Monday, 31 January 2011

Limit on vacants switched to "affordable rent"

Inside Housing reports that Whitehall plans to cap the proportion of vacant homes that providers may switch to "affordable rents".

Richard McCarthy, deputy to DCLG top mandarin Sir Bob Kerslake, is said to have told housing professionals at a private meeting that landlords would only be allowed to switch half their re-let properties to "affordable rents".

"Affordable rents" will be up to 80% of the market rent of an equivalent property and the housing minister told parliament that housing associations will be able to convert vacant properties to "affordable rent" where they have reached an investment agreement with the Home and Communities Agency about how additional rental income will be reinvested in the supply of new affordable housing.

Dale Meredith, development director for Southern Housing Group and chair of the G15’s development directors’ group, told Inside Housing:
‘There are good reasons not to have something as hard and fast as a 50 per cent limit. I could let half of my empty properties at 80 per cent or two thirds at 60 per cent and meet the same objectives. That might be a better solution.’

Friday, 28 January 2011

Government to review housing strategy

ChessIt has emerged that the government will conduct a major review of housing strategy, though full details have yet to be announced.

A DCLG spokesperson confirmed that this will be led by the Minister of State, Oliver Letwin.

The story first broke cover in an article published by Building.co.uk. At that point the review was said to be a secret undertaking as no public announcement had been made.

Inside Housing reports that the review is now in the public domain, and that it will be carried out by civil servants at the DCLG.

The CIH's Deputy Chief Executive Richard Capie said, 'There is a lot of speculation about who’s working on it but we don’t think it is people within the [social housing] sector.’

Capie has heard that the review may involve house building and the state of the housing market.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Localism Bill under scrutiny

The Localism Bill Committee began its committee stage on Tuesday. It will meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays in February and March, and must complete consideration of the Bill by 10 March.

There are 28 members of the Committee, which is chaired by David Amess (Southend West, Conservative) and Hugh Bayley (York Central, Labour) and includes DCLG minister Greg Clark, junior ministers Robert Neill and Andrew Stunnell, shadow housing minister Alison Seabeck and housing guru Nick Raynsford.

Those giving oral evidence on the first day included the Chartered Institute for Housing, Shelter, National Housing Federation, Brent Private Tenants Rights Group and Tenant Services Authority, Local Government Association, London Councils and National Federation of ALMOs.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Government announces housing benefit review

The government has agreed to set up an independent review to consider the full impact of cuts to housing benefit, following an attempt by Labour peer, Lord Knight of Weymouth, to annul the associated secondary legislation.

It is a House of Lords convention that secondary legislation is rarely opposed, so Lord Knight had promised to withdraw his amendment at the end of the debate to allow a vote on crossbench peer and social housing advocate Lord Best's motion to force an annual review of the cuts.

The first round of housing benefit cuts will be implemented in April this year, but the review's interim findings - examining the impact of cuts on different sections of society - will not be available until the summer of 2012, while a final report will be published early in 2013.

Lord Knight described the cuts as, "little more than an attack on the poor of this country". However, Lord Freud claims that there has been "scaremongering" on this issue. Taking a London-centric view he added, "In all but three of the most central parts of London at least 30 per cent of properties will be affordable."

A number of cuts to housing benefit have yet to be introduced as primary legislation. These are likely to appear in the forthcoming Welfare Reform Bill, expected at the end of this month.

Lord Best, president of the Local Government Association said, "An independent report next year could provide the basis for the government to make 'in-flight' corrections to amend or suspend some of these regulations and to prevent the dramatic changes to the housing benefit system leading to a national tragedy for so many low income households."

In announcing the review, Lord Freud promised it would cover "homelessness and moves; the shared room rate and houses in multiple occupation; what is happening in Greater London; what is happening in rural communities; what is happening in black and minority ethnic households; large families; older people; people with disabilities and working claimants."

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Shapps unlocks £13m to tackle under-occupation

Housing Minister Grant Shapps is offering older tenants, who are under-occupying their homes, dedicated officers to help them find smaller properties.

The minister has released £13 million of funding to be shared between 50 councils. His initiative is designed to ensure that the nation's social housing stock is used more efficiently.

Shapps stresses that the scheme is not designed to force people to move, but there are 430,000 under-occupied social homes in England. In many cases these are occupied by elderly tenants, whose children have long since 'flown the nest'.

Councils will be able to use the funding to better meet tenants' needs, with initiatives such as:
  • dedicated officers to help find residents suitable new homes
  • a moving service to assist tenants with every aspect of moving
  • handymen to decorate and make repairs to new homes

Shapps said: "Older people can become the victims of their own changed circumstances, as the homes they have lived in for years become places to endure, not enjoy. As children grow up and fly the nest, these tenants can often find themselves trapped in larger family homes that no longer meet their needs."

Shapps has revealed that he wants to back all councils across the country with a new national action team based at the Chartered Institute of Housing.

Chartered Institute of Housing Chief Executive Sarah Webb said: "CIH is delighted to be working with government to deliver this practical help to support people who want to move to a new home that better suits their changing needs and aspirations."

Blame councils for deficit says Pickles

The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MPCommunities Secretary Eric Pickles' row with local councils shows no signs of abating.

He told yesterday's Society Guardian:
"Local government is a massive part of public expenditure. It has lived for years on unsustained growth, unsustainable public finance. People blame the bankers [for the country's economic woes] but I think big government is just as much to blame as the big banks."
Pickles continues to argue that key frontline services will not be adversely affected by the level of funding cuts being imposed on councils.

This is despite the continuing arguments from councils of all political persuasions and with the conservative controlled Local Government Association.

Hammersmith and Fulham council, which Pickles is on record as having described as "the apple of my eye", has been praised for merging backroom services and cutting senior salaries rather than making front-line cuts. Yet local MP Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith, Labour) claimed in the recent debate on the Localism Bill that in its budget for the next three year:
"Less than 1% of cuts will come from mergers with other councils, as was trumpeted, and less than 1% will come from cuts in senior salaries. Yet fully 50%-more than £13 million in the first year-will come from cuts in children's services and adult social services, including the closure of most Sure Start centres."
Elsewhere in the Guardian the high-profile elected mayor of Middlesbrough Ray Mallen spoke out about the government's treatment of socially deprived areas, saying:
"They've declared a financial war on us... What annoys me is they just won't listen to reason. They won't change their mind. They're entrenched in their views."

Neighbours from hell

Last week the housing minister's publicity machine went into overdrive with a press release headed "Neighbours from hell face swifter eviction", in which he announced plans to give councils and housing associations an additional mandatory ground for possession where serious housing related anti-social behaviour has already been proven by a court.

Grant Shapps said:
"For too long, too many social tenants have lived in fear of neighbours from hell, whose nasty and vicious behaviour blights their neighbourhoods. Victims and witnesses often have to continue living side by side with the perpetrators while action to evict them drags on for many months and sometimes years."
He said that under his new proposals:
"being found guilty of housing related anti-social behaviour in one court will provide automatic grounds for eviction in the county court, removing the need to prove the incidents of anti-social behaviour for a second time."
Housing law blog Nearly Legal took a closer look at the announcement and made several observations:
  • a criminal conviction is incontestable as a fact in civil possession proceedings under the current rules
  • ‘housing related ASB’ can cover a wide range of issues "from the minor but annoying to the very serious indeed" so a clear definition is needed
  • the recent Pinnock case has made mandatory grounds for possession problematic, allowing defendants to raise issues of proportionality
The press release also announced continue funding of the ASB Action Team, hosted by the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH), for a further year, with a remit to work with existing and emerging tenant panels to strengthen their capacity to work with and challenge landlords on anti-social behaviour issues. The CIH will also take on and manage the new national Standard for preventing and tackling anti-social behaviour with the support of hundreds of signatories from within the social housing sector.

Working closely with the Social Landlords Crime and Nuisance Group (SLCNG) and HouseMark, CIH will refresh and update the five year old Respect Standard to reflect developments over the last few years.

Deputy CEO for HouseMark Sam McGrady said:
“HouseMark has a strong track record in anti-social behaviour performance improvement, and successful working partnerships with both SLCNG and the CIH. We are looking forward to working with them and the sector to develop a new approach to ASB.”

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Second reading debate on Localism Bill

Shadow Communities Secretary
Caroline Flint proposes the amendment
The Localism Bill received its second reading in the House of Commons on Monday night after five hours of debate.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles introduced the debate on the Bill, which he said was based on a simple premise:
"we must trust people who elect us and we must ensure that we trust them to make the right decision for their area".
Caroline Flint led the opposition response, introducing an amendment that claimed that the proposed devolution of power to local authorities is undermined by the extent to which the Bill gives the Secretary of State powers to over-ride devolved powers, to direct local authorities and because the community empowerment and neighbourhood planning sections of the Bill are incoherent and ineffective.

Flint concluded:
"This bill really should be retitled the 'only if I say so' bill because if the secretary of state doesn't like it, it ain't happening." 
Toby Perkins (Labour, Chesterfield) claimed that, in the light of funding cuts, it was 'disgraceful' to suggest that  local authorities will have more  powers:
"Authorities know that the only power they have been given is the choice of what to cut."
Much of the debate focussed on the Bill's proposals on local mayors, planning reform and community empowerment, with housing having a relatively low profile. However, several members expressed concern about homeless families being forced into the private sector - Flint had highlighted the absence of reforms to the private rented sector in the Bill.

Siobhain McDonagh (Mitcham and Morden, Labour) said
"If the Government discharge homeless people into the private sector, they will be giving them a handout that will keep their aspirations low, because those people will know that they can never afford to go into work."
 Kate Green (Stretford and Urmston, Labour) argued:
"Removing regional spatial strategies, limiting the length of social tenancies perhaps to two years only and requiring homeless people to take up accommodation in the private rented sector-accommodation that might be unstable or unsuitable for their family's needs, and accommodation from which they might be forced to move repeatedly-will be bad for communities, children and families, and many people will simply fail to put down roots."
Members from all sides questioned whether the government could achieve its promised levels of house building in the light of changes in planning policy. Toby Perkins (Chesterfield, Labour), referring to evidence to the Select Committee inquiry on localism, said:
The opinions of those witnesses were diverse; some were deeply hostile, while others thought the measures were a step in the right direction. However, those eight people of different opinions were united on one thing: the strategies for house building proposed by this Government will, in fact, lead to a reduction in the number of houses being built, and to the homeless crisis getting worse.
The opposition amendment was lost, with a government majority of 104. The Bill will now be scrutinised by a Public Bill Committee, and there is a call for written evidence.

DCLG published A plain English guide to the Localism Bill to coincide with the debate. The progress of the Localism Bill can be followed on the UK Parliament website where the latest version of the Bill, Explanatory Notes and all Bill documents can be found.

Plaid Cymru's response to Localism Bill

Plaid Cymru's Jonathan Edwards
Speaking in the second reading debate on the Localism Bill earlier this week, Jonathan Edwards (Carmarthen East and Dinefwr, Plaid Cymru) alluding to the forthcoming referendum on the transfer of powers to Wales, hoped that he would have no subsequent need to speak on the Bill.

However, whilst welcoming certain aspects of the Bill, including the lifting of restrictions on local councillors in relation to planning decisions in their areas, he raised concerns about the injustices of the housing revenue account in Wales.

Clause 152 of the Bill provides the National Assembly with powers regarding the housing revenue account scheme in Wales. However, Edwards expressed concern that the Treasury had not yet reached an agreement with the Welsh Government over the £80m to £90m net flow of funds from councils in Wales to the Treasury.:
"The housing revenue account subsidy in England is scrapped in the Bill, and there can be no justification for continuing the scheme in Wales or for the Treasury siphoning off the rents of council tenants there."
He also questioned why, in some areas of the Bill, there are no "mirror clauses" for Wales, and asked what discussions had taken place with the Welsh Government on the implications of the abolition of English regional spatial strategies on parts of north east Wales close to the border.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Will HAs be subject to freedom of information laws?

Nick Clegg: Leader's Q & A and Online Q & ADeputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has hinted that housing associations will be subject to freedom of information laws as part of the coalition's drive for greater transparency.

In a recent speech on civil liberties Clegg said:
"Free citizens must be able to hold big institutions and powerful individuals to account.

"And not only the Government. There are a whole range of organisations who, for example, benefit from public money and whose activities have a profound impact on the public good, yet who cannot be properly scrutinized.

"Citizens must know what goes on in these institutions. And they must be at liberty to speak out about the things they discover."

"We believe that if an organisation’s behaviour and decisions have clear consequences for the public good, people must be able to see right into the heart of them."
Inside Housing quotes, "a spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats", who confirmed that associations are "the sort of organisation we might see getting involved".

Clegg went on to say:
"We want to make it easy for people to find out information that is relevant to them, to ensure that public bodies are acting in the public interest and providing good value for money."
Speaking to Inside Housing Paul Tennant, the group Chief Executive of Orbit, said:
"There are two issues with this: the potential amount of work, and the potential impact on public status. I would like to know the purpose behind [giving the information] and how it’s going to be used."
The Guardian says that adding more public bodies to the Freedom of Information Act would require secondary legislation, something Clegg hopes can be brought in by the end of the year.

Stunell apologises for empty homes announcement

Andrew Stunell speaking at Lib Dem Conference, Brighton 2007
Andrew Stunell
The junior local government minister Andrew Stunell has apologised for sailing close to the wind over the timing of a DCLG press release on empty homes and his visit to the Oldham and Saddleworth constituency to support the byelection campaign of the Liberal Democrat candidate Elwyn Watkins.

Earlier this week the DCLG issues a press release about "new initiatives" to incentivise councils and housing associations to bring empty homes back into use, although the initiatives in question had been announced earlier.

A subsequent Lib Dem press release stating that Stunnel had visited an empty house in Oldham with Watkins to "highlight the problem of empty homes in advance of new government proposals that would help bring some properties back into use" promoted a complaint. Cabinet secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell was asked by Labour to investigate whether the Lib Dems had breached the ministerial code by promoting a government announcement during the campaign.

O'Donnell looked into the issues and responded to the Labour party stating "the Minister recognises with hindsight that his visit could have been associated in the minds of the public with a government announcement of additional funding, and has apologised for this."

Labour subsequently won the byelection - had the result been different then the incident could have been embarassing for the junior coalition partners - the Oldham byelection was the result of a court case that found Labour had broken election law by making false statements about the Lib Dem candidate in the general election.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

CoalitionWatch on your smartphone

We know some of you like to read CoalitionWatch on your smartphones. However, it can be tricky because of the small screen size.

We've now introduced a new, phone-friendly design that gives you the basic features of the site in a style that fits your phone screen. Some devices, such as the iPhone automatically uses the new layout; on some, such as the Blackberry, you will need to add ?m=1 to the end of our address.

So, try out our old address first on your phone:
http://www.coalitionwatch.info

If that's difficult to read, try:
http://www.coalitionwatch.info?m=1

Why not bookmark the address to make it easier to find again.

Blogger, the site that hosts CoalitionWatch, says the template is only a "beta", so it may add new features in the future once it's past the testing phase.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Pickles: What we did on our holidays

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles issued a written statement to the House of Commons on Monday setting out the main pieces of work undertaken by DCLG over the Christmas recess.

Here are some of the issues not reported elsewhere on CoalitionWatch.

Residential parking restrictions

Councils will be free to decide locally on the number of parking spaces for new residential development - previously restricted by national Planning Policy Guidance.

Decentralisation Minister Greg Clark commented:
"Limiting the number of drives and garages in new homes doesn't make cars disappear - it just clogs residential roads with parked cars and makes drivers cruise the streets hunting for a precious parking space. That's why I'm pleased today to get rid of another daft, interfering rule that has only succeeded in annoying people."
Councils have also been relieved of the duty to set parking charges to encourage the use of alternative forms of transport.

Predetermination

On 4 January Grant Shapps highlighted the restrictions placed upon local councillors under so-called "predetermination" rules, preventing them taking part in decision on which they have campaigned or expressed a predisposed view. Under a measure contained in the Localism Bill these restrictions will be amended to give councillors the powers to champion the needs of local residents.

Promoting self-build

Grant Shapps announced the government's intention work with the National Self Build Association to develop an action plan to boost the number of self-builders across the country-and address the common barriers aspiring self-builders face, including availability of land, finance and expert advice.

Coalition compromise on empty homes

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles announced last week that Empty Dwelling Management Orders (EDMOs) are to be retained, but the rules will be tightened up, making it even more difficult for councils to use the rules that have only resulted in 44 EDMOs since the law came into effect.

There are around 300,000 long term empty properties across England.

Subsequently Communities Minister Andrew Stunell issued a press release emphasising initiatives to incentivise councils and housing associations to bring empty homes back into use.

EDMOs were introduced by the previous government in 2006 to allow a local authority to step into the shoes of the owner of a dwelling which has been unoccupied for six months or more where the owner is not intending to re-occupy it.

Before the election, Grant Shapps had threatened to scrap the orders.

The new amendments will mean that local authorities :
  • will only be able to use the powers on homes that have been empty for more than two years, up from 6 months at present.
  • will need to give owners three months notice of an order being made.
  • will only be able to use the powers on empty homes that affect neighbours.
Eric Pickles' announcement says : "They will be limited to empty properties that have become magnets for vandalism, squatters and other forms of anti-social behaviour - blighting the local neighbourhood."

"The Coalition Government is standing up for the civil liberties of law-abiding citizens. Fundamental human rights include the right to property."

The press release gives a number of examples where it claims the EDMO procedures have been used inappropriately in the past, but does not acknowledge that in all of these situations the local authority would have been prevented from making an interim EDMO under the old regulations.

The Empty Homes Agency's David Ireland said that "an effect of the changes would be to limit councils’ ability to deal with certain cases such as new blocks of empty speculatively built flats", but added that "the main purpose of the legislation has been retained and we welcome that."

Steve Hilditch, writing on Red Brick however points out that "an owner will be able to keep a property empty in a vandalised state, a blight on the neighbourhood, for 2 years before the council can take EDMO enforcement action."

Friday, 7 January 2011

Quango review 'poorly managed'

Aggie Bonfire 2006A report published by the Commons Public Administration Select Committee roundly criticises the coalition's plans to scrap 192 quangos.

The report's tone is scathing and says that, '...the Government has failed to recognise the realities of the modern world.'

Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative chairman of the committee, told the Guardian, "The whole process was rushed and poorly handled and should have been thought through a lot more. This was a fantastic opportunity to help build the big society and save money at the same time, but it has been botched."

"I suspect that in the short term the reorganisation will now cost more than it will save. This was put together on the hoof and can be much improved for future reviews."

In a recent BBC interview Jenkin said that before the election David Cameron suggested removing quangos would save billions of pounds.

He said, "It's astonishing that the test for whether a quango should continue to exist did not include whether that quango was value for money".

The Guardian quotes Francis Maude MP: "We fundamentally do not agree with the committee that our reform will not improve accountability. We remain committed to seeing it through and making the reforms that the British public demand, and to stopping the meddling and expense created by unaccountable bureaucrats."

The Committee's report concludes that, '...there was no coherent and consistent process for reviewing public bodies.'

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Transparency deficit?

Eric PicklesShadow Communities Secretary Caroline Flint has failed in her attempt to get to get an answer from her government counterpart Eric Pickles on whether he took legal advice about possible defamatory remarks made by one of his advisors about former Audit Commission board member Jenny Watson. Flint asked whether “tax payers have had to pick up the bill for his department’s negative briefings”.

The Local Government Chronicle reports that, in his response to Flint's question, Pickles said it was a “long-standing” position of the department not to disclose the nature of legal advice and in some circumstances even to acknowledge “whether or not we have sought and received such advice”.

The LGC made two unsuccessful Freedom of Information requests to get to the bottom of the question last year, and is unimpressed with the response in view of the DCLG’s public stance on the importance of transparency.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Shapps calls for house-price stability

In an interview with Sunday's Observer, housing minister Grant Shapps says that home ownership should no longer be seen as a long-term financial investment.

Expressing horror at the fact that the average first time buyer without parental support is 36 years old, Shapps said the answer is house-price stability.

He described a "rational" market, where property prices rose by 2%, while earnings increased by 4% – meaning a real-terms drop over time.

However, the minister was short on details about how the government would achieve this nirvana in a free market, although he cited the New Homes Bonus as a tool that would help keep prices down by encouraging house building. Speaking to Evan Davis on the Today programme he admitted that the adjustments he was advocating would take around ten years to have a significant impact on affordability.

Editorials in the Independent and Guardian suggested a number of other measures that are unlikely to find favour with the government, including capital gains taxes on first homes and private sector rent reform. The Guardian, in a separate article, highlighted the difficulties facing young people trying to but their first home.

Shapps is to meet Financial Services Authority Chief Hector Sants later this week to discuss the FSA's proposals for strict new mortgage affordability and income verification checks, plus a clampdown on self-certification and interest-only loans. He wants the regulator to rethink the proposals,which he believes would exacerbate the current mortgage drought.

Save Ringo's house says Shapps

9 Madryn Street, Liverpool 8
Housing minister Grant Shapps has intervened in a row over plans to demolish the first home of former Beatle Ringo Starr. Liverpool Council wants to pull down the terraced house where the drummer was born and lived for the first 4 years of his life as part of a multi-million pound regeneration scheme of the Welsh Streets area.

English Heritage has already turned down a request for the property to be listed saying that it lacked "historic or architectural importance".

Liverpool City Council will consider the demolition plans later this month, but these are opposed by a local pressure groups and conservation group SAVE Britain's Heritage, which has asked DCLG to act under the little-used Public Request to Order Disposal (PROD) process.

Grant Shapps said:
"Any regeneration project will generate strong feelings. But when what many people consider to be a culturally important building, such as the birthplace of the drummer in the world's most famous band, is at risk then feelings are going to be even stronger. That is why, before a single bulldozer rumbles along Madryn Street, I want to ensure every option has been considered. In particular, I want local community groups to have the opportunity to put forward viable proposals to preserve this historic house."
A Liverpool City Council spokesman told the Guardian:
"Grant Shapps may not be aware of the fact that we have consulted extensively with local residents over these plans and the overwhelming majority are in favour of them. Residents have been fully involved in developing the proposals and have shown they want decent homes to replace houses which have long passed their lifespan.

"They are telling us that they are absolutely sick of the delays and the conditions they have to live in. They want the city council to demolish these properties as soon as possible so that they can get on with their lives."

Buzz words of 2010

The Observer has compiled a list of the buzz words from 2010.

We have to start with coalition: "One of those weddings where the bride and groom are clearly ill-matched and only temporarily infatuated and where all the guests gossip about how long it will last."

I've listed a few more of my favourites below, but why not read the whole list for yourself?

Pledge – A meaningless phrase, a chat-up line based on feigned sincerity; a vow that dissolves on entry into a "coalition".

Deficit – An excuse to do anything really out of order, eg: "Yes, I did spill red wine on your new white carpet, but what you must remember is that Labour left that carpet with a deficit of red wine; my spillage was the only responsible course of action."

Localism – A political philosophy according to which local authorities get the blame for cuts ordered in Whitehall.

Debt – A curse and a blight, except when incurred by students to pay university tuition fees, in which context it is an opportunity and an engine of social mobility.

Scrounger – Person whose lifestyle is supported by the state, with the exception of MPs and royalty.

Vince – The act of screwing up one's face when exposed to extreme rightwing policies, eg the cuts went so deep he vinced in pain.

Then there are some new measures that I don't think you'll see in HouseMark's benchmarking reports:

Obama – A unit of time defined by the period that elapses between first experiencing the hope that things will change and then realising that they won't.

Rooney – A unit of pressure used when measuring the impact of popular expectation on performance; rooneys can be converted into "obamas" using the Clegg scale of public disappointment.

Homeless chief raps MPs over expenses 'whinges'

Ken Olisa

Homelessness charity Thames Reach chair Ken Olisa has criticised MPs, including housing minister Grant Shapps, who have complained that they have been forced to sleep in their offices because of the new MPs’ expenses regime.

Olisa, who is senior board member of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), told the Daily Mail:
“I’m the chairman of a homeless charity – there are a lot of people sleeping in difficult places.

“I don’t want to listen to anecdotal, ‘Do you know there are lots of MPs sleeping on their desks?’ No MP should be sleeping in their office as a consequence of anything that we’ve done.”
He explained that MPs can charge for a hotel room if a Commons session ends late at night.

The Telegraph reported in early December that the housing minister was occasionally sleeping in his office because of working late nights and needing to attend early morning ministerial meetings. The new rules prevent him from claiming for hotel expenses and the long drive home late at night leaves him short of sleep. He told the Sunday Telegraph:
“It's not actually a bad place to sleep if it wasn't for the clock chiming every 15 minutes but I am not complaining about my conditions because nobody forces you to be an MP or a minister.”
Shapps was classed as one of the “saints” in the Telegraph's original expenses expos√© due to his low claims.