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House of Commons Hansard
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Written Statements
21 November 2016
Volume 617

Written Statements

Monday 21 November 2016

Communities and Local Government

Social Housing

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Social housing has a crucial role to play in supporting those in most housing need. To that end, powers were provided for in the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to introduce an income based rents policy, requiring local authorities to set higher rents for higher income council tenants.

Since the summer, the Government have been reviewing this policy. We have listened carefully to the views of tenants, local authorities and others and as a result, we have decided not to proceed with a compulsory approach. Local authorities and housing associations will continue to have local discretion.

The Government remain committed to delivering their objective of ensuring social housing is occupied by those who need it most. But we need to do so in a way that supports those ordinary working class families who can struggle to get by, and in a way which delivers real savings to the taxpayer. The policy as previously envisaged did not meet those aims.

This is why we are introducing the mandatory use of fixed term tenancies for new tenants in local authority housing. This will better enable councils to give priority to people with the greatest housing need. Councils will review tenancies at the end of each fixed term to ensure that tenants still need a socially rented home. The Government’s guidance to councils will make clear that they should take into account a household’s financial circumstances when looking at this, and that, except in exceptional circumstances, tenancies should be targeted on those on lower incomes.

We will also consider whether other options exist to ensure that high income tenants in social housing make a greater contribution to costs.

We are keen to work with local authorities to tackle housing tenancy fraud. In 2013, the National Fraud Authority estimated the cost of such fraud—largely illegal sub-letting and lying about circumstances to obtain tenancies—to be in the region of £850 million a year.

For most existing tenants, social housing represents a home for life at a rent well below market levels. The Government remain committed to ensuring it goes to those who need it most.

We have already announced for this spending period we are putting £8 billion into affordable housing delivery. Building more homes is central to this Government’s vision of a country that works for everyone. We will publish a Housing White Paper shortly, setting out measures to help us deliver this ambition.

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Culture, Media and Sport

Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council

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The Education, Youth, Culture and Sport Council will take place in Brussels on 21 and 22 November 2016. Shan Morgan, the UK Deputy Permanent Representative to the EU will represent the UK at the Youth, Culture and the Sport sections of the Council.

Youth

The Council will be asked to adopt draft conclusions on promoting new approaches in youth work to uncover and develop the potential of young people. The conclusions will recommend the need to promote effective and innovative cross-sectoral policies that can help young people realise their full potential. The UK intends to support the adoption of the conclusions.

The presentation will be immediately followed by a policy debate on youth engagement

Culture

The Council is expected to present a progress report on the proposals for the revised audiovisual media services directive. The audiovisual media services directive seeks to ensure the effective operation of the internal market for television broadcasting services by ensuring the free movement of broadcasting services throughout the EU.

This will be followed by first reading on the proposal for a European Year of Cultural Heritage (2018). The objective of this initiative is to raise awareness of the opportunities that cultural heritage bring, mainly in terms of intercultural dialogue, social cohesion and economic growth. At the same time, the European Year aims at drawing attention to the challenges that cultural heritage is facing, including environmental and physical pressure on heritage sites and illicit trafficking of cultural objects. The UK intends to support this proposal.

The Council will then be invited to adopt a proposal to amend the European Capitals of Culture for the years 2020 to 2033 to extend the access to EFTA/EEA countries. The UK Government are supportive of this proposal.

Finally there will be a public debate, ‘towards an EU strategy for international cultural relations’. This will discuss how the EU and its member states can co-operate to bring about a more strategic approach to culture in external relations.

Sport

The Council will seek adoption of its draft conclusions on sport diplomacy. The conclusions will acknowledge that sport is a possible tool in supporting intercultural, economic and political co-operation, and that its potential can be part of extending and strengthening contacts between the EU and third countries. The UK intends to support the adoption of these conclusions.

This will be followed by a public debate on the impact of sport on personal development. The UK intervention will be to demonstrate the work the UK is already carrying out in this area through participation, Olympic legacy and the sport strategy.

Other business

The French delegation will present information on reform of the European copyright framework. This will be followed by the Croatian and Irish delegations on the European Capitals of Culture 2020. The Italian delegation will then present information on ‘Facing crisis in Europe: Investing in Culture’.

The Council will also be presented with information on the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) meeting in Glasgow (19-20 November). This information will be provided by the EU member states representatives in WADA; Belgium, UK and Malta. This will be followed by the French delegation on development and specific features of the organisation of European sport. Finally there will be information from the Maltese delegation on the work programme of their incoming presidency.

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Work and Pensions

Housing Benefit and Universal Credit

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One of the Government’s key commitments is to protect the most vulnerable. Supported housing supports hundreds of thousands of the most vulnerable people across the country. A safe, stable and supportive place to live can be key to improving people’s lives, and for many it is a stepping stone to independent living in the longer term. The Government value the role supported housing plays and are committed to protecting and boosting the supply of supported housing and ensuring it provides value for money and works for those who use it as well as those who pay for it.

On 15 September I announced how from 2019-20 we will be introducing a new funding model for Supported Housing. This will ensure that the sector continues to be funded at the same level it would have otherwise been in 2019-20, taking into account the effect of the Government policy on social sector rents. From 2019-20, core rent and service charges will continue to be funded through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit up to the level of the applicable local housing allowance rate. For costs above the level of the local housing allowance rate, Government will devolve an amount of funding for disbursement locally. In England, we will devolve funding to local authorities to provide additional “top-up funding” to providers where necessary, reflecting the higher average costs of offering supported housing, compared to general needs. An equivalent amount will be provided to the devolved administrations and it will be for them to decide how best to allocate the funding. Until 2019-20 the application of the local housing allowance rate to supported housing will be deferred. This measure confirms the Government will continue to provide support for those who require supported housing and ensures providers can have the confidence they need to invest in new development

I set out in my statement of 15 September 2016 my intention to consult on the implementation of this new funding model and committed to publishing a consultation. Today, along with my right hon. Friend, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, we are publishing a consultation document to develop the detail that will underpin the new funding model. We are also publishing the evidence review of supported accommodation in Great Britain, jointly commissioned by my Department and the Department for Communities and Local Government at the end of 2014. The review has provided a helpful insight into the scale, scope and cost of the sector.

Furthermore, I am able to announce today a simplification and alignment of the application of the local housing allowance policy for general needs accommodation, in light of the changes that have been made to supported housing. We propose to bring in the policy for general needs accommodation in the social rented sector in 2019, instead of 2018 as previously announced, to align with the changes to supported housing.

For Housing Benefit it will apply, as announced at autumn statement 2015, to tenants who have signed new or re-let tenancies from 1 April 2016 and their social sector rent is higher than the local housing allowance rate. Those on Housing Benefit who took their tenancy before April 2016 will not be affected.

For Universal Credit, to ensure simplicity and a streamlined process, local housing allowance rates will apply to all new and existing tenants, again only where their social rent is higher than the relevant local housing allowance rate.

People moved by the Department from Housing Benefit to Universal Credit after April 2019 whose overall benefit entitlement is lower will be protected, in cash terms, under transitional protection arrangements. On reaching state pension age Universal Credit claimants flowing back on to Housing Benefit with tenancies signed before April 2016 will also be protected.

Additional discretionary housing payments were made available at autumn statement 2015 to protect the vulnerable and help people make the transition to the new rules.

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