Rent support to stay with local government??

In an important report prepared on 13 October 2011, the parliamentary committee for Communities and Local Government has made a number of key recommendations about the future of Housing Benefit and Council Tax Benefit. The committee is comprised of 11 backbench members of parliament, with a majority from the coalition parties.


The main recommendations are:


1 The Committee agrees that the Social fund should become the responsibility of local authorities, albeit with some reservations on costs. They are also not convinced this is necessarily a role for social services departments.


2 The Committee is concerned about the introduction of a replacement for Council Tax Benefit. They point out that time is already short. They are not convinced that a local scheme will generate the expected “savings”. They recommend that the new scheme is delayed for at least a year (hbinfo note: although this makes it very difficult to see how Universal Credit could then be introduced on time).


3 They suggest that the administration of housing costs should remain with local authorities. That is where the expertise is and the links with homelessness and local housing provision are obvious. The split between the proposed arrangements for the reformed Council Tax Benefit and Housing Benefit will cause a lot of confusion. The proposed payment arrangements should also be reconsidered.            


The Chair of the Committee asked Steve Webb, M.P., the Minister of State for Reform why local authorities could not take on Universal Credit in its entirety. He pointed out it would be much cheaper for one thing. The response was very interesting – “I will probably not set that hare running just today”.


Hbinfo note: this is an interesting report that suggests the politicians from all parties are getting rather nervous about some of the policies and especially the timing of the Welfare reforms. There is so little detail available about so much of the policy; the “framework” for the new Council Tax rebate for instance. Ministers may be able to ignore reports from outside but it is rather tougher to do so if the report is from a Parliamentary Committee which includes members of your own party. Social landlords are already seeing the interest rates they are having to pay on loans increase as the perceived risk is growing. Similarly, so little thought seems to have been given to pensioners and ensuring their help continues without wide disruption. Pensioners have a big voice and a vote and are not afraid to use it!      

 We suspect that there will be some real shocks before this debate is concluded and at this stage we would not rule out anything!

 You can read the full document here –