Tag Archives: housing

District councils: worried about funds and housing

Chris White (centre) talking about Brexit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

District Council leaders met in Lichfield late last week for the District Council Network conference. The DCN is part of the Local Government Association – which comprises most English and Welsh councils – and is a group set up to concentrate specifically on issues affecting district councils. There are similar groups for counties, metropolitan authorities and London boroughs.

Representatives in Kenilworth were clearly bruised by the decision of ministers to plug some of the adult care services funding gap facing county councils by transferring funds directly from districts.

Phrases like ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ were used more than once at the conference, with some justification: council tax increases and transfers between local authorities are no way to manage a national funding crisis which too few people, including the Liberal Democrats, took seriously even after the point at which the warning signs were unmistakable.

Apart from money it was largely, for Districts, housing and planning. There is clear nervousness about the impending new ministerial power to direct authorities to produce a joint local plan (hardly surprising given the careless abolition of structure planning by the Coalition) or by inviting county councils to take over the planning powers of laggardly districts: relations between districts and counties are always tense at best but red rags were clearly being spotted.

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Lord John Shipley writes…Five foundations for the Housing White Paper

The lack of affordable housing in the UK is at crisis point. On average, house prices are now almost seven times people’s incomes and over 1.6 million people are on housing waiting lists in the UK, including 124 000 homeless children. This means that the Government’s White Paper on housing has been highly anticipated. But it needs to be extraordinarily ambitious to tackle the severity of the housing crisis.

It is too late then to simply paper over the cracks. We need a radical, far-reaching and comprehensive approach to housing. That is why the Liberal Democrats are calling for a complete overhaul of the housing system, with an emphasis on five key solutions.

Creating more affordable homes for rent

20% of the population lives in private rented accommodation. And yet, private sector rents have become unacceptably high in many parts of Britain, most notably in London. Many renters are now paying more than half their disposable income in rent.

That is why we have been calling for government investment in a new generation of quality homes for rent that are affordable for those on low and middle incomes. This means increasing the access to finance for councils and housing associations and reversing the sell-off of higher value homes.

Because the need for affordable homes for rent is now so severe, this should be accompanied by an increase in the use of offsite construction, or prefabs, to speed up the house-building process.

However, Brexit has complicated this picture. That’s because building costs will increase significantly due to the rising cost of imported materials and because it will be harder to recruit vital workers from Europe who are needed in some parts of the UK and to create the certainty necessary for investment.

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William Wallace writes…What should the Liberal Democrats be saying to the “left behind?”

What should the Liberal Democrats be saying to the ‘Left Behind’?  We’ve claimed a strong position as the voice of the 48%; but there are many among the 52% who are not illiberal at heart, and others who voted ‘Sod off!’ in the Referendum to London as much as to Brussels in their disillusion with politics and the distant elite.  People who live on partly-sold off Council estates, or in places built to house workers in factories that closed 30 to 40 years ago, where local services have been steadily cut back and jobs are hard to get to, low paid and insecure, have some justifiable reasons to feel resentful .

Theresa May has spoken about the ‘left behind’ at the Davos World Economic Forum, but said little about what an’ active state’ (yes, she has used that term) should do to help them. Donald Trump in his inauguration speech promised ‘the forgotten people’ from globalisation that they will now be remembered, but didn’t say what he would do to help them beyond putting up barriers to imports.  The right-wing media in Britain have portrayed their problems as mostly down to fecklessness and immigrants – taking their jobs and the social housing they want to claim, weighing down the NHS.  Labour is wavering over whether to give in to that narrative, or address more underlying problems.

But what do we want to say, consistent with our values, and without pandering to the ‘blame the East Europeans’ narrative?  Liberal Democrat peers have set up a working group to address this, to feed into party campaigning in ‘left behind’ areas.  The London-based media portrays the political choices for such voters as between Labour and UKIP (having forgotten the Lib Dem record in cities like Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle, Hull and elsewhere).  We know that Labour has already lost their trust, and that local campaigning has created new pockets of Liberal Democrat support, with encouraging local by-election results in recent months. Our group includes peers with local government experience in northern cities and neglected rural areas; and we are drawing on a number of reports on the social and economic conditions of England’s pockets of depression and deprivation.

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Olly Grender celebrates ban on lettings fees for private tenants

olly grenderLib Dem peer Olly Grender has welcomed the Government’s reported plans to ban lettings fees for private tenants. This move didn’t come out of thin air but as a result of tireless campaigning by the Liberal Democrats and others. Olly and Tom Brake have been pushing this in both houses of Parliament and have taken part in demonstrations. Liberal Democrat council groups up and down the country have also been campaigning on this issue.

Olly said:

Our relentless campaigning to get tenants’ letting fees banned has finally paid off and the Government has recognised this is the right thing to do. The upfront costs of renting are far too high, pushing many people into debt just to pay the fees, and stopping others from being able to move into a rented home.

“It’s no coincidence that just five days after the debate on our Renters’ Rights Bill, which urged the Government to ban these fees, they have agreed to make this important change. Now they must agree to our calls to make renting safer and more secure too.

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We need to focus on things which tangibly improve lives

Terraced housingAre we barking up the wrong tree?

I have wondered for a while if we are focussing on the wrong things, particularly where the EU is concerned. For the record, I want to remain in the EU. I see it as a flawed institution, run by the same cadre of neoliberal capitalists as those who run this country and most of the other countries in Europe. It has, however, two things going for it. The first is the possibility of deeper co-operation across national boundaries. The second is that it has woven into it a thick texture of human rights which the neoliberals, despite their best efforts, have been unable to unwind – it was after all woven in before they came along.

But when I look at this country’s biggest problems, the EU is neither the problem nor the solution. The media cacophony remains completely confusing as to why people voted to leave. The people who voted leave are equally confusing, and there are massive attempts to shut down debate by taking offence if suggestions are made that, for instance, cutting immigration will not solve any problems other than the fragility of some people’s sense of national identity. Taking back control does not take back control, but meely hands it to different members of the neoliberal elite. We still need to identify and solve the problems which have caused such disaffection with the political process.

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In protecting the liberal age, the charge of elitism must be avoided

There is a sense that if an election happens at any time in the next year, it will be fought out as much on values as economic policy. The argument is no longer just about fairness and equality. It is also about a philosophy of life.

Fears that the liberal age is now under threat both from Right and Left has the potential to galvanise those who have previously taken our liberal traditions for granted. The #libdemfightback has the potential to happen.

Identifying the 48% Remain voters as fertile ground for the Liberal Democrats was a fast and valid response, not just a sound political gambit for a party polling so low but one that was true to the party’s internationalist values.

Remain voters are desperate to embrace a coherent narrative and the liberal attitudes held by many of them will only turn into Lib Dem votes if that narrative is provided.

But that should only be the beginning. The Lib Dems must also respond powerfully and clearly to the illiberal, isolationist and anti-elite sentiment that lay behind Brexit.

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Olly Grender introduces her Renters’ Rights Bill “You have more rights buying a fridge than renting a home to put it in”

On Friday, Olly Grender introduced her Private Members’ Bill aimed at giving tenants in the private rented sector greater protections, particularly from the extortionate fees charged by letting agents. She gave some examples in her proposing speech which is copied below:

My Lords, the natural consequence of the chronic lack of social housing and the prohibitive cost of buying a home means that we now have a growing number of people who live in the private rented sector. Sometimes it would appear that this ever-growing customer base—almost one in five of the population, one-third of them families with children—have more consumer

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMark Goodrich 27th Mar - 2:53am
    Incidentally, the reason that I think that pressure will continue to mount for a second referendum is in the rest of the polling. 49% are...
  • User AvatarMark Goodrich 27th Mar - 2:40am
    Hi Ben I welcome your change of mind. Unfortunately, posting on this topic tends to bring out the minority who are opposed to a referendum...
  • User AvatarScott 26th Mar - 11:02pm
    A security service is something you hire to guard an empty building site. Can we please stop using this term to refer to our secret...
  • User AvatarPeter 26th Mar - 10:38pm
    I recognise that our debate about domestic energy consumption is over, with Ms Featherstone making the concluding remarks. There is, however, a wider and more...
  • User AvatarGlenn 26th Mar - 9:54pm
    Laurence Cox. That's not entirely true. Labour was very split on membership of the EEC and joining was mainly driven by the Conservative Party. Tony...
  • User AvatarLaurence Cox 26th Mar - 9:33pm
    I wish that the ultra-europhiles in our party would not assume that everyone on the Remain side wants to see an european super-state. We need...