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Labour bigwigs face eviction

Last December chancellor Alistair Darling claimed Labour’s repossession scheme would provide real help for home owners – yet it’s still not up and running.

Since then more than 25,000 homes have been repossessed. That’s the equivalent to one home in every seven minutes – the same amount of time it takes Darling to grill fresh oysters in one of his four homes and less than it takes to listen to Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. home owners that Labour has failed to help will be seeing are the ones on the way out of their homes and into despair.

Meanwhile Darling has been reaping the benefit of four homes, the majority of which have been paid for by taxpayers.

He’s switched the declaration of what is his main residence to maximise what he can claim in second home allowances, alternating between homes in Edinburgh and London.

And while he’s been living rent-free in Downing Street he’s been renting out his London pad and has the exclusive use of Dorneywood, the traditional retreat for chancellors.

So every seven minutes another home in this country is repossessed while Darling has four he doesn’t even pay for.

And now research from the National Landlords Association shows big changes to the way housing benefit is paid to tenants will not only waste millions of pounds but will also result in increased homelessness. This is grim news indeed.

Darling has shown he’s up to the job of chancellor, even daring to question Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s assumptions on the immediate benefits of the recent global cash injection following the G20 conference. But now he is paving the way towards acknowledging the biggest forecasting error ever made by a British chancellor.

In this year’s Budget on April 22 Darling is expected to admit the economy will shrink by at least 3% in 2009 and that the deficit will top 10% of national income. A 3% slide will be three times worse than he predicted in last November’s pre-Budget report.

“Economies saw a severe downturn in the first three months of the year,” he told the BBC earlier this month. “I have seen nothing that doesn’t tell me that this position is going to be equally bad.”

If Darling can get it so wrong about the economy how are we to believe him when it comes to sorting out repossessions?

For the past six months we have witnessed virtually a constant stream of spin from our politicians. Stand-out promises include that we’ll see economic growth in the second half of 2009, that there will be a home repossession scheme (which is yet to arrive) and that there will be a supposed $1trillion cash injection into the global economy – which includes previously agreed money and so adds up to hardly any new cash at all.

Grant Shapps, Conservative shadow housing minister, hits the nail on the head when he says it’s time for the government to put up or shut up.

“Yet again families are being let down by Brown chasing a quick headline rather than acting to sort out the effects of his boom and bust,” he says.

“I have called on the government to put up or shut up and get its repossession scheme up and running as soon as possible.”

I couldn’t agree more.

Brown and Darling should take note. It won’t be long before voters up and down the country have their say and bailiffs will be knocking on a couple of doors in Downing Street.

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