UK Politics

Home out of range

While there are many criticisms of council housing, I think the basic motivation – that of providing affordable housing to those most in need of it – is morally sound and a policy with its heart in the right place.

People pay taxes in order to subsidise the provision of homes to those less able to afford them. This is a good thing, a mark of our civilisation and our progressive liberal democracy that we have built a society, however imperfectly, where at our core we believe people ought not to be left without a roof over their heads.

Morally speaking, of course, the system relies on the goodwill of the majority of working people who contribute their taxes in order to allow such a system to be in place. In that sense, goodwill is an essential commodity – and that is why it is important for people not to be seen to be ‘taking the piss’. TTP gnaws away at the public’s will to ‘do the right thing’.

Now, while a lot of attention has been focused on (former advisor to the mayor) Lee Jasper’s unaccountable and seemingly unaccounted-for grants of public money to friends, cronies and cyber-sex partners, there has been rather less outrage about the fact that a man earning a £120,000 annual salary for the past eight years has retained the use of a large £90 a week council house.

Perfectly legal of course – he has, of course, broken no rules legally speaking – but many might regard this a daylight robbery of the taxpayer, morally speaking.

The average Londoner earns just £575 a week. At £2250 per week, Lee Jasper’s City Hall salary was four times that.

Most letting agents require one’s salary to be at least 2.5 times the monthly rental of a property before they’ll approve a lease. This gives a clue as to how much of the average person’s wages go towards paying the rent. Lee Jasper’s was a staggering 25 times his salary.

In other words, hard-working Londoners – who were not swanning around the globe on unexplained and undeclared trips – were paying Lee Jasper’s rent.

Anyone else on Jasper’s salary could have bought and fully paid off a family sized home twice in his time in office. So why did he, a person who earned many times what the average Londoner earned, remain in a house that a genuinely needy family could have used? Why did he remain in a house subsidised by tax payers who gave up part of their salaries – which were a fraction of his – to subsidise Jasper’s big house?

According to City Hall’s own research:

“The number of households across London, placed in temporary accommodation has continued to increase since December 2004 reaching nearly 63,000 in February 2005. “

The same report notes:

“Current high rents in PSL accommodation can exceed £300 per week. Where this is claimed in Housing Benefit, the claimant has little incentive to work, as there is very little financial gain. A household only begins to make significant gain from working when they are no longer in receipt of Housing Benefit. A couple with one child, claiming Housing Benefit of £241 per week in rent for a PSL property would have to earn £700 a week before they exhausted the Housing Benefit taper and started to gain for each additional pound of income in the way that most people do.”

And of course, the mayor himself has highlighted the lack of affordable housing – this while a top aide whith whom he’d “trust his life” was hogging one himself.

Lee Jasper earned £2250 a week and paid £90 rent for a family-sized home. For shame!

Sixty-three thousand Londoners without a permanent home! Mr Jasper talked the talk, but when it came to walking the walk of a commitment to socialism and concern for the poor, he didn’t write cheques, he cashed them.