As Labour debates employment at its conference in Liverpool today Westminster City Council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, Cllr Jonathan Glanz looks at the Opposition’s position on social housing allocations and considers how his decision to prioritise employed households might have resulted in tensions at the top of the Labour Party.
I was very pleased to read on these pages recently about the Labour Party’s apparent change of tack on the inclusion of employment status in the allocation criteria for social housing.
As well as awarding points for long-term residency in Westminster, from 30th January 2012, applicants to the City Council will also gain additional points if the main applicant and/or their partner can demonstrate two years of continuous employment. We think this will not only incentivise employment, it will also reward those who work hard for their families and make a big contribution to our communities.
In addition to Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, Liam Byrne’s backing for such an approach, the Shadow Communities Secretary, Caroline Flint recently praised Labour-run Newham Council, for proposing a similar policy, calling that council, and others, (presumably the likes of Westminster and Wandsworth) ‘progressive’ for giving priority to residents in employment.
I have written to both Ms Flint and Mr Byrne asking if they will help me to convince our local MP, and member of the latter’s frontbench Work and Pensions team, Karen Buck, of the merits of our approach. Earlier this year she denounced our policy, telling a local newspaper that it would ‘cause real misery’, before going on to say that:
“Policies like this often sound superficially attractive but unravel in the face of real lives and real circumstances”
Given that this now seems to be Labour Party policy I hope that Ms Buck and the local Labour Party group will work with us to ensure that social housing allocations are fairer in the future and resist the temptation to score political points by preying on the anxieties of some of society’s most vulnerable people.