Web Only: the best of the blogs

The five must-read pieces from today, on Thatcherism, gay rights and Lord Freud.

1. My problem with Fraser Nelson's Keith Joseph Lecture

Daniel Finkelstein argues that there was a "vast contradiction" in Fraser Nelson's Keith Joseph lecture. Nelson compared the cautious David Cameron with the radical Margaret Thatcher unfavourably, but ignored the fact that Thatcher's radicalism emerged only once she came to office.

2. How truthful is David Cameron on his gay rights voting record?

LabourList's Alex Smith says Cameron is wrong to claim that he abstained from voting on gay adoption. Parliamentary records show he voted twice against it.

3. Five lessons from MyDavidCameron

Clifford Singer, creator of the MyDavidCameron website, blogs on what other sites and campaigns can learn from its success.

4. In praise of Lord Freud

At the Guardian, Michael White takes a break from the MPs' expenses furore to praise the Tory peer, saying that he has the grace to admit it when he sees something he admires in another party.

5. Is this the best team for Labour in opposition?

Mike Smithson of PoliticalBetting argues that Gordon Brown should stay on as leader if Labour loses the next election. Freed from high office, he and Ed Balls could inflict huge damage on the Tories.

 

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Grenfell survivors were promised no rent rises – so why have the authorities gone quiet?

The council now says it’s up to the government to match rent and services levels.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster, the government made a pledge that survivors would be rehoused permanently on the same rent they were paying previously.

For families who were left with nothing after the fire, knowing that no one would be financially worse off after being rehoused would have provided a glimmer of hope for a stable future.

And this is a commitment that we’ve heard time and again. Just last week, the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) reaffirmed in a statement, that the former tenants “will pay no more in rent and service charges for their permanent social housing than they were paying before”.

But less than six weeks since the tragedy struck, Kensington and Chelsea Council has made it perfectly clear that responsibility for honouring this lies solely with DCLG.

When it recently published its proposed policy for allocating permanent housing to survivors, the council washed its hands of the promise, saying that it’s up to the government to match rent and services levels:

“These commitments fall within the remit of the Government rather than the Council... It is anticipated that the Department for Communities and Local Government will make a public statement about commitments that fall within its remit, and provide details of the period of time over which any such commitments will apply.”

And the final version of the policy waters down the promise even further by downplaying the government’s promise to match rents on a permanent basis, while still making clear it’s nothing to do with the council:

It is anticipated that DCLG will make a public statement about its commitment to meeting the rent and/or service charge liabilities of households rehoused under this policy, including details of the period of time over which any such commitment will apply. Therefore, such commitments fall outside the remit of this policy.”

It seems Kensington and Chelsea council intends to do nothing itself to alter the rents of long-term homes on which survivors will soon be able to bid.

But if the council won’t take responsibility, how much power does central government actually have to do this? Beyond a statement of intent, it has said very little on how it can or will intervene. This could leave Grenfell survivors without any reassurance that they won’t be worse off than they were before the fire.

As the survivors begin to bid for permanent homes, it is vital they are aware of any financial commitments they are making – or families could find themselves signing up to permanent tenancies without knowing if they will be able to afford them after the 12 months they get rent free.

Strangely, the council’s public Q&A to residents on rehousing is more optimistic. It says that the government has confirmed that rents and service charges will be no greater than residents were paying at Grenfell Walk – but is still silent on the ambiguity as to how this will be achieved.

Urgent clarification is needed from the government on how it plans to make good on its promise to protect the people of Grenfell Tower from financial hardship and further heartache down the line.

Kate Webb is head of policy at the housing charity Shelter. Follow her @KateBWebb.