On Monday in the House of Commons Lucy raised the potential crisis in Manchester’s discretionary housing funding. These emergency payments are used by the council to ensure vulnerable people can stay in their homes, by helping with rents, or as part of a rental deposit when people move.
Since the Government introduced the bedroom tax last year there has been a huge increase in demand on these funds. Many people found themselves with higher rents than they could afford and needed help. As a result the council is now predicting that they will run out of discretionary funding next month.
This would be a disaster for some of the poorest and most vulnerable people in our city, many of whom will build up huge debts, or worse still end up homeless. To ensure this doesn't happen the council made an application the Government for the discretionary funds to be increased until the end of the financial year.
However, when Lucy asked Work and Pensions Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, about the application in Parliament he claimed that Manchester had only spent 28% of the fund. When Lucy checked the numbers he quoted with the council, it turns out that he was using figures from the middle of last year. Up to date data from the council clearly show that the budget has been fully allocated and will indeed run out next month.
Iain Duncan Smith’s comments show how out of touch he is about what is actually happening here in Manchester. He’s using out of date figures and trying to mislead the public into thinking that the council is sitting on a pot of money. Yet the truth is that the council’s budgets are being stretched to the limit because of his Government spending cuts and in a few weeks when the money is all gone it will once again be the poorest that have to pay the price.
Let’s hope that Iain Duncan Smith realises he was wrong about Manchester’s financial situation and approves the councils request for extra funding, before it is too late.