Lots of local councils and housing associations are paying thousands of pounds a year to be members of an organisation called the Northern Housing Consortium. Many also pay extra to go along to all the talking shops in smart hotels.
The NHC spends £2.2 million of our money a year and has a team of “events officers” and “policy services officers.” It also acts as the secretariat to the “All Party Parliamentary Group for Housing in the North.”
Its members include such councils as Sheffield, Redcar and Cleveland, North Yorkshire, Richmondshire, Northumberland, South Tyneside, Newcastle and Sunderland. Oh yes – and Lambeth. The NHC says:
Our primary role is to support and represent our Members, who, between them are responsible for two thirds of social housing in the North. We do this through the provision of a range of products and services aimed at ensuring that the interests of the North are fully consulted, represented and served at sub-regional, regional and national level.
The value to the Lambeth Council Taxpayers in funding lobbying for the north of England is something of a puzzle.
However, I doubt such spending does much for Council Taxpayers anywhere else either. Their events include sending off housing officers to York Racecourse (at £229 each) to listen to assorted reps from trade unions and left wing think tanks and equalities consultancies lament the iniquities of welfare reform.
So the NHC is yet another taxpayer funded, left wing lobby group.
Yet one of their recent initiatives has backfired. Naturally, campaigning against the spare room subsidy cut is one of their priorities. They have conducted a research project, Real Life Reform, tracking a few of those affected. Seven housing associations contribute about a dozen examples each. They are LHT, Liverpool, Halton Housing Trust, Stockport Homes, Leeds and Yorkshire Housing Association, Leeds Federated Housing Association, Kirklees Neighbourhood Housing and the North Star Housing Group, Teesside. Leeds University researchers have been paid some undisclosed sum of our money to carry out the interviews. The first report came out in September and the second this month.
The latest figures show an increase in those looking for work from 35 per cent to 40.5 per cent. There is also a dramatic increase in the number of those in part time work seeking to increase their hours – from 35 per cent to 60 per cent.
The report adds:
Given one of the intentions behind welfare reform was to encourage people into work, it may be that such an increase in people already in work looking to increase their hours is a positive response to the policy.
There is also emphasis on the point that those who responded to their change in circumstances – whether by taking work, taking in a lodger or swapping with an overcrowded family – have found it difficult to absorb the benefits cuts. Many complain they could have been given more warnings of the changes so as to have adjusted their circumstances before facing financial difficulties. They also say they could be given more help finding work. The report takes these comments as criticisms of Job Centre staff. No doubt that is valid. But could not the housing associations also reflect whether they could be doing a better job of alerting their tenants about policy changes and assisting their tenants into work? Wouldn’t that be better than going to junkets at York Racecourse to complain about Iain Duncan Smith? Or spending money on NHC membership fees and Leeds University researchers?