Out of London

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.

Jul 222013
 

There has been a lot of discussion on Twitter and elsewhere in recent days of a video discovered on YouTube that advises Londoners to leave the Great Wen for other cities and areas under the ‘Out of London‘ scheme. The video itself focused on a man who had used the programme to move to Swansea. So view the film first and then I shall look at a few of the issues raised by this and other recent cases that have come to my attention.

Update 19:20: Credit where it’s due. I now learn that the video was discovered by the Welsh National Rights Movement and brought to the attention of a wider audience following the launch meeting of the Swansea-Llanelli branch in Gorseinon on Saturday afternoon.

The first thing to notice is I suppose that this man almost certainly does not work. If you think about it, few people are going to give up a job in London to move to Swansea or anywhere else. Which means that this scheme is aimed at the unemployed (and the unemployable), the long-term sick and disabled, and other ‘non-productive’ elements of society. Amongst these will be many criminals and other undesirables. Just as well that the video was presented by a pleasant young lady of mixed race, rather than a white man, or else more people might see this project for what it is – social engineering.

That being so, where is the benefit to Wales in encouraging people like this to move here? Obviously they will not be contributing anything in taxes, their spending power will be limited, they will become a burden on an NHS service that in Wales is already close to complete collapse. Accepting people like this is therefore insane. Though note that the man used as the example in the video seems acceptable enough . . . but of course those who made the video wouldn’t show a problem family, or an ex-con.

The problem here, I suspect, is that the London boroughs involved in this project are linked with housing associations in Wales. Swansea has more than its fair share of growth-obsessed housing bodies run by greedy and irresponsible people with no regard for the communities in which they are based. I am in no doubt that these housing associations get paid a nice bonus for taking in Londoners – and others – who, due to the problems I’ve just mentioned, then become a liability for someone else. Basically, Wales.

At its worst, this social engineering project, this population transfer, can result in the kinds of tragedy I highlighted in my recent post, Neighbours From Hell.

You will note that the video also says that moves can be arranged through private landlords. This is important in areas where there may be responsible social housing providers or a lack of social housing provision. Something brought home to me a week or so ago in a post on Oggy Bloggy Ogwr. This particular post dealt with demographic and other changes observable in Bridgend county from the 2011 Census findings.

Nantymoel is a former mining community in the north of the county, and one of the poorest wards. Yet the 2011 Census showed a sharp rise in the percentages of both the English-born and English-identifying elements of Nantymoel’s population. Clearly, there has been an influx of English people . . . into an area with little work. Also, with very few social housing units. But cheap house prices. Other figures, such as the higher than average percentage of households with dependent children and lone parent households, suggest that the ward has seen an influx of a mostly young population from outside of Wales into private rented accommodation. Property that may even have been bought by London boroughs or English social housing providers.

While we can see the advantages in this scheme for London and other parts of England, let’s not blind ourselves to the reality that too many Welsh politicians, at both local and national level, will also support this kind of influx. For a falling population is always interpreted as a sign of political failure – as we have recently seen in Detroit – so anything that can keep up the numbers in places such as Nantymoel will be welcomed.

Something else that struck me in the video was the section showing the collaborating areas outside of Out of LondonLondon. These are listed on the right of the ‘still’ I grabbed. (Click to enlarge.) While English counties, towns andOut of London 2 cities are listed individually, for us there is just ‘Wales’. Yet the leaflet ‘Out of London’ shows Swansea and Cardiff. (Click to enlarge.) So what is the real picture; is it just our two major cities or does the scheme operate across Wales? Note also that the leaflet suggests the areas to which Londoners are being moved have a surplus of social housing. I don’t know the situation in Cardiff but there’s certainly no surplus in Swansea. If there was, why are Coastal Housing, Grwp Gwalia and the rest throwing up new properties everywhere? Or is this specifically to meet demand from London and other parts of England?

Finally – and I’m sure you’ve noticed! – this scheme for London boroughs to get shot of what they consider to be the undesirable and economically unviable does not extend to Scotland. Why? Is it due to legislation in Scotland that insists on housing providers meeting local need, not engaging in schemes profitable for them but adding an extra burden on services already buckling under the strain? If so, then we need such legislation in Wales.

P.S. This post is in a sense an update on a post from last November, The London Clearances. There I linked to a story in the Guardian, which specifically mentioned Merthyr Tydfil as one of the places where “London councils have acquired rental properties”. Note also that while last November’s Guardian story dealt with ‘homeless families’, the more recent video appeals to anyone “registered for social housing in any London borough”. That’s the new capped welfare legislation kicking in.

Regrettably there are no comments with this earlier post. This is due to Google Blogger killing my previous blog, and although I was able to salvage the posts themselves they came without the comments. That’s Google for you.