Hypocrisy and double standards: How a Tory flagship council denies the ” just about managing ” their new homes


Nickie Aiken – Westminster Tory leader and a bit of a hypocrite over housing


Today Philip Hammond the Chancellor made a big statement aimed to help the young get on the housing ladder with promises to build hundred of thousands of new homes and no stamp duty for the first £300,000 of the cost of a first time buyer home.

At the same time the Tory flagship council of Westminster has just decided NOT to make available affordable homes for young people which  it could provide by legally demanding a deal with a developer to provide cash and new homes for ordinary people in the centre of London.

The development around Baker Street by Portman Estates will allow the company to make a mint by building 51 homes, new offices and shops in a part of London where flats easily go for over £1m and much more.

By law Westminster could demand that nearly a third of the homes are made available at affordable (still high) rents to ordinary people and that the developers given £12.5 m towards the council’s own affordable housing fund – this is used often to export the homeless to other cheaper places.

In fact council documents show Westminster is about to agree a deal to accept the wealthy developer’s offer of providing just ten affordable homes ( under 20 per cenr) and contribute less than half the £12.5m the council could demand  from them = by agreeing to their offer of £5m.

You might think that this is well par for the course for the council that was famous in the 1990s for the ” homes for votes ” gerrymandering scandal under Dame Shirley Porter. They tried to move out poor families by letting new council homes to the middle class in Tory marginal seats.

But the new feisty leader Nickie Aiken  – she gave a good compassionate speech at the Tory party conference in a local government fringe – has made the point of NOT being another Dame Shirley.

She has told the Financial Times in June : “My view is that too many times we have not always pushed back enough in requiring affordable homes on-site, have buckled on viability or surrendered to the idea that brutal market economics simply denies housing opportunities for most people and that is just a harsh fact of life.”

And in case you missed it told the London Evening Standard  the same thing in January this year.  They reported : She suggested she would do things differently by no longer accepting “cheques” from developers in lieu of building more affordable homes.

“I can tell you there will be a lot more built under me than today.”

Well really – what a hypocrite – obviously not accepting cheques from developers meant they needn’t pay her so much to make even more money.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s Business, Planning and Public Realm spokesperson, said:

 “Once again the Conservatives prove that they cannot be trusted on delivering new affordable homes for Westminster residents. The Conservatives talk tough but roll over when developers plead poverty on major multi-million pound redevelopment schemes. The Conservatives are giving the go-ahead to more luxury housing and failing those in need of an affordable home in central London.”

If anything he was probably being too polite. The Tory leader is very keen to show a compassionate face for next May’s elections. The trouble is deeds count much more than words for the plight of young people who can’t get homes. Hypocrisy is not necessarily a good vote winner. I bet you don’t see this story in the London Evening Standard.

The full details  of the planning application and Westminster’s recommendation are here.


Exclusive: Westminster pioneers subsidised housing for higher rate taxpayers

Affordable housing: Now for higher rate taxpayers Pic courtesy BBC

Are you a higher rate taxpayer with a family? Need a three bedroom home convenient for the City and West End but can’t afford the rent charged as oligarchs and Arabs push up prices in Central London?

From next year the Tory flagship council of Westminster is to come to your rescue- they are diverting all their  new  and acquired affordable housing provided by social landlords to help what Ed Miliband, the Labour leader called the “squeezed middle”. This  includes helping  Iain Duncan Smith style Tory households where dad is the sole breadwinner, mum stays at home with the kids, but dad earns enough to put him in the higher tax bracket.

Too bad if you are among the 53 per cent in Westminster earning around £12,500 a year. From next year you are officially too poor to qualify for social housing anymore. You will have to go and live somewhere else.

Don’t believe me. See the table in  new Westminster Council documents, where the figures are revealed.

Table 1: Affordable Rent levelsBeds Sustainable for households (without benefit) with gross incomes*:  Weekly GrossAR range  Current RP rents (including service charges) 
1 £25k-32k(net 18.5k-£23.5k) £135 – £172  £132
2 £27.5-£36k(net £20.5k -£26.6k) £148-£194  £147
3+ £29k-£39k(net £21.5-£29.k) £156-£210  £152+

The  gross householder income figure for three bedroom homes actually exceeds the present 40 per cent tax band which  this year  is £35,001.

Even the document produced by the council’s housing director for  Jonathan Glanz, the Tory Cabinet member in charge of housing admits they might be a problem:

 “It is acknowledged that these rents are not currently affordable to many households with priority, without housing benefit. Income analysis indicates that in the main their incomes are low and significant proportions are benefit dependant.”

An accompanying document adds: “For some larger non working households, Affordable Rent may not be a sustainable housing option given what is currently known about the welfare benefit cap.” In other words The Conservative policy to cap benefits puts the unemployed permanently in the cold.

Even Westminster cannot stomach Grant Shapps 80 per cent market guideline Pic courtesy: Daily Mirror

What is even more amazing is that Westminster is  trying to implement  housing minister Grant Shapps’ plan to make sure housing association charged 80 per cent of market rents. The problem is that market rents are so high in Westminster, that even the Tory flagship authority is having to ignore  the Shapps guidelines. An accompanying document reveals average market rent for a two bed property is now  £564 per week in W1, £440 in the SW1  and £316 in NW8.

Even Westminster realises that to charge over  between £250 and £400 a week would hand over its entire social housing provision to higher rate taxpayers. Good policy for ” we are all in it together” from Mr Shapps. And Westminster’s market rents are lower than neighbouring Kensington and Chelsea and the City of London. Can’t wait for their housing proposals following Mr Shapps lead.

Not surprisingly Labour councillors in Westminster are pretty scathing about this.

Councillor Guthrie McKie, Labour’s Housing Spokesperson said;  “The Council is shifting its housing failures on to the most vulnerable people in our community. Due to its failure to provide sufficient social housing, the Council is doctoring its allocation policy…The Council is hell-bent on turning Westminster into a ‘no go’ area for the poor and low-income families.  These new policies will just add more misery to the lives of thousands of our residents.”

Mr Glanz disagrees: “This attack fails to understand the concept of the new affordable rent model and preys on fears of some of the most vulnerable people. Affordable rent is not a replacement for social housing. It is an entirely separate product for households that are in employment but would otherwise struggle to afford housing at market rents. ”

However this is only half the story. What was Westminster plans to do with its existing council housing is a matter for a further comment.