“Working people going hungry and can’t get help, MPs told”

“A growing number of people with “good” jobs cannot afford to feed their families and are unable to get help from food banks, MPs have been told.

Charity boss Adam Smith said people on benefits were able to get emergency food parcels and did not go hungry.

But a “hidden bracket” of working people were not entitled to do so or were ashamed to ask for help, he told the environmental audit committee.

The Trussell Trust, the main food bank charity in the UK, says delays in benefit payments, debt and insecure employment are among the reasons that people have to turn to them for help.

People who use food banks are normally referred to them by social workers, job centres, care workers or other officials.

Mr Smith said enough was being done to support people on benefits who were in food poverty, but “the problem in this county is there is a hidden bracket of people who are suffering”.

He read out an emotional testimony from an anonymous teacher, who had sought help at his organisation’s “social supermarket” in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

The woman said she had a “good job” but her wages had not gone up in a decade and the rising cost of living meant she was being forced to choose between “shopping and getting myself and my son to school”.

She said she felt “so embarrassed” that she had been struggling to feed her children.

Mr Smith’s charity the Real Junk Food project, runs “pay-as-you-feel” cafes and a new “social supermarket”, which sell, or give away, food that had been destined for waste and has been made fit for human consumption.

Unlike food banks, anyone can use the cafes and a growing number of working people were turning to them for help, Mr Smith said.

“If we want to end hunger we need to stop feeding the poor, we need to start feeding everybody and making sure everyone has the human right to access food,” he told the committee.

Anna Taylor, from the Food Foundation think tank, told the committee the government did not collect data on families who were in food poverty and had not taken the issue seriously.

According to Endhunger, a church campaign to end food poverty in the UK, as many as 8.4 million people “are living in households that struggle to put enough food on the table”.

The charity is backing a bid by Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck to force the government to monitor and annually report on food insecurity across the UK.
Her Food Insecurity Bill is supported by 150 MPs across different parties but is unlikely to become law without government backing. …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45956546

Rogue landlords – the latest scandal

A Liverpool tower block that had more housing prosecutions in 2017 than any other building was 80% owned by international investors, some of whom were banking publicly funded rents while subjecting tenants to potential danger from hazardously low temperatures.

Mill View tower, a 16-storey former council-owned high rise in Toxteth, attracted 13 prosecutions last year for Elite Property Management and Lettings Ltd, a local firm that was managing 13 of the flats. The flats had cost around £60,000 each in 2013 and were all rented to residents claiming housing benefit. The company was prosecuted for licensing offences.

The discovery of the building’s story – described as “shocking” by two local MPs – has prompted calls for some landlords to have their properties seized and housing benefit rental payments withheld.

When environmental health officers inspected the block in April 2016, 11 out of the 13 flats that were later the focus of the prosecutions were owned by overseas investors – based as far away as Russia, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore and Malaysia.

In total, about 80% of the block was owned by international investors, with only 12 of the tower’s 64 flats UK-owned, when the inspectors called. …

[A pictorial breakdown of non-UK owners follows]

“The worst thing about it is that while the money is being ploughed in, it is not in any way productive. Investors’ money is not being used to build more affordable homes, it is just being used to buy existing assets. It just increases the competition for homes and increases the cost of homes, with the people of the UK ending up with more expensive houses and no increase in the supply of houses.”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/oct/24/freezing-uk-tower-block-was-cash-cow-for-foreign-investors

E.on temporary energy centre for Cranbrook’s phase 4 runs into problems

Cranbrook Town Council notes:

MESSAGE & APOLOGY FROM E.ON FOR PHASE 4 RESIDENTS – OVERRUN
E.on is sorry that the works to the temporary energy centre on Phase 4 have overrun but assures residents they should be completed by 5pm.

That’s the problem when you have district heating and no control over who provides your energy supply – or the price they charge.

Cranbrook: no road markings causing serious problems with anti-social parking

Cranbrook Town Council Facebook page draws attention to a serious traffic problem:

“APPEAL FOR CONSIDERATE PARKING ON CRANBROOK’S ROADS:

There was another near miss earlier today when a resident pulling carefully out of their road was unable, due to cars parked at the junction, to see a group of approaching cyclists. Although nobody was hurt on this occasion, the cyclists had to swerve and could have been forced into the path of oncoming traffic. Although Cranbrook has no road lining may we remind residents that the principles of the Highway Code still apply.”

6 mins ·
MESSAGE & APOLOGY FROM E.ON FOR PHASE 4 RESIDENTS – OVERRUN
E.on is sorry that the works to the temporary energy centre on Phase 4 have overrun but assures residents they should be completed by 5pm.

“Fresh cuts will leave largest forces in England and Wales with [police] officer numbers last seen in the 1970s

“Three of Britain’s most senior chief constables have warned of a fresh crisis in policing after the government squeezed budgets even further, which they say will leave no alternative but to cut the number of officers.

In an unprecedented public warning, the chief constables of the West Midlands, Greater Manchester and Merseyside forces told the Guardian the fresh cuts would leave them with officer numbers last seen in the 1970s.

Since 2010 the government has cut police funding by 19%. Police in England and Wales have now been told that a £420m pensions shortfall must be met from their already reduced budgets.

After recalculating officers’ pension liabilities, the Treasury decided forces needed to contribute more. Forces are now coming to terms with the impact of the further budget squeeze and anger is mounting.

Ian Hopkins, the chief constable of Greater Manchester, the third biggest force, said he had hoped to have 6,300 officers by the end of March 2021; instead he is likely to have 5,709 – fewer than the force’s 1975 total.

Hopkins told the Guardian: “Clearly we would always look to save money without job cuts, but the reality is 83% of our budget is people and after eight years of efficiencies across all parts of the organisation – which has seen us make reductions of £183m – there would be little alternative but to cut posts, both officers and staff.”

He said he feared the new funding squeeze would reduce his force. “This would just get worse as we would have to further prioritise against threat, harm and risk, screen out more and more crime. Essentially we would just have to focus on providing a response function, a serious and organised crime capability and a custody function as the core capabilities of policing.”…

https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2018/oct/23/police-chiefs-fewer-officers-treasury-shrinks-budgets-pensions?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Young couples ‘trapped in car dependency’ “

“It must be miserable: you’ve saved for a newly-built home past the town’s ring-road, but now you’re trapped too often in a metal box with wheels.
You spend hours in traffic ferrying yourself and your children around because your estate has no shops; no pub; no doctor; no school; no jobs.
A report says this is the buttock-numbing fate of numerous young couples.

It’s come about because planners allowed edge-of-town housing estates where car travel is the only option.

Intriguingly, the research by a new green group – Transport for New Homes – has been backed by a motoring group, the RAC Foundation.

Researchers visited more than 20 new housing developments across England in what they say is the first piece of research of its kind.

They found that the scramble to build new homes is producing houses next to bypasses and link roads which are too far out of town to walk or cycle, and which lack good local buses. …

The problem is that planners are measured by whether they hit their targets for new housing,” she said. ‘At the moment they just approach developers who are sitting on greenfield sites and end up peppering housing round towns without any regard to whether the land is accessible or not.”

Councillor Martin Tett, transport spokesman for the Local Government Association, called for councils to be given powers to ensure house builders contribute to local infrastructure and services as part of new development.

He said: “The planning system exists to ensure development is appropriate and residents are able to have their say.

“Councils are determined to do more in planning for new places in ways that improve air quality and promote more sustainable forms of travel but a lack of funding is a clear barrier to such investment.”

A government spokesperson said its revised planning rulebook tells developers to create high quality areas which promote walking, cycling and use of public transport.

They added: “The rules also make sure that councils put plans in place for the infrastructure needed to support new developments.”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-45956792