Ben­e­fit cap will not block build­ing plan

Coun­cil in­sists 500 new homes will go ahead

Rutherglen Reformer - - News - Edel Ke­nealy

Pro­pos­als to build 500 new so­cial homes in Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang will go ahead de­spite caps on hous­ing ben­e­fits, South La­nark­shire Coun­cil has said.

The lo­cal au­thor­ity said this week that the UK Gov­ern­ment’s plan to cap hous­ing ben­e­fit in 2019 would bring new fi­nan­cial chal­lenges.

But it said the pro­posed wel­fare cuts were taken into ac­count when set­ting tar­gets for new-build af­ford­able homes.

Bosses at the coun­cil spoke out this week af­ter the Depart­ment of Work and Pen­sions said it would slash hous­ing ben­e­fit by up to 25 per cent for peo­ple aged 35 and un­der who are liv­ing alone.

Daniel Lowe, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of hous­ing and tech­ni­cal re­sources, said: “The im­pact of the con­tin­u­ing im­ple­men­ta­tion of wel­fare re­forms means the op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment for so­cial land­lords will re­main ex­tremely chal­leng­ing over the years ahead.

“We have, how­ever, de­vel­oped our in­vest­ment plans for the ex­ist­ing coun­cil stock and new-build hous­ing to take ac­count of the po­ten­tial im­pact of the wel­fare re­form pro­gramme.

“While we will con­tinue to re­view our fi­nan­cial pro­jec­tions, ro­bust fi­nan­cial planning and low lev­els of his­tor­i­cal debt mean that we are able to con­tinue with our in­vest­ment and house build­ing pro­grammes.”

So­cial and po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tors spec­u­lated last week that the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s tar­get to build 50,000 so­cial homes by 2021 may not be achieved be­cause of a drop in rev­enue, which is an ex­pected con­se­quence of the cap on hous­ing ben­e­fit.

Across South La­nark­shire Coun­cil 500 homes - 100 in Ruther­glen and Cam­bus­lang - are sched­uled to be built by that dead­line.

The three-year hous­ing pro­gramme co­in­cides with the roll-out of uni­ver­sal credit across the county.

This will see hous­ing ben­e­fit paid to claimants, as op­posed to it be­ing di­rectly paid to the so­cial land­lords.

Mr Lowe added: “We are clear that some of the most sig­nif­i­cant wel­fare changes are yet to take place.

“In­deed, one of the most sig­nif­i­cant changes to date will take place within South La­nark­shire dur­ing 2017 with the fur­ther ex­pan­sion of uni­ver­sal credit sched­uled to com­mence in Oc­to­ber.

“This will sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand the num­ber of coun­cil ten­ants who re­ceive sup­port to pay their rent through uni­ver­sal credit.

“Ex­pe­ri­ence of uni­ver­sal credit to date demon­strates that for some coun­cil ten­ants it has re­sulted in lev­els of hard­ship and im­pacted upon their abil­ity to pay rent.

“Like all other so­cial land­lords, the coun­cil has seen a di­rect im­pact upon the rental in­come col­lected and the re­sources re­quired col­lect­ing this in­come.

“The planned re­stric­tion of so­cial rents to lo­cal hous­ing al­lowance lev­els in 2019 will im­pact fur­ther upon ser­vice pro­vi­sion and our abil­ity to meet needs.”

South La­nark­shire Coun­cil said it has worked to sup­port ten­ants fac­ing wel­fare re­form as much as pos­si­ble, pro­vid­ing ad­vice through its Money Mat­ters ad­vice ser­vice and Ben­e­fits are Chang­ing team.

It has sup­ported peo­ple af­fected by the bed­room tax and awarded dis­cre­tionary hous­ing pay­ments to those el­i­gi­ble for ad­di­tional fi­nan­cial help.

The op­er­at­ing en­vi­ron­ment for so­cial land­lords will re­main ex­tremely chal­leng­ing

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