Right to Buy not sustainable shock… not

David Walker in West Felton

A new Study by the LGA (Local Government Association) has warned that Right to Buy is at risk of being unsustainable. For many, this won’t be a shock at all, and I would argue this policy hasn’t been sustainable from day 1. This flawed policy has largely been responsible for the current crisis in the supply of affordable housing to buy and social housing to rent.

Let’s be honest Right to Buy has never been sustainable. Nothing wrong with letting tenants buy their homes but they should have let councils build replacement stock from day 1. #socialhousingcrisishttps://t.co/isKI0Cgx96

— David Walker 🔶🐤 #FBPE 🇬🇧🇪🇺 #stopbrexit #ABTV (@piginthepoke) June 11, 2018

First some history…

In the post-war years, Councils undertook a massive house building program to address the then housing crisis. The large-scale Council House building program after the war was a success.

Larger scale Council House building program after the war was a success. Conservative & Labour Governments after the 1980 successively undermined that success
Above is a picture of my Great Grandfather Arthur Harrison, who was Mayor of Bridgnorth in 1945-46, receiving the ceremonial key to the first council house on Syndey Cottage Drive – which my father still possesses.

The Conservative Flagship policy of Mrs Thatcher that allowed Council Tenants to buy their own homes at a heavily discounted rates was flawed from the start… Not just because of the excessive scale of the discount, but more significantly, the fact that they stopped Councils replacing the houses they lost to Right to Buy. Instead, Councils amassed huge capital receipts when they should have been using to build new council housing.

Large Scale Voluntary Transfer of Council Stock to new Social Landlords became the new norm, again with a large discount, in the hope that Social Landlords would fill the void. The Labour Government accelerated Right to Buy and encouraged Large Scale Voluntary Transfers whilst raiding the Capital receipts of well run Council Housing Departments. How much of those capital receipts went into building new housing?

Social Housing Crisis

At its peak in the 70s about 400k social houses were being built by Councils and by private enterprise – roughly 50/50 or 200k each. Fast forward to 1995 and the Council house supply of new houses had all but disappeared with private enterprise building about 150k houses a year right through to 2010.

  • Social Landlords haven’t been able to pick up the slack.
  • Private Developers interest is in maintaining a lack of supply, rising prices and profits, not what society needs.
  • Councils haven’t been able to build new houses.
  • The planning system has systematically failed to deliver enough houses in the right places, of the right size or of the right type.
  • The build rate has plummeted.

The result has been a shrinkage in the supply of housing, particularly affordable housing to buy or rent which has driven up rents and house prices. First-time buyers have largely been priced out of the market and forced into renting or relying on the Bank of Mom and Dad.

All too often, those houses that are being built are the wrong sort and in the wrong places.

There are some excellent graphics that illustrate the problem in Social Housing in this Guardian Article: How did the crisis in UK social housing happen?

More on the LGA report: https://news.sky.com/story/flagship-tory-right-to-buy-council-house-scheme-under-threat-11401333

The Solution

To fix this problem there is no need to scrap Right to Buy and the social mobility that scheme can help to provide, but it does need serious reform.

Instead, factor in:

  • Allow councils, with Government support, to borrow money and build new Council Housing where it is needed, or as part of the often muted new garden cities.
  • Allow these houses to be sold to tenants in Rent to Buy schemes and plough the receipts back into building more houses.
  • Fix the problems in the planning system, whilst still protecting the natural and built environment.
  • Use more environmentally sound construction methods.

That will better contribute to a balanced and more sustainable housing policy.

The last 20 years have shown us that the private sector alone can not possibly be relied upon to solve the social housing crisis or the lack of affordable housing to buy.

Liberal Democrats are famous for spectacular by-election results

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

By-elections might not be able to change the Government, but shock results can change politics and change Britain.

And now we have a chance to do just that in Lewisham East.

Since the referendum, every time Jeremy Corbyn could have stood up to the Tories on Brexit, he’s sat on his hands.

We can only stop Brexit with the Labour party’s votes. And the only way we get those votes is if they’re scared of a pro-European tide sweeping them away.

With your help in Lewisham East, we can make them fearful of us. Will you come and volunteer in the final few days?

Yes, I will

This by-election is your opportunity to make a difference – and help stop Brexit.

We are running rings around Labour in our activity. No other party is anywhere to be seen. Our stake boards are turning Lewisham East orange, we have canvassers on every doorstep and our leaflets can be found in every letterbox.

Lewisham Labour voters are not happy with Jeremy Corbyn. They were promised that he would stand up to the Tories on Brexit, but he has caved at every single opportunity.

Lewisham voters are willing to lend us their vote in this by-election to make it clear to Jeremy Corbyn that this isn’t good enough.

And it couldn’t come at a better time.

The stakes couldn’t be higher.

The EU withdrawal bill is rumoured to hit the House of Commons any day now. A great result in Lewisham East for an unashamedly pro-European party would be a hammer blow to a hard Brexit.

But unless he’s scared that remainers will stop voting Labour, he’ll continue to take Remain support for granted.

Help us make sure he stands up to the Tories on Brexit. Help us send Jeremy Corbyn a message in Lewisham:

Yes, I will

This could be your chance to change the direction of British politics.

When the dust has settled and the results are in, you will want to say you were in Lewisham East, part of the team making it happen.

Paddy Ashdown

Former leader of the Liberal Democrats

House of Fraser to close half of stores

David Walker in West Felton

House of Fraser has announced that they are closing half of their stores, axing 6,000 jobs. Amongst the stores to close are the Flagship Oxford Street Store as well as their stores in Shrewsbury and Telford. Another store in a growing list contacting floor space in the face of increasing cost pressures. A trend that makes Shropshire Councils recent decision to spend £51 million to buy Shopping centres in Shrewsbury look increasingly reckless.

This is very sad news for everybody who is impacted by these closures. I hope they can quickly find suitable alternative employment. Having been laid-off for a protracted period and then made redundant in 2008 I fully sympathise with the concerns and the worry these families will now be facing. Sadly this won’t be the last announcement of this kind.

House of Fraser won’t be the last to contract in this way

House of Fraser is part of a growing list of companies affected by the changes facing the retail sector. The increase of online shopping, threats from changes in consumer spending patterns and Brexit are all causing a contraction in demand for retail floor space as outlined by the Deloitte Retail Trends 2018 released in January.

Increasingly, large retail stores are downsize as they adapt to changing consumer shopping habits and increasing cost pressures
Increasingly, large retail stores are downsizing as they adapt to changing consumer shopping habits and increasing cost pressures

House of Fraser Chief Executive, Alex Williamson, said: “Today’s announcement is one of the most important in this company’s 169-year history… We are fully committed to supporting those personally affected by the proposals.”

Chairman, Frank Slevin, has said the company was facing an ‘existential threat’. “The retail industry is undergoing fundamental change and House of Fraser urgently needs to adapt to this fast-changing landscape in order to give it a future and allow it to thrive. Our legacy stores estate has created an unsustainable cost base, which without restructuring, presents an existential threat to the business.”

Deloitte Retail Trends 2018

“2018 could see a further acceleration in store closures as retailers finally get to grips with transforming their real estate portfolios, to be fit for a market where online continues to outperform the rest of the market.” Deloitte Retail Trends 2018

In the report they highlight figures for last 5 weeks of 2017:

  • Sales Online UP 9.4%;
  • 2/3 spent was on mobile
  • Footfall DOWN 5.5%
  • Sales in store DOWN 4.4%

Shropshire Council has spent £51 million to purchase shopping centres in Shrewsbury.

At a time when services are being pared to the bone, our roads are beginning to look like the moon, retailers are under huge pressure and shopping habits are changing dramatically, buying these retail site is a massive white elephant.

Even if this investment brings in money in the short-term, the long-term downside and risk is significant and represents a poor use of public money to fix a problem of the Conservatives own making. Shropshire Council is facing a £59m shortfall in its finances by 2020.

Shropshire Council faces a £59m shortfall in its finances by 2020
David looking at the funding blackhole with Roger Evans in 2017.

Shropshire Council faces a £59m shortfall in its finances by 2020

That £51m could have been better spent on roads, Street Lights, housing and other key capital projects, at less risk, and with a bigger return on the investment., that could have reduced the burden

Would that money have been better spent directly supporting the 1000s of businesses in the county? Is this really a sound investment?

I would say, yes they should have directly supported businesses across the whole county to stimulate broader growth, and no this £51m isn’t a sound investment. It is a poor use of limited capital reserves that doesn’t do enough to fill in the gaping hole in the Councils revenue budget.

Vince Cable speech: Capitalism in Crisis

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

He explores some of the serious problems facing capitalism today, and how these issues have provoked reactions from the extremes of the political spectrum. Common sense reform is necessary to curb the worst excesses of capitalism.

“Scarcely a day goes by without a scandal erupting around greedy or bullying bosses, pilfered pension funds, business tax dodging, chaotic private train operators, rewards for failure, bankers’ bonuses, price gouging or exploitation of gig workers, zero hours contract employees or modern slaves.

The public appears to want more nationalisation, more regulation and higher taxes on business.

Populist politicians on the left, like Jeremy Corbyn or Bernie Sanders in the USA, get a respectful hearing at business conferences. Leading business spokespeople and gurus preach contrition, restraint and self-flagellation.

There is a palpable sense of capitalism being in crisis or, at least, facing a crisis of confidence.

Although it does not explain everything, the financial crisis of a decade ago played an important part in puncturing the confidence generated by the collapse of Communism two decades earlier confidence that the capitalist model, the liberalisation of markets and the ‘animal spirits’ of entrepreneurs, could be relied upon to generate an ongoing, inexorable rise in living standards.

This view was epitomised by Francis Fukuyama’s “End of History” thesis now the subject of universal mockery but taken very seriously at the time that liberal democracy and the market economy had conclusively and for all time settled the ideological debate.

Instead, financial markets proved to be highly unstable and prone to excess.”

Download the full speech here.

Lib Dems secure final say amendment on Brexit bill

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Liberal Democrat Peers have been leading the fight against the Conservatives in the House of Lords and have inflicted a whopping 15 Government defeats on the EU Withdrawal Bill. This bill is key to reversing Brexit and is expected to return to the House of Commons in late June.

The Liberal Democrats will now spearhead the resistance against Brexit in the Commons.

Lib Dem Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has secured an amendment that could give us an Exit from Brexit. The final say amendment will require MPs to vote on whether they believe the public should be given the final say on the Brexit deal, including the opportunity to remain in the E.U.

Jeremy Corbyn is hoping that no one has noticed that he is helping Theresa May deliver her disastrous Brexit, but the final say amendment puts the spotlight squarely on Corbyn and Labour leadership. Is he going to join the Lib Dems in putting an end to this botched Brexit? Or will he stare at his shoes while Theresa May, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove bungle our nation’s future?

Labour need to get behind the Lib Dems on this vote and stand up to the Tories. If they do, we have a real chance to give the British people a final say on Brexit, and the chance to stay in the European Union.

This is a huge moment. We need you to join our cause, lobby Labour to get behind the Lib Dem amendment, and reverse this chaotic hard Brexit.

Help us ban upskirting

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

I’ve been blown away by the thousands of people who have joined the campaign to ban upskirting so far.

Together, I know we can achieve a change in the law.

Two weeks ago at Prime Minister’s, Questions the Prime Minister said the Government were considering supporting my bill ban upskirting. We need to make sure her warm words are backed up with action

That’s why we need you to contact the two Ministers with responsibility for making this change – we must keep pressuring the government to support my bill.

Here’s who we need you to contact – and what we need you to emphasise:

Victoria Atkins MP

Minister for Women and Parliamentary Undersecretary for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability

I have a meeting organised with Victoria ahead of my bill’s second reading in June – could you get in touch and let her know why it is so important as Minister for women she supports my bill?

Email Victoria
Message Victoria

Lucy Frazer MP

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Justice

Our discussions with the MoJ have been really encouraging so far – can you thank Lucy for her support and stress how important it is we change the law ASAP?

Email Lucy
Tweet Lucy
Message Lucy

Thank you {{recipient.first_name_or_friend}}; with your help, I know we can ensure that this vile crime becomes what it deserves to be: banned.

With best wishes,

Wera


PS: If you’re stuck for what to say, here’s a message you can send to each of the Ministers:

Victoria Atkins:

Dear Ms Atkins,

Upskirting is a vile crime that violates and degrades victims. Thousands of women are subjected to it every single year and it has a lasting impact on their mental health and wellbeing.

As you know, with the law as it currently stands the Police find it hard to prosecute this – and that’s why campaigners, including Wera Hobhouse MP and Gina Martin have been calling for upskirting to become a specific offence.

Two weeks ago at Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May said she was willing to consider this change. But it will be down you to make sure this happens – the law must fully protect women and girls from this despicable act.

I know Wera and Gina are meeting with you to discuss the campaign, will you commit to supporting Wera’s bill ahead of it’s second reading in June?

Thank you,

[Your Name here]
Lucy Frazer:

Dear Ms Frazer,

Thank you for your support so far. We appreciate your work with those campaigning to make upskirting a specific, sexual offence.

As you know, this is a despicable act that affects thousands of women and girls every year – and it’s currently very hard for the Police to prosecute with the law as it currently stands.

Making upskirting a specific, sexual offence would ensure that the law recognises that this is a crime with a victim and also ensure that the perpetrators are punished.

We hope you continue to work with Wera and Gina to ensure that you and your Parliamentary and Ministerial colleagues support Wera’s bill in June.

Thank you,

[Your name]

New policy working groups looking for members

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

We’re looking for members for two new policy working groups: one on health and social care and one on climate change.

Do you have expert knowledge of the healthcare system? Of social care? Or climate change and energy policy?

If so there is an opportunity to help set the direction of party policy on these issues by joining a policy working groups. The party’s Federal Policy Committee is launching two new working groups: a Health and Social Care working group and a Climate Change and the Low Carbon Environment working group.

As a member of a working group, you would attend regular evening meetings (either in person or remotely) over a period of 12-18 months, input your ideas for policy, and play a role in drafting the final policy paper. The positions are voluntary and you must be a member of the party.

Both working groups will take evidence in the second half of 2018. The Health group will produce a consultation paper and run a consultation session at Spring Conference 2019; the climate change group will run its consultation session at Autumn Conference 2018. After the consultation sessions, the groups will prepare their final drafts over March-June 2019, and these will be presented to FPC for amendments and approval. Subject to this approval, the final papers will be published in July 2019, and debated at the Autumn 2019 conference.

The Climate Change group will flesh out the party’s commitment to a zero-carbon Britain by 2050. The group will need to show in detail how we believe this target can be met and outline the policy instruments (currently often set by EU legislation) which will need to be deployed for energy, transport, housing, industry and agriculture and land use.

The Health and Social Care group will look at what we can do to help the UK’s health and social care services meet the challenges that they face. As part of this group you will tackle some big questions: How do we help people stay healthier for longer? How can we ensure health and social care are integrated and accountable? How can we make access to health and social care more equal? How do we achieve our goal of parity between physical and mental health care? How do we secure long-term sustainability of the NHS and care services?

Both groups promise to be interesting. We are looking for who have one or more of the following:

  • Interest or experience of relevant policy areas
  • Experience in campaigns, media or communications
  • Experience of using policy as a campaigning tool

If this is you and you want to help us make policy, apply using the links below.

Apply for climate change group

Apply for health and social care group

The deadline is 13.00 on 1 June 2018.

A fantastic month for the Liberal Democrats

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Congratulations to all the very many Liberal Democrats who stood for local council seats this month.

Local democracy relies on those who put themselves forward to represent residents, so whether you won or not, I hope you will be proud of having stood.

As a party, we saw results greatly exceeding expectations, with a big net gain of 75 councillors and four new councils under Liberal Democrat majority control.

This is a better performance than Labour and a much better performance than the Tories.

We succeeded in Conservative facing areas like Kingston, Richmond and South Cambridgeshire, and made significant strides in Labour-facing Hull, Haringey and Liverpool.

All over the country our message that Liberal Democrats listen, work hard and get things done made a major impact.

Meanwhile, Labour voters are beginning to recognise how much their party is letting them down over Brexit. The Conservatives’ cuts to schools and policing are a growing source of discontent.

Now we have a new opportunity to add momentum to our campaigning, with the by-election in Lewisham East.

The departing MP, Heidi Alexander, vehemently opposed Jeremy Corbyn’s complicity in Brexit, and voted against his whip.

But a new Labour MP in Lewisham will almost certainly toe the Labour leadership line.

By contrast, our candidate, Lucy Salek will stand up for a constituency which overwhelmingly voted to remain. A Liberal Democrat win can help secure a final say for the public on the final deal, with the option of remaining in the EU.

Lewisham is Lucy’s hometown, and I know she will represent it very ably on the issues people are already raising on doorsteps – secondary schools and knife crime.

She is an exceptional candidate.

To win, we will need a huge Liberal Democrat effort from members all over the country: we have just four short weeks to get our message to voters in Lewisham. Please do come and help, offer to make calls, or donate to the campaign if you can’t make it in person libdems.org.uk/byelections

Our electoral success from local by-elections to the recent council elections to the Lewisham by-election gives us the credibility we need to be heard on the big national issues of the day.

We are, of course, central to the national debate on Brexit. And at our Spring Conference, we endorsed proposals for ring-fenced funding of the NHS, for restoring respect for teachers and for a broad school curriculum. In April, I kickstarted a debate about the future of big data, and the power of big tech companies like Amazon, Facebook and Google. In the coming months, I intend to set out Liberal Democrat ideas on a number of big questions facing the country like the housing supply crisis, our prospectus for responsible business and for lifelong learning.

I want our party to be a workshop for big ideas to change the country.

Ideas to win votes, and ideas we can put into action when we win elections.

There is a big opportunity for members to contribute at our autumn conference in Brighton. Look out for registration information in the next couple of weeks, and if you can’t join for the whole time consider coming just for a day, for a weekend, or following the key debates online.

Thanks to you our party has grown dramatically in membership; now it is growing in support and we are making the political weather.

There are still big challenges for us to return to our previous strength in Parliament and in devolved and local government: there’s a lot of hard work to do, but we can see this month’s results as the foundation stone for our renewal.

Thank you to everyone for helping to make it happen.

Sal Speaks: May 2018

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

Thank you! Thank you for everything that gave us the best election night in some years.

We took control of four councils: Richmond & Kingston in London, Three Rivers District in Hertfordshire, and South Cambridgeshire District.

We also had a great increase in the net councillors across England, +75, just behind Labour on +79. The Tories had -33, with UKIP -123.

Labour were predicted to gain a number of councils but didn’t, and the Tories lost a net four. Despite the lack of attention from the press, there is no doubt that we had the most significant result of the night.

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Vacancy – Registered Treasurer and Chair of FFRC

Vince Cable and Liberal Democrats on Europe March 2017

The Liberal Democrats are seeking a highly qualified volunteer with significant experience of financial and compliance matters at a high level to become their Registered Treasurer and Chair of the Federal Finance and Resources Committee.

The FFRC Chair and Registered Treasurer of the Party is a senior role within the party that requires a substantial commitment beyond the Chairing of the FFRC, including attending and contributing to both the Federal Board and the Operations Committee (a sub-committee of the Board comprising the Vice Chairs, English and Welsh Chairs, the Scottish Convenor and all the Federal Committee Chairs), as well as being an ex-officio member of the Federal Audit and Scrutiny Committee.

The Registered Treasurer has specific responsibilities in signing off the quarterly Electoral Commission donation returns as well as annual accounts and generally being the first point of contact for the Electoral Commission in relation to Party administration.

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