” …Deaths in East Devon specifically from drug misuse have risen from 18 in 2012-14 to 26 in 2015-17 (+44%) and alcohol mortality rates are also up, with 67 deaths in 2012 compared to 79 in 2017 (+18%). In Devon, there were 152 drug deaths (+32%) and 391 alcohol-related deaths (+18%) when comparing the same periods. …”
Owl says: It’s always someone else’s fault … there is no buck so it can’t stop anywhere!
“Theresa May speaks out against construction of ‘tiny’ houses, calling for new design standards”
Theresa May is calling for new design standards for house builders to ensure future owners and tenants are not forced to live in “tiny” homes with inadequate storage space.
In her latest move to secure a political legacy, the prime minister will hail figures showing that by the autumn, a million new homes will have been added in under five years.
But her comments come as a parliamentary report warns that the government’s target of delivering 300,000 new homes a year is “way off track” because of problems at the heart of the planning system.
The cross-party House of Commons Public Accounts Committee said that “much more needs to be done” to scale up house building.
The Ministry of Housing has been “reluctant to take decisive action” to deal with councils which fail to produce the up-to-date local plans which are needed to drive delivery, said the committee in a report.
And local authorities have found it difficult to secure sufficient contributions from private developers to help with the cost of the infrastructure needed to support housing developments.
Committee chair Meg Hillier, said: “Progress against the government’s annual new house building target is way off track and currently shows scant chance of being achieved.
“The government has set itself the highly ambitious target of building 300,000 homes a year by the mid 2020s – levels not seen since World War Two – even though there is no clear rationale for this figure and the ministry themselves say only 265,000 new homes a year are needed.
“Government needs to get a grip and set out a clear plan if it is not to jeopardise these ambitions.”
In a speech to the Chartered Institute of Housing conference in Manchester on Wednesday, Ms May will say that the drive to build more homes must not lead to the quality of new housing being compromised.
Tenants and buyers are currently facing a “postcode lottery”, with many councils still not applying space standards introduced by the government in 2015 as a condition of planning permission, she will say.
In a clear message to her successor as prime minister, she will call for the creation a new system of universal mandatory regulation.
“I cannot defend a system in which owners and tenants are forced to accept tiny homes with inadequate storage, where developers feel the need to fill show homes with deceptively small furniture, and where the lack of universal standards encourages a race to the bottom,” she is expected to say.
Ms May will point to figures showing that since she entered No 10 in 2016, the number of extra homes being created was up by 12 per cent in Manchester, 43 per cent in Nottingham and 80 per cent in Birmingham.
Last year, she will say, more additional homes were delivered than in all but one of the previous 31 years while the number of affordable housing starts this year has risen to almost 54,000.
But she will warn against complacency: “The housing shortage in this country began not because of a blip lasting one year or one parliament, but because not enough homes were built over many decades.
“The very worst thing we could do would be to make the same mistake again.”
Ms May will also confirm plans to end so-called “no-fault” evictions, with a consultation to be published shortly, and set out a timetable for action on social housing including improved rights for tenants.
The PM is pushing for higher house building standards (AFP/Getty)
Polly Neate, the chief executive of homelessness charity Shelter, said Ms May’s commitment to improving quality in the housing market was “to be applauded” but added: “The huge numbers of people in this country who are at the sharp end of the current housing emergency will never be able to afford those new houses.
“What this country needs – and what it wants – is a commitment from the top, from any prime minister, to a renewal of social housing. We need 3.1 million homes in the next 20 years to provide affordable and stable homes for generations to come.”
Local Government Association housing spokesman Martin Tett denied the planning system was a “barrier to housebuilding”, pointing to statistics showing councils approve nine in 10 applications but hundreds of thousands of homes given planning permission are yet to be built.
Cllr Tett said councils needed freedom to build more social homes themselves.
“The last time the country built more than 300,000 homes a year was 1977-78, when councils built 44 per cent of them,” he said.
“Latest figures show councils were only able to build 2,000 homes last year – the highest level since 1992 – but need to be able to do so much more. To help end the housing crisis, we need to kick-start a genuine renaissance in council house building.”
Responding to the PAC report, housing minister Kit Malthouse said:“This government is determined to restore the dream of home ownership for a new generation by delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s.
“We’re committed to building more, better and faster, including £44bn of funding and guarantees to support more homes, reforming the planning system to free up more land, and removing the cap on how much councils can borrow to build.
“We’re making real progress, last year delivering more new homes than in all but one of the last 31 years.”
These are not benefits – they are entitlements.
“More than a million pensioner households across the UK are living in poverty because of the government’s failure to act on unpaid pension credit, according to the older people’s charity Independent Age.
Almost 2 million people aged 65 and over are living in poverty in the UK. Pension credit is the income-related benefit specifically designed to lift them out of poverty. But it is estimated that four in 10 pensioner households who are entitled to the help do not receive it.
Since the 2017 general election, the government has “benefited” from £7bn in unclaimed pension credit, the charity said. This figure will increase to more than £17bn by 2022.
“The recent decision to limit the TV licence to only those who receive pension credit adds insult to injury to over a million pensioners who between them, due to government inaction, are missing out on a staggering £10m every day that should be in their pockets,” said George McNamara, the charity’s director of policy and influencing. …
Pensioners entitled to the benefit are missing out on an average of £49 a week, just under the average amount that the poorest fifth of pensioner couples spend on food and non-alcoholic drinks in a week. It can, said McNamara, make the difference between being isolated at home or being able to take part in social activities. …”
Owl says: you could not make this up.
“Hospitals in England are relying on backup beds to carry out routine care, research has found.
Hospitals in England are relying on backup beds to carry out routine care, research has found.
Reliance on emergency beds suggests NHS trusts are at a “critical stage” and struggling to cope with demand, the British Medical Association has said.
The BMA submitted two waves of Freedom of Information requests to all 134 acute trusts in England in March and May 2019, which revealed the extent to which ‘escalation beds’ were being used routinely.
The first round of data received responses from 105 trusts showing that there were 3,428 escalation beds in operation.
In May, according to responses from 54 trusts, there were 1,637 instances of the these beds being used, though the BMA noted that due to a lower response rate, the real figure is likely to be higher.
The beds are only supposed to be used in emergencies and when there is a spike in demand.
Rob Harwood, BMA consultants committee chair, said: “The use of escalation beds is a sign that trusts are at a critical stage and are unable to cope with demand with their current bed stock.
“Some hospitals are forced to designate their theatre recovery beds as ‘escalation’, resulting in elective surgical operation being cancelled as there is no space for those patients who need immediate care after their surgery.”
Harwood noted that the pressure on capacity can see patients placed on beds in corridors and overcrowding treatment areas.
The BMA said that while escalation beds were traditionally used mainly in the winter, this was no longer the case as the number used in the first week of April was comparable to those in early January. There was an average of 20 escalation beds used per trust in early April and the start of January.
A total of 3,000 extra beds are needed to stop routine use of escalation beds outside of winter, while up to 10,000 are needed to bring occupancy to safe levels, the BMA estimated.
Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow Health Secretary, said: “The use of escalation beds is yet another sign that hospitals are struggling to cope under continued pressure. We know this is compromising patient care.”
“The outsourcing firm Serco was awarded new contracts to house vulnerable asylum seekers despite having been fined nearly £7m for previous failings, the Guardian can reveal.
Responsibility for housing people seeking asylum in the UK was taken away from local authorities in 2012 and given to the companies Serco, G4S and Clearsprings under deals with the Home Office known as Compass contracts.
Despite concerns by leading charities that outsourcing the service had resulted in “squalid, unsafe, slum housing conditions”, in January the Home Office awarded Serco, Clearsprings and the company Mears new contracts to provide housing for asylum seekers for 10 years from September.
Figures released following freedom of information requests and a parliamentary question show that £6.8m worth of “service credits” were imposed on Serco between April 2013 and December 2018. The figures do not include the month of March 2016.
Service credits are sums deducted from a company’s monthly invoice when it fails to meet key performance indicators included in its contract, such as property standards or how quickly issues are resolved.
Serco was fined a total of £2.8m for its contracts to provide asylum seeker housing in Scotland and Northern Ireland over that period, and just over £4m for its contract in north-west England.
Serco’s penalties were at their highest in 2013/14 (£3.9m) and 2016/17 (£1.16m). Between April to December 2018, after the new contracts were put out to tender, it was fined £850,000. In January the firm was awarded two contracts to provide asylum seeker housing: – one in the north-west and one in the Midlands and the east of England, from September.
The figures also show G4S was fined just over £2m for breaches of contract – £1.5m for its contract in the Midlands and east of England and £500,000 for its contract in the north-east and Yorkshire and the Humber, both of which end in August. Most of these fines (£1.7m) were incurred in 2013/14.
Clearsprings, which manages asylum accommodation in Wales and south-west England and London and the south-eaast, was not fined, despite also being criticised over standards of accommodation.
The Home Office initially refused to release data on the fines it had imposed, claiming the information was commercially sensitive, but it was forced to do so following a ruling by the Information Commissioner’s Office. …”
EDA County Councillor Martin Shaw gives details of the threat and the petition here:
“Britons between 18 and 29 have less left over after housing costs than older generations had at same age”
“In an inaugural national audit of intergenerational spending power, which is likely to reignite tensions between young and old, the Resolution Foundation thinktank concludes that today’s 18- to 29-year-olds are also spending less on shoes and clothes, hobbies and travel in real terms than those at the same age in 2001 as housing costs have soared. Compared with people the same age at the turn of the millennium they are 7% poorer in real terms, after paying rent, or if they can afford it, mortgage dues.
Meanwhile, in a story that will be familiar to the rising millions of twentysomethings who can’t afford to move out from their parents home, baby boomers have cranked up their spending on fun, laying out more on recreation, restaurants, hotels and culture, as people aged 65 and over have enjoyed a steep 37% rise in spending power compared with the same generation in 2001.
The audit is published by the Resolution Foundation’s new Intergenerational Centre, which is led by the former science minister David Willetts, and it said the findings debunked “the idea that young people are devoting growing pots [of money] to eating in restaurants and cafés (be that those that serve avocado on toast or others) or flying abroad”.
The proportion the young spent on fuel and groceries was up two percentage points while their spending on recreation and culture was down two points, the share spend on restaurants and hotels was down one point and clothing and shoes down two points. The 65s and over spent three percentage points less on groceries, two percentage points more on restaurants and hotels and three percentage points more on recreation and culture.
“The clear picture in terms of day-to-day living standards as measured through household consumption is of generational progress for older generations, and generational decline for younger ones,” the report said.
A spokesman for Generation Rent, which represents young people who have been priced out of homeownership, said in response to the report that “resentment is growing” and the founder of the Intergenerational Foundation, which promotes the interests of younger generations, accused older people of “breaking the social contract”.
Far from wasting potential housing deposits on fripperies, as suggested in 2017 by one millionaire property developer, millennials have been obliged to allocate a greater proportion of any money left over after housing costs to groceries, utilities and education. In 2018 they spent £380 a week on non-housing items on average – 7% less in real terms than they would have done at the turn of the century, analysis of official figures showed. At the same time the spending of people aged 50-64 rose 11% to £460, and pensioner spending rose to £390 a week.
The audit also assesses sharp increases in housing costs, cuts to in-work benefits, stagnant pay since the financial 2008 financial crisis and widening gaps in absolute wealth between young and old as key factors in one of the biggest social changes of this era.
Half a million more twentysomethings are living at home than would have been the case if the pre-crisis trend had not been disrupted, the report found. In 2007, half of 21- to 24-year-olds lived with their parents but by 2018 this had risen to 60%. The increase for those in their late twenties was even greater, up a third from 24% to 32%. …”