Not negative campaigning – just offering voters the facts

Still have some questions? email: myshdc2@gmail.com

Still have some questions? email: myshdc2@gmail.com

Still have some questions?

email: myshdc2@gmail.com

Government defends Right to Buy against call for abolition

Government mouth pieces defending the indefensible – in my humble opinion. The most senior of them conveniently sidesteps a key question from MPs, ‘If you sell a house at a discount, how do you buy another one to replace it?’. Answer, ‘Spend what money you do get, fixing up the houses you’ve already got’. That’s helpful isn’t it.

The MJ online By Martin Ford | 22 January 2019 

A top Marsham Street official has defended the Government’s Right to Buy policy as ‘good value for money’ following demands for its abolition.

The scheme came under fire from MPs and the London Assembly this week, when it was accused of undermining councils’ efforts to build social housing and sapping funds.

At yesterday’s meeting of the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee, Labour MP Liz Twist said: ‘How can you expect councils to invest in new social housing if they have to sell the house at a discount under Right to Buy?

‘It seems a bit strange we are wanting councils to build and yet they are having to sell these houses at a discount down the line.

‘It doesn’t seem to make financial sense.’

Permanent secretary at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), Melanie Dawes, said: ‘What we get in terms of economic benefits is that housing associations have receipts they are able to build with so we get the usual benefits from new housing supply.

‘We also get distributional benefits because generally we are talking about lower-income families who are able to buy who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.’

Highlighting London Assembly research published that found 42% of Right to Buy homes sold in the capital are now in the private rented sector, committee chair Clive Betts said: ‘It’s unfortunate many of them end up as buy-to-let properties.’

The London Assembly research by member Tom Copley also found the capital’s boroughs spend £22m each year renting back right-to-buy properties.

Mr Copley said: ‘Something has gone very wrong when tens of thousands of homes built to be let at social rents for the public good are now being rented out at market rates for private profit, sometimes back to the very councils that were forced to sell them.

‘Right to Buy is failing London and should be abolished.’

Cllr Darren Rodwell, London Councils’ executive member for housing, said: ‘These figures reveal the immense costs and inefficiencies caused by misguided policy at a national level and, with boroughs enduring a 63% cut in core funding since 2010, it’s clear we can’t carry on like this.

‘The Government should end its restrictions on the use of Right to Buy receipts so that all money raised from council house sales in London goes back into building more homes.’

MHCLG director general, Jeremy Pocklington, told the select committee: ‘We think it is good value for money.

‘The case for Right to Buy is it helps people into home ownership that would not otherwise be able afford their own home, which is something this Government strongly supports.

‘It does release resources that councils can use to invest in their stock.

‘While homes are being sold – which is enabling people who would not otherwise be able to own their own home – a great many more homes are being built through all the interventions, looked at in the round.’

Yesterday’s headlines hid the reality that Westminster still doesn’t trust, let alone believe in local government

So it seems the Daily Telegraph was actually paraphrasing Theresa May’s speech and using the term council housing, to mean social housing.
The £2 billion headline will be money for the housing associations to put very nicely into the hands of private developers via the various deals and conjurings that go on once a section 106 affordable housing obligation is in play.
A wasteful and time consuming process at the best of times, £2 billion will soon disappear as each sides legal teams dance around the various council and housing association offices.
Why not take a holistic approach to our national disgrace of failing to provide decent housing for those in the most need?
The introduction of land value capture, would allow councils to aquire land at a sensible price, thereby making the most of any share of the £2billion on offer.  This, combined with greater borrowing flexiblity, would offer a far greater return for the money available and more certainty of delivery.  It would also ensure that this desperately needed housing, was being managed by those who best understand their communities.
Inside Housing

LGA warns May’s focus on associations ‘misses the point’ about council-led building

The Conservative head of the Local Government Association (LGA) has hit back after Theresa May suggested councils are not able to build at the same scale as housing associations.

Lord Gary Porter, chair of the LGA (picture: Tom Campbell)

Lord Gary Porter, chair of the LGA (picture: Tom Campbell)
Sharelines

Councils hit back after May comments #ukhousing


In a landmark speech to the National Housing Summit today, the prime minister said she wants housing associations to lead on creating “large-scale, high-quality developments” because the sector can “achieve things neither private developers nor local authorities are capable of doing”.

She pointed to the Thamesmead Estate in south east London, which is currently being regenerated by Peabody after two councils had “problems dealing with the unique challenges and opportunities” of the project.

But Lord Gary Porter, chair of the LGA and leader of South Holland District Council, said Ms May’s comment “misses the point about why we are not able to build at scale”.


READ MORE

Councils’ temporary accommodation spend nears £1bn
No appeals for councils excluded from £1bn borrowing programme
No appeals for councils excluded from £1bn borrowing programme
On the naughty step with Lord Gary Porter
On the naughty step with Lord Gary Porter

“Since RSLs [registered social landlords] took over building social housing they’ve built around 40,000 a year, we have never got to the numbers we need to have as a country,” he told Inside Housing.

“That’s not to blame the RSLs, it’s because we have not been part of that mix as councils.

“And what we need to do is get the Treasury to get off our backs. I don’t need more money, I just need freedom so I can spend my money.

“Let me deal with Right to Buy in the way that works for my area and then get Housing Revenue Account debt off the government balance sheet because there’s no need for it to be there – and then job’s a good’un and we can start fixing the housing crisis before the end of parliament.”

However, Mr Porter did also praise the prime minister for emphasising the value of social housing.

In her speech, Mrs May said the rise of social housing “brought about the end of the slums and tenements, a recognition that all of us, whoever we are and whatever our circumstances, deserve a decent place to call our own”.

In a statement, the LGA said: “Councils have always been proud of their housing and tenants and the positive recognition of social housing by the prime minister today must be shared by all.”

The government has offered councils £1bn of additonal borrowing headroom to build new homes, but this is limited to areas where there is a large gap between private and social rents. It will not be available until April 2019.

Councils have long called for caps on the amount they can borrow to be lifted to allow them to build new social housing at scale.

More on Theresa May’s NHF speech

More on Theresa May's NHF speech

All our coverage of Theresa May’s historic speech on 19 September, 2018, in one place:

Orr: ‘penny has dropped’ for government on housing The outgoing chief executive of the National Housing Federation gives his take on May’s speech

LGA warns May’s focus on associations ’misses the point’ about council-led building Reaction to the announcements from Lord Gary Porter, chair of the Local Government Association

Sector leaders hail ‘huge significance’ of May’s NHF speechHousing figures welcome the Prime Minister’s speech to the National Housing Federation’s annual conference in London

May’s speech shows a significant change in attitude towards the sector When was the last time a Conservative prime minister made a speech more favourable to social housing?, asks Jules Birch

In full: Theresa May’s speech to the National Housing Summit The full text of the Prime Minister’s historic speech

Theresa May throws support behind housing associations in landmark speech Read more about Theresa May’s speech which signalled a change in tone from the government towards housing associations

May’s new £2bn funding will not be available until 2022 Homes England clarifies the timescale for allocation of the new money promised by the Prime Minister

Morning Briefing: Labour hits back at May’s £2bn housing pledgeShadow housing secretary John Healey says May’s pledges are not enough

May to announce £2bn for strategic partnerships with associations at NHF conference The details released overnight ahead of the speech

We are being jammed, crammed into even smaller spacers and boxed into corners when we try to fight back

My only disappoitment with this comment piece, is that Tom Welsh talks more about cars, that most of us use no more than 5% of the time we own them.  Even when he refers to roads, it’s about problems fitting the moving cars on to them.

He does however get on to the auwful boxes we are forcing our young people to put their hearts and souls into and maybe even raise a family in, if then priced out of the market for larger properties.  Here’s where the roads come into play, with the narrowness of those now built in residential developments, turning pavement parking into the standard practice.

Comment piece from Sunday Telegraph 9th September 2018

Stop ramping up our daily stress by cramming us into smaller, tighter spaces

Much about modern life seems designed to provoke fury. Sinks in hotel bathrooms are too tiny to fill up even the miniature kettles they provide. Household goods are too complicated to fix without the services of an expensive expert. Now we have statistical confirmation of another failure by design that drives people mad: parking spaces are too small for today’s cars.

This is largely because cars have expanded in size. The most popular models have widened on average by 17 per cent since the late Nineties, to provide more room for passengers and to cram in all the technology that regulation and drivers demand. Roads and parking spaces haven’t widened to accommodate them, however.

Many streets have in fact become narrower to fit in bus and cycle lanes. Dents, scuffs and even bad backs from drivers angling themselves awkwardly from their vehicles are the sad consequences of too-small parking bays. Terrible drivers who feel the need to park across two do little for societal calm, either.

The broader problem is an obsession with rationing space. Britain feels overcrowded partly because the population has grown strongly, but also because the authorities are determined to squeeze as much as possible into as little room as they can, a perverse fixation on ever greater density. This leaves passengers on trains uncomfortable, new-build flats and houses barely inhabitable and much smaller than older properties, and a trip to the shops by car far more stressful than it need be. Ironically, cars are one of the few things that have changed to meet a natural demand for more comfort. Meanwhile, council car parking spaces rigorously stick to the minimum size permitted by law in order to cram more vehicles in.

Policy changes could fix all of this, of course, and release some of the fury that is built into our daily lives. Land is expensive, and should ideally become cheaper. Travel costs on rail are already high, so operators attempt to pack more into commuter trains. But they could avoid proposed measures like the outrageous scrapping of first class carriages, which enable people to escape the packed-in discomfort we are expected to put up with.

But would any of this get a fair hearing today? Politicians and regulators are wedded to three principles that conspire together against public comfort. First is an unhealthy belief in targets, which sees 200,000 homes built a year as a triumph, even if they’re just inner-city box flats and not the family houses people actually want; and which trumpets unusable bays as meeting demand for parking.

Second is a blind faith in regulations, wherein things are designed to meet regulatory criteria, rather than to satisfy consumer demand. Third is a skewed mania for equality – exacerbated by snobbery – in which those who choose to take up more room, whether by buying a family car or wanting a family home, are deemed to be offending against efficient use of space. It isn’t the owners of large cars we should be fuming against

Private approved inspectors ‘insulted’ by Hackitt report

Copied from Building Magazine

 

grenfell

Inspectors offended by recommendation in report that they be excluded from high-rise residential

Private approved inspectors have said the recommendation in last week’s Hackitt review that they be excluded from providing building control services on high-rise residential buildings is “unacceptable in a public report”.

Paul Wilkins, the chair of the Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI), which represents the profession, said its members were “insulted and highly offended” by the report’s implication they would approve sub-standard work in order to get the next job.

He added: “To have their professionalism and ethics questioned in this way, with no evidence, has the potential to damage reputations and is unacceptable in a public report.”

Wilkins plans to write to Dame Judith Hackitt to ask for the evidence that approved inspectors accepted lower standards of workmanship.

Investigation: why so many boilers froze this winter — and who is to blame for this cold-snap scandal

This is a worthwhile story in itself, becuase I suspect a lot of householders might not be aware of this simple fix, along with the shortcoming in their boiler installation.

However, that’s not the main reason for copying this item from the Sunday Times.  Towards the bottom of the article, there’s the following paragraph:

‘In response to The Sunday Times, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that rules published in 2005 make clear that “any external condensate pipework must be insulated to minimise the risk of freezing”. It stated that it is the job of local authorities to apply building regulations and inspect installations.’

Assuming that the last statement is accurate, it shows a remarkable lack of understanding by MHCLG, of even the basics of how the building control system works in England.  So, just for their benefit.

A brief history of Private Building Control
Back in 1984, a body called the Construction Industry Council (CIC) was formed to allow the privatisation of Building Control. This central government organisation regulates Private Building Control and approves inspectors to carry out this role.
The first company to gain CIC approval was the National House Building Council (NHBC) in the 1990s. There are now more than 150 companies nationwide who offer Building Control services for residential or commercial properties.
What’s the difference between Private and Local Authority Building Control?
Your Local Authority is a non-profit organisation, so it is likely to charge less than Private Building Control. On the other hand, if you can pay a bit more for Private Building Control, you get a dedicated inspector for your project.
When taking a straw poll of other surveyors, many seem to agree that the Local Authority Building Control officers have a reputation for being more independent and thorough; for instance, with more on-site inspections than Private Building Control. Contractors may understandably prefer the ‘lighter touch’ of the latter, which can mean fewer and less thorough inspections. This can give obvious advantages to contractors but may not be in the best interests of the client.  
Reference:  http://www.grumittwade.com/private-building-control-local-authority-building-control/

Copied from Sunday Times on line

Investigation: why so many boilers froze this winter — and who is to blame for this cold-snap scandal
Bruce Millar and Jonathan Leake. April 1 2018, 12:01am,
The Sunday Times Home and garden
The flow never bothered me anyway… Unless you want to live in an ice palace, you might want to insulate your pipework
The flow never bothered me anyway… Unless you want to live in an ice palace, you might want to insulate your pipework

A simple plumbing problem left tens of thousands of households without heat and hot water when temperatures plummeted last month — just when the nation needed them most. The issue? The intense cold froze water in pipes that drain condensation from boilers — which then automatically switched off in their droves.

Cue no heating or hot water… but white-hot anger. At the peak of the cold spell, on March 1, the gas emergency helpline — which is supposed to be reserved for serious concerns such as gas or carbon monoxide leaks — received 40,000 calls in a single day.

Plumbers were the main beneficiaries. The London firm Pimlico Plumbers, owned by Charlie Mullins, the high-profile Tory donor and anti-Brexit campaigner, did record business, taking 25,485 calls in the peak week and making 900 visits on the busiest day, at charges ranging from a minimum of £100 to £220 for callouts after midnight. All of this helped the firm to earn £4m last month — £1m more than in March 2017.

It happened to one of us, too — and to about 10% of the parents in my son’s year at school, Bruce writes. When I battled home through the snow from work, I found the boiler switched off and the radiators fast losing their heat. I cursed and called a local plumber, whose automatic message informed me that demand was high, and asked me to call back when the weather had cleared.

I then spent £20 registering for an online plumbing advice line, but there was a backlog of queries. Finally I checked the website of my boiler’s manufacturer, Vaillant, which told me how to solve the problem.
The remedy turned out to be simple. In most cases, it is sufficient to pour hot (but not boiling) water on the frozen pipe, wait for the blockage to thaw out, then reset the boiler, which will fire up automatically. Being left without heat and hot water in the coldest weather is uncomfortable and distressing, expensive if callout fees are involved, and potentially dangerous. Ahead of the “big freeze” of 2010, the Department of Health and Social Care forecast as many as 30,000 additional deaths.

Has your boiler broken because of frozen pipes? Share your story

What is scandalous in 21st-century Britain is that this commonplace problem is predictable, unnecessary — and completely avoidable. Indeed, for the plumbing trade, it has become a regular cold-snap cash windfall.

Pimlico Plumbers, for example, noticed the red warning weather forecast , cancelled all leave and booked local accommodation so it could handle callouts around the clock. “It was stressful, but great for business at the same time,” one member of staff said.

Exactly the same problem with frozen condensate pipes was reported following icy spells in 2010 and 2014; on the second occasion, the British Standards Institute tightened up its guidelines to stress that: “Insulation does not give complete protection if the temperature continues at or falls further below freezing point. Consideration should be given to fitting a frost thermostat, which should be set to operate at a temperature of approximately 4C.” The institute can only make recommendations, however; it has no regulatory power.

Following pressure from The Sunday Times, a clearly embarrassed industry called an emergency “summit” last week to thrash out a unified response. Hosted at the headquarters of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EAU) in Kenilworth, Warwickshire, it brought manufacturers and installers together with representatives of the Heating and Hotwater Industry Council (HHIC), the Association of Plumbers and Heating Contractors (APHC), and the Chartered Institute of Plumbing and Heating Engineering (CIPHE).

In an admission of the industry’s failure to self-regulate, it was concluded that the problem was the fault of the government and a lack of oversight of building regulations. “From the feedback we have received, it has become clear that there was a significant proportion of installations that were not carried out to current standards and manufacturer’s instructions,” says Stewart Clements, director of the HHIC. “We believe it is time for the government to act.

“Greater enforcement and strengthening of the building regulations will reduce this risk of boiler condensate pipes freezing. We are calling on the government to make the necessary legislative changes.”

In response to The Sunday Times, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said that rules published in 2005 make clear that “any external condensate pipework must be insulated to minimise the risk of freezing”. It stated that it is the job of local authorities to apply building regulations and inspect installations.

As the squabbling continues, thousands of householders and tenants will be left trying to avoid a repetition of the problem as early as tomorrow, with blizzards forecast in parts of the country.

The cheapest DIY approach is to buy a length of insulating foam to clad your pipe: it doesn’t look great, but then external pipework never has much aesthetic appeal. Then, when the cold bites, place your boiler on its maximum setting — turning down the room thermostats if necessary — and leave it on continuously, rather than using cost-saving on-off settings that may permit a build-up of ice.

Hot tips

Since 2005, every new gas boiler installed in the UK must be a condensing model: these are much more efficient (up to 90%, compared to 60% for older models), so reduce running costs. About half the country’s 26m households now have one and 1.5m are installed every year.

They work with flue gases at a lower temperature than earlier models – 50C, rather than 130C – and the process produces up to two litres an hour of acidic water, known as condensate, which must be carried away as waste in a non-corroding pipe.

Ideally, this condensate pipe should empty directly into the waste water system, inside the property. In some countries, including Germany, where many of the boilers are manufactured, this is the only permitted method of installation. In Britain, however, the condensate pipe can be run down the outside of the wall directly behind the boiler. This is often the easiest and cheapest way.

Pipes passing through unheated parts of a property, including attics, are prone to freeze and should be insulated. Running down the outside wall, exposed to cold winds, they are more vulnerable still. To reduce the chances of the pipe freezing, it should be vertical, at least 32mm in diameter, no more than three metres long and properly insulated or (expensively) fitted with a “trace heater” system.