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Today in politics: New Labour leader, Flood Re, new documents and benefits

Sally Walmsley
Written by Sally Walmsley

We look at the new Labour leader’s former comments on housing, plans for a review of flooding insurance, the news benefits claimants that are currently repaying overpayments will have a three month break due to coronavirus and more.

Shadow cabinet confirmed

Keir Starmer has completed his reshuffle of the Shadow Cabinet. Of note it includes:

·         Ed Miliband MP (Doncaster North) returns to frontline politics to become Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Secretary.

·         Jonathan Reynolds MP (Stalybridge and Hyde) becomes Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary having previously been a Shadow Treasury Minister. He has previously spoken in favour of tenants having a choice to have the housing element of Universal Credit paid to their landlord if they wish.

·         Thangam Debbonaire MP (Bristol West) has becomes Shadow Housing Secretary having previously been a Shadow Brexit Minister.

She is a firm supporter of ending Section 21, having previously said: “I support the campaign to end section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions.

“Evictions are a major cause of homelessness, which has increased dramatically in recent years. The government is failing to address the underlying causes of these crises. Strengthening tenants’ rights would be a step in the right direction.”

She says on her website: “The UK currently faces a housing crisis. Since 2010 we’ve seen a steep drop in investment for new affordable homes; billions of pounds cut from housing benefit; inaction on short-term lets; soaring rents in the private rented sector; and significant cuts to funding for homelessness services. Everyone has the right to a decent home.”

·         David Lammy MP (Tottenham) has been appointed Shadow Justice Secretary.

Starmer has backed rent control calls 

Sir Keir Starmer MP was elected the new Leader of the Labour Party over the weekend. 

During the leadership campaign he wrote to the Labour Housing Group to set out his ideas for housing. 

He said that private renters need “the rights and powers they deserve, including indefinite tenancies and rent controls.”

The letter can be read in full here.

Anneliese Dodds MP (Oxford East) has been appointed as the new Shadow Chancellor. 

Earlier in March she spoke of the need for protections for renters from eviction as part of the response to coronavirus, saying: “There really is a critical question around people who are renting. Our social security system is an outlier because it doesn’t take into account significantly people’s rental costs.” 

In 2018, following figures being released from Shelter showing that the number of people renting in Oxford had increased by over a fifth since 2001 she said: “We need stronger protections for private renters, such as longer rental periods, an inflation cap on rent rises, and an end to the removal of housing benefit for 18 to 21 year-olds.”

Supporting the passage of what is now the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act she said: “There should be no place in our country for rogue landlords, hazardous and unhealthy homes, and tenants with no power to do anything about them.”

She has also previously asked parliamentary questions on issues including:

  • The energy efficiency of PRS housing.
  • Ensuring councils have flexibility to retain secure tenancies as standard in local Tenancy Strategies under the responsibilities conveyed by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.
  • The potential for a paper-based system for private sector landlords to request direct payment for their tenants’ housing elements of universal credit.

New BEIS chair to be elected

Following the appointment of Rachel Reeves MP to become Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, an election will be required for a new Chair of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee to replace her. This will be a post which only Labour MPs can stand for.

Flood Re: no plans to change ‘cut-off’ point

The minister for flood protection, Rebecca Pow MP, has responded to a joint letter from the Chairs of the BEIS, EFRA and Environmental Audit Committees on the Flood Re scheme. 

Of note, she says: “In your letter you refer to the ineligibility of properties built after January 2009. Properties built after 2009 are excluded as we do not think it is appropriate to incentivise inappropriate developments in floodplains. 

“Amending the cut-off date would be inconsistent with current planning policy.”

She went on to say: “On 27 December the Government announced that it intends to investigate the extent to which those affected by flooding in November 2019 did not have sufficient insurance cover. 

“We do not have an accurate picture of how many properties were uninsured or why. 

“Therefore the review will consist of a rigorous assessment of the data about insurance cover following the November flooding, for both homes and businesses, with a view to then informing any lessons for the future. 

“This is not a review specifically of Flood Re. Whilst this review will help us understand whether there were any issues with householders accessing policies backed by Flood Re, it will need to look more widely. 

“For example, we need to understand whether insurance policies were prohibitively expensive because of other risks, or whether there were other reasons households were uninsured such as personal choice. 

“Further information, including details about who will independently lead the review and the terms of reference, will be announced shortly.”

MHCLG publishes updated Assured Tenancy Forms

MHCLG has published updated forms for landlords and/or tenants to propose action relating to tenancy agreements. They can be accessed here.

Coronavirus: DWP pauses benefits repayments 

The Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that repayments of overpaid benefits have been temporarily stoppedbecause of coronavirus (COVID-19).

Claimants do not need to make any repayments until July 2020 at the earliest.

Any money currently taken from benefits to repay an overpayment will stop automatically and restart in July at the earliest.

Claimants should contact their bank to cancel repayments made by standing order for April, May and June.

Claimants should stop repayments by bank giro credit or through online banking for April, May and June.

About the author

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley

Sally Walmsley is the Magazine and Digital Editor for the NRLA. With 20 years’ experience writing for regional and national newspapers and magazines she is responsible for editing our members' magazine 'Property', producing our articles for our news site, the weekly and monthly bulletins and editorial content for our media partners.

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