Laudable, but I don’t believe there’s the political will to deliver such schemes now – whatever the Party in power

Copied from Comment inews.co.uk – Weds 31 July

George Clarke: We don’t just need more council houses – we need the very best in space and ecological standards

We are building noddy box estates with hardly any green space and no public amenities. It isn’t good enough

The housing system can't be just a numbers game., says George Clarke. Surely it is about ‘what’ we build rather than ‘how many’ we build (Channel 4)

I was brought up on a council estate, but it wasn’t just any old council estate. It was part of one of the most ambitious and innovative housing developments in the country. My estate was in Washington, a place between Sunderland and Newcastle that was given new town status in 1964. Some of the best architects, urban designers, planners, landscape architects and highway and infrastructure engineers came together to build an entire town that would completely transform my life. It was and still is a fantastic place to live.

My Mam’s council house, which she still lives in today, was designed to excellent space standards with a decent sized front and back garden. It sat around a pedestrianised square that was safe for us all to play in. I could walk to school without having to cross a road. The landscaping was amazing. Large green spaces became our fields of dreams where we played football for hours until the sun went down.

‘We had brand new shops, pubs, community centres, health centres, schools, sports facilities, a thriving shopping centre, youth clubs, industrial estates, factories, workshops, art centres, the lot’

There was an incredible mix of house types. Two-storey four-bedroom houses like ours for young families, three-storey six-bedroom houses for extended families, maisonettes and thousands of single-storey bungalows for those who wanted or needed to live on one level. My estate was a fantastic community that didn’t just happen by chance – it was designed from the outset to be a community.

It wasn’t just about great housing and wonderful green spaces. We had every public amenity a community needed. We had brand new shops, pubs, community centres, health centres, schools, sports facilities, a thriving shopping centre, youth clubs, industrial estates, factories, workshops, art centres, the lot. We hardly left our new town because we didn’t have to. We had absolutely everything we needed, designed in the most humane and caring way. Most importantly, our homes were truly affordable. Families worked and paid their affordable rent to the council. If you paid your rent you had a safe, secure and stable home for life and housing waiting lists were short.

Look where we are now.  After two-thirds of all council housing had been sold off under Right to Buy or handed over to housing associations, only two million are now left under council control from a high of more than six million in 1980. More than one million people are on social housing waiting lists. More than 100,000 children are living in temporary accommodation. The huge demand and massive lack of supply means property prices are the highest they have ever been. Long gone are the days when most of the population could buy a home for 3.5 times an average income. We are in the biggest affordability and housing crisis the country has ever seen and every year it is getting worse.

What we are building often isn’t good enough; noddy box estates with hardly any green space and certainly no public amenities. The Government has completely failed in its responsibility to provide good quality, affordable housing for its people.

In 2017, Theresa May admitted the housing market is “broken”. This broken system is destroying the lives of so many people. Homelessness is rife. As an ambassador for the housing charity Shelter and being close to the housing industry since becoming an architectural apprentice at 16, I’ve seen far too many families being affected by stress, severe depression, anxiety, poor health and even suicide because they don’t have a stable home.

This has to change. Not everyone wants to ‘own’ their home. Millions will never afford to buy their own home anyway. The state needs to build homes for affordable rent for its people again. Homes should be for people and not profit.

Read more

9m² flats, microhomes sold under Help to Buy: how office-to-flat conversions created the rise of ‘rabbit-hutch’ homes

The housing system can’t be just a numbers game. Surely it is about ‘what’ we build rather than ‘how many’ we build. That cultural change needs to happen from 31 July 2019, the 100th Anniversary of the Addison Act, when I launch my campaign to build 100,000 high-quality, low carbon council houses every year for the next 30 years to replace all of the state housing that has been lost.

Twenty first century homes require the very best in space and ecological standards. Why? Because without a stable roof over your head, everything else in life becomes so much harder, and everyone deserves a home.

George Clarke’s Council House Scandal starts on 31 July at 9pm on Channel 4 

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

Spalding Western Relief Road

Promoted by R Gambba-Jones & C Lawton on behalf of South Holland and The Deepings Conservative Association all of Office 1 10 Broad St Spalding PE11 1TB. Original printed by Welland Print Limited of West Marsh Road Spalding PE11 2BB  

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.’

Why a no-deal Brexit is nothing to fear

Why a no-deal Brexit is nothing to fear – The Spectator – 4 August 2018 

A viable alternative to an EU trade deal is ready and waiting

Warnings by Remainers about the consequences of a ‘no deal’ Brexit are beginning to resemble a game of oneupmanship worthy of Monty Python’s Yorkshiremen. Not content with claims that the M20 to Dover will be gridlocked with lorries waiting to undergo customs checks and that the North Ireland peace protest will break down, Doug Gurr, Amazon’s chief in the UK, apparently told Dominic Raab at a recent meeting that there will be ‘civil unrest’ within a fortnight of Britain leaving the EU without a deal. Next, they will have us living 150 to a shoebox.

Those who peddle this relentless doom-mongering fail to understand the protections which will remain in place for the UK under international law. Far from ‘crashing out of the EU’, failing to secure a free trade deal with the EU simply means that the UK will trade with the EU on terms set out by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The pundit class tends to scoff at the WTO option. They dismiss it as a recipe for chaos. But that is to ignore the huge progress that this body has made in promoting global trade over the past two decades. The government should from the beginning have presented the WTO option as a viable counterpoint to the EU’s hardline, all-or-nothing stance.

The WTO oversees a system of trade rules for its 164-member countries, which together account for no less than 98 per cent of all global trade. Under the WTO General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (the GATT), tariffs on most manufactured goods between the UK and the EU would stay quite low, averaging around 3 per cent.

While EU leaders like to threaten us with hints that our exports would be unsellable in the EU, the fact is that non-tariff barriers such as arbitrary health and safety inspections and borders would be prohibited under the WTO’s Sanitary and Phyto-sanitary (SPS) and Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) agreements. The UK intends to retain conformity with EU regulations following Brexit, at least for the time being, meaning that the existing low levels of health and safety risks to the public in UK products will not change in the days after Brexit. There would, as a result, be no grounds for the EU to exclude our goods from its markets.

The WTO’s new Trade Facilitation Agreement obliges the EU to maintain borders which are as frictionless as possible, using modern technologies such as pre–arrival processing of documents and electronic payments. Discrimination against foreign products through all sorts of internal regulations is forbidden. These rules are enforced by a well-respected international tribunal which has a high rate of compliance and cannot be overruled by the European Court of Justice.

While tariffs on some EU goods — agricultural goods and automobiles in particular — would be higher than 3 per cent, economic gains secured from an independent trade policy and a more pro-competitive environment should compensate UK consumers.

The WTO’s coverage of services is incomplete and would not grant UK firms the level of EU market access they enjoy under the single market, but the UK is well placed to take a leading role in developing the new Trade in Services Agreement, due to resume over the next few years, as well as multilateral negotiations for services at the WTO. Roberto Azevedo, the director general of the WTO, announced that he is looking forward to having the UK back as an independent champion of free trade.

Breaking free of the EU customs union will enable the UK to boost trade with other countries around the world, taking advantage of WTO rules which allow countries to offer preferential trading arrangements to nations with which they negotiate a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). In charge of its own trade policy, the UK should be able to roll over many of the EU’s 60-plus FTAs with third countries, some of which have already indicated that they intend to offer the UK terms as good as they did to the EU.

Canada has even suggested that the UK may get a better deal than that which was offered to the EU under the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) two years ago. The UK Department of International Trade has already begun discussions with several countries with which the EU has failed to do trade deals, most notably the US. Since 90 per cent of world GDP growth in the coming decades is expected to be outside the EU, it makes sense that the UK looks beyond this region, which now accounts for less than half of its overall trade. The UK will no longer be required, as it is at the moment under EU rules, to impose tariffs on products which it does not produce, such as tropical fruit — reducing prices for consumers and giving us leverage when it comes to negotiating trade deals. The country will be in a strong position to do trade deals faster than the EU has managed because it will not be encumbered by a long-winded ratification process involving 27 member states.

Why, then, has the government damaged its negotiating position by seeming to exclude the WTO option and giving the impression that it is desperate to extract a trade deal with the EU at all costs? The UK has approached the EU as a supplicant, or worse, a wounded animal. Theresa May’s Chequers deal would have us clinging to a weak version of the single market and customs union, which would deprive us of the freedom we ought to win through Brexit. Even that is not enough for Michel Barnier.

Yet it is the EU which has more to fear from these negotiations, being nervous about having a large, liberated, pro-competitive economy on its doorstep. The government should have initiated this process, proposing an FTA based on CETA but better, with deeper access for services such as finance, and lower tariffs on a broader range of products. At the same time, the government should have been making parallel arrangements for a no-deal WTO option.

Thankfully, there are signs that UK negotiators are now moving in this direction. The UK government announced recently that it has submitted its schedule of tariff commitments for certification by the WTO. The UK’s new Trade Remedies Authority — set up to regulate international trade disputes — will shortly be up and running and the ports are being built up to handle the minimal extra customs checks which will be needed.

In any negotiation, there is no strategy worse than giving the impression that you are desperate for a deal at all costs. With the WTO option as an entirely acceptable, workable alternative to a trade deal, the UK is truly in a position to walk away. And that’s a good place to be.

David Collins is a professor of International Economic Law at City, University of London.

English core funding slashed as budgets rise in developed nations

22 NOVEMBER, 2018 BY

When total funding is calculated per head, English councils are once again worse off.

“What these figures show is that when there is real power over public spending choices outside of Whitehall, it makes a difference” Jo Miller, Solace president

In 2018-19 English councils are receiving, on average, £1,423 to spend on services per person. This is more than a third lower than what their counterparts in Wales and Scotland are given to spend per person this year – £2,309 and £2,237 respectively.

While the amount of per capita funding made available to councils in Wales and Scotland has increased by 5.2% and 0.2% respectively in absolute terms since 2010-11, England has witnessed a 29.8% reduction in the last eight years.

Commenting on the findings, Jo Miller, president of the Society of Local Authority Chief Executives & Senior Managers, who writes on the issue for LGC today, said: “What these figures show is that when there is real power over public spending choices outside of Whitehall, it makes a difference. With a comprehensive spending review on the horizon, and the need for a preserved union of Great Britain and Northern Ireland post Brexit, the case for genuine devolution within England grows ever stronger.”

Both the Treasury and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government declined to comment on the findings.

However, in his Budget speech last month chancellor Philip Hammond said English local government had “made a significant contribution to repairing the public finances”. He pointed to £1bn extra funding for social care, and the removal of the housing borrowing cap, as proof the government was giving councils “more resources to deliver high quality public services.”

Mr Hammond also said “longer-term funding decisions [for English councils] will be made at the spending review.”

In an interview with LGC, local government minister Rishi Sunak said he did not recognise the national disparities highlighted by our analysis but added “we have a devolved country so whatever Scotland and Wales want to prioritise is up to them. It’s not for me to tell them what to do.”

Mr Sunak said that while he preferred to “focus on outcomes, not necessarily just inputs”, the extra money in the Budget amounted to a “pretty serious statement of intent”.

A Welsh Government spokeswoman said its councils had been “protected from the worst effects” of austerity. She added: “We value local government services in Wales and believe in strong local government. We recognise their importance, particularly for some of the most vulnerable in our society, and the role these services play in enabling people to achieve their potential and to live independently, in supporting safe and prosperous communities and in building local economies.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: “We have treated local government very fairly despite the cuts to the Scottish budget from the UK government.”

Is Right to Buy a state sponsored gentrification programme?

It’s probably a bit late to ask this question, given that this scheme has been in place for 30 years now.

That said, the proof must already be there, especially in London where working class areas, that were a foreign land for those with means, are now fashionable and sort after locations for the young professionals, earning big money.

Exposing social housing to the open market , in high demand areas, where demand is the through roof and prices constantly rising, inevitably means the original tenant, very soon becomes the ex-owner.

It might seem like a a very worthy ambition, giving everybody currently sitting at the bottom of the pile and trapped in social housing – as certain people view it – a chance to own their own home.  However, assuming that hat  was even the original intention and it wasn’t just about killing off the bulk of social housing as we knew it, it’s also had the effect of depopulating our city centre of those of modest means, otherwise known as the working classes.

So all those people who used to empty the bins, sweep the streets, dig up the roads, drive the delivery van, serve in the local shops and do the thousand and one other menial, but vital jobs that keep a city running, now live a journey away from their workplace.

in some cases that journey may mean up to an hour spent on a bus, or train, travelling in from a remote housing estate where everybody else is doing exactly the same thing.  The effect of this, is that nobody actually knows who their neighbours are anymore and therefore certainly little, or no sense of community, because there’s so little actual time spent in the company of those who live near us.

Back in what used to be the social housing areas that haven’t been flattened and turned into expensive apartment blocks for the upwardly mobile, the housing has been gutted, extended and beautified, to make it desirable and more importantly, significantly more expensive than it was.  Again, just like the workers they displaced, the lack of community will be clear, but this will be by choice in most cases, because their social lives take them elsewhere and opportunities more diverse.

Job done.  All those rundown, poorly maintained sink estates cleared out from our city centres And that ‘unpleasant’ working class riff raff removed to where it belongs, when it not actually doing the work that needs doing.

The added bonus is, those who grabbed the social housing as soon as the first tenants where starting to sell, can now maximise their returns, over and over again, by renting to the high earners who need to live close to the city centres.

If Right to Buy was really about getting those of modest means on to the housing ladder, it was a fatally flawed concept.  It depopulated our cities of the ordinary working class people, by selling off the only type of housing they could ever have afforded to live in.  If that was always the intention, shame on you Margret Thatcher.

The Housing should have been retained and those who wanted to buy their own property should have offered equivalent grant funding to purchase their own home elsewhere.  This could have been in a privately built, or publically funding housing developement, such as in the new towns.

It was claimed that this would have forced people to move out of houses, or places they’d been in for many years and possibly spent money on.  This is complete nonsense and just a smoke screen used by government to justify to the orignal scheme.

Why should social housing tenants have been given that benefit on top of the massive discounts they received for the ‘equity’ they’d supposedly built up?  How was they were any more entitle than somebody forced to rent a property in the private sector, where the end of lease meant the most you were likely to get back was your deposit if you were lucky?

 

 

 

No wonder the public get so confused by recycling messages

All the plastic you can and cannot recycle

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Most people are trying their best to recycle plastic – but the many different ways in which recycling is collected by different councils across the UK has left them confused.

What can be recycled and what can’t? We are putting more plastic in the recycling than ever before – but pictures of sea life tangled in all manner of waste plastic mean the pressure is on to do more.

The government is now considering changing the way plastic is recycled in England. In the rest of the UK the strategy for recycling is a devolved issue.

Different Councils collect different types of plastic packaging

Each council collects their plastic recycling differently. BBC analysis shows there are 39 different sets of rules for what can be put in plastic recycling collections:

  • Most collect bottles
  • Others collect pots, tubs and trays
  • Some collect a much wider range

https://news.files.bbci.co.uk/include/newsspec/20116-recycling-plastics/english/app/amp#amp=1

Around the UK, all four nations are hoping to improve their recycling rates. The review by the government may change the target for recycling in England, but currently the aim is that 50% of waste will be recycled by 2020.

Scotland has a target to recycle 70% of waste by 2025 as does Wales. Northern Ireland has a proposal that 60% of municipal waste is recycled by 2020.

99% of households have bottles collected from the doorstep. 75% for pots tubs and trays. Only a fifth of households can put black plastic trays in their recycling. Only 18% can put carrier bags in their recycling. 10% cling film and only 1% can put expanded polystyrene packaging.

Waste plastic is collected is different ways too:

  • Some local authorities collect all their recycling in one bin
  • Others ask households to separate their plastics from the rest of their recycling

Councils also employ many different companies to collect and sort their plastics.

And having different recycling schemes in different areas – for example, in some areas you can recycle margarine tubs and in other areas you cannot – makes labelling difficult.

Most people in Britain regularly recycle plastic but almost half have had disagreements at home about what type they can put in which bin, a ComRes poll for the BBC suggests.

And more than a quarter have these disagreements at least once a month.

What to expect from the government’s review?

Of all the things we recycle, plastic is the most complicated. It comes in a profusion of very different types.

Many products carry labels about recycling but some do not. And the labels themselves can be a problem.

Your eye might fall on a recycling symbol but miss the very small print saying the item will not actually be collected from your home.

If you see the phrase “widely recycled” on a packet or carton, it means many councils will take it but not necessarily all of them.

Each of the UK’s local authorities has come to its own decisions about what to accept and what to refuse:

  • In Reading, a yoghurt pot can be thrown into recycling
  • In Manchester it cannot
  • Swindon has plans to join the small band of councils recycling no plastic at all

The government realises the arrangements can be confusing, even irritating. And in England it’s undertaking a review of the whole recycling system.

  • Ministers could order manufacturers to use only the types of plastic that are easiest to recycle – but might that lead to higher prices?
  • They could insist on labels that everyone can see and understand – but how would that work on tiny pots and bottles?
  • A more controversial idea is to get councils to harmonise their plastic recycling systems – but that risks provoking an uproar over local democracy

The desire to boost plastic recycling rates is clear. But every option comes with challenges. The word is, we’ll see the government’s plans in November.

Plastic can often become too contaminated for recycling and have to be sent to landfill or incinerated instead. This happens for several reasons:

  • People are confused about what goes in which bin
  • People are not always very careful about what they put in
  • The plastic is contaminated with food waste
  • In areas where all recycling is collected in one bin, one type of waste can contaminate another

Plastic packaging is made from seven different types

There are seven different types of plastic, PET, HDPE, PVC, LDPE, PP, PS and the rest are put in an other category
  • Bottles are mainly made of PET and HDPE and these are easy to collect and recycle
  • Most trays are made from polypropylene and this is pretty easy to recycle too but not all councils have access to the right facilities
  • LDPE, used to make some carrier bags and cling film, is easy to process but more difficult to sort and can often be contaminated with food
  • Polystyrene, used to make some yoghurt pots and plastic cutlery, is not widely recycled
  • PVC makes up small amount of packaging but can contaminate other plastic recycling
  • Biscuit wrappers and meat trays can be made from a mixture of many different types of plastic, making them the most difficult type of packaging to recycle
Some plastic is worth more than others. Clear PET and natural HDPE used to make a lot of bottles are worth the most. Coloured plastic still has a price but is worth less because you cannot remove the colour from the plastic.

All plastic can be recycled – but it is not always economical to do so.

  • Bottles attract the best prices, especially clear ones, which is why almost all councils recycle them
  • Coloured plastic is less desirable because the colour cannot be removed, restricting its reuse
  • Polystyrene is almost never recycled because there is no market for it
The amount of plastic sent for reprocessing has been growing. The real growth has been in plastic sent abroad for recycling which now accounts for a two thirds of all the plastic recycling we collect in England.

Most bottles will be sent for reprocessing in this country.

But plastic that is less valuable – about two-thirds collected for recycling – goes overseas and this figure has been rising.

Earlier this year, the National Audit Office reported the plastic sent abroad could be highly contaminated, meaning it may not be reprocessed and could end up in landfill or contributing to pollution.

Prices of plastic film destined for export have fallen below zero. A tonne of plastic film with 20% contamination is almost -£100.

Some countries are refusing to take any more of our waste.

  • China and Thailand have banned waste imports
  • Malaysia is considering banning imports of waste plastic

These bans are having an effect on the prices paid for waste plastic.

And this year the prices of the more contaminated plastics have fallen below zero, meaning companies are now expecting to be paid to take them away.

Design: Debie Loizou. Development: Eleanor Keane.