The Doctrine of Greater Eligibility 12

We were taught at school to detest the early 19th century reformer Owen Chadwick and his “Doctrine of lesser eligibility”. What this meant was that it should be less eligible – desirable – to be on benefit than off it. Chadwick’s plans led to the cruelties of the workhouse system – though cruelty was not Chadwick’s intention.

Nadira and I have to move from our small Shepherds Bush flat, with a baby on the way and my children often visiting. I don’t want to buy in a still falling market, so I was looking to rent again. More space means moving further out, so we were looking at a nice house at Ealing Common.

The house had three bedrooms and was for rent at £2,300 per month. The rental market is also falling – not plummeting like the purchase market, but floating gently downwards. So we offered £2,100 and agreement seemed very close.

Then Ealing Council stepped in and offered the owner £2,700 per month to take it for social housing.

Obviously I admit to some personal frustration, but it is plain in this case (and I don’t know how many houses Ealing Council are taking) that the government intervention is radically distorting the market, to the detriment of private renters.

Chadwick’s doctrine of lesser eligibility was abused to harrass the poor. But we have an opposite doctrine at work here. If you are on state benefits you can get a level of housing that self-reliant working people are priced out of. That seems wrong too.

I await the howls of left wing rage!

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

12 thoughts on “The Doctrine of Greater Eligibility

  • alan christopher

    Iam on your side graig but in this instance i think Bush was actually making a joke of it,however i do not like to see bbc news presenters fawning over Bush just because he is sending himself up,especially when you consider what he has sanctioned in his tenure as president.

  • Tom Kennedy

    Nice to see Ealing Council spending taxpayers' money with wild abandon. Especially as in the coming years there will be fewer people in a position to pay tax, a greater tax burden due to the state of the economy and greatly reduced benefits payments for everyone claiming them.

    Why did they offer £400/month (at least) above the going rate? Corruption or incompetence?

  • The Cartoonist

    The landlord, of course, now can be sure to always get paid on time from the council. However, depending on who the council puts into his house, he can also end up with a totally wrecked house. Perhaps in a year's time he will think "Hm, I should have accepted the offer from this funny ex-ambassador and weird author…"

    Anyway, this is typical council policy. Idiots.

  • Tom Kennedy

    I just re-read this. 3 bedrooms for £2300 per month? Time to emigrate, Craig!

    You'll get a spacious house on the French Riviera with a pool for less than this. A lot of British ex-pats are desperately trying to let their second homes in Normandy as they return to Blighty following the recent collapse of sterling, so property is becoming cheaper there too.

    Even with the poor exchange rate the UK is still poor value compared to its continental neighbours.

  • kath

    Obviously it's frustrating – and I hope you and Nadira find somewhere nice to live – but I'm afraid I can't feel it's a major concern. I'm in a senior professional position and that rent is so far out of my league it's unimaginable. I grew up in a family of four (parents, two children of opposite sex) and we lived in a 2-bedroomed council flat – very nice but crowded and my parents had to sleep in the living room when my brother and I were too old to share a room. Currently I'm more concerned about the plight of destitute asylum seekers – banned from benefits and banned from working – see some of the details at

    If I suggest that other people may need the house more than you and Nadira, I don't mean it nastily. I just mean that real desperation exists in Britain and is on the increase.

    I don't see the housing market as a natural process – there are all sorts of factors affecting it (such as student numbers, for instance) and many of these are caused, directly or indirectly, by government action. There's also a huge range of problems caused when government compelled councils to sell their housing stock – the effects have included the running down remaining council estates (because council accommodation is now limited to the very needy) and the need for councils to rent properties so that they can fulfil their obligations.

  • Chris Close

    not to get too technical but as this family will probably be able to access so called Local Housing Allowance, a new type of Housing Benefit which allows councils to set their own levels but which is no longer paid to the Landlord but instead to the Tenant, this Landlord might come a 'cropper'.

    It is meant to reflect local economic conditions so as not to prevent poor people accessing housing in good areas.

    I am on the fence over this one since there are arguments on both sides.

  • Charlie Canniff

    I edit a website in Ealing. Have sent you an email but the address doesn't look right. Could you possibly get in touch with me. Where was the flat?

  • George Dutton

    "First, there is a wholly inadequate supply of social rented housing in Milton Keynes. Therefore, many of my constituents live in overcrowded, unsatisfactory conditions. They are forced into the private rented sector, where they may pay very high rents to live in relatively poor conditions. My local council, because of the shortage of social rented housing, has a housing allocations policy. I understand how it arrived at that, but it is wholly unsatisfactory. If someone needs housing in Milton Keynes and is accepted as statutorily homeless?"no one else gets access to social rented housing?"they go to the council and the council will say, "Fine. You are statutorily homeless. We have an obligation to house you. What have we got available today?" That is essentially what the council says. If it does not have a social rented property available for the person, it offers them a private rented property and if they do not take it, the council has discharged its statutory obligation."

    "The consequence of that is, first, that the allocation of housing is seen as arbitrary?"it is just a matter of luck as to what is available on the day a person turns up. That leads to a corrosive view in the community that some people are given an unfair advantage, as it is essentially a lottery. Secondly, most people are placed in the private rented sector. Those properties may be okay, but the accommodation is not stable and individuals are moved frequently. That has a hugely detrimental effect, particularly on families with children. Children are moved from one school to another at frequent intervals, on top of the instability that has already been caused by the fact that they were homeless. Hon. Members will know from their own constituencies that major causes of individuals becoming homeless are relationship breakdown, redundancy and sudden illness and disability that lead to household income loss. Those households are already experiencing huge stress. On top of that, they are put in unsatisfactory private rented accommodation."

    "Alternatively, people may be fortunate enough to get into social rented property. Housing association properties of good quality are still being built, but the council's own property stock has been eroded by the right to buy to such an extent that very many of my most disadvantaged constituents with families are placed in the two or three blocks of council housing that are least favoured. They have to share wholly inadequate, overcrowded accommodation that suffers high levels of condensation and damp with various other people who have severe social problems, often associated with alcohol addiction, drug addiction or other unfortunate behavioural characteristics. That compounds the problems that those families have."

    "I am laying it on thick because it is incredibly important that when we talk about housing need, we spell out what the housing need is and what the consequences are of not meeting those housing needs. I have talked about social rented housing, but of course the?""…

    Of course they will not tell the truth that all this is due to corrupt governments too busy with their hands in the till to plan out a sane housing policy.Remember Thatcher sold so many council houses.

  • Chris Close

    Burning our money is saying more or less what I have said but in a more complex way.

    Private Landlords are NOT social landlords, they want to make money and so they will exploit these loopholes which enable them to drive up the rent and as BOM points out that has led to a 169% increase in rents in parts of London in a year covered by Local Housing Allowance – the benefit formerly known as Housing Benefit!


    Because simply this is THE most obscenely incompetent Government in memory or the alternative, is that it is the most corrupt?

    I do not know which is 'preferable'……..

  • opit

    This is only one of the times that I draw comparisons between what is going on in the U.K. and what the Gay Olde Party in the Hew Hess Hey seemed to have as institutional policy : to whit, any dysfuction which it was possible to encumber a government organization so that it became an obviously incompetent vehicle of graft – a twofer(one).

    There was more to that program of destroying competition for power via eviseration of government than merely installing brainwashed syncophants.

Comments are closed.