Government

Housing problems likely to persist for years

The Public Accounts Committee report says Government lacks ambition in addressing housing need and is dependent on ‘broken’ market.

Housebuilding lagging behind demand

The number of homes built in England has lagged behind demand for housing for decades.

The effects of this long-running shortfall in housing reveal themselves in the growing barriers people face in getting on the property ladder, or simply affording their rent.

The human costs are emphasised by the growing problem of homelessness, with the number of families living in temporary accommodation rising from 50,000 in 2011–12 to 72,000 in 2015–16. Almost 120,000 children in England live in temporary accommodation today.

The Department for Communities and Local Government (the Department) has an ambition to deliver 1 million new homes over the five years of this Parliament.

But despite acknowledging that the housing market in England is “broken”, it remains dependent on the existing market, which is dominated by a handful of private developers, to realise its ambition.

Plans to deliver will not come close to matching demand

Even if this is achieved, the Department acknowledges that it will not come close to meeting the actual level of housing need, so problems of affordability and homelessness are likely to persist for years to come.

The Department’s lack of ambition on such a fundamental issue is matched by a lack of information, in particular on the impacts and value for money of the roughly £21 billion the government spends each year on housing benefit.

The Department has recently published a White Paper outlining proposals for accelerating housebuilding, and the Committee looks forward to monitoring the development of its programmes.

Commons Select Committeefor Public Accounts 28 April 2017
www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/public-accounts-committee/news-parliament-2015/housing-report-published-16-17/

Tougher measures to target rogue landlords

New rules in force from 6 April 2017 will help crackdown on rogue landlords that flout the rules and improve safety and affordability for renters.

Announcing the measures, Housing Minister Gavin Barwell confirmed the powers will give local authorities the tools to crack down on the small minority of rogue landlords who shirk their responsibilities.

This comes as part of the government’s plan set out in its housing white paper to create a bigger and better private rental sector that meets the needs of tenants and landlords alike, giving those who rent a fairer deal.
www.gov.uk/government/publications/fixing-our-broken-housing-market

Councils are now able to impose fines of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for a range of housing offences. They will be able to retain all of the income to make sure it is used for private sector housing enforcement purposes.
www.gov.uk/government/publications/civil-penalties-under-the-housing-and-planning-act-2016

Rent repayment orders, which can be issued to penalise landlords managing or letting unlicensed properties, have also been extended to cover a wider range of situations. These include the illegal evictions or harassment of the occupiers of a property, using violence to secure entry and the breach of a banning order.
www.gov.uk/government/publications/rent-repayment-orders-under-the-housing-and-planning-act-2016 (more…)

Banning letting agent fees paid by tenants

Department for Communities and Local Government

Opens: 7 April 2017
Closes: 2 June 2017

This consultation seeks views on the implementation of a ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants.

The government announced at the 2016 Autumn Statement that it would consult on introducing a ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants, to improve competition in the private rental market and give renters greater clarity and control over what they will pay.

This consultation paper invites views and comments on how the ban on letting agent fees paid by tenants in England should be implemented and enforced.

To support the consultation process, the government has organised a series of workshops. Places will be allocated on a first come first served basis and the workshops will be tailored to different parts of the sector. Find out more details on the workshops and book your place. (more…)

Overview and scrutiny in local government inquiry

Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government

Opens: 24 January 2017
Closes: 10 March 2017

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee launches inquiry into overview and scrutiny in local government. The Committee will consider whether overview and scrutiny arrangements in England are working effectively and whether local communities are able to contribute to and monitor the work of their councils

Governance failings

Overview and scrutiny arrangements were introduced by the Local Government Act in 2000 as a counterweight to increasing decision-making powers of Leaders and Cabinets or directly elected mayors. Shortcomings have been exposed, however, following a number of high profile cases, including child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, poor care and high mortality rates at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and governance failings in Tower Hamlets. (more…)

Minister urges people to register their appliances

Consumer Minister Margot James and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are supporting Register My Appliance Day with the Association of Manufacturers and Domestic Appliances (AMDEA).

Encouraging people to take a few minutes to register their white goods, Register My Appliance Day raises awareness of product safety and recalls.

By adding product details onto the AMDEA Register My Appliance portal, people can be contacted swiftly in the event that a safety repair is needed. The portal is currently used by 45 leading brands, including the UK’s major white goods manufacturers. (more…)

Inquiry into supported housing funding reform launched

HousesJoint inquiry into the Government’s funding reform for supported housing.

Commons Select Committee for Work and Pensions and
Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government

Opens: 15 December 2016
Closes: 3 February 2017

The Work and Pensions Committee and the Communities and Local Government Committee launch a joint inquiry into the Government’s funding reform for supported housing.

Scope of the inquiry

The inquiry examines the planned changes for 2019–20, when core rent and service charges for supported housing will be funded through Housing Benefit or Universal Credit up to the Local Housing Allowance (LHA) rate. For costs above this, funding will go to local authorities for disbursement locally.

The Committee considers whether the new system will ensure that the varied rate of the LHA cap will not adversely affect tenants and providers in low-value parts of the country. It examines how existing tenants will be protected following the switch and ask whether the changes should be piloted.

The inquiry also looks at the effect that uncertainty about the new model is having on the sector and explores whether separate funding models are needed for refuges and other short-term supported housing services, or sheltered housing services for the elderly, which would require a higher cap.

How the localised funding pots would work, including how the money will be ring-fenced and which factors should be used to determine an areas allocation, are also investigated by the Committees. (more…)

Local pharmacies have been around for generations

pharmacy logoHelping you, your parents and your grandparents. If you want your local pharmacies to be there to help the generations to come, please lobby your MP.

The Department of Health (DH) has indicated it believes that there are up to 3000 too many pharmacies in England. At the same time, they have proposed a series of policy measures which would divert investment from local pharmacies to other care settings or to online suppliers of medicines. The current direction of policy, if not challenged, could lead to a serious fracturing of the pharmacy network in England, leaving many patients with reduced access to face to face advice and treatment and putting extra pressure on GPs and hospitals.

Go to the campaign website to lobby your MP
http://lobby.supportyourlocalpharmacy.com/

2018 Boundary Review initial proposals launched

bce_306_aw_1Boundary Commission for England

Opens: 13 September 2016
Closes: 5 December 2016

The independent Boundary Commission for England (BCE) has published its initial proposals for new Parliamentary constituencies. The publication marks the start of 12 weeks of consultation, during which the Commission needs to hear from you to help shape the proposed new constituency boundaries.

Following a decision by Parliament to reduce the number of constituencies in the UK to 600 from 650, and to ensure that the number of electors in each constituency is more equal, the BCE has been asked to make independent recommendations about where the boundaries of English constituencies should be. The BCE must report to Parliament in 2018 and, if agreed by Parliament, the new constituencies will be in use at the next scheduled General Election in 2020.

Publication of the initial proposals today is the first time people get to see what the map of new constituencies might look like. The rules that the Commission works to are such that wide scale change is inevitable. Under the proposals announced today, only 68 of the existing 533 English constituencies remain unchanged.

The proposals for Ashford would see large parts of the west of the existing Ashford Constituency,  moved to a new constituency named High Weald and a swathe of the existing Folkestone and Hythe Constituency moved to Ashford.

The towns and villages that would be moved out of the constituency include Charing Heath, Egerton, Little Chart, Smarden, Bethersden, Biddenden, High Halden, Tenterden, Rolvenden, Small Hythe and Newenden. The villages moved into Ashford would include Hastingleigh, Brabourne, Smeeth, Aldington, Bonnington, Bilsington and Ruckinge.

Sam Hartley, Secretary to the Commission, said: ‘Today’s proposals mark the first time people get to see what the new map of Parliamentary constituencies might look like. But they are just the Commission’s initial thoughts – during the next 12 weeks we want people to take a look and tell us what they like and don’t like about our proposals. Parliament has set us tight rules about reducing the number of constituencies, and making them of more equal size, and we now need the views of people around the country to help us shape constituencies that best reflect local areas. Use our website to tell us what you think, or come along to one of our public events to give us your views in person.’

It is easier than ever to get involved, by using the BCE’s website at www.bce2018.org.uk or by coming along to a public hearing in your area. People can comment on anything from where the proposed new boundary lines are to the names of the constituencies. The consultation closes on 5 December 2016. There will be a further two rounds of consultation in 2017. Following the conclusion of all three consultation periods, the BCE will look at all the evidence received and make final recommendations to Parliament in September 2018.

The nearest public hearings will be held on 3-4th November at County Hall, Maidstone. Attendance must be booked in advance via the links from the BCE consultation page www.bce2018.org.uk/node/6488?postcode=TN234EY

Boundary Commission for England 12 September, 2016
http://boundarycommissionforengland.independent.gov.uk/2018-boundary-review-initial-proposals-launched/

Tell us why parks in South Ashford matter

Victoria ParkSouth Ashford Community Forum (SACF) are asking for your help in telling a parliamentary committee why parks in South Ashford matter.

South Ashford Community Forum (SACF) is considering submitting evidence to the Inquiry into the Future of Public Parks being undertaken by the Commons Select Committee for Communities and Local Government (CLGC).

CLGC Chair, Clive Betts MP, has said: “Whether it is kicking the ball about with friends, joining a parkrun, walking the dog or just relaxing with a paperback, people value their local parks, but with councils under enormous financial pressures and with no legal obligation to fund and maintain public parks, these precious community resources may be at risk. (more…)

Future of public parks inquiry launched

Victoria ParkThe Communities and Local Government Committee launches an inquiry into public parks to examine the impact of reduced local authority budgets on these open spaces and consider concerns that their existence is under threat.

Public parks inquiry

The Committee looks at how parks should be supported now and in the future. This includes studying alternative management and funding models, such as a mutual or a trust.

Send a written submission

The Committee invites submission of written evidence to its website on the following issues:

  • Who uses parks and open spaces, how often and for what
  • The contribution of parks to the health and well-being of communities
  • The impact of reductions in local authority budgets on parks
  • What the administrative status of parks should be in light of declining local authority resources for non-statutory services
  • How new and existing parks can best be supported
  • What additional or alternative funding is available and what scope is there for local authorities to generate revenue from park users
  • What the advantages and disadvantages are of other management models, such as privatisation, outsourcing or mutualisation

The Committee would be grateful to receive written submissions by 30 September 2016. (more…)