“Landowners Pocket £13bn Profit In One Year Just For Getting Planning Permission”

Is there an election in the air? Tories talking about removing the “stigma” of social housing! You know, the housing they don’t build because, as George Osborne said – why would you when Labour supporters live in them!


“Landowners pocketed a staggering £13bn in profit last year simply for securing planning permission while a housing crisis continues to grip the nation.

Research by the Centre for Progressive Policy and the National Housing Federation has unmasked how land-holders are raising massive sums simply for being a proprietor.

Agricultural land now becomes 275 times more expensive once it receives planning permission, even before a single home is built. This is a huge uplift from just two years ago when planning permission increased the value of farmland by around 100 times.

It means proprietors are effectively sitting on a goldmine once planners green-light development on a site they own.

The CPP and NHF report found landowners’ combined profits were more than the global profits of Amazon, McDonald’s and Coca Cola combined and has increased by £4bn over the course of two years to reach £13bn.

Theresa May is due to announce that £2bn of Government funds will be directed towards housing associations to give them long-term certainty they need to build homes.

But the NHF and CPP say a radical overhaul is needed so some land sales profits can be captured and ploughed into the public purse for new affordable housing and infrastructure, such as roads.

David Orr, chief executive of the NHS, said: “This research shows the astronomical sums that landowners have been able to pocket, before they even build a single new home. At the same time, the numbers of people in desperate need of social housing is sky rocketing – we have to build 90,000 new homes for social rent every year to meet this need.

“In the face of a disastrous housing crisis, it is clear that the the broken housing market is simply not delivering. What’s more, the way we buy and sell land is the key cause. Now, we need a fundamental rethink to tackle this fundamental problem.”

It comes as house prices and demand for social homes soar, with housing associations trying to build council housing for poorer families increasingly outbid on land by private developers.

May, who will address the National Housing Federation Summit in London on Wednesday, said the £2bn will be separate to the £9bn of public funding put toward the existing affordable homes programme until 2022.

She will also focus on ending what she calls the “stigma” attached to social housing, claiming some view tenants are “not second-rate citizens”.

The PM will say: “Some residents feel marginalised and overlooked, and are ashamed to share the fact that their home belongs to a housing association or local authority.

“On the outside, many people in society – including too many politicians – continue to look down on social housing and, by extension, the people who call it their home.”

Gavin Smart, deputy chief executive of the Chartered Institute of Housing, said recognition of the social housing sector from the PM was welcome, and added: “But, as the Prime Minister recognises in her speech, it’s crucial that government investment helps housing associations to build the right kind of homes at the right prices.

“In practice this means building more homes at the lowest social rents – which is often the only truly affordable option for people on lower incomes.”

Labour also hit out at the Government plans.

John Healey, Shadow Housing Secretary, said: “Theresa May’s promises fall far short of what’s needed.

“The reality is spending on new affordable homes has been slashed so the number of new social rented homes built last year fell to the lowest level since records began.”

The English housing survey 2016/17 reported that 3.9 million households, approximately nine million people, lived in the social rented sector – which was 17% of households in the country.

The survey added 10% rented from housing associations and 7% from local authorities.

By contrast, 20% of households were private rented and 63% owner-occupied.”


Peril of privatisation? Or just greedy Stagecoach?

Would this have been allowed to happen in a state-run utility company? Or is it just that all companies now seem to accept the unacceptable?

“Stagecoach bus driver and former mayor, 80, who ploughed his double-decker into a Sainsbury’s killing boy, seven and woman, 76, was driving dangerously, court finds.

A bus driver who crashed into a Sainsburys, killing two people, was driving dangerously when he caused the deaths, a fact-finding trial has found.

The double-decker bus driven by Kailash Chander, 60, smashed into the supermarket in October 2015.

Rowan Fitzgerald, seven, and Dora Hancox, 76, died when the bus crashed in Coventry.

Mr Chander, 80, from Leamington Spa, was judged unfit to plead or stand trial at Birmingham Crown Court.

Prosecutors allege the ‘shockingly bad driving’ by Chander, aged 77 at the time, occurred after he had worked three consecutive 75-hour weeks. …

The court heard that in 2014, the bus company, Midland Red installed a telematics system across its fleet to monitor driver performance.

The system was called ‘Ecodriver’ and was a ‘spy-in-the-cab’ device which would monitor driver performance electronically by measuring features such as braking, cornering, acceleration and speeding.

It was between July 2014 and September 2015 that Mr Chander received 24 letters relating to his Ecodriver performance.

Chander, from Leamington, has been judged medically unfit to plead or stand trial, and has been excused from attending a ‘finding-of-facts’ trial which began on Tuesday.

He has been charged with two counts of causing death by dangerous driving and two of causing serious injury. …”


“The government’s voter ID plans are ‘rearranging the deckchairs’ in the face of new threats to our democracy”

“On May 3rd 2018, 350 people were denied a vote in their local council elections. Their crime? Not possessing the right ID. The minister hailed these trials of mandatory voter ID as a ‘success’. The government must have a strange definition of success.

The scheme disenfranchised far more ordinary voters than potential wrongdoers: in a single day across the five councils, twice as many people didn’t vote due to having incorrect ID as have been accused of personation in eight years across the whole of the UK.

Out of 45 million votes last year, there were just 28 allegations of ‘personation’ (only one was solid enough to result in conviction). And yet the government seems determined to pursue voter ID, a policy we now know could cost up to £20 million per general election. This change to how we vote is a marked departure from the trust-based British way of running elections, and with little evidence to justify it.

It’s claimed that mandatory voter ID could boost faith in the democratic process. Yet according to academic research, 99 percent of election staff do not think fraud has occurred in their polling stations. Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the public say they think our polling stations are safe. And studies show that more accessible elections have greater electoral integrity – not the other way round.

The policy of mandatory strict ID presents a significant risk to democratic access and equality. Millions of people lack the strictest forms of required documentation. Documentation that is costly to acquire. It’s one of the reasons why organisations from the Runnymede Trust to the Salvation Army and Stonewall are concerned about these plans. The Windrush scandal earlier this year highlighted exactly the difficulties some legitimate voters could have in accessing identity documents – through no fault of their own.

If mandatory ID were to be rolled out nationally, it could potentially result in tens of thousands of voters being denied a say. And it would hit the already marginalised hardest: poorer C2DE social grade voters were half as likely to say they were aware of the ID requirements before the trials this May. And despite the costly publicity campaign this time, after election day, an average of around a quarter of residents were not aware of the pilots in four of the council areas – around four in 10 were not aware in Watford.

Imposing ID could have a significant impact on election outcomes, too. Thirteen seats were won at the 2017 Parliamentary election with a majority less than the number of people denied a vote in Bromley alone this May.

Yet still the government insists on running more trials of mandatory ID despite a broader commitment to improve democratic engagement and access. It is clear that much work needs to be done to remove barriers to voting, not to construct new ones. The most widespread problem poll staff have highlighted is voters turning up and not being on the register. Access for voters with disabilities is also a frequently cited problem.

We’ve learnt a lot this year, with our election and information regulators and parliamentarians highlighting the shocking state of the unregulated ‘wild west’ that is online campaigning. From the spread of disinformation, to secret political donations and ‘dark ads’, the real threats to our democracy are becoming clear.

In the face of these challenges, imposing voter ID is like rearranging the deckchairs of our democracy while we head towards an iceberg. The crucial task for government now is to focus on the real problems – we need to get to work solving them.”

Full report here:


Exmouth Carnival cancellation – two very different stories

“Organisers of Exmouth Carnival knew as long ago as last month that the event would not go ahead this year, Devon County Council has revealed.

It was revealed over the weekend that this year’s illuminated procession through the town would not be going ahead as planned on October 13, with the organising committee blaming gas works taking place in Pound Lane.

However there are no planned gas works taking place.

And the county council has revealed that carnival organisers told them on August 12 the event would not be going ahead because they had not been able to find enough volunteers to help run the carnival.

Pound Lane will be closed between October 8 and November 9 due to planned South West Water works, but they had applied for the road closure on June 19, a full month before outline plans, including the date, of Exmouth Carnival had been mentioned to Devon County Council.

Even when the temporary traffic order to close the roads was applied for, it was incomplete and no traffic management information has since been submitted. …

.. . They added that the road closure was granted prior to any outline plans for Exmouth Carnival, including a date, had been received by them.

Initial outline plans for Exmouth Carnival to be held on October 13 were only outlined by the organiser of the event to East Devon District Council’s Safety Advisory Group on July 19, and then on July 27, the a Temporary Traffic Regulation Order (TTRO) to close certain roads for the event that the council received was incomplete.

To ensure public safety, traffic management information was required before the TTRO could be processed for the event, but a county council spokesman said: “The TTRO applicant has never provided that outstanding and required information.”

They added: “A meeting was held between the carnival organiser, Devon and Cornwall Police and County Council on August 12, to clarify the position of holding the carnival and the draft TTRO application.

“The organiser advised this meeting that due to the unavailability of suitable volunteers to perform the necessary traffic management functions for the event, it would no longer be going ahead in 2018.”

Cllr Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council cabinet member for highway management, said: “It is disappointing that the Exmouth Carnival will not take place this year and I hope earlier planning will ensure it will happen in 2019.”


“Somerset [Tories] blames ‘broken’ [Tory] funding system for major cuts”

Too little too late, councillors. You froze your council tax and submitted yourselves willingly (nay, enthusiastically) to austerity – now reap your “reward”. Or rather cause your voters to suffer for your blind adherence over these years to the party line.

“Youth services, learning disability support and reserves contributions will be hit under new plans approved by the council.

Savings of £13m over the remainder of this financial year and £15m in total in 2019-20 are expected to be made through the plans, ratified by the council last Monday.

The young carers service was the only area given a ‘stay of execution’ while the council discusses with the carers and the families where else they could get support, such as voluntary groups. This service could still be cut.

Council leader David Fothergill said: “This is not the biggest set of savings Somerset has faced. But it is absolutely the most difficult set of decisions we have had to consider.”

He added: “The government model for funding local authorities is broken.

“Rural councils like ours don’t get the funding they need or deserve.

“I have taken every opportunity to lobby and fight to address this, but there has been no extra funding. That is hugely disappointing.”

The council also wants to make savings in areas including winter gritting, park and ride services and funding to Citizens Advice Bureau services.

Fothergill said he would be writing to the secretary of state to ask for help before the next budget.

As reported by PF in July, the council ruled out issuing a Section 114 notice, as Northamptonshire council did earlier this year. It did say at the time it would have to make “urgent decisions” to address its financial position.

The council will be consulting on proposals for councillors and staff to take two days’ unpaid leave for the next two years. Unite union has criticised this idea, saying it was “a step too far”.

Elsewhere, Fife Council is faced with a £32m budget gap by 2022, according to a council report.

The Scottish council will have to make savings of 5% every year to plug gaps in its finances, the report put to the council’s policy and coordination committee said.

The council predicted its budget gap will rise from £9.4m in 2019-20 to £23.1m in 2020-21 and reach £32.1m in 2021-22.

The report said the biggest budget pressures faced by the council include children’s services and education (48%) and health and social care (17%).

The council has been contacted for comment.”


Wainhomes in the (bad) spotlight again

Many will recall Feniton’s problems with Wainhomes, for example:

and those in Axminster:

You might also have seen the feature on regional BBC Breakfast this morning where residents at the Wainhomes estate in Tawton having to move out because floors not finished, outside rendering falling off walls. They interviewed one unhappy house owner who’d been complaining for two-and-a-half years.

Interestingly enough there’s a website devoted to complaints about this company: https://www.thewainhomesnightmare.co.uk/?page_id=121

It seems to highlight a flaw whereby developers can build defective houses, but policing by NHBC not up to scratch.

Buyer beware, as they say!

Ottery fire: Claire Wright again shows us why she should be our MP

“Traffic and arrangements for catching buses has been chaotic since the fire on Friday in the Pine Shop that has tragically destroyed much of the historic building and rendered it and Roberts DIY next door, unstable.

Both shops remain closed and the access from the Square into Silver Street, which is one of the main routes in and out of Ottery St Mary, remains closed indefinitely.

Today, scaffolders continued to erect struts that take up much of the entire first section of Silver Street and also access to Brook Street – the first section is also closed from the bottom of Silver Street:

(Image provided by Claire Wright on blog)

Residents have taken to Ottery Matters Facebook page to vent their frustration at the arrangements with the traffic and buses, which have not been able to come into the town as they cannot turn around in the Square anymore

The diversion is not really directing traffic in a particular direction and many people (including me) are getting home or through the town via the teeny tiny Batts Lane, which is causing much reversing in and out of Yonder Street and Sandhill Street as a result. All very annoying.

I now have agreement from Stagecoach that drivers will drop people off and pick people up at the Sainsbury’s delivery entrance opposite the Land of Canaan Car Park and that Devon County Council will post a message on the electronic board next to the butchers directing people to the new temporary location.

I have also requested an urgent meeting with senior highways officers and building control officers to decide a way forward for the traffic and for the town. There are many implications for a long term road closure such as this and all need to be considered. At the very least it may affect trade at a time when traders can least afford it.

I send my thoughts to Martin from the Pine Shop and to Ros Brown, who are now unable to trade for the foreseeable future.

There’s much to consider and much to plan for.

I am on the case….”