Author Archives: Stephen Knight

Opinion: Building homes has never been more important  

 

Conservatives claim that extending the so-called ‘Right to Buy’ policy to housing association tenants will give the possibility of home ownership to 1.3 million families.

But at what cost? And is this the right policy priority, given our housing crisis?

What isn’t explicit in the name of this policy (‘right to buy’) is that it involves selling off homes at a very large discount to their market value – over £100,000 per home.  This amounts to a huge give-away of public assets to the new owner-occupier of the homes in question – who are likely to be amongst the better-off housing association tenants and already benefitting from a secure affordable home.  The Institute of Fiscal Studies has estimated that the total cost of the policy is likely to be of the order of £11.6 billion over the next five years.  As Boris Johnson correctly warned on the 25th March, the policy “would involve massive subsidies.”  His scepticism of the policy has subsequently been revised, but he was of course spot on.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 29 Comments

Stephen Knight AM writes…Putting the car first in urban areas comes with a huge cost to human life and health

Stephen Knight die inLying on a cold and damp pavement in central London as part of a ‘“die in”protest to highlight the level of deaths facing pedestrians and cyclists might not be everyone’s idea of a fun Saturday afternoon, but a couple of weekends ago that is exactly what I was doing.

The reason why?

 

Because the current level of road deaths – let alone serious injuries – is something we can’t continue to accept as being “inevitable”.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 14 Comments

Stephen Knight writes… Boris marginalises debate on Europe

boris and cameronBy making a Europe speech at Bloomberg, just like the Prime Minister did over a year ago, it was clear that the Mayor of London was sabotaging the launch of his Chief Economic Adviser’s report on our place in the EU as a (re)launch pad for his political career. What a good use of £36,400 of taxpayers’ money!

Predictably, the headlines are about Boris Johnson’s plans to return to the Commons. Once again, the debate about our role in the EU gets swept under the carpet and reduced to meaningless sound bites.

The Tories have now made ‘EU reform’ another such sound bite. Reform of what? And how? And when?

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments

Opinion: Tackling debt problems in our communities

payday londonMuch attention has recently been given to the growth of payday lending and with very good reason.

In the first quarter of 2009/10, across the UK, just 1% of Citizens Advice Bureau debt casework clients had at least one payday loan.  But by the same quarter of 2012/13 the figures show 10% of their debt casework had at least one payday loan.  Similarly, in November 2012 the debt charity StepChange reported that the proportion of their clients with payday loans had soared, from 3.7% in 2009, to 17% in 2012.

This growth in incredibly expensive debt is of course the legal end of the market.  We should never forget that on top of the growth of payday lending there has been a growth in illegal lending by loan sharks.  To give some indication of the growth of loan sharks it is worth noting that research from Liverpool John Moores University suggests that one in twenty low-income borrowers in London, that have been refused credit,  have then turned to a loan shark.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments

Delivering affordable homes and new jobs in London

Affordable Homes for LondonLast month house prices in London rose by 10 per cent – yes you read that correctly. Yet affordable homes, not over-inflated house prices, are what we need.

For an overseas investor in London’s housing market – and there are many – the price rises are wonderful news. They will be equally welcome by someone who has cleared their mortgage and is looking to sell up and move out of the capital. However, for most people who live in the capital or plan to move to the capital, such price rises are far from welcome.

It is not sustainable for people to ‘earn’ far more from rising house prices than working. As Vince Cable has rightly said these soaring house prices in London as “dangerous and unsustainable”. Vince is also right to express his misgivings about the Help to Buy scheme, which will almost certainly contribute to the over-inflated housing market in London and the South East.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 7 Comments

Opinion: Is it too much to ask that our MPs understand the health impact of air pollution?

The events of last week in Woolwich totally dominated the media, and quite rightly so. However there was an opinion poll that was published last week that also deserves some attention.

In April Dods interviewed 101 Members of Parliament – that is almost one in six of them – about their attitudes towards air pollution as a contribution to premature deaths.  The MPs interviewed were broadly representative of Parliament, with 47 Conservative MPs taking part, along with 40 Labour MPs, 9 Liberal Democrat MPs and 5 MPs from other parties.

Why is this poll so significant?

The simple answer is that …

Posted in News | Tagged , , and | 3 Comments

Stephen Knight AM writes…Invest now in affordable housing for jobs and growth

Vince Cable is right to argue that the government should give the economy a fiscal stimulus with increased borrowing to fund infrastructure investment, especially affordable home building. Cable’s argument is sound: the finance is cheap, the multiplier in this kind of investment is relatively large and there is an urgent need to give our flat-lining economy a kick-start.

Investment in affordable housing would provide particular economic benefits in London and the south east, where the shortage of affordable homes is undeniably the single biggest break on the region’s economy.

The UK’s construction industry has massive spare capacity, having shrunk significantly in the …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged | 13 Comments

Opinion: It’s time for Liberal Democrats to embrace the Living Wage

Earlier this month was Living Wage Week which was the first ever UK-wide week devoted to highlighting the need for employees to receive a wage they can live on.

The week saw the campaign generate much publicity, starting with Boris Johnson announcing an increased rate of the London Living Wage to £8.55 an hour (compared to its national rate of £7.45) and Ed Milliband pledging to extend its implementation through Government contracts.

More Liberal Democrats need to learn why the campaign for greater take up of the Living Wage is so important.  While we have praised those employers …

Posted in News | Tagged | 19 Comments

Opinion: Regional Pay – bad economics, appalling politics

Looking back at Eluned Parrott’s article Lib Dems should say no to regional pay, what has surprised me is some of the comments that this reasoned article has generated.

Perhaps the first thing to challenge is the myth that public sector pay is totally rigid, whereas private pay-setting is always flexible and highly localised. It simply isn’t as simple as that.

The reality is that extensive national patterns of pay exist in the private sector, from large companies down to even medium-sized firms. At the same time considerable flexibility does already exist in the public sector, for example whilst there are national …

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Tagged and | 6 Comments
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    Sorry, Liberal Democrats, but step very carefully on this one. Lies, damned lies and statistics........... There is a very selective quote in the main article...
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