1% own 50% of England

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A tiny fraction of people own half of England a book has revealed – but we suspected that already, didn’t we?

In good news for fans of the aristocracy and big corporations, author Guy Shrubsole’s book ‘Who Owns England?’ shows that a mere 25,000 people currently hold 50% of the country’s land area.

According to this Guardian story, some of the bigger players include the Queen, the Duke of Buccleuch and the Brexit-loving vacuum cleaner salesman James Dyson, who recently moved his air sucking operation to Singapore.

Shrubsole is scathing: ‘Most people remain unaware of quite how much land is owned by so few. A few thousand dukes, baronets and country squires own far more land than all of middle England put together.

‘Land ownership in England is astonishingly unequal, heavily concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite.’

The author drew on public maps and FOI requests when creating his book which shows: 30% of England’s land is in the hands of ‘aristocracy and gentry’; 18% corporations; 17% oligarchs and city bankers – all groups most of us respect and look up to no doubt.

Meanwhile, 5% belongs to ‘homeowners’ and the public sector has a 8.5% share.

MP Jon Trickett isn’t very pleased, as you’d hope given that he’s in the Labour party. He said: ‘The dramatic concentration of land ownership is an inescapable reminder that ours is a country for the few and not the many.

‘It’s simply not right that aristocrats, whose families have owned the same areas of land for centuries, and large corporations exercise more influence over local neighbourhoods – in both urban and rural areas – than the people who live there.

‘Land is a source of wealth, it impacts on house prices, it is a source of food and it can provide enjoyment for millions of people.’

Anyway, happy Easter.

Council scraps £100 fines for begging

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A local authority has given up trying to fine people £100 for begging after realising that the tactic doesn’t work very well, rather unsurprisingly.

Southampton City Council brought in the Public Spaces Protection Orders (PSPOs) three years ago – and in that time 32 fixed penalties have been issued of which only one has actually been paid.

Conceding defeat, the council said: ‘Few of these fixed penalties were paid and they did little to change the behaviour of these individuals.’

However, an outfit that represents business types called Go! Southampton is demanding the PSPOs remain, as the problem is apparently getting worse and ‘professional beggars’ are operating ‘on a rota basis’.

In a letter to the council, GO! Southampton said: ‘PSPO is one of the few tools we have to combat the proliferation of beggars. Over the last 12 months, 60% of our businesses have reported that antisocial behaviour issues associated with begging have impacted their business.’

But according to the council, the likes of police action and community protection notices have been more effective.

Community wellbeing councillor Dave Shields said: ‘It’s not working and we would rather focus on the things that will work.’

Former housing minster demands reforms

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A former housing minister has come up with a raft of reforms that he kept to himself when he was in a position to potentially do something about them.

One of many, many former housing ministers, Dominic Rabb MP has demanded a brand new help to buy scheme that would see landlords exempted from capital gains tax if they sell to their tenants, and the scrapping of stamp duty for homes worth less than £500,000.

However, critics have slammed the much-derided MP – who, amazingly, is apparently a genuine contender to become next prime minister when Theresa May quits – and have pointed out that he kept his mouth firmly shut about such things when he was housing minister.

In conversation with the the Sunday Telegraph, naturally, Rabb also said that his government had failed to stand up to developers and make sure that enough new homes are being built.

On top of all this, he also called for more public-owned land to be released and for councils to be allowed to sell plots to small developers – once again, opinions that weren’t evident while he was in charge of housing, a point that hasn’t escaped the National Federation of Builders (NFB).

Richard Beresford, CEO of the NFB, said: ‘I don’t remember Dominic Raab having any of these ideas when he was housing minister. The revolving door used to usher in a steady stream of housing ministers is unlikely to get any rest, so how likely is it that these ideas will be implemented?’

Raab quit as Brexit Secretary some time after discovering that Dover played an important role in the transport of goods between the UK and continental Europe. Since then, he has furiously criticised Theresa May’s proposed Brexit deal – a deal he himself partly negotiated.

Rogue landlord database has 4 (anonymous) entries 12 months on

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A year ago, the government brought in laws to punish terrible landlords – so, 12 months later, how many have been hit with one of the new banning orders?

None! That’s right – according to this Guardian article from which I’m lifting this entire story, not a single slum landlord has been banned from renting homes in England: which may mean all the rubbish landlords have bucked their ideas up, but I doubt it.

Under the rules, dodgy landlords must have their details put into the government’s rogue landlord database.

Anyhow, local authorities are also able to make discretionary entries onto the database – and according to the results of the Guardian’s FOI request, a mere four suspect landlords have been entered into the system since it went online; and their names can’t even be accessed, so it’s hard to imagine what the point of all this is.

Despite the suspicious lack of entries on the would-be flash but currently fruitless database, the government reckons there are a massive 10,500 rogue landlords plying their trade across England.

Heather Wheeler, minister for housing and homelessness, is clearly a fan of the database and very keen to defend it. ‘The rogue landlord database is targeted at the most prolific and serious offenders. It is a lengthy process to build cases and secure convictions and it is therefore not surprising that there are only a limited number at this stage,’ she said.

She continued: ‘We expect the number of entries to the database to increase during the year as only offences committed from April last year can be included and it can take time to secure convictions.’

But none of that’s flying with Clive Betts, chair of the parliament’s housing, communities and local government select committee,  who said: ‘Given what we know about the bad behaviour of a small number of landlords, it is very, very disappointing there aren’t more being prosecuted and banned.’

So, who’s right: Wheeler or Betts? Let us know in the comments section.

 

Social housing ‘attracts drugs and other illegal activities’ leaflet claims

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An interesting leaflet has appeared in a corner of Kent in relation to a proposed social housing development.

The missive’s alarmed authors challenge residents to take a stance against the 60-flat scheme in Gravesend, and claim that ‘social housing traditionally attracts drugs and other illegal activities’.

Signed ‘Your local parish council’, the leaflet urges readers to ‘please act now!’ and asks if they want ‘unsavoury characters walking past your homes and into your neighbourhood and schools’.

The leaflet – which is entirely in uppercase, perhaps demonstrating the fury/fear/urgency the writers feel – also claims that the development risks a ‘devaluation of your property’ and a ‘rise in crime as residents will be rehoused from London and surrounding suburbs bringing with them gangs and knife crime’.

Additionally, the flyer warns that the 60 new builds will bring 200+ cars with them, which is about 3.33 cars per home – a ‘stat’ I didn’t know about social housing tenants, or perhaps the authors based the figure on projected drug dealing proceeds?

According to Gravesham Borough Council’s planning portal, the development Lodge Valley Drive comprises the ‘Demolition of existing house and outbuildings and erection of a part four storey and part three storey building for the residential development of 20no. one bedroom, 41no. two bedroom and 3no. three bedroom apartments with associated car parking’.

Though credited to the parish council, the word on Twitter is that it’s not, thankfully, their work – and I couldn’t get through when I tried to ring them so that’ll have to do for the time being.

 

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