Wednesday, 4 January 2012


In a spirit of bad tidings to mark the arrival of the New Year, Grania Long, the interim chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, has spoken out in The Guardian about the coalition's welfare changes and has some gloomy predictions about Margate potentially becoming a 'benefit ghetto.'
"The whole of the south-east is a sea of high rents punctuated only by a few small isolated low-cost islands … mainly old seaside towns such as Margate and Hastings where the once buoyant tourist trade has long since declined. But if claimants migrate to areas like these then this will create benefit ghettoes … the result is likely to be increased social problems and a breakdown in community cohesion."
I seem to remember seeing bleak predictions like this last month, when The Guardian similarly predicted a mass exodus of lower income families from London taking refuge in Margate over the next few years in response to George Osborne's austerity measures, suggesting our seaside town will return to becoming a 'dole-by-the-sea' resort. Now come on, The Guardian, I admire your consistency, but I do wish you'd stop trying to rope Margate into your dystopic fantasies. The Guardian's concerns might indeed be warranted but if they're not careful all this speculation about Margate becoming a 'benefit ghetto' might actually magic it into existence, and nobody wants that, surely? Be careful what you wish for. Although, quite why anyone would want to wish for that is anyone's guess.


  1. Seems the Guardian are trying to ferment a problem in their constant campaign to discredit the Coalition government.

    Clearly there was a problem with uncapped housing benefits meaning that many people were living in accommodation vastly superior to that of hardworking households. The cap will simply mean those on benefits have to choose homes within their means like the rest of us. I dearly wish to live on the North Foreland estate, but despite years of working on a reasonable income I could nether afford the mortgage repayments or rent that would be necessary. That is life.

    Even in big cities like London there are cheaper areas and properties. Even middle income households cannot afford Knightsbridge and Mayfair so why should those on benefits feel such entitlement.

    The liberal elite still cannot get their heads around the fact that we are broke and the benefits bill was out of control.

  2. I agree with your sentiments Tom, but the fact remains that DSS rents are the most assured income for ex-guest house owners in Margate, allegedly including some councillors.

    If you own a rotting pile of masonry are you going to turn away a potential gold rush.

  3. Ken, you may well be right about the guest house world, though possibly not unique to Margate, but it is mainly families in bigger, plusher pads in the up market inner London boroughs that will be caught by the cap. I cannot see them choosing to move to a tatty flat in Cliftonville West or anywhere else in Thanet.

    The old 'dole by the sea' days were a different problem where some city authorities encouraged the long term unemployed to move to 'nicer' places to live. Hence, Ilfracombe and Newquay filled up with beer bellies wrapped in Man United or Liverpool supporters shirts. Struggling guest house owners gratefully grabbed the opportunity to save their failing businesses.

    Different world now and different target. The added moves to makes other benefits tougher to get over the longer term will discourage those earlier migrants to the seaside, who came here and elsewhere simply to live on the likes of you and I.

  4. Tom,

    We seem to each be talking about opposite ends of the benefits spectrum, I totally agree on much tighter controls.

    Being self employed most of my career, I have to justify the years I have worked just to get a basic state pension, if I had been on benefits all my life I would be assured a state pension, hardly an equal playing field is it

  5. Not really the opposite ends, Ken, when you hear of families with not one person working living in million pound plus houses at rents most well paid people could not afford.

    With you also on the state pension bit and, probably like me, you could only miss four years over a working lifetime where now, I believe, it only takes 30 years contributions, or should that be non-contributions for the long term benefits fraternity.

    It is all a bit of a mess I am afraid and I wish I could have followed my brother. He got so depressed with UK politics, he moved to Spain in his fifties, never now reads a UK paper and says Spanish politics does not concern him as its not his country. All thanks to an excellent redundancy and early retirement package when his company was taken over.

    Oh, and he gets winter fuel allowance!

  6. People still read the Grauniad?