Council housing, social housing, housing associations – What’s gone wrong and why we have a housing crisis on our hands

I was taken by this recent speech by Lord Tony Greaves in the House of Lords where he squarely nails why we have a housing crisis on our hands:-

Lord Tony Greaves – For all the faults of local authorities over the years and some of the major mistakes that were made, council housing is one of the great success stories of the last century. The more that that is said, the better. I remember when social housing was a new term introduced from America and we did not like it, because in America it meant housing for the down and outs and people at the bottom of the pile. Council housing at its best was housing run by and provided by the local community for the local community. It provided so many families with a decent quality of life.

The same was true of local housing associations when they started. They were set up as locally controlled and relatively small, providing for local needs. Nowadays, a lot of housing associations have simply turned into large non-profit-making housing companies. Why it is thought that affordable and social housing should be provided by companies like this, rather than by democratically elected local authorities, is a mystery to me.

Yet many local authorities, including my own I regret to say, were bribed and bullied—by the Labour Government in our case—into a stock transfer to a housing association. We were bribed because of the vast amount of money the Government gave us. Some of it was for housing improvement, renovation and repairs, which was fine, but a lot of it was just money handed out to the council to bribe us to do it. We were bullied into doing it because, if we did not, we would not even get the money to repair the housing. Initially, it was okay, and it was a local housing association with local representation, but it has now become part of a large north of England housing company.

There are two major scandals associated with [what has happened with social housing]. One is the fact that something like two out of five houses—probably more now—sold under right to buy are owned by private landlords. This is not a property-owning democracy where people own their houses under owner-occupation. It is simply a policy of the Tories handing over all this stuff to their mates and to private landlords. I have mates who are private landlords, and there are lots of good ones. But the large private landlord companies, particularly in the big cities, are responsible for a shocking deterioration in the housing stock occupied by the poorest people.

I do not have time to discuss the second scandal, the question of land. Until the question of land is sorted out—in the cost of a new house in London and the south-east, something like 70% or more of that is for land; it is payment for nothing other than the uplift to the people who own the land—it will remain an absolute disgrace. The land ought to belong to the people. It does not, but we need some policies that move in that direction.

Why does it take the House of Lords to stand up for decent British values?

www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/mar/02/lords-brexit-expos-govenrmen-protect-eu-citizens

The Guardian has the story on its web site – see link above

I despair more deeply every day as Mrs May(hem) takes us closer to a fascist sate where reasoned humanitarian arguments stand for nothing against the will of the rich and the powerful and make no mistake that’s the direction she is taking us in in my view.

That we have to reply on the unelected House of Lords to stand up for decency beggars belief but with Corbyn hitching his wagons to Mrs May’s wagon train she has a massive majority to do pretty much as she wants.

With thanks to Roy Connell for the lead to this posting

Tribute to Ronnie and Maureen Fearn on their retirement from Sefton Council

Lord Ronnie Fearn, who has been a councillor in Southport since before Sefton Council was even created back in 1974, and his sister-in law Maureen Fearn are both to retire as Sefton councillors this May. Both have been tireless workers for their community and indeed for Southport and the Borough of Sefton generally.

I have known them both for many years and it was Ronnie, together with Anthony Hill, who pushed me into standing for Sefton Council.

Ronnie was once the Leader of the Lib Dem Group on Sefton and he was also a member of the short lived Merseyside County Council. Before both of these he was a member of the old Southport County Borough Council. Of course he was elected as MP for Southport twice as well and then entered the House of Lords where he still sits.

Lord Ronnie Fearn with, Baroness Shirley Williams, John Pugh MP & Annette Pugh

Lord Ronnie Fearn with, Baroness Shirley Williams, John Pugh MP & Annette Pugh

Not long after I was elected to Sefton Council a combination of unusual circumstances found me as the Lib Dem Group Leader and then Leader of the Council. They must have been desperate! But of course this meant I was now Ronnie’s Leader and I always thought it was a bizarre situation. The man whom I looked up to looked to me, a lad from Maghull, for leadership! To be honest Ronnie did not interfere but when asked for his opinion he would give it in a kindly and helpful way but he always seemed to be my boss in my head.

And what about Maureen – 3 times the Mayor of Sefton. A tough but kind lady who is not taken in by anyone but is always a delight to talk to about anything. She reminds me of my dear old Mum offering advice and encouragement but firm with people who cross her.

Maureen would chair Lib Dem Sefton Council Group meetings during my time as Leader in a fair and even handed way until someone had, in her view, overstepped the mark. Then she would say ‘right I have heard enough we are moving on’ and the culprit usually backed off. If they seemed to challenge her she would turn into a Victorian School Marm and you got a real ticking off.

Those who were on the end of Maureen losing her sense of humour know who they are – Tony D, Simon and Fred, mentioning no names of course.

Ronnie has a political radar for trouble that I have rarely seen elsewhere, indeed only Andrew Blackburn, whom I nick-named Radar (MASH watchers will get this), has the same sixth sense for ‘elephant traps’ as Ronnie called them.

Maureen was President of the North West of England Lib Dems a while back and she sprung quite a surprise on my dear old friend Charles (Uncle Albert) Walker when she called him up to the podium at a conference and presented him with an award for all his efforts for Lib Dems. Charles, now a young 94, only showed me his award certificate a couple of weeks ago; he is very proud of it and Maureen who presented it to him.

Charles Walker being present with his award by Maureen Fearn.

Charles Walker being present with his award by Maureen Fearn.

Maureen is loved across the political spectrum and indeed Ronnie is too.

They both deserve a long and happy retirement from politics because they have devoted their lives to helping others. Happy retirement Ronnie and Maureen.

Lyme Disease – Lord Tony Greaves writes

www.libdemvoice.org/lord-tony-greaves-writesraising-awareness-of-lyme-disease-do-you-know-how-to-deal-with-tick-bites-48043.html#utm_source=daily&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=email

I picked up on this story because of an experience I had this summer.

Whilst gardening I was bitten/stung twice, one on each hand and it hurt like hell for a few hours. The following day it had all but gone and been forgotten about, but a week later my hand and wrist swelled and went red. I called into a chemist who sent me off to see a GP. The GP put me on antibiotics for a week and things cleared up. However, the GP was clearly concerned about Lyme Disease being a possibility and he questioned me in detail about how and where I was bitten/stung and what I saw of the little beasts that did it.

Clearly GP’s, like Lord Tony Greaves, are highlighting a very real and significantly debilitating/dangerous disease. Beware a walk in the woods where I am told is the most likely place to be bitten by such ticks.

Tax Credit cuts – Red Tories back the Blue Tories!

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www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-34631156

The BBC has the result of Labour’s shame-faced House of Lords vote – see link above

Would you credit it, Labour refused to back a Lib Dem proposal in the House of Lords tonight to kill off the Tories evil Tax Credit cuts.

When Labour had the chance (again!) to back the poor, they backed the Tories instead! Remember they sat on their hands for the Tory’s Welfare Reform Bill a few weeks ago and tonight they are failing to support the poor again.

The best that Labour can seemingly bring themselves to vote for is a weak proposal to defer the Tax Credit cuts; not kill them off but just defer them.

I ask you what’s the point of the Labour Party any more when they can’t do anything but be Tory cheer leaders and appeasers?