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 

Should Spalding have a council?

As the Civic Society, in their latest newsletter, is seeking to resurrect the debate around the creation of a town council for Spalding, I thought it might be worth republishing a previous entry on the subject, from nearly 2 years ago, that was itself a repeat of an even earlier one.  As they say, there’s nothing new in this world.  

Although the financials are somewhat out of date, page 127, of the agenda supplement that will be put before full council of 26th Feb 2014, gives the up to date numbers and hopefully can be viewed here as a PDF document:   http://democracy.sholland.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=119&MId=1351&Ver=4

In order to help with the conversation that is currently taking place via Twitter, I’ve been asked to offer more detailed comment via my blog page.  Never being one to turn down the opportunity to offer words of (dubious some would say) wisdom, I am starting off by republishing an entry I made in January 2008.

Spalding Special Expenses – Here we go again!

We had a special meeting of the cabinet today, mainly to approve various financial papers.  One of these was a consultation document on the Draft General Fund Revenue (GF) account.  Just like all things financial in local government, including the names they call things (GF!) the information (sorry data, information suggests useful data that makes sense!) is pretty impenetrable, unless you happen to be an accountant.  In my case, having the numeracy skills of a flip flop doesn’t help, so I’m normally the one asking the stupid questions.  Anyway, one of the items in the document was the Spalding Special Expenses and this is the prompt for my latest ramblings.

Spalding doesn’t have a parish or town council, but it does have the equivalent of a parish precept called Spalding Special Expenses (SSE).  This amount makes up a very small part of a Spalding resident’s council tax bill, but actually generates a great deal of debate at this time of year.  The proposed increase this year is about 4.17% or 1.6p a week, making the average total SSE this year £21.49.  Chicken feed most people would say, but even a small amount collected from a lot of people adds up to quite a bit of money (approx £183,000).   However, the underlying issue is how this figure is arrived at, who decides it and what it should be spent on.

The final decision rests with the district council, because Spalding doesn’t have a parish or town council and this is where the debate really gets going.  We have a Spalding Town Forum made up of elected members and some local organisation representatives.  However, it has no executive powers and can only make recommendations to the district council, which can of course choose to ignore them.

Should Spalding have a parish/town council?  I joined the district council in May 99 believing that Spalding should indeed have its own council, after all, how could so many people, 22,000+ then, be so under-represented compared to all of out smaller towns and villages?  However, now that I’ve doing this for a while, I’m less sure of the merits of this, especially when it comes to unravelling the finances, setting it up and paying the admin costs.  A major cost would be employing a clerk in the same way parishes do.  How much? £10k, £15k, £20k, who knows until it actually happens?  Finding a place to call home (an office) could cost anything from £2k to £10k.

What will the people of Spalding get for their money if they had a town council?  Apart from direct control over some very limited areas of council business, maintenance of Spalding Cemetery, Monks house Lane, Hailey Stewart and the provision of Christmas decorations to name a few, not a great deal as it stands!  However, once you have a parish or town council, theoretically the sky’s the limit (that’s a scary thought in itself).  

So, as far as I’m concerned the jury is still very much out on this issue and given the lack of feedback from the public of Spalding, I think it’s going to remain out for some time to come! 

If you want to know more about the issue of creating a parish/town council see: http://www.nalc.gov.uk/About_NALC/What_is_a_parish_or_town_council/What_is_a_council.aspx

Spalding Special Expenses Account –  Published for consultation purposes

  

 

Original 2007/08

  

Draft 2008/09

  

  

  

 

Budget

  

Budget

  

Variance

 

 

£

 

£

 

£

SpaldingCemetery  (see note 1)

 

45,280

 

47,170

 

1,890

Spalding Allotments

 

9,720

 

11,600

 

1,880

   Ayscoughfee (excluding gardens)

 

6,470

 

7,240

 

770

   Halley Stewart (see note 1)

 

31,150

 

41,330

 

10,180

  Thames Road(see note 2)

 

11,990

 

8,430

 

(3,560)

  Fulney Road

 

9,120

 

9,550

 

430

  Monkshouse Lane(see note 3)

 

21,260

 

26,010

 

4,760

Contribution to Voluntary Car Scheme

 

7,700

 

8,000

 

300

Christmas Decorations

 

16,260

 

17,400

 

1,140

Contrib. StMary & StNicolasParishChurch

 

650

 

680

 

30

Contribution to footway lighting (note 4)

 

2,030

 

0

 

(2,030)

Administrative Support

 

3,630

 

3,740

 

110

Bus Shelter maintenance

 

410

 

410

 

0

Spalding Town Centre Promotion (see note 5)

 

4,000

 

2,000

 

(2,000)

Crime prevention (see note 6)

 

2,000

 

0

 

(2,000)

Total Expenditure

  

171,660

  

183,560

  

11,900

Funding

To be funded from Council Tax

 

171,660

 

183,560

 

  

Tax Base

 

8,320

 

8,540

 

  

Band D equivalent

 

20.63

 

21.49

 

  

Council Tax Increase                                                 

 

3.06%

 

4.17%

 

 

  

Balance Brought Forward

 

 

 

2007/08

 

2008/09

 

 

 

 

(36,000)

 

(36,000)

Earmarked for crime prevention

 

 

 

 

 

12,880

Agreed minimum balance 5% expenditure for contingency

 

 

 

8,580

 

9,180

Available Balance

 

 

 

(27,420)

 

 (13,940)

Notes

1. Tree works for Halley Stewart and the Cemetery have been estimated at £3,000 and £8,000 respectively.

2.  A spiking machine for the grounds (£6,000) has been added to Halley Stewart Playing Field.

3.  Maintenance of the Pavilion at Monks House and Legionella testing (£3,900) has been added  to the playing field budget.

4. The budget provision for footway lighting has been removed, since no new lights are currently being planned.

5. The Town Centre promotion budget has been reduced to £2,000, so that the spiking machine can be funded this year and council tax increases maintained.

6. The Crime Prevention budget has been reduced to nil for 2008/09 and balances will be used, should the Herring Lane Car park income not be sufficient to pay for the maintenance of CCTV.  In prior years this budget has not been called upon.

Look at all the stuff you can do online with SHDC

Just go to: http://www.sholland.gov.uk/doitonline/

Abandoned Vehicles Report an abandoned vehicle.
More information: Abandoned Vehicles – Information
 
Animal Fouling Report dog fouling.
More information: Dog Fouling | Dog Warden Service
 
Dead Animal Notification Notify us of a dead animal on the highway or publicly owned land.
More information:: Dead Animal Notification – Information
 
Flytipping Report flytipping.
More information: Flytipping – Information
 
Footway Lighting Report a fault with a footway light. Street lighting faults should be reported to Lincolnshire County Council.
More information: Street Lighting
 
Graffiti Report an instance of graffiti.
More information: Graffiti – Information
 
Street Cleaning Report a road that is in need of sweeping due to accumulation of leaves, litter, etc.
More information: Street Cleaning – Information
 
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More information: Street Litter Bins
 
Litter Bin – Request Request a litter bin for your street.
More information: Street Litter Bins
 
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Local Housing Allowance Calculator Calculate the possible amount of Housing Benefit available.
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My Collections Find out your recycling and refuse collections days.
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Parking Fine Appeal Appeal against a parking fine.
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My Lincolnshire What is My Lincolnshire?  

 

20 mph speed limit needed on our residential streets

Living Streets is a national charity that campaigns to make our streets and roads safer places for us all to use. Their strap line is, ‘putting people first’ and they have just launched a national campaign to encourage more councils to introduce a 20 mph limit in residential areas.

This is something I have been trying to get the county council to consider for sometime now and the more public support there is, the more likely it is LCC will give it some serious thought. If you would like to make the streets safer for our children, please go to the Living Streets website and take part in their ‘Show You Love 20mph’ campaign.

There would also be a further benefit to making the 20mph speed limit legally enforceable in Lincolnshire. Many of our schools have what is currently only an advisory 20mph speed limit on the street outside of them. This advisory status means that even when a driver is spotted exceeding it, the most they will currently get from the police is a ticking off and advice on being a more responsible and considerate driver.

And we thought Steppinstone Bridge was bad!

Rail bridge lights out for five years and counting

A pedestrians’ foot bridge has been left without lights for five years because repairs have been delayed for safety reasons. Hampshire County Council said it was waiting for permission from Network Rail to carry out the repairs.

Telegraph p16

Gore Lane Fly Tipping

Today’s press contains, yet again, a story about Gore Lane and the ongoing fly tipping problem there.  Although I gave the reporter a fairly comprehensive comment, repeated below, this was abridged for the press item.  

This is a long-term problem area, that is caused by a couple of issues.  The main area of fly tipping has been identified as the collection point for the refuse and recycling generated by adjacent properties.  This is not an ideal situation, but it does address the previous situation, whereby residents were dumping their full refuse bags onto the public footpath, despite many attempts to stop this anti-social practice.
Unfortunately, the creation of a collection point has not reduced the selfish practice of bags being disposed of in to the collection point when they are full, instead of only on the scheduled collection day.  This in turn has encouraged people to fly tip into the collection area.  Put simply, rubbish, attracts rubbish.
The problem of fly tipping is not just restricted to Spalding, or indeed South Holland.  In order to address it effectively, through the use of the law, we need to catch the offenders red-handed.  The very limited resources of the district council means that we need the help of the public to deal with these criminals.  I would therefore ask for the public’s help in identifying these ‘environmental terrorists’.  Without putting themselves at risk, we would ask anybody seeing suspicious activity, to make a note of what is being dumped, the type of vehicle being used, including its number plate if at all possible and a description of the people involved.  This information should be passed on to both the police and the district council.
Finally, the council is also looking at the responsibilities of landlords for the behaviour of their tenants and will be seeking to make them take a more proactive approach to this issue.

My final paragraph could, potentially, of given the reporter a stick with which to beat the council, as the area in question may well belong to SHDC.  That said, if it does, it also gives me a better chance of sorting the problem out as, in the worst case scenario, I will be pushing to have the car park closed, thereby limiting access to the dump site by any vehicles.

This rubbish doesn’t get there on its own and, in the case of a mattress, is unlikely to be carried through the streets by somebody without being noticed.  I have asked for the public’s help in fighting this crime because, without it, we are likely to be fighting a loosing battle.