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Category Archives: UK News

Budget 2017: Hammond to ‘seize opportunities’ from Brexit

Theresa May and Philip HammondImage copyright AFP
Image caption Theresa May made Philip Hammond her chancellor in June 2016

The UK must “seize the opportunities” from Brexit while tackling deep-seated economic challenges “head on”, Philip Hammond is to say in his second Budget.

The chancellor will promise investment to make Britain “fit for the future” as an “outward looking, free-trading nation” once it leaves the EU in 2019.

But he will also commit to supporting hard-pressed families with the cost of living and address housing shortages.

Labour say he should call time on austerity and boost public services.

In his Commons speech, which will begin at about 12:30 GMT, Mr Hammond will set out proposed tax and spending changes.

He will also update MPs on the current state of the economy, future growth projections and the health of the public finances.

He has been under pressure in recent months from sections of his party who argue that he is too pessimistic about the UK‘s prospects when it leaves the EU.

In response, he will set out his vision for the UK after Brexit as a “prosperous and inclusive economy” which harnesses the power of technological change and innovation to be a “force for good in the world”.


What will be in the Budget?

Image copyright PA
Image caption Millennials are getting money off rail tickets but will there be anything else for them?

Unlike past years, few announcements have been briefed out in advance of the big day.

But the chancellor is expected to announce more money for teacher training in England and extra cash to boost the numbers of students taking maths after the age of 16.

He has signalled he wants to speed up permitted housing developments and give more help to small builders.

In a nod to younger voters, discounted rail cards will be extended.

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An extra £2.3bn for research and development and £1.7bn for transport links are designed to address the UK’s lagging productivity.

Extra money is also expected to be found for new charge points for electric cars and for the next generation of 5G mobile networks.

Expect the theme of innovation to ring through the speech, with Mr Hammond hailing the UK as being “at the forefront of a technological revolution”.


Will it be a ‘bold’ or ‘boring’ Budget?

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Media captionWatch Nicholas Watt’s 2016 profile of the man nicknamed SpreadSheet Phil

The image Mr Hammond has cultivated as a safe, unflashy pair of hands in uncertain times – hence his ironic “box office Phil” nickname – was dented in the March Budget when he had to backtrack on plans to hike National Insurance for the self-employed.

Asked on Sunday whether this would be a bold or boring Budget, he settled for describing it as “balanced”.

While some Tory MPs would prefer a safety-first approach with no controversy, others want him to turbo-charge efforts to prepare the UK for life after Brexit.

Most hope he will begin to address issues perceived to have hurt the Tories at the election, such as the financial pressures on public sector workers and young people.

In remarks released ahead of the speech, Mr Hammond strikes an upbeat tone, saying he will use the Budget to “look forwards, embrace change, meet our challenges head on and seize the opportunities for Britain”.


Isn’t the Budget normally in Spring?

Image copyright PA
Image caption Leaves rather than daffodils will be the backdrop to Budgets from now on

Yes, that’s the way it’s been for the last twenty years. The last one was in March and normally there wouldn’t be another one until Spring 2018.

But Mr Hammond thinks late autumn is a more suitable time for tax and spending changes to be announced and scrutinised before the start of the tax year in April. So from now on, Budgets will take place in November.

But aside from the timing, the choreography of Budget day will remain the same.

Mr Hammond will be photographed in Downing Street holding the famous red ministerial box – used to carry the statement – aloft before making the short journey to the Commons.

While tradition dictates he can take a swig of his chosen tipple during his speech, Mr Hammond is expected to eschew anything too strong and confine himself to water during what is normally an hour-long statement.


What’s happened since the last Budget?

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Media captionThe chancellor speaking about the economy on the Andrew Marr show

Quite a lot. In the last nine months, the UK has triggered Brexit and begun negotiations on the terms of its departure from the EU.

Economic conditions have changed too, although there is fierce debate about how much of this is attributable to uncertainty and negativity over Brexit.

Inflation has risen to 3%, its highest level in five years, while growth has faltered a little.

However, borrowing levels are at a 10-year low, giving Mr Hammond more flexibility, while employment remains at record levels.

The political backdrop has also changed enormously.

The loss of their majority in June’s election sparked fresh Brexit infighting within the Conservatives.

The government has the backing of the DUP, but Mr Hammond – who is distrusted by many on the right of the party – does not have unlimited political capital in the bank.


What sort of advice he is getting?

Free market think tank the Adam Smith Institute is among campaigners urging an end to stamp duty for first-time buyers.

Lib Dem leader Vince Cable says housing and the NHS should be the priorities.

And Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell wants immediate action to reduce inequality.

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Waddesdon air crash: Four men killed named by police

Capt Mike GreenImage copyright Helicopter Services
Image caption Capt Mike Green was described as a “respected” helicopter instructor

Four men who were killed in a crash between a helicopter and a plane have been formally identified by police.

Nguyen Thanh Trung, 32, from Vietnam, was on a two-month training programme and was being instructed in the helicopter by Capt Mike Green.

Savaan Mundae, 18, and Jaspal Bahra, 27, also died in the crash near Waddesdon Manor, Buckinghamshire, on Friday.

The Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB) is investigating.

Image copyright Facebook
Image caption Nguyen Thanh Trung was training to become a military flight instructor

Thames Valley Police said its “thoughts remain with the families of those involved in the accident”.

The helicopter and Cessna 152 plane had both taken off from Wycombe Air Park, also known as Booker Airfield.

The Vietnamese Ministry of Defence said the crash was caused when the Cessna 152 suddenly dropped in height and hit the tail of the helicopter.

Both aircraft have been taken to the AAIB headquarters in Hampshire while it continues its investigation.

Image caption Emergency services were called at 12:06 GMT on Friday

Canterbury grammar school to hold Mein Kampf debates

Mein Kampf/HitlerImage copyright Silverwoods/Getty
Image caption The school said the forum would not be studying Mein Kampf but incorporating it within “wider debate”

A school has defended plans encouraging students to debate controversial ideologies and texts such as Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

Simon Langton Grammar School in Canterbury said the optional course called The Unsafe Space would be “the antidote to political correctness”.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) in Kent has urged caution and some students have expressed concern.

But the school said the negative reaction was “scandal-mongering”.

In a letter to parents, the school said the seminars would be “a vehicle for freedom of speech”.

It said they would challenge pupils to “think oppositely” and consider “manifestos to change the world”.

‘Good teaching’

Christine Dickinson, secretary of the NUT in Kent, said: “There are many uncomfortable subjects that have to be discussed in school but the school must be very careful about the way that they approach it.”

Dr James Soderholm, running the course, said: “To examine a text is not to peddle its propaganda or fall in league with its message… it is to lay bare that ideology for inspection.”

He branded the suggestion that a teacher might use Mein Kampf as a “recipe book for anti-Semitism” as “scandal-mongering”.

Dr Soderholm added that anyone who did not understand was “wilfully ignorant or doesn’t understand the first thing about good teaching”.

The school has previously been criticised for inviting right-wing controversialist, and former pupil, Milo Yiannopoulos to speak.

Bingley-born Likely Lads actor Rodney Bewes dies aged 79

BINGLEY-born Likely Lads star Rodney Bewes has died aged 79, his agent confirmed.

The actor – best known for his role as Bob Ferris in the BBC sitcom – died on Tuesday morning, a representative has said.

Bewes became best known as the character Bob Ferris, from The Likely Lads and Whatever happened to the Likely Lads, starring alongside James Bolam, Brigit Forsyth and Sheila Fearn.

In a statement on Twitter, his agent Michelle Braidman described him as a “true one off”.

She added: “It is with great sadness that we confirm that our dear client, the much loved actor Rodney Bewes, passed away this morning.

“We will miss his charm and ready wit.”

Bewes would have turned 80 next week, his agent said.

The actor spend his early childhood in Bingley before moving with his family to Luton.

One of the last occasions he came back to his roots was in February 2013 when he performed his one man show A Boy Growing Up as a BBC radio man at Bingley Arts Centre.

Bomber’s brother ‘was plotting terror act in the UK’

Abu Musa al-BritaniImage copyright Other
Image caption The court was told Mohammed Awan’s brother Rizwan appeared to have joined the Islamic State (IS) group

The brother of a suicide bomber killed in Iraq was caught by police preparing to commit an act of terrorism in the UK, a court has heard.

Mohammed Awan, 24, was arrested days after buying 500 ball bearings, and possessed extremist material advising they could be used in home-made bombs.

It is alleged the dentistry student from Huddersfield owned a guide book on how to form a sleeper cell in the West.

His brother Rizwan Awan killed dozens in a bomb blast in Iraq in 2016.

Sheffield Crown Court was told Rizwan had travelled from Manchester to Istanbul on 17 May, 2015 and appeared to have joined the Islamic State (IS) group.

Image caption Anti-terror police carried out a raid at the family home in Huddersfield

The court heard anti-terror police swooped on 1 June this year after Awan, a Sheffield University student, had bought a bag of ball bearings on the internet.

They were delivered to the family home in Rudding Street, Huddersfield.

More material was discovered during a raid at his flat in Sheffield, including a terrorist publication titled ‘How to Survive in the West’ which was found on a memory stick headed ‘My Stuff’.

The court was told the document is a guide book on how to create a sleeper cell, including advice on using ball bearings as shrapnel and how to make bombs.

A review of images and audio files taken from a mobile phone included pictures of the Boston marathon bombing and a man wearing an orange jumpsuit about to be executed.

Awan claimed the memory stick belonged to his dead brother and he had kept it for sentimental reasons.

But the prosecution said Rizwan Awan’s own digital services had been reset to factory settings and wiped clean before he left the country.

Mohammed Awan denies preparing an act of terrorism and two charges of possessing terrorist-related documents.

The trial continues.

‘Ice Maiden’ team aim to break ski record

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Media captionHow female explorers face challenges of south pole trek

Six women from the British army are attempting to become the first all-female group to ski coast-to-coast across Antarctica.

The Ice Maiden team began the 1,000-mile expedition on Monday, pulling an 80kg sledge behind them.

The journey is expected to last between 75 and 90 days, with winds of up to 60mph and temperatures as low as -40C.

Lt Jenni Stephenson said she hoped the trip would “inspire and encourage” other women.

The team was chosen from 250 applicants, with the only requirements being that they were female and serving in the Army as a regular or reservist.

They were then put through rigorous tests in the UK and Norway before the final six were picked.

Image copyright British Army
Image caption The team left Heathrow on the 25th October for Chile for final preparations before heading to Antarctica on 3rd November

The expedition was due to start on 3 November, but poor weather conditions at the Union Glacier camp delayed them.

However, they still held a two-minute silence and played the Last Post on Remembrance Day at the camp, marking the moment on the quietest continent on earth in front of a cross made of skis.

The team will not return until after new year.

Image copyright British Army
Image caption The team held a Remembrance service on 11 November

Lt Stephenson said: “I feel incredibly lucky to be part of a team of confident, aspirational and positive women.

“We’ve all sacrificed various parts of our lives to focus on the expedition, but the most important part lies in its aim to inspire and encourage other people to find their own Antarctica.

“I hope we can go some way to achieving this.”

Scientist finds UK water companies use ‘magic’ to find leaks

Diving rodsImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption The process of using divining rod has been in use for hundreds of years

Water companies are using divining rods to find underground pipes despite there being no scientific evidence they work, an Oxford University scientist found.

Sally Le Page said her parents were surprised when a technician used two “bent tent pegs” to find a mains pipe.

She contacted all the UK’s water companies, and a majority confirmed engineers still use the centuries-old technique.

However, a number said the equipment was not standard-issue equipment.

The process of using divining rods, also known as dowsing, has been in use for hundreds of years.

‘No evidence’

A dowser will typically hold the rods, usually shaped like the letter Y, while walking over land and being alert for any movement to find water.

Evolutionary biologist Ms Le Page, whose parents live in Stratford-upon-Avon, first contacted Severn Trent Water via Twitter.

It replied: “We’ve found that some of the older methods are just as effective than the new ones, but we do use drones as well, and now satellites.”

Other companies which gave a similar response were:

  • Anglian Water
  • Thames Water
  • Scottish Water
  • Southern Water
  • Welsh Water
  • South West Water
  • United Utilities
  • Yorkshire Water

Ms Le Page said: “I can’t state this enough: there is no scientifically rigorous, doubly blind evidence that divining rods work.

“Isn’t it a bit silly that big companies are still using magic to do their jobs?”

In a statement issued later, Severn Trent said: “We don’t issue divining rods but we believe some of our engineers use them.”

All the companies emphasised they do not encourage the use of divining rods nor issue them to engineers, and said modern methods such as drones and listening devices were preferred.

Northern Ireland Water, Northumbrian Water and Wessex Water said their engineers do not use them.

May welcomes Zimbabwe’s ‘brighter future’ after Mugabe

Robert MugabeImage copyright AFP/Getty
Image caption The resignation of Robert Mugabe comes after Zimbabwe’s military took over the country and put him under house arrest

Theresa May has welcomed the resignation of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, saying it offered an opportunity to “rebuild the country’s economy”.

The president stepped down after 37 years in power via a letter that was read out to the country’s parliament.

It followed a takeover by the Zimbabwean military, who put Mr Mugabe under house arrest last week.

Boris Johnson called the end of Mr Mugabe’s reign a “moment of hope.”

The 93-year-old had resisted calls to step down, despite the intervention of the country’s military and protests across the capital of Harare.

However, on Tuesday, parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda read a letter from the former leader of Zanu-PF, which said his decision was “voluntary” and “arising from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe.”

Responding to the announcement, Mrs May said: “In recent days we have seen the desire of the Zimbabwean people for free and fair elections and the opportunity to rebuild the country’s economy under a legitimate government.

“As Zimbabwe’s oldest friend, we will do all we can to support this, working with our international and regional partners to help the country achieve the brighter future it so deserves.”

The foreign secretary also welcomed the announcement, but warned it should not mark “the transition from one despotic rule to another”.

Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s very important at the moment that we don’t focus too much on the personalities.

“Let’s concentrate on the potential, the hope for Zimbabwe – an incredible country, a beautiful country, blessed with extraordinary physical and human potential.”

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Media captionForeign Secretary Boris Johnson says Robert Mugabe’s resignation as president is a “moment of hope” for Zimbabwe

Asked about what he thought should happen to Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace – who the former leader had been priming as a successor – he added: “[Mr Mugabe] played an important part in the birth of the independent nation of Zimbabwe.

“And yet, tragically, he allowed that legacy to be squandered and his country went to rack and ruin and in some cases his people were driven to the brink of starvation.

“It’s time now for a new future and how Robert Mugabe spends the rest of his years is very much a matter for his countrymen.”

‘Family dynasty’ failed

Labour MP and former Africa minister, Peter Hain, said the president’s attempt to ensure Grace Mugabe would follow in his footsteps was his downfall.

He told BBC News: “It was his determination to create a family dynasty and protect himself that finally meant his party gave up on him and the ruling elite gave up on him as well.

“The Zanu-PF party, that Mugabe had controlled with an iron fist, reacted against it and would not accept his wife being ushered in as his presidential replacement.

“The military said we have had enough and we are not going to put up with this, although they had ruled with him and supported him at times in murderous extermination of the opposition.

Image caption Lord Peter Hain met with Mr Mugabe when he was the minister for Africa in 1999

Lord Hain added that the people of Zimbabwe had the chance for a “fresh start“, and called on former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is expected to will be sworn in as president in the coming days, to take the country “in a different direction”.

Salil Shetty, secretary general of London-based Amnesty International, said Mr Mugabe’s leadership had allowed “grotesque crimes to thrive”, but his resignation was a turning point.

She said: “After more than three decades of violent repression, the way forward for the country is to renounce the abuses of the past and transition into a new era where the rule of law is respected and those who are responsible for injustices are held to account.”

Obituary: Rodney Bewes

Rodney Bewes

Rodney Bewes, who has died aged 79, found fame as the aspirational Bob in the BBC sitcom The Likely Lads.

Teaming Bewes with fellow actor, James Bolam, it regularly drew audiences of more than 20 million.

Despite the success of a sequel, the two fell out in spectacular style – effectively ending the chance of the series being continued.

It turned out to be the peak of Bewes’s career and he later found himself reduced to playing a series of less distinguished roles.

Rodney Bewes was born in Bingley, Yorkshire, on 27 November 1937.

His family later moved to Luton in Bedfordshire where his schooling was often interrupted by ill-health.

He answered a newspaper letter from a BBC producer asking for children to appear in the Corporation’s Children’s Hour.

Image copyright Rex Features
Image caption He appeared alongside his friend Tom Courtenay in Billy Liar

By the age of 14 he had appeared in a number of BBC TV productions including a role as Joe in a 1952 adaptation of The Pickwick Papers. He also secured a place at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art’s preparatory school.

“All the kids were posh and they were the children of actors in the West End of London and I’m just this boy from Bingley, near Bradford, and broad Yorkshire,” he later recalled.

After completing his National Service in the RAF he returned to Rada. He financed his studies by washing up in hotels at night, something that caused him to fall asleep during the day which culminated in him being asked to leave the Academy.

He managed to secure some small stage roles, as well as parts in TV productions including Dixon of Dock Green, Emergency Ward 10 and Z Cars.

Aspirational

He made his film debut in 1962 in Prize of Arms, a yarn about a gang which attempts to rob an army payroll convoy. The film is notable for early performances by a number of later well-known actors including Tom Bell, Jack May, Michael Ripper and Fulton Mackay.

A year later he secured the role of Arthur Crabtree in Billy Liar, alongside his friend, Tom Courtenay.

It was the age of British cinema’s so-called ‘new wave’ when filmmakers were turning their attention to gritty working-class dramas and desperate for actors with regional accents.

Image caption There was a brief spell as straight man for Basil Brush

Despite Bewes hailing from Yorkshire, rather than Tyneside, he was cast as Bob Ferris in The Likely Lads, a sitcom conceived by Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais.

His aspirational character was in direct contrast to that of his friend, Terry Collier, the workshy, cynical figure played by James Bolam. Much of the comedy revolved around Bob’s attempts to become middle-class in the face of constant derision from Terry.

The final series ended in 1966 and Bewes played a number of TV parts and was also in films including Man in a Suitcase, Spring and Port Wine and a star-studded musical version of Alice in Wonderland in which he played the Knave of Hearts.

He spent a year as ‘Mr Rodney’ who was one of a series of stooges for the puppet, Basil Brush, before creating and starring in the ITV sitcom, Dear Mother… Love Albert. It showcased his skills as a scriptwriter and proved to be popular with audiences.

Incensed

In 1973 he teamed up with James Bolam again for Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads, a sequel to the original series.

The series saw Bolam’s character Terry return from his time away in the army to discover that Bewes’s Bob has bought his own house, secured a managerial job and is engaged to the boss‘s daughter.

Off stage the pair enjoyed a warm relationship. “We were great friends,” said Bewes. “When my babies were born, his was the first house I went to.”

In 1975 there was a film spin-off which proved to be the last time the pair worked together. Bolam was famous for guarding his privacy and was furious when Bewes let slip to a newspaper that Bolam’s wife, the actress Susan Jameson, was pregnant.

Image caption Whatever Happened to the Likely Lads was even more successful than the original series

After a fraught phone call the two did not speak to each other again. Bolam was so incensed that he refused to appear on an edition of This Is Your Life, which featured his former acting partner.

“It’s this actor’s ego thing: he thinks he is important,” Bewes once said. “Actors aren’t important. I’m not important; I have fun. I think Jimmy takes himself very seriously as an actor.”

Bewes’ acting career never again scaled the heights of Likely Lads. There were bit parts in the films Jabberwocky and The Wildcats of St Trinians and he was able to use his abilities as a serious actor in a 1980 TV adaptation of the Restoration play, ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore.

Props

Earlier in his career he had appeared in productions of She Stoops to Conquer and there was a role in a 1984 production of George Gascoigne’s play Big in Brazil at the Old Vic Theatre in London, with Prunella Scales and Timothy West.

In the same year he also appeared in a Doctor Who story entitled Resurrection of the Daleks. It was one of his last significant appearances on the small screen.

He had some stage success with his one-man shows, Three Men in a Boat and Diary of a Nobody, which he toured for more than a decade. He won a Stella Artois Prize for the former at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival.

Image caption His role in Resurrection of the Daleks was one of his last TV appearances

His wife, the designer Daphne Black, whom he married in 1973, acted as his helper, setting up the stage and the props for his various performances.

Bewes never gave up on the idea of a revival of The Likely Lads, feeling that the characters were still relevant 40 years on.

“Instead of being the Likely Lads, we’d have been the Unlikeliest Granddads, he said. “We would have been sitting on a park bench in a pair of grubby grey anoraks, feeding the pigeons and grumping about youngsters.”

Seeking support

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Media caption‘I would have died without Help to Rent’

For Steve, homelessness started when his relationship broke down.

He moved into shared accommodation and after going into hospital with pneumonia he came home to find the landlord changing the locks.

Soon he was on the streets.

“People think if you’re homeless you must be some kind of addict or a bad person,” he says. “But it takes such a little spark to cause the fire of homelessness. And trying to find help is actually quite hard because it’s not that well signposted.”

Councils have a legal duty to help families, pregnant women and other vulnerable people who find themselves homeless. But as a single man Steve did not qualify as “priority need” and the private rented sector was the most viable option.

Image caption A Help to Rent scheme helped Steve find a long-term home.

But renting in the private sector is expensive.

With most landlords requiring a deposit, a month’s rent in advance and agency fees of up to £350 the costs add up.

Research by homelessness charity Crisis found these upfront costs can range from around £900 for shared accommodation in Yorkshire to over £2,000 for a one-bed flat in London.

This would be a significant amount for anyone, but for someone who is homeless it can be an insurmountable barrier.

This is on top of the fact that most landlords are unwilling to rent to someone on benefits, let alone someone who is homeless – research by Crisis found only 20% of landlords would be willing to let to homeless people.

Eventually Steve was put in touch with a charity in Elmbridge, Surrey, an area he knew.

Elmbridge is in Chancellor Philip Hammond‘s constituency and is one of the most expensive postcodes in the country. Rents and therefore deposits are very high.

Owning virtually nothing except for a few clothes, Steve had little hope of getting the money together for a deposit to rent.

Elmbridge Rentstart helped him find a suitable home and provided a six month bond on his deposit, as well as paying the first month’s rent.

Instead of a cash deposit the charity provides a guarantee to the landlord to cover any damage to the property or unpaid rent, removing the financial risk.

If there is any damage to the property at the end of a tenancy the charity either tries to rectify the issue using volunteers, for example through redecorating, or will pay the landlord directly.

However, they found with the right support deposit deductions tend to be low.

Long-term solution

Rentstart also provided support to help Steve understand the process and the benefits he was entitled to.

“Without Rentstart’s help I would probably have been dead,” he said.

“I wouldn’t have known where to start looking for benefits. I wouldn’t have even known benefits were available. I would have been on the streets in the winter and I probably wouldn’t have seen the winter through.”

The scheme aims to find a long-term solution, matching tenants to suitable homes and providing ongoing support.

“I’ve been living here for four years. And it’s because they did their research,” he explains.

“They didn’t just say ‘well you’re homeless, you’re going here’. I knew the area, I knew the people and I knew where to look for work. I had connections.”

Image caption Chief Executive of Elmbridge Rentstart Helen Watson backs a government-funded rent deposit scheme.

Ahead of the Budget, Crisis is calling for the government to fund more Help to Rent schemes like the one in Elmbridge and a national rent deposit scheme.

This would provide a commitment from the government to guarantee a deposit for tenants who can’t afford to pay one upfront.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government said it was investing £950m up to 2020 to reduce homelessness and a further £2bn in affordable housing.

But Helen Watson, Chief Executive of Elmbridge Rentstart, said a government-funded rent deposit scheme would make a huge difference to organisations like hers.

“It would mean the really limited resources we have to hold to have our own bond scheme would be freed up to house more people in other ways,” she says.

The Westminster Policy Institute estimated funding the scheme would cost £31m a year. But Crisis says the long-term annual savings could be up to £595m, by taking pressure off local authority services and preventing people becoming homeless, allowing them to move off benefits and back into work.

The Homelessness Reduction Act, which comes into force next year, places extra responsibilities on councils to prevent homelessness. Crisis says Help to Rent would help homeless people into the private rented sector, taking the pressure of councils.

Immediate help

Helen Watson acknowledges the need for more social housing but says the private rented sector could also offer solutions.

“With the private rented sector you can pick where you want to live. So if you’ve got problems in a particular area because the network’s not good and you’re trying to recover from a drug or alcohol problem, somewhere else, perhaps where you can find work, is a really good solution,” she says.

“Of course we need more social housing but the private rented sector is a good solution when it’s properly managed by the right sort of organisation.”

Tom Say, a senior campaigns officer at Crisis, agrees.

“We absolutely need to build more social housing but that’s a long term goal. It will take years to build that new housing to get the stock we need,” he said.

“There are homeless people that need help right now and this is a quick way for the government to help those people.”

Steve now works for Elmbridge Rentstart himself, spending his evenings locating homeless people in the area who might be in need of help. He says the Help to Rent scheme changed his life.

“Without the support and guidance it gave me, I’d be worse off than the guys I go out and help.”