Much coverage today about Ealing Council renting a seven bedroom house for a family of seven. The mother of the family is receiving £170,000 a year in benefits.
The Evening Standard reports that the Conservative-run Council has had a crackdown over the matter once it became clear that cheaper properties were available. The report says:
"Ealing council has now sacked three of its staff over the incident, saying it was ‘consolidating’ the department. One of the sacked workers, David Lewis, 37, a team manager in the housing department, said he and two colleagues were marched from their offices. ‘We have done nothing wrong,’ he added. ‘All we did was apply the rules and find a property for a family in need.’ "
It is encouraging that Ealing Council has responded toughly over the failings of their staff to secure better value for money. But the Cabinet Member for Housing in Ealing, Cllr Will Brooks believes there is also a problem with the system the government imposes. In April, the government introduced the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) which established national rules about what type of accommodation is appropriate and how much rent can be paid to landlords. The change enables tenants and landlords to find out the maximum amount of LHA available before an agreement is reached.
Cllr Brooks tells the BBC:
"The sums of money involved in this case will offend people’s feelings of ‘fair play’, especially as so many are having difficulties paying bills at the moment. The story highlights some of the absurdities of the housing and benefit system. "
"We believe that urgent changes are needed to the LHA and in particular for the publication of maximum rent levels to be ended.
"This would enable all councils to be able to negotiate more competitive rent agreements without being undermined."