numbers have soared in recent years; evictions are rising because of the 5-week delay in benefit being awarded after application for Universal Credit is made. Let us hope that what equates to an increase of 0.27 per cent per year is enough to make a significant difference to the sector.

The actual sums given to housing by the Chancellor do not sound insignificant, until the percentage increase is seen. £54 million to tackle homelessness, £40 million for Discretionary Housing Payments and £24 million for the Governments Building Safety Programme. 

These sound like large sums to you and me, but there is a lot of feeling that these are peanut amounts, compared with the multi-billion-pound commitments to health and education. Nobody would dispute that these are very necessary, but whatever is spent on education is wasted, if children live in poverty, in bed and breakfast accommodation and are never able to put down roots.  Our hospitals must treat the sick and injured, but how long does someone remain healthy after discharge, if they go to hostels, or worse, back to their corner on the street? 

Housing, Health and Education are all vital to the society we live in, but to live without a home puts people outside society; they become aliens in the areas they were brought up in. Terrie Alafat, chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said ‘We are disappointed the government has not included housing in those areas, like health and education, (in) getting a long-term additional funding settlement. We are facing a national housing crisis and every day we do nothing about it, it’s getting worse’.

The former Prime Minister, Theresa May, stressed that housing was her ‘number one domestic policy’. Some may say they saw little evidence of this, but it was at least out there, seen as an issue that needed to be worked on and improved.

The Chief Executive of South Yorkshire Housing Association commented ‘I suppose it’s not a huge surprise. There has been no suggestion at all that the positive direction that Theresa May was taking was going to be supported and that lack of priority for housing is being reflected in the Spending Round’.

Those engaged in the housing profession, those private sector landlords who work with the vulnerable, need to rebel against the face of politics, who blithely ignore what is so obvious to us – that people need a home. 

When all are housed, at least adequately, we can all turn our concerns to health and education – but housing must come first.

Over to you Chancellor.

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