THE GREEN Party’s deputy leader has called for new policies to replace the Coalition’s ‘absolutely appalling’ housing benefit reforms.
Councillor Will Duckworth, the Party’s national deputy leader and a Councillor on Dudley Council, has criticised the government’s Welfare Reforms as ‘half-thought-out’, and likely to cause such hardship across the country that crime may increase.
He said: ‘So much of my time is taken up with the problems which are being caused by housing benefit reform, and it’s not surprising. The policy is absolutely appalling.’
Cllr Duckworth has been working closely with one man, a 40 year-old divorcee, who will be forced to leave his home to live in a one-bedroomed flat under the Welfare Reform’s ‘size criteria’.
The size criteria means housing benefit recipients face a 14 per cent cut in benefits if they have one spare bedroom, and will lose a quarter of their housing benefit if they have two or more spare rooms.
Cllr Duckworth said: ‘This man has a court order which means his daughter stays with him every other weekend. If he has to move into a one-bed flat, that becomes impossible for him. It means he will have no choice but to break the law.’
And the Party’s Deputy Leader fears that the cut in benefits – predicted by the National Housing Federation to be Â£16 per person per week on average – could increase criminal activity.
He said: ‘People have joked that the only way they’ll be able to carry on living in their homes is by selling drugs. They are joking, but you have to wonder what lengths people will be forced to. This isn’t a matter of people moving to a smaller place down the road. There are 3,640 people in Dudley who the government says are living in ‘under-occupied’ houses. But there aren’t enough one-bed flats in Dudley for them to live in. Where will they go?’
Cllr Duckworth and the Green Party challenge the idea that a national policy was necessary to ‘free’ homes from under-occupation.
Instead, the Party calls for a Citizen’s Wage – a weekly payment made to all UK residents – which would replace the benefits system.
And Cllr Duckworth called also for rents to be fixed, to prevent people being priced out of areas.
He said: ‘In parts of London, it’s impossible for most people to afford to live, so it’s forcing people out of their areas. Instead of forcing people out of their homes in other areas too, as the housing benefit reform will do, we need to pay people a Citizen’s Wage and fixed rental prices, so people can afford to live where they want or need to.’