Council house cash ‘fix’ row

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A GRANT which favours people from council houses has been criticised for being unfair.

The Better Neighbourhood Scheme will only consider applications if “51% of beneficiaries” live in a council house.

Ashley Crumbley, chief executive of Wigan and Leigh Housing (WALH), today confirmed the policy and defended it as “more than fair”.

But the controversial rule has infuriated Kitt Green campaigner Robin (Bob) Evans, who has seen two bids for cash from the scheme stalling because he failed to provide written evidence to support the 51% rule.

Mr Evans, chairman and founder of Cheeky Monkeys +2 – a charitable trust which provides aids and sports kit for disabled children – said: “Cheeky Monkeys represents all disabled children, not just disabled children who happen to be from families in council properties.

“I think it would be demeaning and just plain wrong to start asking them if their parents pay rent or have enough money to buy their own home and I can’t see how and why we should ask to do it.”

Mr Evans also believes the rule may breach the European Convention on Human Rights as well as being “totally unfair and totally unenforceable.”

A council tenant himself, Bob applied via separate applications to the Better Neighbourhood Fund for two grants, each under £1,000.

He says he has secured grants from the same fund in previous years for other organisations.

But he learned his latest applications on behalf of Cheek Monkeys +2 had fallen foul of what he insists is a new ruling.

Bob, 65, has raised more than £500,000 for good causes over the years including £60,000 last year alone. He said: “Why should a grant from the council need to have 51 per cent of people who will benefit from it living in council property in an area when they could be living alongside people who have bought their own home.

“Why should tenants be more important than those living alongside them just because they happen to be paying a mortgage rather than rent?

But WALH chief Mr Crumbley said that the “51 per cent” rule was drafted because they primarily exist to provide services to council tenants which were funded by rents, not Council Tax or government money.

Mr Crumbley said: “Our board agreed to an idea which came from tenants that some of their rent should be used to support projects on the estates we manage to help create better neighbourhoods.

“Clearly the tenants’ rents can only be used to support initiatives that will primarily benefit our tenants.

“The 51 percent figure is more than fair and Bob needs to understand that the owner occupiers who live on our estates pay absolutely nothing into the housing accounts, this is rent money and nothing else.

“If he wants to provide events which mainly benefit owner occupiers, then we will advise him on other sources of funding which are available from other organisations.”

Mr Crumbley said: “The two applications haven’t been rejected and we have simply asked for further information and supporting evidence.

“We have offered to help Mr Evans with his applications and any decision on whether or not these applications will be supported will be taken by the local tenants forum.”