“New “affordable” housing in Devon is anything but, investigation reveals”

“Most new “affordable” housing in Devon is anything but, a major new DevonLive investigation has revealed.

Affordable housing is an umbrella term used by the government to describe lower-rent properties that are available to eligible households unable to afford the full market rate.

This includes both traditional social rent housing – which is similar to what most people know of as council housing – and “affordable rent” housing, which was first introduced in 2011/12.

Social rent is based on a formula that combines local wages and local property values, and typically sees rents set at around 50 per cent of private rents in the same area.

“Affordable rent”, however, is capped at 80 per cent of the full market rate – meaning that in many areas it will still be out of the reach of people on low incomes. …

… Some local areas see “affordable rent” housing dominate more than others. In Mid Devon, South Hams, Teignbridge and West Devon, 100 per cent of new affordable housing was “affordable rent” rather than social rent last year.

Meanwhile, in East Devon the figure stood at 97 per cent, in Torridge at 67 per cent, and in both North Devon and Exeter at just 13 per cent.
In Plymouth the figure also stood at 100 per cent, while in Torbay they made up 58 per cent of the total.

In comparison, the national average saw 81 per cent of new affordable housing built or acquired across England in 2017/18 classed as “affordable rent” rather than social rent.

The most common type of affordable housing found in Devon is general needs properties managed by private registered providers, such as housing associations.

These cost an estimated £86 a week on average for a social rent property, compared to £121 a week for an “affordable rent” property – meaning “affordable rent” in Devon is typically 42 per cent higher, or £1,854 more a year. Private renters in Devon pay an estimated £150 a week, on average.

Kate Henderson chief executive of the National Housing Federation said: “In 2010, the government stopped funding social housing altogether, and announced it would only fund homes for “affordable rent” instead.

“This left housing associations in a really difficult position where they had to choose between building homes for “affordable rent” or building nothing.

“In the face of a dire housing shortage, many housing associations chose to build affordable rented homes, but continued to argue that social housing shouldn’t be neglected.

“While affordable rents do work for some people, there are many more who desperately need social housing.

“In 2017, the government announced some new money for social housing for the first time in seven years, but this is nowhere near enough.”


Swire’s business pal hits the headlines yet again

As Owl’s readers know, our MP has a (currently) dormant business (Eaglesham Investments Ltd) with controversial peer Lord Greg Barker, who is mixed up with Russian oligarch Oleg Derepaska – and with him his Trump campaign pal Paul Manafort:


Now Lord Barker has hit the headlines again (page 10 of the Sunday Telegraph to be precise). He is to be questioned (again) by MPs over his dealings on behalf of Deripaska in the US and UK. Deripaska is said to be a very close ally of Vladimir Putin.

A prominent Vladimir Putin critic, Bill Browder, said last week:

“It’s remarkable … a member of the House of Lords is allowed to be paid by a Russian to lobby against sanctions for that Russian”.

Source: Sunday Telegraph

The Telegraph article continues with (yet another) attempted justification of his highly-criticised conduct by Barker.

Oh, Hugo – why can’t you get some NICE friends and business colleagues?

You have already swanned around the arms-buying capitals of the world (Saudi Arabia, Colombia to name but two);

You get paid a consultancy fee to advise on Latin American matters: and

You get a salary from the Conservative Middle East Council (see Register of Interests),

which is hard enough for your constituents to swallow, without this!

Brexit: education and health spending rerouted to fishing and farming

“Cabinet ministers are being told that some of their most prized projects cannot be developed because so many officials have been diverted to delivering Brexit, it has emerged.

Ministers’ priority programmes have fallen victim to “re-prioritisation”, according to internal government warnings seen by the Observer.

Government insiders said they knew of examples of officials usually dealing with schools and hospitals who were now redeployed to work on farming and fishing as a result of the scramble to prepare for all Brexit outcomes, including no deal. “It’s a real worry now that things are being held up and not happening,” said one senior Whitehall source. “We are really starting to see it as the Brexit process drags on and on.”

A memo to a senior minister, said: “In the context of ongoing cross-government re-prioritisation exercises, departments have not yet been able to resource the necessary cross-government team to deliver the work.”

The government’s plans for resolving the crisis in social care and a review of university finance are among the major policy proposals that are said to have been held up by Brexit, while many other areas have suffered due to the lack of parliamentary time and political instability. …”


” FlyBMI [ NOT Flybe] collapses, blaming Brexit uncertainty

“The airline has faced several difficulties, including recent spikes in fuel and carbon costs, the latter arising from the EU’s recent decision to exclude UK airlines from full participation in the Emissions Trading Scheme. These issues have undermined efforts to move the airline into profit.

“Current trading and future prospects have also been seriously affected by the uncertainty created by the Brexit process, which has led to our inability to secure valuable flying contracts in Europe and lack of confidence around BMI’s ability to continue flying between destinations in Europe.

“Additionally, our situation mirrors wider difficulties in the regional airline industry which have been well documented.”

The company operates scheduled passenger services to 24 destinations, including Brussels, Leeds, Munich and Bristol using its fleet of 17 Embraer jets.

Passengers about to board a flight to Munich from Bristol were told their flight had been cancelled after they had checked in and the company’s planes that were in Brussels were called back.

Aircrew were told not to come to work and those due to be abroad for the weekend were flown back.”


“Baffled town halls ordered to plan for Brexit ‘without knowing what it is’ “

“With 43 days left on the clock, local authorities have been told to prepare for March 29.

Government incompetence is causing ‘chaos’ within councils that have been ordered to plan for Brexit, a town hall boss has warned.

Stockport council leader Alex Ganotis said local authorities had been told to prepare for leaving the EU in less than 50 days ‘without telling us what to plan for’.

He was speaking at the latest meeting of the combined authority, at which Manchester council leader Sir Richard Leese said huge anxiety remains among businesses in the region over what happens when Britain leaves.

While Greater Manchester had been doing its best to prepare, he said, ‘it’s not a happy story at the moment by any stretch of the imagination’.

Local leaders were meeting with just 43 days left on the clock before March 29 and no clear plan in Westminster about what will happen.

Coun Ganotis said government had been very clear that councils were expected to plan, however, just not what they were planning for.

“There are six weeks left until we are due to leave the EU and the government clearly has no plan over crucial, crucial areas of the way this country is run and the way this country works,” he said.

“And yet they are being very clear with local authorities that local authorities need to plan for Brexit.

“We need to make sure our council supports our communities after Brexit, but without telling us what to plan for, exactly what resources will be required, and exactly what the impact will be on our areas.

“We as councils have to take our responsibilities to residents seriously – and in a way that this government is not taking its responsibilities towards British citizens seriously, because it’s in hoc to a group of fanatics that do not care about ordinary people and the way they go about their lives.”

Reeling off a list of potential issues faced by councils, he said government had announced a funding package for town halls, but that it was ‘far, far less’ than would be needed.

“So we are going to have to find funding within our own councils that we would have otherwise put to other uses in terms of frontline services to provide for and fund Brexit,” he said.

“But in terms of what exactly we do, we still don’t know.

“Areas around staffing – local authority staffing, staffing of our contracted services, of care workers are a very good example of that.

“Civil resilience, our regulatory responsibilities, especially in term of product regulation, the services we provide to people from EU countries who don’t know where they will stand, the support we provide for people in terms of employment, as well as keeping things going in the event of Brexit.

“We are going to have to plan for all of this as local authorities and it’s causing chaos.

“And I think the government needs to understand the hypocrisy of what they are putting on local authorities.”

Greater Manchester leaders have been receiving regular updates since June 2016 about the potential effects Brexit is having – or will have – on the local economy, including local efforts to support businesses worried about the impact.

The government has refused to share its exact economic impact assessment for the area, however, with councils instead drawing up their own – suggesting more than £8bn could be wiped off the conurbation’s economy in the next 15 years in the event of a no deal.

Manchester council leader Sir Richard Leese, who is in charge of economic issues for the region, said the current picture was bleak.

“It goes without saying that at a time when the performance of the economy is at its lowest point since the recession, there’s an enormous amount of anxiety amongst businesses and still a lot of concern about a lack of preparedness in business even though we are now days rather than months away from March 29,” he said.

Pointing to Greater Manchester’s 60,000 EU citizens, he said the potential effects could be particularly problematic for ‘sensitive’ areas such as the NHS that rely upon them for staffing.

However planes would not be grounded, he said, as Manchester Airport had plans in place for flights to continue even in the event of a no-deal.

But he added: “I’ve come to dread this item, to be honest.

“As someone who’s been in active politics for most of my adult life, I have to confess I’m now completely confused as to how our parliamentary democracy – how representative government works.

“If any of the leaders around this council chamber at the moment, if we were to ignore our councils in the way the PM ignores parliament we wouldn’t last five minutes.

“I tend to wonder what parliament is for, because they keep passing votes and the PM keeps saying ‘I’m right, I’m going to ignore them’.

“But underpinning that is that at the moment, whatever your views on Brexit – it doesn’t matter whether you’re for or against – we are at the moment rushing headlong to at least a short term disaster, which is the risk of a disorderly no deal exit from the EU.”


“New home owner in Exeter fumes over frustrations with Redrow”

“A disgruntled new home owner has spoken of his frustration at still waiting for his warped front door to be replaced after more than a year and having to contend with many other issues in his property.

Jamie Leaman moved into a two-bed house in Bishops Court – a housing development next to Sandy Park, Exeter – in July 2017 with his partner and their 12-year-old daughter.

Problems which have had to be corrected include a ‘leaky oven’ which had to be replaced and caused damage to a fitted kitchen cupboard; missing plasterboard tape which means joins are now visible; the back door handle had to be replaced because it was loose and had issues with the locking mechanism; and an incorrectly fitted bath panel has required replacing.

In January 2018, Jamie, 42, reported to Redrow he had a problem with his front door, and is still waiting for the issue to be resolved. Redrow have responded saying they are working with him to come to a resolution. …”

Jamie, who lives in a shared ownership property, claims there are also many other residents who live in Bishops Court who have also encountered problems with their homes.

He said: “There is a Bishops Court Facebook forum page where quite a few people have complained about Redrow. Someone said they wished they have never moved here. It doesn’t seem to matter if you live in a shared or full ownership home; the problems are the same. …”

Another Grayling privatised company bites the dust – leaving us less safe

“A private company which manages thousands of offenders in England and Wales after they are released from prison has collapsed into administration.

Working Links, a company that owns three community rehabilitation businesses which deliver probation services in Wales, Avon and Somerset and Cornwall, went bust on Thursday night.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) said they had been aware of the company’s financial situation since October, and said it had put in place contingency plans to ensure “offenders will be supervised and the public will be protected”.

The union representing probation officers in the UK has reacted with anger to the news.

Ian Lawrence, general secretary of Napo, said: “This is exactly what we warned the government about from day one of this disastrous privatisation programme that has seen an award-winning service fall into total chaos in just four years.”

Chris Grayling was responsible for privatising the care of low-to-medium risk offenders four years ago as part of his reforms when he was minister for justice.

The MoJ said Working Links services would be handed over to Seetec, who manage community rehabilitation centres in Kent, Surrey and Sussex for the time being.

They also said they would bring forward plans to bring probation services in Wales back under government control.

Seetec confirmed they would transfer all of Working Links staff to their books.

The company’s executive director, Suki Binning, said: “It has been a challenging and uncertain period for probation teams in these regions, during which they have worked tirelessly to support the people they manage and protect the public.”

Lawrence slammed the government’s handling of the situation, adding: “Napo has continually pleaded with ministers to terminate the contracts between the MoJ and Working Links following highly critical reports from HM Inspectorate of Probation and a litany of high profile Serious Further Offences including a number of murders.”…”