Tag Archives: housing

11 April 2024 -today’s press releases

  • Sunak in “parallel universe” as NHS waiting lists grow by 330,000 since he pledged to cut them
  • Nick Fletcher endorses Lee Anderson: Sunak should kick him out of Conservative Party
  • Donelan libel costs: Donelan must pay this money back now
  • Lib Dems to create London Housing Company – Blackie: “I will get London building again”

Sunak in “parallel universe” as NHS waiting lists grow by 330,000 since he pledged to cut them

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey has said Rishi Sunak is living in a “parallel universe,” after today’s figures reveal NHS targets are being missed while waiting lists have grown by 330,000 since the Prime Minister pledged to cut them.

NHS targets missed include:

  • NHS waiting lists: NHS waiting lists stood at 7.54 million outstanding treatments in February 2024, up from 7.21 million in January 2023 when Rishi Sunak pledged to cut them. This is an increase of 330,000 (NHS England).
  • 65 week waits: There were 75,000 65-weeks for treatment in February, despite a target to eliminate them by March 2024 (NHS England).
  • A&E: 71.3% of patients were seen within 4 hours in all A&E in February, against a target of 76% (NHS England).
  • Cancer: 63.9% of people treated began cancer treatment within 62 days of an urgent referral in February 2024, against a target of 85% (NHS England).

Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey said:

This week we uncovered that over 150,000 people waited over 24 hours in A&E last year. Now we find that waiting lists have gone up by 330,000 after Rishi Sunak pledged to cut them.

To add insult to injury, the Conservatives have cut NHS spending while millions of patients are suffering in pain on endless waiting lists.

Rishi Sunak is living in a parallel universe if he thinks our National Health Service is recovering. The Conservative Party and the Prime Minister are out of touch, out of ideas and deserve to be kicked out of office.

Nick Fletcher endorses Lee Anderson: Sunak should kick him out of Conservative Party

Responding to Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley, telling voters in Ashfield that Reform UK MP Lee Anderson is the area’s “greatest champion” and that he needs to be back in Westminster, Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Daisy Cooper MP said:

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26 March 2024 – today’s press releases

  • No progress on A&E after a year of Humza Yousaf as FM
  • Rennie responds to David Tydeman sacking
  • Scottish Liberal Democrats respond to housing figures

No progress on A&E after a year of Humza Yousaf as FM

Responding to new figures showing only 62.9% of people attending A&E were seen within the 4 hour target in the week ending 17th March, just as bad as when Humza Yousaf became First Minister, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton said:

Waiting times in A&E are just as bad as they were a year ago when Humza Yousaf moved from being Health Secretary to First

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If Liberal Democrats are serious about Housing, we will fix ‘Right to Buy’

Right to Buy is back in the news after it emerged Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner made a £48,500 profit on her ex-council house using the scheme. Whatever you think about this, I do agree with Angela that housing aspiration isn’t the issue – it’s failing to replace homes that are sold off. Liberal Democrats need to lead the charge to reform Right to Buy.

Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government introduced the Right to Buy scheme in the United Kingdom, allowing council tenants to purchase their homes at discounted prices. At the time, it was hailed as revolutionary, promising social mobility and homeownership for the masses.

As the years have passed, it has become increasingly evident that Right to Buy has failed to live up to its lofty aspirations, exacerbating rather than alleviating the housing crisis in the UK.

By allowing tenants to buy their council homes at discounted rates, the government inadvertently depleted the stock of affordable housing available for those in need. This has created a vicious cycle where the demand for social housing far exceeds the supply, leading to skyrocketing rents and homelessness. The cost of building new homes is simply not covered by the receipts from Right to Buy.

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LibLink: Victor Chamberlain: Local authorities still hold the key to accessible housing

Southwark Lib Dem Councillor Victor Chamberlain has written for Inside Housing about providing suitable housing for disabled people.

He sets out the problem:

It’s over a century since the ground breaking Addison Act of 1919, passed under Liberal Prime Minister David Lloyd George, laid the foundation for social housing in the UK. Despite significant progress since then, it’s disheartening that we still grapple with fundamental challenges of providing quality and suitable housing for everyone. This is particularly true for disabled people who lack a range of suitable housing options, especially adequate numbers of accessible and adaptable homes. 

Accessible housing is not just a matter of convenience; it is a fundamental human right that directly impacts individuals’ safety, independence, and quality of life. Accessibility features and home adaptions also prevent avoidable hospital admissions and care home placements. Every £1 invested in housing adaptations is worth in more than £2 in care savings and quality of life gains. It’s a win-win scenario that cannot be ignored, particularly at a time when social care budgets face unprecedented strain.

The Disabled Facilities Grant, intended to fund housing adaptations, is woefully insufficient to meet demand. The £30,000 cap on expenditure per home is outdated and inadequate, leaving many unable to afford the necessary modifications. Consequently, local councils are forced to cover the shortfall from overstretched social care budgets, exacerbating financial strain and limiting resources for other essential services.

He cites the example of a disabled resident who has waited 22 years for a home that meets her needs.

The solution, he argues, lies in social housing as the private rented sector cannot meet people’s needs.

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22 November 2023 – today’s press releases

  • Cameron HMRC scrutiny: Zahawi scandal mark two
  • Autumn Statement a deception after years of Conservative tax hikes
  • Ed Davey slams “Hunt hoax” over £200bn stealth tax grab
  • Welsh Lib Dems urge Welsh Gov to make sure that building remediation costs aren’t being forced on residents
  • Conservative giveaway to big banks set to cost taxpayers £22 billion

Cameron HMRC scrutiny: Zahawi scandal mark two

The Liberal Democrats are calling for an ethics advisor probe after reports that David Cameron is being looked into by HMRC.

The party said it is important to know whether this reported scrutiny was disclosed when Rishi Sunak appointed him to the Lords and throughout the vetting process.

Liberal Democrat Chief Whip, Wendy Chamberlain MP said:

This looks like the Zahawi scandal mark two. Yet again, it appears Sunak has appointed a cabinet minister being looked into by HMRC.

The Prime Minister must ask the ethics advisor to investigate these reports as a matter of urgency. Serious questions need answering over whether this reported HMRC scrutiny was disclosed as part of the appointment and vetting process for Cameron’s seat in the Lords, and whether Sunak was aware when he appointed him.

Far from looking to kick sleaze out of the Cabinet, the Prime Minister seems to have sought to bring even more in from the outside.

Autumn Statement a deception after years of Conservative tax hikes

Responding to the Autumn Statement, Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesperson Sarah Olney MP said:

This is a deception from Jeremy Hunt after years of cruel tax hikes on hard-working families from this government.

Conservative chaos has sent mortgages and tax bills soaring, today’s announcements won’t even touch the sides.

Worse still was the deafening silence on health. These dismal forecasts show the economy is on life support and reducing NHS waiting lists is the shot in the arm needed.

It is a no-brainer that we need people off waiting lists and back to work, yet this Conservative government simply doesn’t care.

Today has been more stale nonsense from a Conservative government out of touch and out of ideas.

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Moving on after yesterday’s high drama

Lib Dem Conference is at its absolute best when it debates a hotly contested issues.

High quality speeches on both sides of the argument for Conference to decide upon. And if the leadership’s position is looking threatened, they just roll out a big hitter like Tim Farron to deliver a barnstormer and get them out of trouble.

Or, in the case of yesterday’s debate, not.

The issue in question was whether to have a national housing target. This has been debated at two Conferences in the recent past and on both occasions, Conference voted to retain a national annual target, in this case 380,000  homes, with (whatever happened in the debate) 150,000 for social rent. A great policy that many thought would give not just hope but homes to the hundreds of thousands of people who don’t have a secure home that they can afford.

With Conference having made its wishes known, it is odd that the leadership chose to pick this fight in the first place or prosecute it in the way that they did. The Federal Policy Committee was very closely balanced on this issue and, as I understand it, Ed insisted that housing targets were dropped. Inevitably, the Young Liberals put in an amendment to reinstate them.

Policy and research is one of the great strengths of the current crop of young Liberals. Chair Janey Little has already contributed huge knowledge and collaborative working skills on various policy issues, not least on violence against women and girls where she brought all the various stakeholders in and consulted them. She put those skills to good use. On her side of the argument were Council leaders like Stephen Robinson in Chelmsford, Keith House in Eastleigh and former Housing Minister Stephen Williams as well as current London Mayoral candidate Rob Blackie and his predecessor Luisa Porritt.

Unfortunately, the leadership response to this was to produce a series of leaflets rubbishing the Young Liberals’ amendment in a way that was always going to annoy Conference attendees. Certainly,  I had always been likely to support that amendment, but I did so with added passion and fury simply because of the aggression shown by the opposition and the fact that Ed was talking about the issue as though it was a done deal. The manner in which this was done was also a massive hostage to fortune. You know how in the American primaries candidates kick lumps out of each other until one emerges victorious? Well, that process does the opposition research for them. That is a lesson the leadership might like to learn for the future before it puts out simplistic, aggressive literature.

The debate yesterday started well with an inclusive speech from Helen Morgan in which she acknowledged the concerns that the Young Liberals had expressed in their amendment. By the time the argument got to the floor, though, it very much looked like it would go their way. Speeches were around 2:1 in favour of housing targets.

But not to worry, they still had their Trump card, Tim Farron.

Sadly, he took his role too literally and forgot for a moment that he wasn’t Donald Trump. His deeply insulting speech, in which he said that the amendment was the most right wing thing he had seen come to the floor of Conference since we’d sent Liz Truss on her sleeper mission to the Tories drew gasps from the audience. . He accused its proposers of being Thatcherites. This was clearly nonsense, given that the amendment was supported by the Radical Association and many members of the Social Liberal Forum.

It takes a lot to shock a Lib Dem Conference. We’re not a pearl clutching bunch as a rule, but he managed it. But there was no awe to go with it. Rob Blackie stood up and simply said at the beginning of his speech “Tim Farron: That was below you. You are better than that.”

If the amendment had not won before, that speech got it over the line. The vote wasn’t even close in the end.

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It’s time for the Liberal Democrats to reclaim their place as the party of young professionals

In the ever-evolving landscape of British politics, it’s easy to forget that the Liberal Democrats were once hailed as a natural choice for young professionals. With a steadfast commitment to progressive values, environmentalism, internationalism, and leading the way on equality & diversity, the party had successfully captured the aspirations of a generation. 

Many of these commitments remain today – we remain ahead of the conversation on social care and health, we are leading the way on electoral reform, and we have never faltered in our commitment to standing up for diverse communities. We remain a party which believes in opportunity for all, and we have the policies to back that up.

We are the party of business, and of workers. The Liberal Democrats will invest in innovation and embrace the opportunities of modern technology, while making sure that economic growth is human-led and that workers are at the heart of our industrial strategy.

We are the party of internationalism, and we will embrace the academic and scientific benefit that comes with being able to work with and participate in the international community – opening new opportunities for people and society.

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Keep our national housing target, tackle the housing crisis and WIN!

Tackling the housing crisis is one of the most important things Lib Dems can do. As the Leader of Chelmsford City Council I agonise about housing every day. We have over 450 homeless families in my city this week, and no houses to put them in. 

So I welcome the huge number of positive things in the conference housing motion F31 and policy paper that will allow us to do that.

But one of the other really important things I want to do as a Lib Dem council leader is to help get many more Lib Dem MPs elected.  And removing the national housing target (which we voted FOR just two years ago) will make that job harder.

We’ve already seen public criticism for the removal of targets. It doesn’t matter how much the leaders try to explain that “actually, removing the target will mean we are able to build more houses”. We should have learned long ago that when you’re explaining you’re losing.

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What do you call a 33 year old who still lives with their parents?

What do you call a 33 year-old who still lives with their parents?

No, this isn’t the start of a bad joke. Instead, this is the reality for many people, including myself.

Six years ago, I moved out of my parents’ house with my then wife and into a three-bedroom end of terrace house. I was working full-time on a salary significantly lower than the average, while she was working ad-hoc as a supply teacher.

It was tight for us financially, but we made it work, just about. How? The house we moved into was bought by my granddad in 1955 and, by the time we moved in, it was owned by my dad and my aunt. We were paying rent, obviously, but it was considerably lower than the market rate.

When my ex-wife left, I took in a lodger to make ends meet. When my dad and aunt’s circumstances changed and they sold the house in 2021, I moved back in with my parents because I could not afford a place of my own. Since then, my salary has increased by almost one-third (through job changes, not employer pay rises), but it is still significantly below the average and I still cannot afford to buy or rent a place of my own.

Today, Conference will be asked to debate and vote on a new housing policy.

There is a certain irony in the party establishment standing before a banner of “for a fair deal”, while simultaneously proposing the removal of an ambitious – yet still insufficient – national housing target.

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Reflections on the Housing Working Group

We’re in the final hours before conference debates our Housing paper and it’s been good to read the discussion taking place on Lib Dem Voice and elsewhere. I am looking forward to a similar debate in the conference hall on Monday. Liberal Democrat’s really care about housing and we all agree that we need to build more homes, our discussions are about how we best achieve this.

When we started our working group we wanted to achieve two things. To offer a credible housing policy for the Liberal Democrats to show we actually want to build homes, and to help those who don’t have a home to get one and be protected while they’re renting. And I believe we’ve achieved that.

I have led a council that is facing a housing crisis, I’ve seen people trapped in temporary accommodation unable to join the community, I’ve seen people have no choice but to leave their area. People can’t afford to live here in the Lake District and this is hurting our communities and our economy. Too many of the homes that are being built or that come up for sale are being sold into the second homes or holiday lets market and there simply aren’t enough smaller homes for people looking to buy their first home. Without new blood the Lake District will simply become a playground for the super wealthy and its communities and heritage will die.

In South Lakeland, we have built new social housing to help people get on the housing ladder. As leader I introduced a target of 1,000 affordable homes to rent and this has led to more homes being provided.

Across England we build around 8,000 new council homes a year and this number is outstripped by the losses. This is a result of Conservative governments deliberately and cynically seeking to reduce the social housing sector.

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Community involvement in housing is a great future for policy

In the interests of transparency,  I am not impartial (is anybody?). I am a volunteer director of a community land trust (not named as I am writing for the community housing cause in general). Also I am no longer a party member largely down to becoming exasperated with national party housing policies and the focus on being electable locally thus encouraging nimbyism. This policy could go further but is comprehensive and well thought out.

We cannot have arbitrary targets that are nationally set without paying the price. This cost was felt deeply during the COVID-19 pandemic with those in flats with no gardens, overcrowded with children and parents attempting schooling and working in 2/3 rooms. Local to me there was also a suggestion in my local area the unit targets be artificially met by implying micro pads could fill the gap in targets in affordable housing. This was of great concern as micro studios are worse than what many families are forced to endure in emergency accommodation. Most of our housing list is families; we don’t need commuter studios we need family homes.

However, today a leader I believed was part of the problem surprised me.  Ed Davey has suggested exactly what is needed in the heart of many local authorities: A community-led approach to housing. This policy could have gone further and spoken more of the role of community land trusts and the role they could possess e.g. access to Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 Funds. These are usually incorporated local not-for-profits accredited by the FCA, so why not? They also are also by and large are committed to co-designing affordable housing at the most local level.

However, the reaction of many seems to be to ridicule and attempt to call this out for something it really isn’t. The disposal of current targets that count the numbers and bottom line rather than the quality is something to celebrate not scorn. Social housing is sorely needed and the private rental market is broken.

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Dorothy Thornhill writes: A community-led vision to tackle the housing crisis

Housing and planning policy continues to provoke controversy across the country. The UK desperately needs more homes, particularly decent, affordable homes. But instead, too many politicians are only interested in point-scoring, attacking their opponents as either NIMBYs who will block any housebuilding, or in the pocket of developers who want to concrete over the countryside.

For years this Conservative government has paid lip-service to increasing housebuilding, but then repeatedly u-turned under pressure from their backbenchers, who simply don’t want new homes built.

It is in this context that the Liberal Democrats, at conference, will be discussing our new policy paper: Tackling the Housing Crisis. Our attempt to find a positive way forward in the face of a dysfunctional national debate.

The paper is positive about the need for new homes. It makes clear that councils should have  well-evidenced 15-year housing targets – ensuring that there is no backsliding from building homes. Yet it also goes further encouraging the expansion and strengthening of Neighbourhood Plans, including genuine engagement with local communities in finding innovative ways of providing more homes and the sustainable expansion of existing towns.

As the former Mayor of Watford I’m well aware of how urban renewal and bringing back residential communities to town and city centres can be a sustainable housing solution that drives regeneration. But this development can only work if it’s combined with investment in infrastructure too. The government’s controversial new infrastructure levy is said to address this, but it will take a decade to be fully implemented.

We also need to ensure that we deliver homes that people can genuinely afford. Affordability is the major issue that no one is addressing. That’s why our paper is positive about delivering more social housing. It doesn’t shy away from setting a target for these homes, empowering councils with more powers to borrow in order to build. It is scandalous that the delivery of social homes has been given such a low priority.

In England’s beauty spots the issue of second homes and holiday lets is also not helping. This paper tackles that tricky question. People are entitled to buy properties from themselves or as a way of generating an income, but in some areas the market is so seriously skewed it prices out local people. So where councils can demonstrate that these homes are having a negative effect on their communities then they should have powers to address this including new planning classes to limit their numbers if needed.

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A fair housing target is a fairer democracy

Our Liberal Democrat London Mayor challenger Rob Blackie, wrote a great article on determination to meet housing targets. His first statement “Britain spends more on housing benefits than any other rich country,” hits the mark on the choice we can make: increase home ownership and maintain a fair democracy for Britain.

We can continue spending on housing benefits, but our current model has a few issues. First, our social housing strategy has shifted towards rental accommodation in the private sector. No longer are councils owning sufficient housing to provide affordable rentals. This meant shared ownership and social credits to rent privately were the only solutions. The former further distorts the market as, in essence, gives free public money to expand property developers into bigger landlords. This is the kind of market distortion faced in Berlin where most Berliners used to rent. They are effectively providing quantitative easing to property developers. The latter, private rentals, is funding an unregulated market to exploit the less privileged. Because of the security this had offered to the private lessor, they find it easier to simply offer a shelter without the necessary up-keep while monthly rentals are directly paid into their accounts by the council. It is effectively a secured, fixed-deposit investment for private lessors; so secured they have no incentives to upkeep the property they leased out. This is quite similar to New York City where the rent ceiling exacerbated the issue.

The solution can only be ownership. The responsibility of a citizen can be driven either through harsh and unjust punishment or through providing a sense of belonging. The logic is infallible because of social psychology. The state can employ harsh laws to imprison rule breakers with long incarceration or allow for the creation of individual opportunities where each has a stake in the society they can treasure.

A democracy can be built upon the rule of law. But a liberal democracy must be sustained through private equity.

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National targets are essential to tackle the housing crisis

Do we face a housing crisis in Britain? It might not seem like it if you bought your house 20 years ago, but for everybody renting, or trying to buy, it’s out of control.

Consider these astonishing facts.

Britain spends more on housing benefits than any other rich country.

New houses in Britain are smaller than every other western European country. Dutch people, who live in one of the world’s most densely populated countries, live in houses 21% bigger than Brits.

Britain’s homes are cold and damp and expensive to heat too. Recent studies show that we have among the worst insulated in Europe too.

And while London looks like the richest part of Britain, it has the second highest poverty rate when you account for housing costs. Even if you are on the typical London full time salary of £33,000, you will, on average, spend more than half of your post tax income on rent. 

All of these reflect decades where we haven’t built enough homes.

Since 1990 Britain’s population has increased by 10 million people. Our housebuilding hasn’t kept up. We have so little spare capacity that Britain has fewer empty homes than Finland.

New evidence shows that all housebuilding, even for the richest people, brings down prices for everybody, as it sets off a chain of moves through sequentially cheaper housing. For instance in Auckland, New Zealand, when they allowed more housebuilding, rents fell 25% relative to Wellington, where this didn’t happen.

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The Housing Crisis and Land Value Taxation

In submitting our amendment to the motion on Tackling the Housing Crisis (F31), ALTER is not wanting to change anything called for in the policy paper that will, we hope, be adopted nearly unanimously. Our purpose is to remind Conference that we can and must use our existing policy on tax reform, namely Land Value Taxation (LVT), to solve the underlying cause of the crisis.

We call for the commitment in the 2013 policy paper Fairer Taxes, endorsed by Conference that year, to be honoured. This was to conduct “early in the next Parliament …. a full-scale review to look at how (LVT) might best be implemented”. We do not suggest any new tax policies but merely call for FPC to do what Conference asked it to, which we feel is entirely appropriate given the motion’s subject.

The motion points out that “successive governments have pursued policies that benefit homeowners”. However there is no proposal to correct that imbalance between owning and renting. Our amendment emphasises that it is land value and not the value of “bricks and mortar” that is the cause of this fundamental unfairness. It is the major homebuilders and landowners who most benefit: obscenely and without economic or ethical justification.

Governments in England – both Conservative and Labour – have failed to review the grossly unfair Council Tax despite it being the main source of local and regional inequity in housing costs for occupiers. Whilst tax policy was outside the remit of the working party, it should have been able to point this out without us seeking to amend this motion.

The paper identifies the “main drivers of the housing crisis” as principally not overall supply but about:-

  • Provision of social housing
  • Economic prosperity of the area
  • The role of finance.
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Betrayal of a generation

In the aftermath of the 2010 General Election, in which the party stood on an explicit platform to abolish tuition fees and many MPs made the doomed NUS pledge, the party took the catastrophic political decision to reverse track within the coalition to raise fees. Regardless of the individual merits of the tuition fee reforms as a policy, and however much the party went blue in the face shouting “graduate tax” at anyone that would listen, the decision – the betrayal – tainted the party in the eyes of young people and the wider electorate and was an early domino to the inevitable 2015 collapse.

However, the real lasting damage that tuition fees made to the party was not the policy itself or the 2015 election result, but that the party stopped trying to appeal to young people and many young people stopped bothering to even consider the party as a possibility.

Anyone who has been a student in the past 13 years knows the degree to which young people just do not care about the party, it isn’t anger or disgust, it’s indifference. I have spent years sitting on fresher’s stalls in vain and organising anti-Brexit activity through vapid “cross party” groups, because the party fails to hit through with young people. On paper the party should be exactly what young people want, progressive, anti-Brexit, pro-LGBTQ+ rights, pro-drug reform, pro-PR, you could go on endless ways the party aligns with the views of young people – except housing.

Housing is yet another issue that young people, by which I don’t primarily mean students but young professionals going up into their 30s, are massively affected. Decades and decades of failures around housing, be it overall numbers, density in urban areas, house sizes, planning committee nimbyism, lack of renter’s rights – I could go on for hours, literally – have left young people at the mercy of private landlords and with no prospect of ever owning a home of their own.

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Why we need housing targets for local authorities

Complex systems tend towards inertia. We struggle to see things in terms of counter-factuals. When presented with cause-and-effect, we don’t compare negative effects against negative effects of inaction or of alternative action, we compare negative effects with what existed prior.

The ULEZ charge illustrates this. Paying £12.50 every day to drive your old car through London may be better than living in a polluted city, but it is still worse in an immediate and personal way than not having to pay that £12.50 at all. Sadiq Khan pressed ahead with this regardless, surely in no small part to him being relatively confident he will win re-election anyway in 2024. Do we think Nik Johnson and Dan Norris are looking at the ULEZ backlash in London and thinking it’d be a sensible roll of the dice for them, electorally?

Complex systems tend towards inertia. It is the job of campaigners, activists, and politicians to overcome this inertia. In aspect of British politics is there so much inertia, to the detriment of so many people, than in our chronic failure to build houses.

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Local Lib Dems can restore people’s trust in housebuilding

I live in a ward represented by four Lib Dem councillors, where there are 3,952 new homes (out of ∼5,200 homes in the ward), primarily built due to local plans written by the then Lib Dem-led council. However, in 1,800 conversations on the doorstep in the ward, (thanks connect), only one has contained objections to the scale of housebuilding. I’m not claiming that NIMBYism does not exist, just that it’s a much less prevalent view than stereotypes would suggest and that there is a consensus that the development has improved our area.

After all, this is an affluent, suburban ward, which was gained from the Conservatives, where stereotypes, especially those based on all parties’ campaign literature (including ours), would suggest that NIMBYism would be a popular if not prevalent view.  So why is this not the case here? In real terms, the answer to that is that the development has allowed the local GP surgery to move out of a portacabin to a new and more suitable location, and also, where there was one local primary school, there are now three local primary schools and a secondary school. Also, there’s a new cafe, library, community centre, parks, etc. and even though there are things that could have definitely been done better the broad consensus about the positive impacts of the development remains strong.

Though sadly, the Lib Dems lost control of my local council during the coalition years, (housebuilding rates have declined since), similar development is now taking place neighbouring Lib Dem run South Cambridgeshire. They have both started and completed over 4,000 homes in their first term (significantly more than before Lib Dems took control) and are now putting in place a local plan containing tens of thousands more (∼58,000).

This all means that I get to be part of a local team (and its predecessors over the last 20 years) of which I can be proud, not a universal experience among Young Liberals to whom the housing crisis is very present.  This is a local team that has done a lot for just one ward to tackle the housing crisis (go read  Janey Little’s excellent article on that if you haven’t) and has made an appreciable difference to local public services including on things that Lib Dems campaign on elsewhere – GP appointment availability, the condition of school buildings, lack of local amenities, affordable housing.

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Helen Morgan MP writes: It’s Liberal Democrats who build homes

Taking on the housing brief for the Liberal Democrats has been a huge privilege. One of the biggest challenges my constituents face is the lack of affordable housing; nearly a third of my casework is about unsuitable, temporary or downright dangerous housing, and my colleagues report the same. Our government lacks ambition on housing, it has repeatedly taken the easy road, failing to tackle the crisis facing millions across the country.

At the moment we’re facing a cost of living crisis making both renters and mortgage holders deeply worried about staying in their homes, a Levelling Up Bill that has been amended beyond recognition because the Government is too weak to face down its rebels, and yet another broken promise to make life better for renters by banning no-fault evictions.

I have worked hard to champion Liberal Democrat values by amending the Levelling Up Bill to review the broken Business Rates System, to ensure that new homes are built to a decent standard so bills and emissions are low, and for local authorities to be able to set tougher standards for new homes than national ones. Yet the Tories have blocked us every step of the way.

The proliferation of second homes and holiday lets is also harming holiday destinations, from London to York, and the Lake District to Cornwall. Local people are being priced out of the market and in rural areas communities are dying, local services like schools or GP surgeries are becoming unviable, and local shops and pubs are closing. Once again the Conservatives have failed to protect communities, instead protecting the right of people to buy second homes unchecked.

In my constituency, I have stood up for residents of new build properties against dodgy developers who have broken their promises. One developer didn’t build a sewage system leaving new homeowners with an extortionate bill to remedy the situation through no fault of their own. I have  repeatedly called for the end to “fleecehold”, where management companies increase fees extortionately when managing communal areas in new developments.

With all this in mind, I am delighted to be bringing forward the paper “Tackling the Housing Crisis” to this Autumn conference. This paper wants to build homes urgently, it gives significantly more powers to local authorities to build the homes we need and also to hold developers accountable when they don’t build. We will deliver smaller homes for those who want to get their first home or downsize rather than the executive mansions developers make the most profit on.

It will give local authorities binding local targets to build homes, that are independently-assessed to ensure that councils cannot avoid their responsibilities, alongside a national target for social homes – the homes we desperately need and that the government can actually build.  My constituents are desperate for new homes, particularly social homes and I’m delighted for the Liberal Democrats to be advocating for them.

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Tackling the Housing Crisis – Policy Paper 155 – Motion F31

This policy paper deserves careful study in advance of our Conference in Bournemouth, as it contains many good ideas for tackling the housing crisis, which must be one of the most important priorities of a Liberal Democrat-led Government.

The section on the very important and complex issue of leasehold reform at the end, has been included in the chapter on The Planning System, and says “(we) would fix the flaws in the current planning system by…” and there follow four bullet points, of which the last is “Abolish leasehold for residential properties and cap ground rents to a nominal value.”  The law relating to leaseholds is not, of course, actually part of the planning system, and this subject of leasehold reform would have merited a chapter of its own, or indeed a whole policy paper.

The authors of this policy paper do not seem to be proposing simply to abolish residential leases, so that leaseholders no longer own an estate in land, and can be evicted without a court order.  Reading between the lines it appears to be suggested that leaseholders should automatically be given commonholds instead of their leases.

However, paragraph 11.6.1 suggests “introducing changes to the planning system to curb the worst excesses of England’s leasehold system”. So, it seems it is not intended to change property law, but only planning law. But planning law does not relate to freeholds, leaseholds or commonhold. It is about controlling the use of land, rather than the ownership of land.

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‘Crisis’ doesn’t cut it anymore: Britain’s housing is breaking us

The term ‘housing crisis’ has been in the political lexicon for a long while – it first entered Hansard, the record of speeches and debates in Parliament, in 1919. This gives us some sense of normality when we discuss it as a party and when we consider policy approaches to housing, even in the current crisis which is rooted in the 1980s.

Familiarity with the term ‘housing crisis’ is harmful to how we view the scale of the problem. Housing has been a ballooning problem for decades, arguably the label of a ‘crisis’ has been justified for much of this time. Though we are now reaching a cataclysmic level of housing stress which is severely damaging our living conditions, our economy and our politics. We all recognise the symptoms: a low growth, high-cost economy with stagnant real-terms wages and a perilous public purse.

For some time, Brits have endured some of the most cramped living conditions in Europe and North America. In England specifically, the average home is 71.9 square meters – Canadians typically live with double this space at 150 square meters. On mainland Europe homes are more modest but still considerably larger than the average English home – Italians see an average of 108 square meters. We can do better than this.

There’s an engine driving British homes ever smaller and it is one you will probably recognise from a leafleting round almost anywhere in the country. Properties which used to be a family home are now two or even three front doors or doorbells to the same building, often as flats or increasingly as HMOs. The rise of HMOs being a response to acute housing stress, often resisted by local authorities with a keen eye on the number of licenses they will grant. 

As our homes grow smaller, we see ever more stories from the rental market about families sharing desperately inadequate rooms, often impossible to heat and sometimes caked with mould. Yet constricting the supply of HMOs or subdivided homes is to constrict the market even further for young people desperate for a place to call home, it limits even the short-term pressure valve on the simple problem that there are just not enough places to live.

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Lib Dems should show courage on the housing crisis

We are in a housing crisis. This crisis means that people are struggling to afford the cost of renting, let alone home ownership.

But we know this, Priced Out recently gave evidence to the London Assembly which said that it would take the person on an average income 19 years to save for a deposit. Those who deny a housing crisis are simply ignoring the largest issue that is crushing the lives of younger people in our country.

In the Young Liberals we have young barristers, doctors and teachers who cannot afford to get onto the housing ladder. If it is affecting professionals in this way then it becomes obvious the impact on those earning below the national average.

With such a serious problem facing people in this country, the Liberal Democrats should be leading from the front in championing building enough homes to tackle the ever-spiralling cost of owning your own home.

However, to describe our response as lacklustre would be to do a disservice to the word lacklustre. The housing motion and policy paper coming to conference proposes the abolition of the national housing target, to be replaced with a nimby charter allowing local councils to pass the buck to the next council for housing young people.

But the worst part is the fact that the party has been told no twice, yet still persists in going against common sense and wanting to actively block the building of enough homes, perhaps believing that they stand a better chance of overturning the will of the party at a physical conference.

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Reflections after a Conference – a challenge to the Lib Dems

Editor’s Note: Mick wrote this piece after the Brighton Conference in 2018 and sent it to me recently as he felt it was still relevant today. Apart from the fact that Brexit is now an (at least for now) inescapable reality, he’s right.  We need to be radical and punchy to deliver the liberal, fair, more equal society that we want to see. I’m reminded of the Liberal not Moderate t-shirts that some of us wore proudly around that Conference…

After a short period at the Lib Dem conference I am still in Brighton for a couple of days. Brighton is quite a good place to reflect on the state of the UK.

Thinking back, Brighton used to be in much better nick than it is now. Many pavements are cracked and broken, many of the houses and hotels look run down and in need of repair and renovation. The seafront is not particularly special and the West Pier is still a burned out shell. Here, in one of the UKs premier resorts, there are many homeless people on the streets and many beggars as well. Hardly the sort of Britain that we Liberal Democrats want to see!

Recycling largely takes place by means of unsightly bins strewn around the streets and the former green-run council’s recycling policies made a mockery of recycling anyway.

I suspect that much of this is the result of austerity, especially the massive cuts to the finances of the local council that no longer enable it to respond to the needs of the Brighton and Hove Community.

Brexit will hardly improve matters, because hotels and restaurants here rely heavily on European workers and they may not be available after March 2019.

Although I have no direct information, I suspect that housing is expensive and that many people, especially the young, have no hope of getting on the housing ladder and live in the private rented sector with its high prices and insecurity of tenure.

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Rishi Sunak is as tin-eared as Thatcher

I am absolutely livid this morning. I watched in disbelief as Rishi Sunak, without so much as the tiniest bit of empathy, said we all have to “hold our nerve” as interest rates rise higher than they have been in decades.

That is not going to go down well with the millions of homeowners who face having to find an average of £2900 more a year if they are unfortunate enough to have to remortgage in he next year as their fixed terms come to an end. This is on top of the double whammy of high inflation and energy prices.

A Prime Minister who does not have to worry about money telling people that he’s going to make unpopular decisions for their own good is never going to go down well, but he could at least have tried to do something to show that he was on their side.

I don’t think I have ever heard anything so tin-eared from a Prime Minister since Thatcher refused to listen to reason over the poll tax back in the early 90s and that did not end well for her.

Let’s be clear, people are at risk of losing their homes if they can’t keep up their mortgage payments, whether they are forced to sell or whether their home is repossessed. I lived through that in the 90s where every day I saw people having their homes repossessed. And sometimes it was the tenants, finding out at the last minute that bailiffs were coming to evict them, who would turn up in shock, seeking support and a way out of this horrible situation.

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Lib Dems should support Community Land Auctions to tackle the housing crisis

We are living through an acute housing shortage unprecedented in British history. The severe lack of homes drives house prices and rents, and there seems to be no end in sight. At its heart, the reason is simple: we haven’t built enough homes for decades. The Liberal Democrats should be at the forefront of this debate, leading the charge for a localist and progressive housing policy that delivers the homes we need to see. Community Land Auctions were originally proposed with Ed Davey in 2007 and promise just this.

Currently, communities that say yes to development near them get very little out of it. Existing mechanisms like Section 106 are insufficient to outweigh the significant disruption and impact of larger schemes, meaning that locals see all of the downsides as landowners walk off with huge value uplifts. Agricultural land given planning permission for homes can see its value jump by over 100x, almost all of which goes to the owner and middlemen. Community Land Auctions would capture this gain for local authorities, allowing them to spend it on vital local services, new green infrastructure or whatever other priorities are most important for their area.

Community Land Auctions use an innovative new process to make this work. First, a council invites sealed bids from landowners, who indicate which land they would be willing to sell and for how much. The council then evaluates these bids, deciding which land is most suited for development, how many homes should be allowed and other key aspects of the planning permission. They then auction the permissioned site or sites to developers, who then build it out. Landowners are incentivised to offer low prices for their land to win their auction, whilst developers are pushed into high bids to secure the right to develop. This maximises the income to the council and ensures that they capture the vast majority of the planning uplift.

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It’s probably not the budgie

Katie (not her real name) put out a desperate plea on her community Facebook page, the battle cry of a mother at the end of her tether. A tenant of one of the region’s largest housing associations, she was living on the ground floor of a newly built block of flats in the ward I had represented for just a few weeks.

It was 2017 and Katie had lived for 3 years in the two-bedroom ground floor flat with her partner and their two tiny children, one 3 years old and the other a fragile 3 month old newborn who’d been born prematurely. The baby had had multiple trips to hospital with bronchitis in his very short life, and multiple courses of antibiotics.

Katie was convinced that the source of her baby’s health issues was the mould and damp in their flat. Shoes and toys left overnight on the floor went mouldy. The soft furnishings had had to be replaced twice in three years because they were rotting into the damp carpet. Katie spent every day cleaning, bleaching, and washing, and overnight the mould would return to anything left on the ground. Walking across the carpet in socks led to wet socks.

Katie’s mental health was suffering badly. She was cleaning all day, wiping down surfaces obsessively, but still failing to keep her children safe and healthy. She could get nobody who ought to have cared to take any interest. She felt judged at every turn. She feared being kicked out by the housing association for complaining too much. She felt as though she had no rights.

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We should be talking about Lib Dem Councils Building new homes 

One of the achievements of Lib Dem controlled  Councils  has been a focus on building social and affordable housing – but it’s not one the Party has made much of. Given that access to housing is one of the key issues in our society that seems a  pity.

In York for example the Lib Dem run council is focused  on increasing the number of  affordable homes  – 447 have been delivered in the last 3 years – and the numbers are increasing year or year. The Council is planning to have delivered  no less than 600 affordable  homes in it’s 4 years term and to have done so while protecting the local Green Belt.

Even better many of these are being delivered to ‘Passivhaus ‘ standards meaning that they are  much  better for the environment.

In Kingston we are doing something most Labour councils say is impossible – building new council  housing – and new housing build to the highest environment standards. .As the Portfolio Holder for Housing , Clr Emily  Davey says -“providing homes which meet our residents needs is a priority for us.”

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28-30 October 2022 – the weekend’s press releases

  • Lib Dems call for Suella Braverman to hand over texts and emails for future inquiry
  • Jane Dodds – The Housing Sector in Wales is Broken
  • COP27: Nadine Dorries as the voice of reason?
  • Liz Truss phone hacking story: Urgent investigation needed
  • Suella Braverman: Government must publish legal advice on detention of asylum seekers

Lib Dems call for Suella Braverman to hand over texts and emails for future inquiry

The Liberal Democrats have written to the Home Office Permanent Secretary, asking him to facilitate the handover of Suella Braverman’s text messages, WhatsApps, and emails for use in any future inquiry into her misconduct.

Lib Dem Home Affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael raised concerns that the embattled Home Secretary could take advantage of a loophole exploited by Boris Johnson during an inquiry into the funding of the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. The former Prime Minister claimed that he had been unable to hand over important messages because he had changed his phone.

Liberal Democrat Home Affairs Spokesperson, Alistair Carmichael said:

We need an independent inquiry with access to all the relevant evidence, to establish the true scale of Suella Braverman’s rule breaking.

We saw how Boris Johnson and other Conservative ministers have tried time and again to duck accountability and cover up the truth.

Suella Braverman must be required to hand over all relevant evidence now before it is too late.

It took less than a day for Rishi Sunak’s government to be mired in the same old Conservative sleaze. His promise of ‘integrity’ was broken within hours of entering Downing Street. If he was serious about integrity he would commit to an independent inquiry now.

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The Liberal case for street votes

It’s no secret that our party has a housing conundrum. On the one hand, the Liberal Democrats acknowledge that we’re in a housing crisis and that we need to build new homes to have a chance of making things better. On the other hand, one of our foundational tenets – local control – commits us to listening to communities about their vision for the future. At times these have found themselves in tension, and the internal debate has been pretty heated.

Everyone here is a liberal and fundamentally we all want the same thing: for people to have the best opportunity to control their own destiny. There is a policy proposal currently being considered by Parliament that might be able to forge a thoroughly liberal way forward: allowing local people to control the development of their communities and letting them take the lead on enabling additional homes. We’re a group of young liberals who think that this should be a part of a liberal planning policy.

The idea is called Street Votes, and at its core, it’s a very simple concept. Allow an individual street to decide, by a two-thirds majority, to share in the uplift from permitting new, walkable, sustainable development on their street. Residents create a proposal – a ‘street plan’ that comes with a strict set of rules governing what can and can’t be built. They then vote and, should it pass, residents can decide in their own time to go ahead with development on their own land individually or in groups, while sharing part of the land value uplift with the wider community. If you want more details check out this briefing paper from Create Streets.

What makes this so thoroughly liberal is that only the residents can approve the vote, so local control is protected, but everyone is incentivised to deliver additional homes. Research suggests that this could deliver thousands of new homes close to existing transport infrastructure by empowering locals: it’s a win-win. In Tel-Aviv a similar rule, TAMA 38, has led to a huge increase housing led by existing local residents. The Strong Suburbs proposal is even stronger because it actually requires landlords to share the benefits with tenants. The evidence from Israel is clear: this policy works. Everyone has an incentive to say yes to new housing in their back yard.

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Help tackle the housing crisis

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England’s housing market is fundamentally unfair; it has left millions of people in insecure, unaffordable and low quality housing, whilst many others have seen their wealth increase dramatically. For many people, especially the young, the prospect of a secure home is a pipedream. The Federal Policy Committee’s working group on Homes and Planning wants your help to fix the English housing market and deliver the homes the country needs.

Although housing and planning is a devolved matter, we would welcome contributions from members outside of England about how their approach works and if there are any lessons we can learn from them.

There have been a wide range of estimates of how many homes England needs to build, ranging from 380,000 to around 200,000 a year. We believe that with a shortage of labour, skills, materials, available sites for development means that we should prioritise building social homes first and foremost – since the sector is currently struggling to build its current number of homes. These meet those in the greatest need, and can help bring down rents more generally.

We also want to ensure that homes are built to the highest standards. At the last election, we had robust and ambitious proposals for making homes fit for a carbon-neutral future, but we’d welcome any ideas you have to improve on those proposals.

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