February 2013 (Issue 57)
It’s easy to mock Lord David Freud.
The upper class background, the Kent mansion with all those spare rooms, the peerage bestowed on him by pals David and George, the swimming in ponds – he is your stereotypical Tory toff, a man completely oblivious to the real world.
It would be great to have a laugh at his expense safe in the knowledge that he is ultimately harmless, a man who operates in a hermetically sealed bubble whose work has little or no impact on the general population.
It’s unfortunate then that, as far as the housing sector is concerned, Lord Freud has become such a significant figure. In fact he is the only politician that really matters this year.
As the ‘architect’ of the bedroom tax and the man who insisted direct payments to tenants should become an integral part of Universal Credit, he has single-handedly inflicted misery and mayhem on thousands.
And the reason? Because his head appears buried in so many textbooks telling him how to ‘make work pay’ he has forgotten to leave his walnut-lined library once in a while and speak to real people, with real experience of living a life on low pay and trying to make end meets.
So what he thinks is a good idea in principle ends up being a pig’s ear in practice. But typically, like so many of his Tory chums, he is too arrogant to recognise the car crash he has created and pays no heed to the warnings – nor the evidence from his own demonstration projects.
To underline just how significant and far-reaching Lord Freud’s policies have become, Jules Birch takes a look at the impact of welfare reform on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and how the devolved governments of each are seeking to soften the blow.
Also in this issue, we send 24housing’s new deputy editor Brian Church along to interview Shelter’s chief executive Campbell Robb. Again, welfare is the top topic of conversation – once our chief inquisitor can overcome his admiration for the charismatic Scot.