Since 2010 council tax benefit has been cut all across the UK, and rent, gas and electricity costs have gone up. A quarter of British households, mostly with children, can no longer pay for rent, fuel and food and manage to save at least £10 a month. As the pound falls energy costs and food prices rise, then the number of households living in poverty will rise. Relying on charities to help feed the poorest through food banks shows that this government views such activities—being able to live a decent life—as discretionary.

People will go without food and adequate heating before they fail to pay the rent. And yet in London, court summonses for not paying the rent doubled from 7,283 in 2013-14 to 15,509 in 2014-15, and there was a 50 per cent increase in the use of bailiffs. In the UK you pay for your own eviction: £125 in court costs and £400 in bailiff’s fees.

The wealth parade by Ella Furness

The wealth parade by Ella Furness

Over half a million children in London are now living in poverty. Most of their parents are now privately renting. When their families are evicted, or just move because they cannot afford the rising rents, the children also often have to move school, thus losing friends. Children in poverty and in private rented accommodation move, on average, more than once every three years. London’s recent amazing state school exam result improvement may well soon suffer.

Our government needs to accept its responsibility for the quality and security of rented housing and the quantity of socially rented housing, become involved in rent regulation and bring under control the frenzied buying of properties by buy-to-let landlords. The standard length of private rented tenure in the UK should be three years, or five years for people with, or who subsequently have, children. Rents should be fixed during this period. Social housing rents should not be more than 30 per cent of disposable income.

Tenants such as students could leave their tenancy earlier, but landlords could not insist that they do. Tenants should have the right to improve persistently substandard accommodation, deduct the cost from their rent, and extend the length of their tenancies in proportion to how much they have had to spend. That would ensure our housing stock was improved. Existing laws are simply not good enough.

read more of the ‘Public Sector Focus’ article this is an extract from

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