Category Archives: Central Government

We’re still not taking safety seriously: So here’s what to do

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By Alistair McIntosh, CEO HQN

It’s getting on for two years since Grenfell. So, what have we done about it?

To cut to the chase, this is what Judith Hackitt said about us at the time: first of all, we didn’t know enough about our homes. But we certainly didn’t let that get in the way of cutting costs to the bone at every turn. It’s a pity we’re not so hot at listening to folk or keeping them safe.

Have we sorted this all out? No chance.

The RSH is still having to step in when landlords are lax on fire safety, gas and lifts. And associations are taking homes from builders that are not up to scratch. You’ve got to meet those targets after all. While we are on with that numbers game, Kit Malthouse says that he is fed up of being the complaints department for his local associations. What is the root problem here?

I don’t think the desire is there to fix safety. Why do I say that? Private finance came along. What did we do? We went out and got top notch finance directors. You’ve got to hand it to them. They’ve pulled in lots of cash to see us through anything Brexit throws at us. Well done.

Associations were told to get commercial and build loads more homes. We did what we did on finance. Yes, those development directors are pushing up the numbers. Of course that’s a good thing.

So, we know what to do. When there’s a problem you go out and find people that can fix it. And, crucially, you give them a seat at the top table. You make them directors. We’ve not done that with safety. You don’t see too many directors that can spend all their time on this. Yes, it gets added to other jobs but that’s not the same thing.

You have to fight for safety. If the finance director won’t pay for works you’ve got to stand up to them. So you need to be of the same rank. And money is not the issue anyway. There seems to be no end of money to blow on Emperor’s New Clothes, change-things-for-the-worse IT fiascos. When the development team pleads with you to take some lousy homes to hit their bonus, just say no. And you can only do that if you are round the same table.

When you come to think of it, isn’t it astonishing that your safety team seldom gets to vet new schemes? Housing managers don’t have much of a say either. And when you do get the handover papers, they can have more holes than a Swiss cheese. Then there are the endless battles between the award-winning builders and the poor sods that have to manage and live in the homes. Not to mention the MPs who are spending more time on sorting out new homes than Brexit. Maybe that’s why Theresa can’t get a decision out of the blighters.

So it’s time to appoint directors for safety. That’s what we do when we give a damn. The Bank of England knows this is the best way to get things done. That’s why they are insisting that banks and insurers put a senior executive onto climate change. And there is a lot of cross over. NICE are saying we should not build homes near main roads and the government’s climate change advisory board wants to get gas out of homes.

There’s a lot to do for a safety director. Sign one up now. Don’t wait to be told.

£1m for homeless veterans

Top view of Homeless man with money tin begging for money

The government has come up with a whole £1 million to support homeless veterans.

Announced today by communities secretary James Brokenshire, who has been doing loads of announcing recently, the cash will ‘help ensure those who have served their country have a roof over their heads and have the support they need once leaving the Armed Forces’.

The £1m is to be distributed among the ‘ten combined authorities and the Greater London Authority who will be able to use the funding to provide veterans with the bespoke support they need as they navigate civilian life’.

MP Brokenshire said: ‘Our veterans play a vital role in keeping our country safe and many have dedicated their lives to the services. For those who fall on hard times and end up on the street, it is only right that we give them all the support they need to put a roof over their head.’

Gaffe-haunted defence secretary Gavin Williamson also chimed in: ‘The vast majority of those leaving the Armed Forces go on to lead fulfilling and rewarding lives, but it’s right that we support those who struggle.

‘One veteran on the street is one too many and I welcome today’s announcement on funding to address homelessness and rough sleeping.’

Anyway, here’s the government’s press release in its full glory. 

Coming soon: Two major London housing communities

Newly built homes

Following a few housing-related bits and pieces announced in yesterday’s Spring Statement, the government has today revealed some more housebuilding news.

According to communities secretary James Brokenshire, two major housing communities will be built in London alongside new railway stations.

The good old government has pledged £250 million to put towards the construction of up to 13,000 homes near the new HS2 railway station at Old Oak Common, East Acton.

And another £320m is to be spent on a new community of 7,500 properties next to Brent Cross West Thameslink station, MP Brokenshire reckons.

Talking of which, the communities secretary said: ‘We are working to create homes, opportunities and thriving communities, especially in London which faces the most severe and unique housing pressures in the country.

‘The HS2 station at Old Oak Common will offer a new gateway to London, while a new station in Brent Cross can be the catalyst to build thousands more much-needed homes.

‘Together, this £570m package of investments will allow thousands of families the opportunity to realise their dreams of home ownership. It will provide up to 20,000 new homes, support new jobs and benefit from new transport infrastructure.’

The government believes Old Oak Common’s new station will ‘transform the area into a vibrant community, supporting up to 65,000 jobs’. Beleaguered HS2 Ltd has been told to get the station open by 2026, which seems quite a challenge.

As ever, here’s the link to the government’s press release concerning these revelations.

Spring Statement: Housing Overview

Yellow Toy House Sitting On Top Of Coin Stack: Real Estate and Savings Concept

Yesterday, central government fiscal announcement fans, was Spring Statement Day – though it’s hard to tell if anyone noticed/cared as it was also Brexit Day, which it is everyday, of course.

So, would you like to know what was revealed? Why not!

According to chancellor Phillip Hammond, the ‘UK economy continues to grow, with wages increasing and unemployment at historic lows, providing a solid foundation on which to build Britain’s economic future’.

There followed a load more stuff about how well Hammond/the government is doing – which seems particularly remarkable coming from a regime that has somehow managed to achieve less than nothing in two years of absurd Brexit negotiations, but there you go.

Anyway, onto housing, which was promised in the headline.

The government says it is ‘determined to fix the broken housing market,’ and that ‘building more homes in the right places is critical to unlocking productivity growth and makes housing more affordable’.

Apparently, the regime is on track to deliver 300,000 new homes a year, as promised. Hmm.

Moving on, £717 million is to be taken from the £5.5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund and used to ‘unlock up to 37,000 homes at sites including Old Oak Common in London, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc and Cheshire’.

Meanwhile, via the Affordable Homes Guarantee Scheme, the government says it will guarantee up to £3bn of borrowing by housing associations in England to support delivery of around 30,000 affordable homes.

And another £445 million from the Housing Infrastructure Fund will be deployed to unlock over 22,000 homes over on, again, the Oxford-Cambridge Arc project.

The chancellor also said that the government will hold a spending review, concluding alongside the Budget, which will set departmental budgets, including three-year budgets for resource spending, if an EU exit deal is agreed – so better not hold your breath on that one, then.

Here’s the press release covering everything else that happened. 

Now that’s over you can resume your normal position: staring blankly at Brexit.

 

Government announces £1.6 billion for less prosperous towns, denies bribery

business woman hand holding coins puting in glass. concept finance and accounting saving

The government of the land has suddenly announced a big heap of money for ‘places that have not shared in the proceeds of growth in the same way as more prosperous parts of the country’.

Revealed by no less than prime minister Theresa May, the £1.6 billion Stronger Towns Fund will apparently be used to ‘create new jobs, help train local people and boost economic activity’ – furthermore ‘communities’ are going to be permitted to have a say on how the funds are spent.

According to the press release, the monies are part of the ‘government’s commitment to build a more prosperous economy that works for everyone’ [sic].

However, the sudden largesse has been slammed as a bribe to sweeten MPs into supporting the prime minister’s unpopular Brexit deal, forcing the likes of communities secretary James Brokenshire to go on the radio and claim everything’s in order.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, MP Brokenshire refused to say how many towns would actually benefit from the cash, adding that the ‘funding is there regardless of the outcome…there is no conditionality’.

Anyway, the government says that £1bn will be ‘allocated using a needs-based formula’ with more than half (£583 million) going to towns across the North, and £322m allocated to the Midlands.

Meanwhile, another £600m will be made available to communities in any part of the country to bid for.

Theresa May, who has possibly been reading some Marx if the first sentence is anything to go by, said: ‘For too long in our country prosperity has been unfairly spread. Our economy has worked well for some places but we want it to work for all communities.

‘Communities across the country voted for Brexit as an expression of their desire to see change – that must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control.

‘These towns have a glorious heritage, huge potential and, with the right help, a bright future ahead of them.’

Here’s a breakdown of the regional allocations:

Region Allocation (£m)
North West 281
North East 105
Yorkshire and The Humber 197
West Midlands 212
East Midlands 110
South West 33
South East 37
East of England 25
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