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Paying "bribes" for Council tenants to move out can make sense

The Times had an article on their front page yesterday entitled: "Council house tenants offered £30,000 bribes to move out." Shadow Housing Minister Grant Shapps worries about tenants being "pressured" to move out. Matthew Elliot of the Taxpayers Alliance says "council housing should be a safety net for those who have fallen on hard times" and says that for Councils to be offering such sums "smacks of desperation." There were plenty of indignant comments after the online version of The Times article.

But, Matthew, the reality is that Council housing is not a "safety net." Millions are trapped into dependency living in a heavily subsidised tenancy for life. This is the system which Councils operate within. It is for central Government to change the system. It is for Councils to make the best of the system that operates.

The £30,000 figure was the maximum paid by Hillingdon. Others offer £3,000 a bedroom for people to move out. Despite indignation these payments could well be entirely sane within the context of a mad Soviet style housing system. Take an example of a family sized Council house in London. The children have grown up and moved out. The husband had died. The widow lives in the large house alone - as she is quite entitled to. But she my prefer to move to a modest property in a seaside town if she could afford it.

Perhaps it is a four bedroom Victorian house worth a million pounds which could be sold and the money used to bring several derelict properties up to habitable standard. Or it could be a large council flat which could be housing a family currently placed in expensive and unsatisfactory temporary accommodation. Councils are heavily constrained with instance funding "ring fenced" in their Housing Revenue Account and statutory duty to house people in given circumstances. It makes sense for them to do the best they can to bring in a little flexibility into a highly rigid system. The idea that Councils that seek to make full use of their stock are engaged in Shirley Porter gerrymandering is baffling.

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