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‘Civic contract’ proposals published

New proposals from Westminster City Council would require unemployed people to prove they are actively volunteering in the community to qualify for some welfare benefits.

The ‘civic contract’ also suggests that people who make positive contributions to the community should get priority for social housing. The consultation document, published today, could be the model for future local public services, councillors suggest, by eliminating the culture of ‘something for nothing’.

The contract reads: “If you help others in your community we will support your efforts;
If you’re out of work, we will expect you to take advantage of the support and opportunities available to help yourself.”

The new proposals include means-testing social housing tenants so that households earning above average local incomes will pay higher rents, giving priority access to borough’s 22,000 social homes to groups such as volunteer police officers, members of the TA, nurses and ex-service personnel and giving social housing allocation credit points to families who adopt or foster children.

Council tax benefits and social housing allocation points will be reduced for households whose members are guilty of persistent antisocial behaviour. Families whose children persistently play truant from school will also be punished.

The council stated: “The Government’s economy in public spending and other social and economic changes demand a new approach from local government. We see this as being guided by a new sense of civic responsibility, fairness and opportunity. Our principle of responsibility is about recognising the value of public contributions to contribute to making it a successful place.

“Our focus on fairness will continue to be on caring for and supporting the neediest in our society because we believe that to be the mark of a civilised society. We will do this by offering our citizens a ladder of opportunity to help them better themselves.”

The council leader, Colin Barrow, said: “Asking everyone from businesses, residents and the wider community to play their part – no matter how small – is important in changing people’s expectations away from a culture of getting something for nothing.”

The consultation is running until February 2012.

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