“Labour would rip up definition of affordable housing, Corbyn says”

“A Labour government would rip up the government’s definition of affordable housing and instead bring in a measure linked to people’s incomes, Jeremy Corbyn will say on Thursday.

A report, Housing for the Many, accuses ministers of stretching the term affordable to breaking point to include homes let at up to 80% of market rents – more than £1,500 a month in some areas – and homes for sale up to £450,000. “It has become a deliberately malleable phrase, used to cover up a shift in government policy towards increasingly expensive and insecure homes,” it says.

The Labour leader and John Healey, the shadow housing secretary, set out the party’s plans to link affordability to people’s incomes on tenures including social rent, living rent and low-cost ownership, in the 40-page green paper, to be launched on Thursday.

Labour says one “common yardstick” is whether rent or a mortgage costs more than one-third of a household’s after-tax income.

The green paper says Labour is keen to help not just the poorest in society, but also “the ‘just coping’ class in Britain today who do the jobs we all rely on – IT workers, HGV drivers, joiners, warehouse managers, lab technicians, nurses, teaching assistants, call centre supervisors, shop staff. They are the backbone of the British economy and heart of our public services.”

Britain faces an acute housing affordability crisis, with around 1.7m private rented households currently paying more than a third of their income in rent and 1m owner-occupiers paying more than a third of their income on their mortgage.

Corbyn will say: “When housing has become a site of speculation for a wealthy few, leaving the many unable to access a decent, secure home, something has gone seriously wrong. We need to restore the principle that a decent home is a right owed to all, not a privilege for the few. And the only way to deliver on that right for everyone, regardless of income, is through social housing.”

The paper includes a series of other measures, including creating a new Department of Housing and an independent watchdog, along the lines of the Office for Budget Responsibility, to assess the government’s policies and ensure they are delivered.

A Labour government would also end the right to buy, which the Cameron government extended to cover tenants in social housing, risking the depletion of the supply of social housing. Labour would also lift the cap on borrowing by local authorities, to allow councils to build more social housing themselves.

A Conservative spokesperson said: “Labour would kick away the housing ladder from everyone living in council houses by taking away their right to buy, just as Labour did in Wales. Under the Conservatives, we are investing £9bn to build more good-quality homes that people can afford and have seen the highest number of new homes being built for a decade.”

Healey will say: “The housing market is broken and current Conservative housing policy is failing to fix it. We have to build more affordable homes to make homes more affordable.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/18/labour-would-rip-up-definition-of-affordable-housing-corbyn-says

Jeremy Hunt didn’t tell Standards Commissioner he had bought 7 flats from an “a cquaintance” who was also a Tory donor

“Jeremy Hunt received a “bulk discount” on seven flats bought from a Conservative donor, the Guardian can disclose, as parliament’s watchdog opened an investigation into the health secretary’s admission that he breached money laundering rules.

The health secretary was forced to apologise for failing to declare his part-ownership of a company, which bought the luxury seaside flats in Southampton.

Kathryn Stone, parliament’s commissioner for standards, received a complaint about Hunt on Friday. The commissioner’s website confirms that Hunt is now under investigation.

Guardian inquiries established that the 82-flat block, called Alexandra Wharf, was developed by Nicolas James Group, a south coast property firm owned and chaired by businessman and Conservative donor Nicolas James Roach.

Neither Hunt nor Roach agreed to disclose the value of the deal but a source close to the health secretary said he had received a “bulk discount” for buying multiple apartments.

A spokesperson for Roach said that all sales at Alexandra Wharf were at “open market value”, adding that the businessman’s political donations had been properly declared on the Electoral Commission website.

They added that the pair had known each other for “several years” but had no business relationship beyond the purchase of the flats.

A spokesperson for Hunt said: “The owner of the development is a long-standing acquaintance.

“Jeremy paid standard market rates which would have been available to anyone else making an equivalent purchase.

“As Jeremy has been clear from the outset, the rental income from these properties will be donated to charity.”

Roach has made more than £50,000 in donations to Hunt’s South West Surrey constituency office since 2011, mostly in the form of complimentary venue hire.

The pair were pictured together in 2011 at a party to launch a £60m hotel in Guildford, Surrey, that was developed by Nicolas James Group.

Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman for the committee on standards in public life said: “In terms of public perception of ministerial priorities, Hunt seems more concerned with maximising his personal interests rather than ensuring that there are good public services.

“On a local level, there does seem to be an incestuous relationship between a local donor and a local politician in a way which will make the public uneasy.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2018/apr/18/jeremy-hunt-investigated-breach-money-laundering-rules-luxury-flats

Best live in western East Devon and not in northern or eastern East Devon!

In some parts of East Devon you are lucky to get a couple of buses each day!

“East Devon District Council gave the go ahead to fund four projects, unlocking new jobs and employment space locally.

Some £530,000 has been allocated over three years for an ‘enhanced’ bus service connecting the Enterprise Zone – Exeter Science Park, Skypark, Airport Business Park and Cranbrook town centre – and Exeter, with some services also running to Woodbury and Exmouth. This will be for a three year period from summer 2018. …”

http://www.exmouthjournal.co.uk/news/enhanced-bus-service-for-exmouth-to-boost-job-opportunities-1-5481849

Yet another Conservative-run Council seems to be facing bankruptcy – and this time it’s in a Tory Minister’s OWN Constituency

“There is a massive budgetary disparity at the heart of Tory-run Worcestershire County Council. The council, which includes Housing and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid’s constituency, has, it seems, sought to bury a damning review of its finances carried out by the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA).

Worcestershire’s forecast increase in demand for services was 2.5 times larger than its expected growth in resources. The CIPFA has warned the council that they face a £26.4m hole in their finances in 2018-2019, which looks to rise to £60.1m in 2020-2021.

The shadow Housing and Communities Secretary, Andrew Gwynne MP has noticed the pertinent similarities between the situation in Worcestershire CC and Tory-run Northamptonshire County Council’s bankruptcy:

“This Government has utterly failed local government, forcing many authorities to struggle to maintain basic services after cutting their funding to the bone. The National Audit Office and the IFS are calling for a change in direction, one of the Government’s own councils has gone bankrupt, and now with this mess happening in the Secretary of State’s own Council – how much longer can Sajid Javid ignore this crisis?

Almost eight years of Tory austerity clearly isn’t working. It didn’t work for Northamptonshire, and it’s not working for Worcestershire. We need to elect as many Labour councillors as possible on 3 May to stand up to the Conservatives’ cuts.”

A reduction of 47% in the council’s usable reserves over the last 5 years, as well as overspending on children’s services, has seen the Worcestershire CC looming over a prospective £60m black hole.”

https://evolvepolitics.com/yet-another-conservative-run-council-is-facing-bankruptcy-and-this-time-its-in-a-tory-ministers-own-constituency/

Sidmothians balk at contributing £3 m to flood defences: EDDC accused of “fiddling while Rome burned”

Local people and businesses in a coastal Devon town are being asked to help pay towards the cost of a new £9m flood defence scheme.

Sidmouth’s eastern cliffs, which protect the town from flooding, are vulnerable and eroding at the rate of about a metre a year.

East Devon District Council is asking locals and businesses to contribute £3m towards the project.

But many locals do not see why they should pay, and are accusing the council of having wasted time and money over the last decade, “fiddling while Rome burns”.

[EDDC response:]

“East Devon District Council is completely committed to this project. We have already invested over £500,000 of our own money into the research, investigations and all the other necessary work that is done. If we can find another £3m, we can then unlock funding just under £6m from Defra, who are the primary agency concerned with flood protection.”
Tom Wright
Environment Porfolio, East Devon District Council

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-england-devon-43712628

At last something we are best at – potholes – we have the most, biggest and best!

Third-world roads …

“Pothole related breakdowns have doubled in the space of three months following the harsh winter, the RAC has revealed.

The breakdown rescue firm said the proportion of call-outs caused by issues such as damaged shock absorbers, broken suspension springs and distorted wheels reached 2.3 per cent between January and March.

This is almost double the rate during the previous three months and equates to 5,540 cases.

Since RAC records began in 2006, only two three-month periods – January to March in both 2015 and 2017 – saw a higher proportion of pothole-related breakdowns.

A better indicator of the true state of the UK’s roads is expected to be revealed in figures for April to June as the Beast from the East brought snow and freezing weather towards the end of the previous quarter.

RAC chief engineer David Bizley said: “Anecdotally, few would disagree that the harsh cold weather experienced over the last three months has led to a further deterioration of road surfaces.

“While RAC patrols saw the third highest quarterly share of pothole-related breakdowns in the first three months of 2018, the figure was not as high as we had been expecting, probably due the fact that the weather hit relatively late in the quarter.

“For this reason we feel we are likely to see more vehicles suffering pothole damage in the second quarter of 2018 compared with recent years.

“The Government has made additional funding available through yet another emergency pothole fund, but at best this will only allow councils to patch up roads that in many cases are in desperate need of longer term preventative maintenance.”

A Local Government Association spokesman said: “When exceptional weather occurs, the impact on local roads can be significant.

“It’s essential this is measured and that funds are provided for serious repairs so that traffic can move freely through our communities, and local economies and businesses aren’t impacted.”

Source: The Times (paywall)