Monday News Review

IDS under fire over “social zoning”

Large swaths of southern England will become off limits to housing benefit recipients in a little more than a decade because of the government’s proposed plans to cut welfare bills – triggering a huge migration of the poor to the north – according to a study by housing experts. The work, by the Chartered Institute of Housing, shows that before 2025 rents on most two-bedroom properties in the south will become unaffordable to those claiming local housing allowance. Within 15 years, much of London’s commuter belt will become too expensive for the state to pay for the poor to live in. Towns such as Chelmsford, Newbury, Bath and Maidstone would be no-go areas for those on benefits and all of Hertfordshire would be out of bounds. The capital would be unaffordable within a decade. – The Guardian

Dr Rowan Williams said plans to make claimants work or lose benefits were unfair and suggested that cuts to housing benefit could lead to “social zoning” with the poor pushed out of affluent areas […] Dr Williams suggested that the Coalition’s approach to welfare reform risked demonising and demoralising “vulnerable” claimants. “People who are struggling to find work and struggling to find a secure future are, I think, driven further into a downwards spiral of uncertainty, even despair, when the pressure is on in that way,” he said in a radio interview. “It can make people who start feeling vulnerable feel more vulnerable. “People are often in this starting place not because they are wicked or stupid or lazy but because circumstances have been against them. To drive that spiral deeper does seem a great problem.” – The Telegraph

Coulson interviewed by police

David Cameron will face fresh questions over the fate of his communications director Andy Coulson this week, after the Labour Party made it clear it expects the Prime Minister to address the issue directly. Downing Street confirmed over the weekend that Mr Coulson had been interviewed by Scotland Yard detectives about allegations of phone-hacking during his tenure at the News of the World. No 10 said Mr Coulson had attended a meeting with Metropolitan Police officers voluntarily on Thursday and was interviewed as a witness. He was not cautioned or arrested. – The Independent

Labour is keeping up the pressure on David Cameron’s director of communications, Andy Coulson, by asking whether he has had civil service help over claims he denies of complicity in illegal phone hacking while editing the News of the World, it is reported today. Shadow Cabinet Office minister Jon Trickett is to write to Sir Gus O’Donnell, head of the civil service, to ask if official time was spent advising Coulson, the Financial Times reports today. A Conservative source told it there was “no intervention” and the question was pointless. Coulson was interviewed by police last week. – The Guardian

What next for Woolas?

DISGRACED former North West minister Phil Woolas will today launch a fightback against the ruling which stripped him of his seat. He vowed to clear his name and intends to build up a fighting fund for a judicial review of the decision last Friday by two high court judges to force a by-election and bar him from standing for public office for three years. They ruled he had smeared his Lib-Dem opponent Elwyn Watkins during the general election campaign in Oldham East and Saddleworth and played the “race card” to win. Mr Woolas last night said: “Anyone who knows me knows I am not a racist. People in my constituency are outraged two judges can come up from London and overturn their decision to re-elect me. I intend to fight on.” Mr Woolas has been suspended from the Labour party. – Liverpool Daily Post

The Speaker will give his decision to the House of Commons on Monday, with the main parties expecting him to chose an immediate election. But Mrs Bercow, a former Labour local council candidate, suggested the Speaker should allow Mr Woolas to keep his seat while he tries to last week’s ruling. “I would like him to hold off,” Mrs Bercow told the BBC. “I do think Phil Woolas has the right to appeal and for that appeal to be heard.” Mrs Bercow’s remarks came after Harriet Harman, the Labour deputy leader, confirmed that Mr Woolas will not be able to return as a Labour candidate regardless of his legal campaign. Mr Woolas, a former minister and frontbench spokesman, has been suspended by Labour and Ms Harman suggested his challenge would not change his status. – The Telegraph

Lib Dem defects to Labour

Nick Clegg has been dealt a blow by a Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate’s decision to defect to Labour in protest at his leader’s acceptance of Conservative policies and abandonment of key elements of his party’s programme. Andrew Lewin, at 23 the youngest Lib Dem candidate in England at the May election, urged the party’s MPs to oppose controversial cuts in housing benefit in a Commons vote tomorrow. He claimed hardly any Lib Dem MPs support them, saying the party was being forced to swallow “a virtually unreformed Conservative agenda”. Although several councillors have left the party in protest at the Coalition’s policies, Mr Lewin is the first candidate to walk out. – The Independent

Leave a Reply