The Audit Commission suspects 50,000 social homes, worth more than £2bn, are occupied by people who aren’t entitled to them. But even though tenancy fraud appears to be rife on Britain’s council estates, it’s devilishly hard to detect and even harder to prove. For this Inside Housing article, I got to grips with the very complex legal tools at housing officers’ disposal, and discovered that detective work is definitely not the preserve of the police. Family photos, children’s toys, even toothbrushes can all be dead giveaways – but only if you know what you’re looking for.
Why have a brainstorming session when you can hold a Dragons’ Den? That’s the thought process that seems to be taking place in organisations across the public and private sectors, and social housing is no exception. And as I discovered in this article for Inside Housing, no Den would be complete without sneery judges and emotionally scarred contestants…
Insurance Times’ Lobby series concluded with my look at what new legislation the European Commission was planning to throw at insurers. The answer, I found, is an awful lot, on everything from financial regulation to anti-discrimination. UK politicians may talk a good game but they have little to do the rules that really govern the way businesses work – and how much we pay in premiums. And our leaders will have even less influence if they’re hanging out with far-right fringe groups, rather than people like Merkel and Sarkozy.
Finally! The Tories have outlined some policies. They weren’t quite so forthcoming last week when I was trying to find out exactly what they were going to do about some rather arcane areas of interest to insurers, for Insurance Times’ lobby series. But I did get to speak to some of the less familiar faces on their front bench, including their go-to man for motor insurance, Robert Goodwill. Eurosceptic steam-train enthusiast Goodwill has a model engine with livery that says “Keep The Pound” – could anything BE more Tory?
So the Tories have revived the time-honoured tradition of promising a “bonfire of the quangos” if they get into power. I wrote this article for Building magazine on how likely some of construction’s many semi-public bodies were to survive the flames.
Loss adjustors may not be everyone’s idea of the fourth emergency service, but when a disaster happens, they’re one of the first groups on the scene to assess the damage. I visited the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjustors for a insider’s view of the worst-case scenario. I suppose it’s comforting to know that there are people slaving away on contingency plans to prepare us for all eventualities. What’s less comforting is that they always refer to “when” and not “if”.
One of the most eye-opening, exhausting and enthralling few days I’ve spent lately involved trawling through 25 years – that’s about 1250 issues – of Inside House magazine for its anniversary issue. The world – and social housing – was a very different place in 1984 under the Tories but, by the time I’d read all the way back to the present, the irony of where New Labour’s policies have ended up was overwhelming.