Jane stands silently looking out across the English channel , while above her brooding clouds gather and seagulls head for shelter. Her faced etched with worry and concern, her hands clamped tightly round a takeaway coffee; which by now has gone cold. She turns her head slightly and its evident she’s been crying.
“I can’t get more hours, and even if I could, it would make me worse of, as it would affect my UC (Universal Credit)“
She begins to sobs, and between the wave of steady flowing tears manages to say.
“I don’t know how I am gonna survive. It’s not about heating or eating, I simply won’t be able to do both, there’s nowt left at the end of the month. October frightens the sh*t outta me, cause it’s gonna get bad, and I know I’ll get into debt.“
For Jane the cost of living crisis is real, very real, and she knows that her only real option is to move to a cheaper area, otherwise she’ll fall into debt with the rent, the gas, the electric and the water. She’s never been in debt before. Never.
Regardless of all the help and assistance Jane will not survive. She’s done the maths, used every calculator provided by the Council, Turn 2 Us, Gingerbread, Citzens Advice and many others. She always gets the same result.
Jane was born and bred in Folkestone and she’s seen it change.
“Since De Haan’s arty farty project began, rents have gone up a lot. My wages have fallen. The DFLs haven’t helped, but I understand why they come. The Airbnb w**kers don’t help, nor do the fcukin Tories. And as for the Council, let’s not even go there.“
Her voiced is full of contempt and anger as she spits these words out.
Regardless of what people think, work does not provide a guaranteed route out of poverty in the UK. 75 per cent of children growing up in poverty live in a household where at least one person works. This is true for Jane and her daughter Emma.
Jane has a a point about rents, as rental prices for properties have increased even further than the 27% in 2021, even with a looming recession, according to the Valuation Office Agency – Lettings Information Database.
Under s208 of the Housing Act 1996, if Folkestone & Hythe District Council send households to another district in Kent, or the UK, they must by law, give notice to the local housing authority in whose district the household will go to. The same must be done by any Council sending people into our district.
There are two types of accommodation used by our Council when they send others into other local authority areas. Temporary and permanent.
Starting with temporary accommodation, our Council have placed 345 households in temporary accommodation outside of our district since 1 Jan 2017.
Since 2019, the breakdown of the type of household being placed into temporary accommodation, is 50 single person households, 17 households with one child, 9 Households with 2 children, 18 households with 3 children, 6 households with 4 children, 3 households with 5 children, and two households cohabiting with no children.
All in all 136 children have been moved from our district, since 2019, as the households they belong to could no longer afford to live in the Folkestone & Hythe District.
Jane is fearful that she will become one of these people, moved away from her support network, her daughter Emma away from her friends, and be forced to start all over again.
Since 2019, we can say that 65% of all households moved into temporary accommodation, went into property run by Paramount Independent Property Services LLP. We have written about the founder and managing director of Paramount Independent Property Services LLP, Grant De Negri (pictured) before.
Paramount Independent Property Services make £5.6 million, in one year, out of ‘by the night’ flats for Kent’s homeless
Falling housing completions lead to the use of companies like Paramount Independent Property Services LLP
Recently Mr De Negri came under scrutiny for links to a failed pension company. Mr De Negri denied he had anything to do with failed pension company.
Since the council began using Mr De Negri’s company they have paid it £998,132, according to the council’s payment to supplier data. Between Sept 2019 and June 6 the company received £225,256. One must not forget our Council is not the only council in Kent who are using Mr De Negri’s company. We estimate that between Jan 1 2017 and June 2022 the company has made has in excess of £20m for providing, self contained nightly lets or B&B.
We stress his company is not the only provider for this kind of service to our council, but it is far and away the largest provider of this type of service.
Moving onto Permanent Accommodation, the Council placed 22 households into permanent accommodation outside of our district at a cost of £55,504. These households found permanent residence in Ashford & Dover. This brings the total of people who have had to move out of the district to 367. This is equivalent to one household on average being placed into either temporary or permanent accommodation outside our district every 5 days, between Jan 1 2017 and 6 June 2022.
Some but not all the households who have had to move, have been in receipt of what is called the Local Housing Allowance (LHA). The LHA is determined in accordance with The Rent Officers (Housing Benefit and Universal Credit Functions) (Amendment and Modification) Order 2021 (SI 2021/ 1380), so there is nothing the council can do to amend this.
LHA sets the maximum amount of Housing Benefit an individual or household can receive, based on the number of bedrooms they and their family need. This means that even if they’re in receipt of benefits and/or on a low income, the Council will not be able to pay all of the rent if it exceeds the LHA. The household needs to top up the rest from their income.
The LHA is not fit for purpose as it does not meet the true costs of rent. This places renters in a poverty trap, meaning they are forced to either top up rents from meager benefits, or low pay.
Given average rents in Folkestone went up by as much as 27% in 2021, the second highest in the country, and rents still increasing, it is more likely than not, more households will have to up sticks and move to a cheaper district.
The cost of living crisis will accelerate this. More and more people, like Jane, will fall into debt. There will be no spare cash at the end of the month to top up their rent, as it will go on the extra gas, electric and food costs.
It is time for change.
We are not advocating a Labour Govt, or a Lib-Lab Coalition, or a Green Party Government.
What we are advocating, is a government which will address the needs of all of our society members as fairly as possible, by creating a fairer tax system and reduce inequality.
The only winners will be those who own property and land. That said, given the current economic climate, even they will see a drop in disposable income in real terms, as wages slip behind rising costs.
There are credible solutions, and here is one put forward; which is more sensible than anything put before us by the Tories, Labour, Lib Dems or Greens come to that.
We give the last word to Jane,
“If I ain’t got the money at the end of the month, I can’t pay, it’s not that I don’t wanna pay, I just can’t magic up the hours. I know plenty of others who are worse of than me, and what with fcuking prices going up on everything, things gonna get bad, get messy for people. I hate the fcuking Tories.”
We have changed the name of the mother we spoke to protect her and her daughter’s identity.
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful