LHS (Locata)

Jul 252013
 

More information has come to light that justifies another post on the subject of encouraged population movement out of London, and indeed, from other parts of England. To begin with, after seeing the video in the previous post a number of people contacted Swansea council. This was part of the response received by one inquirer.

“The information film I believe you are referring to relates to an old scheme called LAWN (London Authority Waiting List Nominations).  A video clip about the scheme has been circulated by email in recent days and we have received a number of enquiries about this. I can confirm the scheme is no longer operating in Swansea and has not done so since early 2007 . . .

 . . . There are currently no plans for large-scale transfer of individuals and households from London waiting lists into our own housing stock and we are not engaged in dialogue with London Councils to this effect. We have contacted our Housing Association partners locally who have confirmed the same”.

Now everything said by that Swansea council representative could be completely true . . . and totally misleading. Let’s start with the first paragraph. LAWN is the official or alternative name for the ‘Out of London’ scheme dealt with in the video. As this document, Housing mobility schemes, from the House of Commons Library, tells us, the LAWN scheme was privatised in February 2004 to a company called Scout Solutions UK, who cocked-up and soon lost the contract. The LAWN project is next administered by Housing Moves, also by Housing Partners which operates much more widely and claims to have formed “partnerships” with 660 councils and housing associations across the UK, all “finding innovative answers to difficult social housing mobility HomeSwapperproblems”. I haven’t had time yet to go through all Housing Partners’ “products”. (Right.)

Let’s go back briefly to the House of Commons Library document. If you follow the highlighted passages you’ll read (Page 6, ‘General Transfers’): “The (Housing Mobility) Taskforce (2010) recommended that transfer applicants should not have to compete alongside new applicants for local authority housing”. This seems to say that a social housing tenant transferring from say, London to Swansea, gets priority treatment. Was this recommendation adopted? The document also mentioned four other agencies engaged in social housing moves: HomeSwapper, House Exchange, Abritas (which seems to be a software company, like Scout Solutions), and Locata.

But it’s not just social housing. Here’s another interesting scheme I unearthed, the HomeStart Scheme, operated by the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. This gives people the chance to move into private rented accommodation. With funding provided for train tickets to view properties, a 12-month tenancy, deposit (bond) and rent paid in advance, plus financial help with removals. So let’s say someone from Kensington and Chelsea takes out a private rent in Ceredigion, but doesn’t like it . . . no probs, cos after 12 months they’ll qualify as ‘local’ and can demand social housing! And we can be sure that K & C isn’t the only council operating this scheme.

A very similar scheme is The Fresh Start Scheme, described as “A private renting out of London scheme”. If I’ve read the leaflet put out by Hackney Council properly, then it even urges Londoners to find their own property or area. Other London councils operate this scheme.

There clearly exists a bewildering plethora of schemes to get the unemployed and unemployable, the sick and disabled, and the economically unviable out of London. And there are other schemes I haven’t mentioned! Clearly, there’s a hell of a lot of duplication here. Duplication means money wasted. In the old days you put your name down for a council house and waited your turn . . . maybe had a quiet word with a councillor or two. Now Welsh social housing providers are linked into a UK-wide network that does not serve Welsh interests

City of WestminsterFurthermore, this ‘national’ network means that anyone can apply for a property anywhere, which, on one level, is perfectly acceptable, if people wish to move voluntarily. But when it’s tied in with regional disparities in wealth and property values, and there is a strong element of legal coercion involved, then it simply provides mechanisms for the richer parts of the UK to relocate their unwanted populations onto the poorer areas.

This would be bad enough were it happening within England, but when, fourteen years into devolution, it allows England to off-load problems onto poor Wales, then it becomes unacceptable.

Here are a few other points worth remembering:

  • There have long been in existence mechanisms for relocating criminals although, as you can imagine, getting information on such schemes is almost impossible, not least because of the involvement of the Probation Service for Englandandwales. I have dealt with this problem here and here. More recently in Neighbours From Hell.
  • These moves out of London are one-way tickets, as the video used in the previous post makes clear. Spelled out again by Ealing council: “Before joining this scheme it is important that you are sure you want to move out of London. If you decide you want to come back to Ealing later on, it is unlikely the council will be able to help you.” Make no mistake! These schemes are designed to get the ‘unproductive’ out of London for keeps.
  • Another advantage of taking a private rent is that the shittier the accommodation the quicker one qualifies for social housing in an area with which one may have no links. This is both an incentive to slum landlords and encouragement for those prepared to put up with shitty conditions for a short time.
  • Also remember that anyone qualifying as ‘homeless’ immediately goes to the top of the queue. In the area where I live the favourite trick is to come into the area, rent a small, totally inadequate caravan, then demand social housing and all the accompanying benefits.
  • The schemes listed above, and the conditions in which they operate, will soon be overwhelmed when the new rules start to bite. I’m talking now of the benefit caps and ‘spare room’ legislation.

Finally, returning to the statement from Swansea council, let’s look at the second paragraph I’ve used. There are currently no plans for large-scale transfer of individuals and households from London waiting lists into our own housing stock . . . “ There may be no “large-scale transfers” planned, but there is a steady influx due to all the schemes that the council and various housing associations operating in the city have signed up to. I suspect that “large-scale” was used here to cloud the issue.

Anyway, Swansea is just one council out of twenty-two. But this statement takes no account of English local authorities buying property in Swansea, or elsewhere in Wales. Nor does it consider English councils doing deals with private landlords in Swansea, and all over Wales. And it certainly doesn’t take account of the activities of charities, such as the YMCA and Green Pastures, dealt with in two recent posts, here and here. Putting it all together, there are certainly dozens, possibly hundreds, of schemes and organisations bringing into Wales people we don’t need, don’t want, and would be better off without.

This influx of a benefit dependent population, many of whom are criminals, or have alcohol or drug ‘dependency’ and other problems, is an increasingly widespread problem in Wales that more and more people are becoming aware of. It’s now time that the ‘Welsh’ Government got to grips with an issue that is costing Wales a great deal of money we can’t afford.