MP wins first round of fight to get justice for tenants

November 28, 2008 9:59 AM

Cambridge MP David Howarth is celebrating victory after winning the first round of his fight to help tenants who were told by the Government that they could no longer afford to live in the city.

Mr Howarth was appalled by the plight of tenants renting from private landlords who found they could no longer pay their rents after the Government changed the rules.

Determined to make sure their lives were not disrupted after Labour replaced Housing Benefit with a new Local Housing Allowance, he took their cases to ministers.

Now the Government has backed down and will amend the rules to allow the Rent Service to look again at Cambridge's case.

Meanwhile, Mr Howarth is fighting for compensation for tenants who found themselves out of pocket following the rule change.

"This is good news that the Government has agreed to allow Cambridge's boundaries to be reviewed," said Mr Howarth, "But the fight is not over yet. We need to find out where the new boundaries will be. We have won the first round of this fight but we must not be complacent.

"This was an appalling situation which worried large numbers of people in the city and which should never have been allowed to happen."

As part of its plan to reform the welfare state, Labour ordered that housing allowance payments should be based on "average" rents for Cambridge.

Before the change in the rules, tenants on low incomes were getting their rents paid in full by Cambridge City Council.

But under the new Local Housing Allowance they were entitled to receive only the "average" rent.

Officials in the department of Work and Pensions Secretary, James Purnell, told the city council that people should be prepared to move to find cheaper rents.

"These people found themselves in an impossible situation after the Government decided to change the rules leaving them unable to afford their homes," said Mr Howarth.

"Surviving on low incomes, they had no way of finding money to make up the shortfall and the Government was telling them they should be prepared to move to find cheaper properties.

"I am delighted that at last we seem to have a glimmer of hope and hopefully the review will result in a correct set of figures which will allow these people to get on with their lives."

The good news came in an answer to a written Parliamentary question from Mr Howarth.

Kitty Usher Under-Secretary of State for Work and Pensions told him: "Our proposed amendments to the Rent Officers Order will enable the Rent Service to review the boundaries in those localities where consensus was not achieved.

"Cambridge will be one of the local authorities that will be reviewed following the amendments to the Rent Service Order."

What would you like to do next?