Buzzfeed says Tory Housing Minister in private Facebook group that wants to sell off all council housing, privatise all health care and bring back workhouses for debtors

“The Conservatives’ new housing minister, Dominic Raab, belonged to a private Facebook group that argues for council housing to be sold off at market value, healthcare to be privatised, and the return of workhouses for the poor.

Raab was, until Thursday morning, one of 14 members of a closed group called the “British Ultra Liberal Youth — The Ultras”, which was set up about seven years ago. He withdrew from the group after being approached for comment.

Raab told BuzzFeed News: “I wasn’t aware of this group, let alone that I had inadvertently and mistakenly been linked on Facebook. I have corrected it, and needless to say I do not support its aims.”

Because the group is closed, BuzzFeed News is unable to see activity within the group — just the description and membership. There had been no new posts or new members in the last 30 days.

According to the group’s “About” page, it believes that “Britain is a nation that has been shooting at it’s [sic] own feet for too long” and that “too much tolerance of socialism has cost us a trillion pounds”.

“If this were a football field,” the description continues, “we would be racing down the right wing so close to the touchline, we would be doing so very carefully making sure we don’t put our feet outside the field of play.”

It is the duty of members, it adds, to pressure mainstream Conservatives into realising that selling off council housing, ending free healthcare, and bringing back workhouses for debtors are policies that “have found their time to enter Britain”.

At the time of publishing, the 13 other members appeared to include another current Tory MP, Henry Smith; a former Tory MP; and others who have stood unsuccessfully for parliament for the Conservatives or UKIP.

Smith was unavailable to comment because he is travelling, but an aide said he wouldn’t have voluntarily joined the group, and that he hasn’t used that Facebook account for more than a year. “Certainly someone may have added him to the group and he clearly didn’t notice but he definitely does not join any such groups himself,” the staffer said.

According to Facebook, you can be added to a closed group if you’re friends with someone in that group, and you’ll receive a notification that you’ve been added.

Raab joined Facebook in 2010 and uses his account to publicise his work as an MP and minister. In one recent post, he promoted an opinion piece he wrote for the Daily Telegraph about the government’s £866 million investment in local housing projects. Housing is “one of the great social challenges of our generation”, Raab wrote.

Raab, 43, was appointed housing minister in Theresa May’s new year reshuffle, putting him in charge of one of the Conservatives’ top policy priorities. Addressing the housing crisis has been one of the party’s main concerns after it polled significantly worse than Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour among voters under 40 at the last election, and the prime minister has said she will make it her personal mission to get more people into homeownership.

Raab was a City lawyer and Foreign Office official before becoming a parliamentary aide to David Davis. He was elected MP for Esher and Walton in 2010 and was a minister in the Justice Department before moving to housing last month.

Having been tipped as one of the rising stars on the Tory right, Raab was seen as unlucky not to be given a cabinet position during the reshuffle last month.

He was criticised during last year’s general election campaign for saying on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show that food bank users typically aren’t poor but have a “cashflow problem episodically”.

“Further defects found at housing [new-build apartments] with Grenfell-style cladding”

“More than a dozen fire safety concerns have been uncovered in a new housing complex covered in Grenfell-style flammable cladding, built by one of Britain’s biggest housebuilders, Galliard Homes.

In the weeks after the Grenfell Tower fire, which claimed 71 lives, defective fire doors, missing fire-stopping, dangerous fire escapes and holes in plasterboard meant to stop the spread of flames and smoke were identified by fire officials at New Capital Quay in Greenwich, London, which is home to about 2,000 people and opened in 2013.

The Guardian has learned that another deficiency notice from the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA) was issued on 25 January in relation to all 11 blocks in the complex.

It identified 16 fire safety issues, including a lack of arrangements to evacuate vulnerable and elderly residents, an ineffective maintenance regime, a broken firefighting lift and a broken fire hydrant outside one of the blocks.

It also found that “the procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons are inadequate”, raising residents’ fears about being trapped in the event of a fire.

Ruth Montlake, 85, who lives on the seventh floor of one of the blocks, said: “The fire situation is very worrying. I am hard of hearing; how will I know to evacuate?”

Simone Joseph, 35, a fashion buyer and mother of a seven-year-old boy, said there had been three fires in her block in the time she had lived there.

“To know that seven months down the line we are living in this property with this cladding is upsetting,” said Joseph, who rents from Hyde Housing, the head leaseholder of two of the blocks. “People have been cutting corners for so many years and are putting people’s lives at risk and they have to be held accountable.”

With more than 1,000 homes, New Capital Quay is believed to be one of the biggest single private housing developments in the country discovered to have flammable cladding in the wake of Grenfell. Galliard sold two-bedroom apartments for £700,000.

A fire warden patrol was put in place when the cladding was discovered last summer, but residents are concerned that it is still in place seven months after the west London disaster.

“We simply do not feel safe living in buildings with defective cladding that could rapidly go up in flames while we are sleeping,” one woman told the local council in an email exchange.

Galliard said some of the defects identified in July had been addressed and there had been no issue with missing fire-stopping material, just an error during the inspection.

It said the building was different to Grenfell: “Totally unlike Grenfell, NCQ was built and still has full and proper fire precautions with fire doors, fire-stopping, fire alarms, smoke-extract systems and no gas in apartments. The block at NCQ which has the most cladding has a full sprinkler system throughout.”

It also said that three of the 16 issues raised by fire authorities in its latest report were “not true” and questioned two further issues.

Asked whether residents were safe, Galliard said LFEPA was the leading expert. “They have the statutory power to issue notices to evacuate the homes. They have to date decided not to do so,” it said.

While residents fear their lives are at risk while the cladding remains, they are also concerned they will be asked to pay the estimated £20m-£40m bill – between £20,000 and £40,000 a flat – to make it safe. In addition, they face a £1.25m bill for round-the-clock fire patrols.

But they are particularly concerned about how difficult it is to get information and said they were forced to use a freedom of information request to uncover the fire safety notices from the London Fire Brigade (LFB).

Galliard, which is facing a bill of up to £40m, is planning to sue the warranty and insurance provider, National House Building Council. NHBC has indicated it will defend the claim.

Meanwhile, 30 fire marshals are patrolling the 11 buildings 24 hours a day at an estimated cost of £25,000 a week. But residents are concerned that wardens are not the solution.

Annabel Parsons, 54, a business psychologist who lives in the complex, said one marshal had been spotted asleep and another had brought a blanket with him. Before they were equipped with hand-held klaxons, one warden said their plan to raise the alarm in the event of a fire involved throwing stones at windows, residents claimed. Galliard said that without a date, time, name and other details of the fire marshal, it was an “impossible allegation to investigate”.

Hyde Housing, which has interests in six of the blocks as well as being head leaseholder in two, said the situation was “very distressing” for residents.

“We urge all those bodies involved in resolving this matter to do so speedily,” said Brent O’Halloran, director of asset management at Hyde.

A recent tribunal regarding a building in Croydon was told that official guidance was that fire wardens were the “least-efficient, most resource-intensive” solution of three recommended by LFB.”

Public sector workers’ children in poverty: highest rate is in South West

“Tens of thousands of children of public sector workers will be living in poverty by the end of next month, unions warned.

Parents working for the NHS, schools and councils may not be earning enough to make ends meet due to the government’s cap on public sector pay and in-work benefit cuts.

Research by the TUC found that one in seven children of public sector workers will be pushed below the poverty line by the end of March. Around 550,000 children living with a public sector worker in the family will be classed as being in poverty by the end of the current financial year, said the union organisation.

The South West has seen the biggest increase in child poverty rates among families with a public sector worker, followed by the North West and East Midlands, the study found. TUC general secretary Frances O’Grady said: ‘The Government’s pay restrictions and in-work benefit cuts are causing needless hardship. …”

Read more:

Has Clinton Devon Estates completely lost its moral compass (if it ever had one)?

Background: Background: in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee the philanthropist and benefactor Hon. Mark Rolle “leased” the Budleigh Salterton hospital site and garden to the people of the Town. After his death in 1907, the Rolle Estate passed to the 21st. Baron Clinton and was absorbed into the Clinton Devon Estates. 131 years later CDE have fenced off two-thirds of the garden from use by the newly formed Hospital Wellbeing Hub just as the children attending a nursery there were beginning to use it for recreational purposes and Spring arrives.

Article in Journal:

“A ‘substantial’ fence – around 6ft high and 100ft long – is causing uproar in Budleigh Salterton.

Residents are angry that it has gone up and a town councillor has described it as ‘an abomination’.

The fence has been erected by Clinton Devon Estates (CDE) on land that it owns and leases to the Budleigh Salterton Hospital League of Friends on an annual basis.

Running across the former Hospital Gardens opposite the new Community Health Hub in Boucher Road, it marks the boundary of the new hub garden and land that CDE has earmarked for development.

Last September, CDE had its outline application – for means of access, proposing two houses to be built on half of the land east of East Budleigh Road rejected at appeal by East Devon District Council (EDDC).

Now, it appears, it may make a fresh application.

“We are in discussion with the league of friends to agree a more secure long-term lease to provide the hub with a generous, tranquil garden with mature trees on approximately half of the site,” said a CDE spokesperson.
“This will provide easy access for all ages using the hub, as well as an attractive outlook from the building itself.

“We have recently put up fencing to mark the boundary of the new hub garden and any proposals we may have in the future for the remainder of our land at Boucher Road will go through all the required processes and approvals.”

David Evans, chairman of Budleigh Salterton Hospital League of Friends, said: “There is no doubt that our local community will be very disappointed at the erection of a substantial dividing fence down the middle of the greatly-valued hospital garden.”

However, he said the new lease would give ‘greater security’ than before.
“Whilst the league of friends would ideally have preferred to have been able to make use of the whole garden, it has been able to secure long-term access to a valuable and useful green area for the benefit of many,” said Mr Evans.
Councillor Courtney Richards – speaking at a town council planning meeting on Monday said his phone had been `buzzing’ with complaints about the fence.

“I don’t know if Clinton Devon are having a fit of pique, but they are really emphasising that `this is ours’,” he said. “There’s very little as a council we can do about it, which is a shame because it borders straight onto a piece of land that’s designated in the Neighbood Plan as an open green space.

“Frankly, I think it’s an abomination, but that’s Cl in ion Devon’s latest attempt to improve -Budleigh Salterton in, said, with his tongue firmly in his cheek.”

Oxford Tory toffs club (hon President Jacob Rees-Mogg) goes on rampage

The honorary president of this club is Jacob Rees-Mogg; Theresa May and her husband were both members when they were at Oxford.

“Arrogant young Tories ran riot at a prestigious university event where they allegedly groped women before going on to abuse pub locals.

The disgraceful behaviour came during a popular Port and Policy party run by the Oxford University Conservative ­Association, which has PM hopeful Jacob Rees-Mogg as honorary president.

Horrified students told how they saw sozzled men try to kiss and fondle women while downing up to 43 glasses of port each in boozing competitions.

Organisers who refused to serve the drunks more booze were shouted down with one reveller allegedly screaming: “I’ll buy their families.”

They then besieged the nearby King’s Arms pub and shouted “Buller, Buller, Buller” – a ­reference to the infamous ­Bullingdon Club society of boozing yobs.

The louts were also heard yelling at locals: “My castle’s bigger than yours.”

The braying mob also smashed glasses and bottles outside the building. …

“There have been numerous reports from members that last Sunday several attendees at Port and Policy groped, touched, kissed (or attempted to), or otherwise harassed female guests.

“We have also heard rumours of similar incidents occurring in previous weeks. I hope there is no doubt that everyone here today finds it totally ­unacceptable that women were made to feel uncomfortable in this way.

“We believe senior members have been ignoring sexism and misogyny, not because they are themselves sexist, but they are worried about the public image of themselves and the association.

“Instead of trying to address the bad PR caused by this issue, we should be addressing the issue itself.”

OUCA President Timothy Doyle said tonight: “The association takes very seriously indeed all allegations of misconduct at its events.

“A member has been suspended until the end of term, following drunkenness at an event. Any allegations of sexual harassment are passed on to university authorities. No allegation received has been ignored.” …”

The Daily Mail goes into more detail and names some participants here:

240 councils have taken out high-risk “toxic” loans

“A cash-strapped council which has banned all new spending is currently repaying £150m in “toxic” loans.

Northamptonshire County Council has invoked the ban on expenditure as it faces a £21m overspend for 2017-18. It said it would cost more than a quarter of a billion pounds to immediately repay the LOBO – or Lender Option Borrower Option – loans, described by critics as “risky”.

A council spokesman said “interest rate risk is inherent” in all borrowing.
The county council has a total of 19 LOBO loans, which are unregulated and typically spread over 40 to 70 years. They were used to meet expenditure on highways, infrastructure, schools and other such assets.

The authority said said it would cost £256m to repay them straight away.

Critics say the repayments would be better spent on under threat services such as bus subsidies and Trading Standards. Joel Benjamin, from campaign group Debt Resistance UK, called the loans “toxic”. He said the county council has “fallen victim to a lethal cocktail of cuts”, poorly run shared-services and “high interest, risky LOBO borrowing.” Financial expert Abhishek Sachdev said LOBOs “contained huge quantifiable risk at the outset”.

Mr Sachdev, who gave evidence about LOBOs to the Communities & Local Government Select Committee in 2015, added: “There is a reason why none of our large PLC corporate clients would ever enter into such a loan.”
Freedom of Information requests by Debt Resistance UK show around 1,000 LOBO loans have been taken out across 240 local authorities.

The figures show these have a face value of £15bn, while Mr Sachdev estimated it would cost about £26bn to exit them straight away.”