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.

Syria – Lord Tony Greaves has his say

Below are the views of Lib Dem Lord Tony Greaves – I agree with him entirely.

Tony Greaves

My Lords, if we had the Motion in front of us to vote on tonight I would vote against it. In doing so, I would be voting for the views of the majority of members of my party. Last night, when the Liberal Democrat MPs said they were going to support the Government, with various caveats, a ripple of surprise and shock went through the party. Some of us spent a great deal of time last night talking to people who were angry and felt they had been let down by our MPs.

British bombing will have little effect in practice. On its own it will not make any real difference. In that and many other respects I associate myself with the remarks that have just been made by the noble Lord, Lord Judd. The danger of ‘mission creep’ is a real problem.

The main impact of the Government’s Motion, this debate and the debate in the past few days has not been on international politics but on British politics. I have tried to understand why the Government have brought this forward at this time but I find it difficult to do so. My noble friend Lord Taverne may have some ideas.

Last week, the Liberal Democrats and Tim Farron, as leader, stated five conditions for supporting the Government today. He wrote to members of the party and said:

“We are writing to outline the criteria against which we will judge our response”.

He referred to five conditions. I emphasise the word “conditions”. The first was legal and I do not want to say anything more than my noble friend Lord Thomas of Gresford has said because he is an expert on these matters and I am not. The second was a wider diplomatic framework,

“including efforts towards a no-bomb zone to protect civilians.”

I see no evidence that there has been any progress on that.

The third was the United Kingdom to lead—I underline the word “lead”—a concerted international effort to put pressure on Gulf states, specifically Saudi Arabia and the Emirates, to stop the funding of jihadi groups and to do much more to assist in the effort to defeat ISIL, establish peace in Syria and help with the refugee situation. It was added:

“They are currently doing very little”.

I think that was a reference to the Government. I see no progress whatever on that or any commitments given. The fifth was domestic. Among other things he said:

“We call on the Government to step up its acceptance of Syrian refugees, and opt in to Save the Children’s proposal to re-home 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children from within Europe”.

The chances of this Government agreeing to that are close to zero. If I am wrong, I will hold my hand up and praise them to the heavens.

We are also told that things have changed because the Vienna talks are taking place and that this means there will be co-ordinated international action, a plan for the future, plans for the regeneration of Syria, rebuilding and so on. That seems to be an argument for waiting until that is in place before taking the kind of action now being proposed.

I do not believe that what is being put forward by the Government will work. In three or four or six months’ time we will be debating this issue again and people will want to do more. There is an old maxim: if you are in doubt about things and not completely convinced, first do no harm. Bombing at this time in Syria and Raqqa will do more harm than good.

With thanks to Tony Dawson for the lead to this posting

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.