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Council’s new measures to support tenants facing benefit cuts

renfrewshire council logo .JPG

Council’s new measures to support tenants facing benefit cuts

Renfrewshire Council is so concerned about the impact of benefit changes that it will now consider reclassifying homes where tenants are penalised by Under Occupancy Rules for having a bedroom which can’t be used because of disability or medical requirements.

This means tenants can apply to have their properties re-classified so that an extra bedroom wouldn’t be classed as a ‘spare’ but judged as necessary where no suitable alternative accommodation was available.

renfrewshire council logo .JPGThey would then not face reductions to their benefits as part of the Under Occupancy Rules – dubbed the ‘bedroom tax’.

The move is part of a package of measures that Renfrewshire Council has approved to manage the impact of benefit changes on its housing service and tenants.

There will also now be increased priority in housing allocations for tenants who are worst affected by the bedroom tax.

Renfrewshire Council has already agreed that, where tenants are engaging with the Council, it will not resort to eviction to collect rent due to bedroom tax.

The council has now gone further and has agreed that tenants with bedroom tax debt can still be considered for a move to downsize to a property with no spare bedroom, which will improve their financial circumstances.

Consideration will also be given to ending the right to buy for one-bedroom council properties.  The council’s housing stock is now mainly consists of flats as a result of right to buy and so the restriction may be applied to any houses the council has left which are in short supply.

That would enable greater flexibility in allowing tenants to move to properties that are more suitable for their particular circumstances.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, said:  “Welfare Reform is one the biggest issues to impact upon our area and Renfrewshire Council is generally regarded as being at the forefront of the approach councils are taking to try to help tenants, families and communities deal with the severe impact of the UK Government’s cuts.

“We are prepared to work with other social housing organisations and tenants’ groups to do all we can to give our tenants the help they need in these difficult times.

“I am pleased we taking steps to help those who are caught in the trap of the ill-informed Under Occupancy Rules.   These measures that we are now taking forward can make a real difference to those of our tenants who are on housing benefit and who are in an increasingly difficult position as a result of the benefit change programme.”

The proposals were agreed at a meeting of Renfrewshire Council on Thursday June 27.

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Council calls for employers to pay the living wage

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Council calls for employers to pay the living wage

Renfrewshire Council is calling on all its suppliers to pay their employees a living wage of at least £7.50 an hour.

In November, 800 council workers saw their pay increase to the level of the living wage and councillors believe that the benefits of this should be extended to the wider work force.

Renfrewshire_Council_ezg_1Councillor Mike Homes, Depute Leader of Renfrewshire Council, is a strong advocate of the living wage. “It’s the right thing to do,” he explains. “Pay less than a living wage and you force people onto benefits and lead them to look for work elsewhere. Pay a living wage and research shows that you get a more loyal, productive and flexible workforce.

“At a time when the UK government’s welfare reform will see household incomes shrink and as much as £22million withdrawn from the local economy, we will do everything we can to protect and improve livelihoods in Renfrewshire.

“We’ll work within the legal framework to encourage our suppliers to pay a living wage and we have already included that question in our tender documents.

“Renfrewshire’s residents and workers deserve a fair deal and our businesses need their commitment and flexibility.”

Four out of five people who earn less than £7.20 an hour work in the private sector. Public organisations, such as the council, are taking the lead by ensuring that they pay the living wage.

It is clear though, that if unfeasibly low wages are to be eradicated in Renfrewshire, it will take a combined effort from all sectors of the economy and every part of our community.

Employers and employees can find out more about the campaign for living wages at www.livingwage.org.uk/about-living-wage.

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More choice for tenants with new council housing initiative

Gallowhill open day

More choice for tenants with new council housing initiative

Renfrewshire Council has launched a new letting service which gives tenants more say in choosing a property to live in.

HomeChoice@Renfrewshire is a choice-based letting service which gives applicants the opportunity to decide where they want to live and the type of property they’d like to move into.

Gallowhill open dayAvailable properties are advertised online and in housing offices in a similar style to the way estate agents market private properties.

The scheme is being piloted with newly-renovated flats in both Gallowhill Court and Glencairn Court. If popular with tenants, it may be rolled out to other areas across Renfrewshire.

Around 100 prospective tenants came to two recent open days to see the new-look flats and speak to housing advisors about their tenancy options.

Councillor Tommy Williams, Convener of Renfrewshire Council’s Housing and Community Safety Policy Board, met with tenants at the open days and said: “This is an exciting new development for housing services in Renfrewshire.

“With more involvement in choosing a property, we’re hoping tenants will be happier with the end result and that they’ll feel settled in their new home for many years.

“Taken together with our multi-million pound investment in new build homes and in bringing our current stock up to the Scottish Housing Quality Standard, it all adds up to a major commitment to making Renfrewshire a better place to live.”

HomeChoice@Renfrewshire is available from Monday 28 January.

Properties are advertised each Monday at www.renfrewshire.gov.uk/homechoice as well as in customer service centres, housing offices and the foyers of multi-storey flats.

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Local Workers Benefit From Housing Makeover

Andrew Hamilton Martin Keenan and Cllr Kenny MacLaren
Two young Renfrewshire men are getting a double boost from a project to regenerate housing in their local community.Martin Keenan and Andrew Hamilton are not only getting to see their community regenerated but they themselves are helping to carry out the work.Both men have been employed to work for Renfrewshire Council on the £6m makeover of the high flats at Gallowhill.

Martin Keenan, from Hunterhill, was taken on to work on the project through the ‘Adopt an Apprentice’ Scheme.

The scheme takes on local apprentices to finish their apprenticeships when their employers have gone out of business.

Martin said:  “I appreciate the opportunity to complete my apprenticeship with Renfrewshire Council, where I am gaining essential training and experience which will assist me for future employability.”

And for Andy in particular the project has extra significance because he actually lives in one of the blocks, Glencairn Court.  

Andy was taken on to work on the project after being made redundant from his previous job.

Andy said: “Having been made redundant, I cannot believe my luck at getting the opportunity to work with Renfrewshire Council, carrying out construction work that I enjoy while at the same time contributing to the upgrade of my local area.”

The project focuses on Glencairn Court and Gallowhill Court where flats will get new kitchens and bathrooms where required.  Internal works also includes rewiring, decoration and new flooring in the kitchen and bathroom. Common areas will also be improved – with new front doors and landings and entrance foyers redecorated.   

The blocks will also get external overcladding and enclosed balconies which will make them more energy efficient.  Along with environmental improvements to the area surrounding the blocks, this will improve the overall appearance of the buildings.

In addition, Glencairn Court is being converted specifically for older people and people with amenity needs and an extension will be added to provide a social space for residents to get together for meetings and social activities.

Councillor Kenny MacLaren, Renfrewshire Council’s Housing Spokesperson said: “This project will not only see major improvements to these two blocks it will benefit the wider area by making these blocks more attractive for people to live, provide more housing options for tenants in the area and reduce the high turnover of tenants, creating more stable communities within these blocks. On top of that it is helping to create jobs for local residents like Martin and Andrew.”

Work on Glencairn Court is expected to be complete by June 2012 with work on Gallowhill Court also due to start in June.

A third block Arkleston Court, will be demolished once all tenants have been rehoused.