Press Releases

RICHARD BENYON WELCOMES ‘HOUSING FIRST’ RECOMMENDATIONS ON ENDING ROUGH SLEEPING

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Following the homelessness round table held at West Berkshire Council earlier this month, Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, was present at the launch in Westminster last week of a new report on tackling homelessness. Housing First outlines an ambitious new approach to ending rough sleeping.

Produced by the independent think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, co-sponsored by Richard, it urges the Government to consider a major shake-up of its housing policy to end rough sleeping permanently. Based on the Finnish model, Housing First addresses the problem by providing individuals with a stable independent home, which is combined with personalised support to gain access to mental health services, drug and alcohol support, in addition to training for employment when and if they are ready.

Richard was one of many MPs who supported the launch. He commented, ‘Rough sleeping costs the Government £1bn every year in health, drug rehabilitation and criminal justice spending. The plan to introduce Housing First in the UK would cost the Government £110 million a year, but would pay for itself within three years.

‘As former rough sleeper, Wayne Craft, said at the launch, “You don’t start a house by building a roof. Having a home gave me a base…The best thing that ever happened to me was a post code.”

‘I am delighted that Sajid Javid, the Minister with responsibility for homelessness, has confirmed he is interested in adopting a Housing First programme in the UK. This tallies in many ways with the MEAM approach that we were discussing at the round table at West Berkshire Council and could see a similar model put in place for those people with multiple and complex needs here in Newbury.'

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BUSINESS RATE RELIEF FOR NEWBURY

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Richard Benyon, Member of Parliament for Newbury, has welcomed the Chancellor’s budget as a budget that “builds on the economic success of the last seven years and delivers for business in Newbury.”

A key issue that it addressed was the business rates revaluation. Richard has long campaigned for reform to the ratings system and has been critical of the Valuations Office Agency and others for the way in which business rates valuations have been carried out and implemented.

Richard commented: “I am pleased how much this Government has done to support small business. When we came into Government in 2010 corporation tax was at 28% now it’s 20% and set to fall to 17% by 2020.

“But the latest business rate revaluation has exposed serious flaws in how the system works. That is why I am delighted by the Chancellor’s commitment to conduct a full review into the ratings system before the next round of valuations.

“It is also good news that the Chancellor has committed to much-needed transitional relief for those businesses affected now by the current revaluation. Businesses coming out of Small Business Relief will have their increases capped at £50 per month in 2017-18.”

In addition, pubs with a rateable value of under £100,000 – 90% of all pubs – will see a £1,000 discount on their 2017 business rates bill; and local authorities will receive a further £300 million to help businesses that are struggling due to the revaluation in their areas.

The Government had already committed to double Small Business Rate Relief, increase the threshold, give 100% relief to businesses with properties with rateable value of up to £12,000 and taper relief for businesses with properties with rateable value between £12,000 and £15,000. 

Richard said, “It is clear that the Conservatives in Government are the party that is supporting small business and these measures will go further towards helping businesses like those in Newbury and West Berkshire.” 

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RICHARD BENYON MP: “GREAT NEWS FOR HUNGERFORD AND KINTBURY”

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Richard Benyon, MP for Newbury, said he was delighted by Great Western Railway’s confirmation this week that new bi-mode trains, capable of running on both diesel and electricity, will mean that direct services will continue to operate to Hungerford, Kintbury and Bedwyn from 2018.

With electrification of the main line extending as far as Newbury there were fears that stations on the line to Bedwyn would lose a direct service. However, these new trains will ensure that passengers will not have to change trains at Newbury.

Richard said, ‘I have been pushing for an uninterrupted service to the west of Newbury ever since the Government made the decision to electrify this line. Places like Kintbury and Hungerford will have a better service on better trains. This decision means everyone is a winner.’

The new services will require a small extension of the sidings at Bedwyn station to be able to operate.

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PRIVATE RENTING SOLUTIONS FOR HOMELESS AND VULNERABLE PEOPLE

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Newbury MP, Richard Benyon, yesterday led a debate in Westminster Hall on private renting solutions for homeless and vulnerable people.

In his speech Richard said: “The private rented sector is an increasingly important route out of homelessness. When renting works for homeless people, it can be life changing. It is often a huge step towards finding a job, reconnecting with family and rebuilding lives.”

The serious problem in housing supply was highlighted in the Government’s Housing White Paper on Tuesday which also outlined changes that would make the private rented sector more affordable and more secure. But Richard said that additional support was needed if private renting was to work for the homeless and vulnerable.

He praised the work of Crisis, the homelessness charity, in this field and outlined two potential solutions. The Help to Rent scheme matches tenants with landlords and provides financial guarantees for deposits and rent, with ongoing support for both parties. Landlords have the reassurance of a named point of contact if something goes wrong and tenants receive support including help with budgeting and getting and maintaining employment. The 8,000 tenancies set up under this scheme in recent years, saw a sustainment rate of 90% which represents an incredible achievement.

Crisis is also calling on the Government to establish a national rent deposit guarantee scheme. This would provide help-to-rent projects with greater financial security with landlords safe in the knowledge that their property is protected, and free up help-to-rent schemes to support tenants, working in a similar way to the Help to Buy scheme for those who are just about managing and for whom purchasing a home is just not realistic.

Richard also highlighted the issues around mental health and vulnerable people. He said: “Mental health problems can cause homelessness and homelessness can cause mental health problems. In this place we think of things only in silos. We have a very good Minister here from one Department, but if we really are to deal with this problem we ought to have a whole range of Ministers from the Department of Health, the Ministry of Defence and Education plus people from all the organisations who care for people … so that we can do so in in a much more cohesive way.”

Richard closed by saying: “I am pleased that the Prime Minister has made housing a priority in her wish to lead a Government that helps those people left behind who have not benefited from recent economic growth.”

Marcus Jones, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department for Communities and Local Government, responded to the debate.

He confirmed that the Government had made a significant investment of £14 million working with Crisis to develop a programme for single people to access private rented accommodation. He agreed with Richard that there should be a line of Ministers to respond to the issues, saying, “In that spirit, I chair a ministerial working group that brings together various Departments and Ministers to see what more we can do to deal with the underlying issues that relate to homelessness. “

“We have also set up aprivate rented sector affordability and security working group. On that working group, we have Shelter, Crisis, Generation Rent and landlord and letting agent representatives, and it is in the process of finalising its report. We have asked those organisations to work with us to see how we can reduce the costs and barriers people face in accessing private rented accommodation.”

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RICHARD’S ARTICLE ON POLITICSHOME ON PRIVATE RENTING SOLUTIONS FOR HOMELESS AND VULNERABLE PEOPLE

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The Private Rented Sector is an increasingly important route out of homelessness. When renting works for homeless people it can be life changing - it’s often a huge step towards finding a job, reconnecting with family and rebuilding lives.

Yet finding a home in the PRS can be difficult and we all know, despite the welcome move from the Government to ban letting agent fees, upfront costs often act as a barrier for many people.

Research shows when renting to homeless people, 16% of landlords reported increasing the deposit, 12% increased the rent required in advance, and 15% increased the contractual rent. 55% of landlords say they are unwilling to let to tenants in receipt of housing benefitand the number unwilling to rent to homeless people is even higher at 82%.

However, I believe there are ways to make the PRS work for this group and there are innovative solutions now being delivered by which homeless and vulnerable people are being helped and guided into the market and most importantly, being given the tools and support needed to sustain lengthy tenancies.

From 2010 to 2014, with funding from the DCLG, the homeless charity Crisis ran the ‘Private Rented Sector Access Programme’. This funded specific Help to Rent schemes across the country which enabled homeless and vulnerable people access affordable and secure accommodation in the PRS.

It matched tenants with landlords, providing financial guarantees for deposits and rent, with ongoing support for both parties, including help for the tenant in budgeting and in gaining and sustaining employment. During the programme, more than 8,000 tenancies were created with a 90% sustainment rate which is an incredible achievement for this particular group.

As well as calling for funding for these Help to Rent schemes, Crisis is also proposing a Government funded National Rent Deposit Guarantee Scheme. This would provide Help to Rent projects with greater financial security, with landlords safe in the knowledge their property is protected and that the help-to-rent projects are providing the right support to help tenants maintain rent. There is already a national mortgage guarantee which helps struggling first-time buyers with the cost of a deposit and this would be a similar scheme for those who are just about managing and for whom purchasing a home is just not realistic.

Both the Residential Landlords Association and the National Landlords Association believe that with the right support in place, financial risks can be reduced and letting to this group can be a viable business model. We can and should be actively encouraging landlords to work with these schemes.

The rationale to Government is that these policies are cost-effective and will provide stability in the private rented sector for the most vulnerable, helping to prevent and tackle homelessness. Independent analysis commissioned by Crisis estimates that if access were available to all households approaching their local authority for homelessness assistance, some 32,000 people could receive support annually. Assuming that if 60% of people leave temporary accommodation as a result of the scheme being available, savings from one year of the scheme would amount to between £175-595 million. Investing in PRS access support fits with Government’s wider agenda on Universal Credit and homelessness prevention and would build on the recent announcement for Homelessness Prevention Trailblazers and the PM’s welcome commitment to put prevention at the heart of a new approach.

By changing perceptions, we can make a private rented sector that works for all.

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Richard Benyon was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for Newbury on 7 May 2015, with an increased majority of 26,368. Richard won 61 per cent of the vote share.

 

 

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