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Moving for changes on housing reforms
LAST month I met Lord Freud, the Welfare Reform Minister to discuss changes to housing benefit for private tenants in York.
A report from the housing campaign Shelter lists York as the most unaffordable city in Yorkshire for private rents – on a par with Southern England, not other northern cities.
Housing benefit calculations are based on average rents across a region, including many areas with much lower rents than York.
I argued that the figure used to calculate housing benefits in York should be based on rents in York. If people cannot afford to live in York they will be forced out to cheaper areas.
York is fighting the economic downturn, but if residents are forced to move away some will lose their jobs.
The Minister agreed York has a problem because it is a costly city with much cheaper neighbouring areas used for the calculation of housing benefits. He expects people to commute to York from towns and villages with cheaper accommodation.
Looking at bus timetables from other towns such as Tadcaster, Selby and Malton, this could be feasible during the day but not for people on early or late shifts. The high cost of bus fares will also deter some people on low incomes from commuting.
The Minister admits that he does not know the impact that the changes to housing benefits will have and we agreed to meet again to review the situation in the autumn.
If readers of The Press have experienced problems with housing benefits, they should phone my office on 01904 623713.
Hidden in the small print of the Budget was an announcement to impose VAT on alterations to listed buildings. This will have a dramatic impact on our churches and cathedrals. The Government says only a few of the listed buildings are churches, but 45 per cent of the most precious Grade I listed buildings are churches.
There are 16,000 Church of England churches and 12,500 are listed. They are maintained by volunteers and alterations enable the community to make wider use of the churches by installing meeting rooms, kitchens and lavatories and improving disabled access and energy saving facilities.
The VAT blow to churches will impact on traditional craft industries such as bell hanging and organ building.
The Government has said it will be extending the scope of its grant scheme to include alterations, but no new money has been promised.
The scheme does not cover all the current claims, so rather than helping churches this extension will divide even smaller amounts among a larger group of churches. I have written to the Minister to ask him to reconsider the decision.
Finally, I should like to wish York City F C the best of luck on May 12 when they face Newport County at Wembley in the FA, Trophy Final. I hope everyone will get behind them and cheer them to victory. They deserve to win.