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Opinion: A challenging time – supporting customers with money management

28th November 2014

Welfare reform has presented a number of challenges to housing associations and their customers, and minimising the risks presented, particularly as the launch of universal credit draws closer, continues to be a focus. Here Paul Tanney, chief executive at Four Housing, discusses the not-for-profit housing provider’s approach to financial inclusion and how to negotiate the world of welfare reform. The changes brought about by welfare reform, such as the removal of the spare room subsidy and ...

Opinion: Saving money with better facilities management

28th November 2014

By Johnny Dunford, global commercial property director, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) Research recently produced by RICS, states that UK businesses could be saving themselves as much as £120,000 a year on average by deploying a more effective approach to facilities management (FM).  Although this figure is based on the cost savings to private sector organisations, there’s no reason why similar cost savings can’t also be leveraged by local authority orga...

Pickles tells councils to sell properties to build new homes

27th November 2014

England's local authorities should sell their vacant and more expensive council homes to generate funds to build affordable housing, communities secretary Eric Pickles has claimed. The DCLG boss said today that the sale of just one high-value council house could help fund more affordable housebuilding, increase supply and reduce social housing waiting lists. According to the minister, the idea is all part of the government’s long-term economic plan to get Britain building. From April, councils will be...

130 jobs to go as council struggles with £34m funding cut

27th November 2014

Knowsley Council is to make 130 of its staff redundant in 2015/16 as it tries to make a further £34 million in savings over the next two years - a direct result, it says, of the Tory-led coalition's cuts to its funding. The Labour-run council, which has already made savings of £60m and cut its workforce by 25% since 2010, says the savings can only be achieved through reducing its level of services, which means reducing its workforce. A review aimed at identifying where savings can be m...

English local authorities fail to collect £4.55 billion in council tax and business rates

27th November 2014

A shocking £4.55 billion in council tax and business rates remained uncollected by England's local authorities at the end of March 2014 - enough cash to build around 45,500 new homes. The Audit Commission's latest update on collection rates, using publicly available data from its Value for Money (VFM) profiles tool, shows that the outstanding debt consisted of over £1.21bn in council tax and business rate payments that local authorities were unable to collect for 2013/14 and £3....

Annual London house price increases outstrip nurses' salaries

27th November 2014

London's house prices are rising so rapidly that properties in nearly two thirds of boroughs have ‘earned’ more than the average nurse in the capital takes home in a year, new analysis by the National Housing Federation has revealed. Properties in 20 of London’s 33 boroughs have risen by more than £35,316 in just one year, meaning that thousands of homes have generated more income than a nurse earns from an average full-time salary. The NHF says that a chronic shortage of affo...

Billions of pounds still required to save struggling universal credit

26th November 2014

The government's spluttering flagship welfare reform programme, universal credit (UC), may end up costing a further £2.8 billion to implement, the National Audit Office (NAO) has warned today. In its latest progress update on UC, the NAO concluded that it is too early to determine if the Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) will achieve value for money in its implementation of the programme - which has already seen £millions written off in IT blunders. Following the scheme's res...

UK’s estate agents net £3.5 billion in 2013/14

25th November 2014

The UK’s estate agents pocketed £3.5 billion in commission over 2013/14, enough cash to buy a small town of 14,000 homes, research has revealed. And according to eMoov’s study, very few house sellers know where all this money goes. Polling for the online agents found most respondents estimated that agents spend 10-20% of their fees on marketing and advertising - though the reality is that only 6% of fees are spent on promotion, eMoov’s analysis found. Between 1 August 2013 and 31 Ju...

Opinion: Right to buy belongs in the 80s

25th November 2014

By Gary Orr, chief executive, Yarlington Housing Group The ZX Spectrum, the Casio Cassette Player, Big Hair & Shoulder Pads, JR Ewing, Right-to-Buy, Culture Club, Fax Machines; yes it’s 1980s Britain. Whilst fashions come and go and products serve a purpose for a time, RTB remains with us, largely unchanged.  From its introduction, it was never really a surprise that the policy would divide views… but if we place RTB within todays housing crisis, it’s truly hard (fr...

Opinion: Rent arrears caused by DWP maladministration!

25th November 2014

By Bill Irvine, Universal Credit Advice  Earlier this year I highlighted a social security scandal relating to JSA/ESA sanctions and their unintended knock-on effect on housing benefit. The problem has, if anything, got worse, despite the fact both the DWP and councils are well aware of its existence, not to mention the unnecessary rent arrears and untold misery it inflicts on tens of thousands of tenants. Landlords, already reeling from some of the worst effects of the welfare refor...