The Local Government Slot: Fighting for a Better Deal for Park Home Owners

We have recently seen a lot of activity in Parliament on the issue of park homes and the problems park home owners are facing across the country.

To some extent 2011 saw familiar frustrations and delays that have, unfortunately, often characterised attempts to solve park homes problems in the past.

However 2011 also saw headway being made. The tireless efforts of campaigners and activists have built real momentum and an appetite for change amongst my colleagues in Parliament. I firmly believe this is filtering through and that the Government will be drawn to action soon.

Events such as the Park Homes Justice Campaign’s demonstration in October have been hugely successful in raising awareness. As part of this campaign Downing Street was presented with new evidence showing that as many as 23,473 homes from across the UK could be living under the regime of an unscrupulous park owner. The fantastic work of this campaign, and of its organiser Sonia McColl, has had a real impact over these last months. Also of real importance has been the large number of letters written to MPs. I can only encourage this – the more letters that are written, the more MPs will push for change and the more chance we have of succeeding.

We have also been pressing the Government in the House of Commons. At PMQs in November I asked David Cameron what action we could expect to see on the injustices faced by park home owners, and I’m pleased to say that his response was positive and that he was clear in his commitment to help park home owners and increase protection against bad site owners.

Following on from this I met with Grant Shapps, the Minister of State for Housing and Local Government to discuss how the Department of Communities and Local Government will help resolve issues in the industry. These meetings have been fruitful and the Department is set to publish a consultation soon. This is eagerly awaited and hopefully it will flesh out the Government’s proposals and set out a timeframe for tackling park homes abuse.

In November 2011 a Westminster Hall debate saw Andrew Stunell, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and local Government give a well informed and positive contribution on the issue of park homes injustices. Importantly he stated, “our next step following the consultation will be to bring forward, when parliamentary time allows, the legislative measures needed to tackle the abuses.”

Finally, as 2011 drew to a close, the APPG on Mobile Homes held a positive and productive meeting bringing together representatives from the police force, the consumer rights agency Consumer Focus and various stakeholders.

While our meetings are always useful and productive this meeting had a special buzz and saw a large attendance from MPs and MP’s researchers.

Discussion centred on the nature and scale of criminality within the industry with the independent experts highlighting specific problems. These included; industry infiltration by unscrupulous park owners, the use of ambiguity in the law to perpetrate offences and a lack of clarity among police forces and other agencies when dealing with park home issues.

Consumer Focus also presented preliminary results from newly conducted research that highlights widespread interference with the sale of homes, threatening behaviour and the unfair reselling of utilities to residents.

The APPG decided upon a number of immediate actions. MPs have contacted the Association of Chief Police Officers to call for a single national leader on tackling park homes criminality. We have also invited Grant Shapps to attend the next meeting of the APPG, which will take place after the consultation has been published. With the Minister in attendance and the consultation in our hands this next meeting is set to make real headway.

In January this year, Stephen Gilbert MP presented a 10 Minute Rule Bill on Park Homes to Parliament. He has written an article on Lib Dem Voice about the bill for those who wish to find out more!

Hopefully, these actions will facilitate the much needed changes in the law and finally offer the necessary protection for park home owners across the county.

* Annette Brook is the Liberal Democrat MP for Dorset and North Poole.

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This entry was posted in Local government.
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3 Comments

  • Gareth Jones 1st Mar '12 - 4:18pm

    Welsh Liberal Democrat AM Peter Black is pressing a bill through the Welsh Assembly on this issue:

    http://southwaleslibdems.org.uk/en/article/2012/560310/assembly-member-and-consumer-watchdog-wants-to-hear-from-park-homes-residents

  • Pleased to see this coming forward, long overdue. Another issue that needed LibDems in Government before anything gets done.!
    Added to the issues dealt with in this, is the very unfair situation with regard to Council Tax.. ie the opposite end of the scale to the mansions. Someone in a park home has to pay Band A. In a low value area that band can include a modest 3-bed house, and anyone who makes their home in an old caravan or a garden shed is included in that band. Extra Bands below A are needed (whilst we wait for Council Tax to be scrapped all together).

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