A generation ago Margaret Thatcher introduced a scheme that changed millions of people’s lives, allowing ordinary people living in council accommodation the chance to buy their own rented homes at an affordable price.
Fast forward to today and so many families are better off for this policy. So much so that David Cameron has tried to resurrect the scheme in the twenty-first century and tap in to the residual feelgood factor.
It is a policy that gave an opportunity to step up from relative poverty to move into the middle class, a move that has affected many close to me and as such is a policy that I will always endorse.
Yet while it is important to ‘help up’ council house tenants, one important social group has been forgotten. For those just above the threshold – ie not earning six figure sum but not poor enough to receive state handouts – there is no help available, particularly from Hammersmith and Fulham Council, it would seem.
This week, the Tory-run council unveiled its plan to further penalise the highest taxed group by removing their rights to a council house.
According to councillors, couples on a combined outcome of more than £40,200 should not be allowed to live in council accommodation.
Of course, mothers and children and the vulnerable should get first dibs but to exclude those based on earning a slighter better wage is unforgivable.
It only takes each partner to earn just over £20,000 to be ineligible. £20,000 is not a lot of money to be earning full-time and professionally in London. The average wage in our capital is around £41,000 – over Hammersmith & Fulham Council’s threshold.
In essence, the only people benefitting from this plan are those who won’t or can’t work and parents with either mum or dad staying at home.
Those who contribute heavily in taxes don’t get a look in. Apparently the scheme rewards hard-working families yet what about those who earn a bit more down to sheer hard work? People who take on more work are actually penalised. Why?
There is no incentive to work hard when the state is obstructive if you do.
Those earning £37,500 a year are in the same tax bracket as someone who is paid £150,000, yet comparatively they can’t afford to buy a home – especially in south-east England.
Where is the incentive to higher education or to earning more money or getting a promotion? If you are lucky enough to be promoted and find yourself earning above the income tax threshold you can look forward to being taxed the same as someone earning three times as much as you. So what is the point?
This policy just shows that the council have forgotten about the middle ground, the forever-renters.
Providing poorer people with the chance to buy their own homes is a good thing. But more must be done about the lower middle class, who are the also-rans in the scramble for a council house. With property prices unattainable and mortgage lenders reticent we will never be able to own a house. We’re the unhappy medium. It feels like we are forgotten when it comes to the housing debate while George Osborne milks our industriousness by imposing the same income tax bracket as wealthy businessmen.
Why is it that the government and councils across the country neglect to help people in this situation? A whole generation, however hard they will work, will never be able to have the things their parents had.
Shared-ownerships aren’t worth the paper they’re written on. They too have a cap on how much you dare earn to be eligible and prioritise certain sectors such as those working for the emergency services. Thus, the options available for workers are to either put up and shut up with no help and high rents, or split up with your partner and try getting a home by yourself.
Of course it is good that the likes of not-short-of-a-Bob Crow and his rich chums will be moved away from their council houses, but most people earning £100,000 are unlikely to be living in one anyway.
When are young professionals in the going to get the help they need? It feels like we are penalised for doing slightly better than average. There is no incentive to get on. As soon as your income hits a region between £35,000 and £40,000 you get treated as if you are a wealthy homeowner who can afford to see a fairly large proportion disappear to the Inland Revenue. In reality, such an income in London is merely ‘average’ in a city where the cost of living is eye-watering.