Public Housing & Benefits

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2012 Local Government Service Group Conference
21 February 2012
Carried as Amended

Conference notes

1)The continued attempts to privatise housing management and the consequent threats to members pay, terms and conditions and trade union organisation;

2)The new stock transfer guidance in England scheduled for April 2012 and the potential new threat of privatisation;

3)The continued attacks on pay, terms and conditions, by housing associations;

4)That there are 1.5 million fewer council and housing association homes available for rent in the UK than in 1979;

5)The Conservative led Coalition policies of creating insecure tenancies at unaffordable rents in England;

6)The continued attempts to reduce availability of council housing in England by stealth through the increased discounts, rolling conversion of existing properties to insecure tenancies at unaffordable rents as new lettings take place.

Conference welcomes the decisions by those local authorities that have brought their ALMOs back in-house, tenants in Swindon and elsewhere that have rejected stock transfer and the action taken by UNISON’s Policy and Public Affairs in promoting ‘Housing Voice’ to develop widespread support for the case for affordable housing.

Conference is alarmed at

a)Changes to Local Housing Allowance that would restrict access to fewer rented properties;

b)The ‘bedroom tax’ for 670,000 council and housing association tenants;

c)The extension of the shared accommodation rate from single people under 25 to single people under 35;

d)The localisation of council tax benefit;

e)The benefits cap.

The implications for low paid UNISON members include creating insecurity, making it more difficult to find housing close to their employment.

Conference believes that Housing Benefit cuts are creating ‘no go’ areas for people on low incomes; driving thousands of families in the private rented sector out of their homes, disrupting the education of their children as they are forced to change schools, and disrupting community networks

Despite all the rhetoric about making work pay, transferring responsibility for council tax benefit from the DWP to local councils with 10% less money, inevitably means that low paid workers face the prospect of losing some or all of their council tax benefit, wiping out at a stroke any gain from raising the income tax threshold.

Universal Credit creates an uncertain future for thousands of UNISON members who currently deliver a quality housing and council tax benefit service for 5.8 million people, as the Government moves to replace that service with the internet and remote call centres when what people need is a quality local service that is easy to access and where they can get personal support.

Conference therefore calls on the Service Group Executive to:

i)continue to support branches in encouraging local authorities to bring ALMOs back in house;

ii)continue to support branches in opposing the privatisation of housing management;

iii)continue to support regions and branches in opposing attacks on the pay and terms and conditions of members working in housing;

iv)provide guidance on the revised stock transfer guidelines;

v)continue to work with Defend Council Housing, Shelter and the TUC to progress UNISON’s objectives;

vi)campaign against the bedroom tax and the replacement of the benefits cap with controls on rents;

vii)continue to promote the case for investment in new council and housing association homes at rents affordable to people in low paid employment as part of the strategy for economic recovery, job creation within local government and social justice;

viii)work with branches, local authorities, professional organisations and service users to secure a sustained long-term role for local authorities in the delivery of a rights and benefits service that includes a localised Universal Credit and Modified Pension Credit service that enables people to apply, resolve queries, get assistance and process documentation locally.