Labour leader Ed Miliband has called for councils to take greater account of an individual’s contribution to their community, including their employment status, when awarding social housing tenancies.
In his speech to the Labour Party conference in Liverpool, Mr Miliband said a future Labour government would seek to reshape the welfare state to focus more on rewarding those who contribute, and penalising those who don’t.
As an example of this “something for something” approach, which he said formed a pillar of his party’s “new bargain” for Britain, the Labour leader said councils should prioritise those in employment when allocating social housing.
He said: “When we have a housing shortage, choices have to be made. Do we treat the person who contributes to their community the same as the person who doesn’t?
“My answer is no. Our first duty should be to help those who show responsibility. And I say every council should recognise the contribution that people are making.”
Mr Miliband added that even after the reforms of recent years, the reward for work within the welfare system was still not high enough, with benefits “too easy to come by for those who abuse the system and too low for those who don’t”.
“So if what you want is a welfare system that works for working people then I’m prepared to take the tough decisions to make that a reality,” he said.
Fulfilling the promise of Britain | read Ed Milband’s conference speech in full
In a wide-ranging speech, which returned constantly to the theme of a breakdown in responsibility across British society, Mr Miliband said Labour would also target “asset stripping” companies that did not reinvest in their workers and their communities.
He singled out care home provider Southern Cross as an example of the kind of “predator” company that a future Labour government would aim to crack down on.
He said: “It’s about different ways of doing business, ways that the rules of our economy can favour or discourage. Look at what a private equity firm, Southern Cross, did to our care homes. Stripping assets for a quick buck and treating tens of thousands of elderly people like commodities to be bought and sold.
“They may not have sold their own grandmothers for a fast buck. But they certainly sold yours. They aren’t the values of British business. It must change. It must never happen again in the new economy we build.”
But Mr Miliband reserved some his strongest criticism for the government’s reform of the NHS, saying that David Cameron had betrayed the trust of the electorate when he promised that their would be no top down reorganisations of the NHS under a Conservative government.
“David Cameron knew the British people did not trust the Tories with the NHS. So he told us he wasn’t the usual type of Tory. And he asked for your trust.
“And then he got into Downing Street. And within a year - within a year - he’d gone back on every word he’d said.”
He said that hospitals would now be “fined millions of pounds if they break the rules of David Cameron’s free-market healthcare system”.
“The old values that have failed our economy now being imported to our most prized institution: the National Health Service,” he said.
Read Ed Miliband’s conference speech in full here.