Some thoughts on the Labour Party prompted Jeremy Corbyn’s first 100 days as leader

jeremy-corbyn-4

Is it possible to be a rebel under Jeremy Corbyn‘s Straight Talking Honest Politics which encourages open debate on issues and policies?

Recently in a Guardian article Owen Jones said: “We need a more balanced debate about Jeremy”- Hew as talking out that debate in the mainstream media, but that debate needs to be taking place between members of the The Labour Party – whether left or right, Old Labour or New Labour.

My Labour Party has always been a broad church but at the moment there are too many narrow pews.

There are too many factions causing too much friction.

We need to clarify our differing opinions to appeal to a diverse electorate. I for one haven’t the time for in-fighting…time spent fighting amongst ourselves is time lost in talking about what we all mean by Labour’s values

We need to work together in spite our differences (of emphasis). We have the same goal – a Labour victory – in 2020 despite our different routes.

We need the momentum to progess our radical and progressive agenda to help people – an argument between Momentum and Progress helps no one (except, perhaps, the Conservatives?).

We have to put Labour first and foremost in our conversations – that’s Labour Party values first, not the values of Labour First.

We need open debate about the aims of the Labour Party – not debate about the merits of Open Labour.

We’ll end up with pointless in-fighting: Are you a member of the Judean People’s Labour Front? Or the People’s Labour Front of Judea?

It is absolutely necessary to have these conversations if we want a more equal, more just and more sustainable society.

But we need to have these conversations in good faith – with no *threats* of either “knifing in the front” or “deselecting” MPs who have differing views.

I like Corbyn – he represents a new, a different voice in politics and has got many new people to engage – but I don’t agree with everything he says and does.

And that said, I’m certainly no Blairite – but let’s remember want he helped deliver: 2,200 Sure Start Children’s Centres, introduced the Equality and Human Rights Commission, brought in Civil Partnerships, banned fox hunting, gave free entry to national museums and galleries, legislated for paternity leave of 2 weeks, allowed all full time workers to have 24 days paid holiday, and made sure we had the cleanest rivers, beaches, drinking water and air since before the industrial revolution. And much more.

We need to be grown up and realise that Blairites are not Tories. Corbynites are not Trots. We are all Labour – together. 

It’s a big, wide world out there so:

Lets pull together, not apart

Let’s get out and campaign positivity for OUR values.

Let’s abandon blinkered tribalism. and reject sniping and tolerance within the Labour party.

Let’s put aside our differences, look to the common bonds that unite us and start to attack the real enemies – the Tory party and the large companies that support them.

Let’s make our voice the voice that matters for those that need our support.

Let’s talk about policies and programmes to build support for Labour.

Let’s unite and fight FOR things that matter for me – social justice, a roof over everyone’s head, free legal aid, the safety net of social security.

Let’s campaign for the things that matter for the poor, the vulnerable, the disadvantaged, the caring, the homeless, the disabled, the long-term sick, the terminally ill.

Someone once said that “the hallmark of a civilised society” was a desire “each and everyone one of us being housed, educated, fed and kept in good health”.

And that someone? Jeremy Corbyn [in Morning Star, For Labour To Succeed It Must Get Real, 09 June 2015]

And who among us can disagree?

I haven’t got time for divided politics on the left, nor do the people who need us to fight for them  I don’t want us to fail those that need us.

I want to make a difference in a complex world – a world where aspiration has to be addressed at the same time as I challenge social and economic inequality.

Under Corbyn, Labour can – and must – become the most powerful force for progressive change in generations; moving from the old-style top-down politics to a new grassroots mass movement is going to be challenging, but we can do it. However,  believe that can only be achieved by evolution, not revolution.

And that means pragmatism as well as socialism.

As I work towards a more equal, more just and more sustainable society, please don’t spoilt it for me with all this bickering and division.

4850
Illustration: Martin Rowson

Further reading:
John McDonell: Labour can be the most powerful force for progressive change in generations [Guardian, 05 December  2015]

Stella Creasy: Labour risks becoming a talking shop of protest and anger [Guardian, 12 December 2015]

Owen Jones: How can we have a more balanced debate about Jeremy Corbyn and Labour? [Guardian – Comment is Free, 15 December 2015]

the-guardian-logo

From Guardian 12 December

Right and left, new and old: factions vying for the party’s soul

The political landscape of the left is changing fast following Jeremy Corbyn’s election, with new groups being formed and some dating back to the the 1970s and 80s reforming or re-branding | Patrick Wintour

Inside Labour

Moentum banner

Set up by supporters of Corbyn
Regarded by figures on the party’s right as a secretive malign vehicle for far-left entryists that afford Corbyn and John McDonnell near cult status.

Momentum regards itself as an attempt to harness the grassroots energy in and out of the Labour party that gravitated to Corbyn in the summer. Now racing to set out a democratic structure and codify a clearer relationship with other left-wing parties.

Progress-logo-230x65

Long-standing base of party moderates
Regarded as a secretive malign Blairite cancer at the heart of Labour by figures on the left.

Progress sees itself as the voice of moderates and Blairites, and following criticism of funding mainly by unions [PB: my criticism is that major funder is Lord David Sainsbury of Turville and one of one of the 100 signatories of the ‘Limehouse Declaration‘and went on to be a member of the Social Democratic Party], has done more to be tranparent.

It is adjusting after Liz Kendall’s catatstrophic campaign for party leader.

It runs a montlhy magazine, website, weekend schools and some candidate training.

In response to the party’s shift to the left, it is restating the basics of its politics including the fight for equality, equality and responsible capitalism.

Open-Labour-440x83

New group formed to what it regards as a space for what was once described as the ‘soft left’.

Open Left will explore whether members still support the kind of politics associated with Ed Miliband’s leadership campaign. It’s success may well depend on funding and leadership.

It may attract some new younger members alienated by Momentum’s association with the hard left/

Labour First

The home of the party’s traditional right.

Labour First regards MPs such as John Spellar as its natural supporters in Parliament.

It knows how to organise for positions in the position in the party, runs an e-mail list but until recently had been marginalised by Progress.

Leading figure Luke Akehurst has an encyclopaedic knowledge of party campaigning.

A meeting at the party conference was so oversubscribed it was held in the street.

Inside Labour

compass-logo

Once the driving force of the soft left in Labour with roots going back to the Labour Co-odinating Committee.

Compass has often been linked with the likes of Jon Cruddas, Jon Trickett and Neal Lawson.

it ended its exclusive work in the party and operates alongside progressives in the Greens, Liberal Democrats and of no party.

logo-oneline-sm

Formed in 2013, it has had the most open debate of any far-left group on how to respond to Corbyn’s election.

Left Unity held a conference last month in which a move to dissolve the party, and to seek to affiliate to Labour was lost. Instead it decided it would not put up candidates against Labour for the moment.

The conference also agreed: “Left Unity welcomes the establishment of the grassroots network called Momentum. Left Unity encourages members to join the network to promote campaigns and also ensure Momentum is an open, democratic organisation.”

swp-logo-228x300

The premier Trotskyist organisation in the UK with luminaries such as Paul Foot, Tony Cliff and Alex Callinicos, the Socialist Workers Party dominated the landscape to the left of the for at least tow decades since forming in 1977 with its dyamic weekly newspaper, Socialist Workerbut has been hit by splits.

Regards the Corbyn leadership as a new site of struggle, and placed to recruit members disillusioned by the leader’s predicted failure.

socialist_party

In essence, the Socialist Party is the continuation of the Militant Tendency, an entryist Trotskyist group that plagued Labour and Neil Kinnock’s leadership in the 1980s and was finally expelled in a brutal battle.

It has a weekly newspaper called Socialist, and has recently called for Labour MPs who do not support party policy to be expelled.

It has taken an antagonistic approach to Momentum, saying its: “leadership seems to think that the only way we can strengthen Jeremy’s leadership is by mollifying the right and, for example, backing away from reselection.”

Its activists have in the part forced Momentum to take a tougher approach.

AWL logo

The Alliance of Workers Liberty publishes a weekly paper called Solidarity and was formed out of Socialist Organiser – a group expelled form the party.

AWL disbanded in the summer.

It is active within Momentum, trying to get the group to campaign for opposition to Labour councils implementing spending cuts. It is running a Stop The Purge campaign.

Others

LRCheader-left4

Labour Representation Committee is a Labour-orientated group, most closely associated with John McDonnell, the Shadow Chancellor, and the magazine Labour Briefing.  It has a national committee, runs a lively twitter feed, and has a slightly more economic and union emphasis than some left groups.

stwc_logo_transparent

Once dismissed as a SWP front, Stop The War Coalition managed to mobilise tens of thousands to oppose the Iraq was in 2003.

Jeremy Corbyn acted as its chair for many years, but has resigned owning to work pressures.

It has been damaged by posting two articles on its websitre – subsequently taken down – that were at best ambivalent about the ultimate responsibility fro the Paris attacks.

The conduct of a recent meeting in Westminster – when it was accused of refusing to allow a group from Syrian Solidarity to speak – prompted protests from the political activist Peter Tatchell and Caroline Lucas, Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.

And for a bit of fun:

Screen shot 2015-12-21 at 06.24.02

Screen shot 2015-12-21 at 06.18.30

Buzzfeed: Which Labour Party Faction Do You Actually Belong To?

You are Momentum. You are full Corbyn. You were there at the start, you watched with delight as the Labour leader took control of the party, and you’ve never felt this way about a political before. You think Blair ruined Labour and you want radical policies now. You like to talk about Owen Jones articles at parties.
You are Progress. You can’t admit it in polite company – or on Facebook – but you secretly lust for the return of Tony. Every time you switch on the TV and see Jeremy Corbyn you just hanker for the sweet caress of Peter Mandelson. You are the third way. You are three election victories in a row. You are yearning for Liz Kendall. You are completely marginalised within your own political party.

You are Open Labour. You are the soft left of the Labour party. No one’s quite sure what that means but you have a strange attraction for Ed Miliband and quite like the idea of winning elections, even if that comes with the need to compromise.

You are Labour First, the old right-wing of the Labour party. You view Jeremy Corbyn as a threat that needs to be destroyed. You are a fan of hand-to-hand political combat to control Labour’s future and talk about Momentum as ‘bloody Trots’. You are angry as hell and don’t mind who knows it.

#GE2015 | 25 reasons to vote @UKLabour

25 reasons to vote Labour

1. Because we will stand up for everyone, not just a privileged few. 
2. We’ll raise the minimum wage to more than £8 by October 2019 and promote the living wage.

3. We’ll ban exploitative zero-hours contracts so that anyone working regular hours for more than 12 weeks can get a regular contract. David Cameron said he couldn’t live on one. If he can’t, then no one should have to.

4. We won’t give tax breaks to millionaires (the Tories did in 2013, and they’re likely to do it again if they win). We’ll cut taxes for millions of people on low and middle incomes instead.

5. We’ll clamp down on tax avoidance and ban ‘non-dom’ status (which was created in 1799 and a lot has changed since then…).

6. We will cut the deficit every year and balance the books, sensibly and fairly, without the extreme spending cuts the Tories are planning to make.

7. We will scrap the Bedroom Tax (from day one) that hits the disabled and most vulnerable in society.

8. We will extend free childcare from 15 to 25 hours a week for working parents of three- and four-year-olds.

9. We will control immigration with fair rules and make it illegal for employers to undercut wages by exploiting workers.

10. Because we are the party that will save the NHS. 

11. Labour founded the NHS in 1948, it is one of our party’s proudest achievements, and we have saved it from crisis before.

12. In five years of Tory-led government we’ve seen rising waiting times, increasing privatisation and falling standards.

13. We will train and recruit 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more doctors by 2020, paid for by tackling tax avoidance, a levy on tobacco companies, and a tax on the most expensive properties worth over £2 million. We will guarantee a GP appointment within 48 hours – and on the same day for those who need it.

14. We will radically improve mental health provision, especially for young people, by prioritising investment in under-18s and making sure teachers are trained to spot problems early.

15. We will stop Tory privatisation of the NHS and cap the profits private companies can make from providing NHS services.

16. Because we are the party that cares about creating opportunities for all young people. 

17. We will cut tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 (which will help students and is also good for our economy).

18. We will make sure that there is an apprenticeship for any school leaver that gets the grades. We will also improve technical education and careers advice in schools to help students prepare for jobs. If you chose not to go to university, your future should be as secure as if you do.

19. We’ll deliver smaller class sizes for five, six and seven-year olds to give all children the best start.

20. Because we will end rip-off prices on services that people rely on. 

21. We’ll freeze energy bills until 2017 so they can fall but not rise, and give the regulator the power to cut bills when wholesale prices fall. No-one should have to choose between heating and eating.

22. We will get a fairer deal for renters by banning rip-off letting fees and capping rents at the rate of inflation during secure three-year tenancies.

23. We will freeze rail fares in the first year of a Labour Government while we reform the railways.

24. Because we are determined to tackle climate change and create a million green jobs. 

25. Because the choice at this election is between a Labour government or five more years of the Tories.

Labour Party | Health Manifesto

SHA logo

The Labour Party has just produced its health manifesto:

The NHS is now in real difficulties right across the South West. Most NHS Trusts across England are running out of money. Devon CCG is trying to save £430m. Almost all our hospitals are failing to meet waiting list targets.

The Labour Party’s main proposals are:

  • Recruit 20,000 more nurses and 8,000 more GPs, paid for through a £2.5 billion Time to Care Fund, funded by a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million, tackling tax avoidance and a levy on tobacco firms
  • Guarantee a GP appointment within 48 hours and on the same day for those who need it
  • Guarantee a maximum one-week wait for cancer tests and create a new Cancer Treatments Fund to improve access to drugs, radiotherapy and surgery
  • Join up services from home to hospital with a single point of contact for those who need it – bringing together physical health, mental health and social care
  • Improve access to mental health support, with a new right to talking therapies enshrined in the NHS Constitution – just as people currently have a right to drugs and medical treatments
  • Tackle the scandal of 15 minute care slots, recruit 5,000 new care workers to help provide care for those with the greatest needs at home, and introduce a new system of safety checks for vulnerable older people
  • Ensure that when changes are proposed to local hospital services, patients and the public have a seat around the table from the very start, helping design and decide on plans for change
  • Repeal the Health and Social Care Act to scrap David Cameron’s privatisation plans and put the right values back at the heart of the NHS

#SaveILF | Some musings on the Independent Living Fund

I’ve long supported the aims of Disabled People Against the Cuts [DPAC] and I am proud that now I been accepted as a Full Member.

Last week, I joined their Day of Action in London when they were protesting against Maximus taking over the contract for the notorious Work Capability Assessment.

And I’ve campaigned with them the save the Independent Living Fund.

I contacted key people within the Labour Party to ensure that in the short term, the 17,000 in the ILF user group continue to be supported.

I believe this means that when funding is transferred to top-tier local authorities at the end of June 2015, they are ring-fenced to continue to support the current user group.

I hope and believe that an incoming Labour Government would deliver guidance on this matter as a matter of urgency asap after 7 May.

In the medium term, there needs to be protection for existing ILF users and care packages need to be monitored to ensure the needs of current ILF users are continued to be met by local authorities.

But I have a long-term goal – that Independent Living is mainstreamed within the plans for broader integration of health and social care.

Independent Living needs to be on the agenda across all Government departments

It is self-evident that in recent years, other areas of  support for Independent Living  have been under consistent attack by the coalition including
– employment (closing Remploy, undermining Access to Work and the Work Programme’s poor success rate at securing disabled people work at just 7%);
– education (planning to abolish Disabled Student Allowances, hiking fees, increasing the number of unqualified education staff when TAs often support disabled pupils);
– welfare (changes to cut DLA budget by 20% and 440,000 hit with bedroom tax);
– health (esp mental health service cuts); and
– local govt (leaving some councils cutting care services)

As a grassroots Labour Party activist, I am optimistic that as we approach the General Election more will be heard on many, if not all, these points.

Exeter City Council Labour Group’s proposals for Labour Party manifesto on “How to involve councils in increasing housing supply

Exeter City Council Labour Group’s proposals for Labour Party manifesto on “How to involve councils in increasing housing supply

In order to substantially increase delivery of new homes there is a need for some innovative and collaborative working between the public and private sectors as well as the charitable sector.

Introduction

When considering the increase in housing supply it helps to consider the headline issues affecting the housing market and the context in which any market interventions are to be introduced.

Headline Issues:

  • Affordability (lack of it)
  • Growing demand (demographic changes, immigration, Help to Buy scheme etc.)
  • Supply (not enough being built, Right To Buy increasing)
  • Risks e.g. welfare reform
  • Subsidy is required somewhere, whether capital or revenue
  • Availability of land / high expectations from landowners of land value

National Context

  • We ought to be building around 220,000 homes per year. Housing output has remained around 120,000 for the last four years.
  • Current under supply arguably largely due to the planning system limiting the amount of developer land and the small number of volume house builders with developable land managing the amount of houses they bring to the market to maximise returns to shareholders.
  • The government is already doing quite a lot to stimulate development and locally there is evidence that the market is now working with houses being sold off plan for the first time since the recession. However, the challenge is how we make a step change in delivery and how do we release the public sector’s potential to increase supply.

Exeter Context

  • Previous draft RSS – required Exeter’s growth with urban extensions including Cranbrook new town in East Devon (in excess of 22,000 homes at the PUA with 12,000 homes within the city). Exeter is running out of land, requires cooperation of neighbours.
  • Cranbrook, within East Devon, (up to 6,000 homes) successfully delivering this year 600 units. Within Exeter we are also on course for 600 units this year.
  • Exeter has built 94 affordable homes in total in the first eight months of this financial year and currently 351 affordable properties have started on site. 20 new Council Own Build properties are due to start on site in February 2014 with a further 200 units potentially being built in the next three to five years.
  • HRA borrowing cap headroom of £4.7m fully employed

Lessons from Cranbrook and Exeter’s Urban Extensions

  • In recent years Exeter City Council has been involved in a growth partnership with East Devon District Council. Exeter’s future housing growth has been directed in large part to the east of Exeter in East Devon District Council. This followed Regional Planning Guidance and Structure Plan policies. Following an initial period when East Devon was opposed to meeting this growth in 2003 East Devon begun to plan for delivery of a new town known as Cranbrook. 3,500 dwellings in a first phase, and eventually planned to accommodate 6,000 dwellings.
  • Outline planning permission was granted in 2005 and delivery finally commenced in 2011 following significant public sector intervention. Housing sales have been strong and approximately 450 starts this year. The public response has been broadly supportive, although at the local plan stage 14,500 letters of objection were received.
  • Cranbrook and other urban extensions (Monkerton, Newcourt and South West Exeter) being delivered in Exeter provide useful lessons in addressing the fundamental question of how we improve the supply of housing building in this country.
  • There is a long lead in time for delivery – Cranbrook was originally identified in the Devon structure plan and RPG10 in the late 1990s. The long lead in time adversely impacts on housing land supply and creates uncertainty in the local housing market. Strategic sites work against a local authorities land supply calculations and are far more challenging to deliver than more modest allocations. However, the prize in strategic allocations is they should be capable of delivering community infrastructure and self containment.
  • In Cranbrook’s case the public sector was required to de-risk the project by front funding infrastructure (£12m regional infrastructure funding and £40m of other funding); and removing third party ransom issues. Without the public sector de-risking the development the private sector would not have commenced development, and yet the land owners and house builders make a very healthy profit. The public sector simply achieves housing provision. However the house builders still control supply of new starts as per the more conventional sites. For example they could open up the site in more than one location to increase supply but they do not.
  • In terms of non housing uses this has only come forward because of public sector support.
  • Arguably Cranbrook was deliverable only through the emergence of the Regional Infrastructure Fund and investment from the HCA and the Local Infrastructure Fund. These measures are not typically available to local authorities. It demonstrates that the public sector can unlock problems and deliver strategic sites with the appropriate tools. However, it is not a good return to the public sector. The public sector has conferred value on the land owners because of the planning system and the public sector has de-risked development through RIF etc. Arguably a better model would be for the Councils to have power to identify an allocation and have the powers to CPO land at existing use value to assemble the land to deliver a strategic allocation and to use the increase in land values to off set the cost of infrastcrure and for the local authorities to deliver land parcels for the volume house builders. Thereby removing strategic land developers from the process of strategic sites. This will allow councils to provide land for self build on a larger scale and to increase supply of land coming forward.
  • In the absence of co-operation between local authorities growing urban areas like Exeter would need support to deliver strategic growth in neighbouring areas. A small number of new town type corporations under local authority control would provide a useful model to achieve delivery. The New Growth Points governance model provided a useful incentive to achieve growth but the initiative alone was not sufficient to make a real difference. The regional development agency and the HCA provide real capacity and financial resources to make a difference. Knowledge, capacity and funding mechanisms are essential to achieve a step change in delivery.
  • In Cranbrook the HCA investment in affordable housing is now returning receipts as a consequence of overage payments.
  • Local authorities negotiating position with developers can be weakened by a requirement to deliver housing. The community can lose out but Community infrastcrure levy will address this in part.
  • Providing councils with greater resources and powers to deliver their strategic sites in the manner of new town corporations and urban development corporations would provide a powerful alternative to the current model.
  • Land supply methodology makes it more challenging for strategic sites because of assumptions on build rates.
  • The public sector needs to find a way of realising the value from the land as a consequence of the planning system. This is particularly so for large scale sites as the cost of infrastructure is disproportionate to conventional sites.

Suggested points for the manifesto

  • Provide a strong policy commitment to CPO land for strategic sites to enable local authorities to acquire at existing use value, and to provide mechanisms for provision of early infrastructure to deliver development parcels to the market to overcome the rational behaviour of volume house builders in limiting supply
  • This type of intervention has to take place before the planning system allocates land or grants planning permission in order to capture the uplift in value to provide the required infrastructure. This type of approach has been used in the past with new town development corporations.
  • In terms of Councils building more:
    • Life the HRA borrowing cap for local authorities
    • Permit sharing or trading borrowing headroom between councils
    • Change the classification of debt so that it’s not included in national debt figures (ie use the General Government Financial Deficit Mode
      The following highlights a number of initiatives for increasing housing supply, much of which is addressed by the CLG Parliamentary Committee report which considered options for local authorities to increase housing supply.
  • Encouraging the release and use of public sector land for development, through a ‘build now, pay later scheme’
  • The Affordable Homes Programme investment framework, which the government estimates will provide 170,000 new affordable homes by 2015
  • New Homes Bonus to incentivise local authorities to support development
  • Reforms to the planning system
  • Receipts from sales of properties under right to buy, ploughed back into reinvestment in new affordable homes
  • Get Britain Building Investment Fund providing finance on stalled sites that are ‘shovel ready’
  • New Build Indemnity Scheme to improve access to mortgages for new build properties in England
  • Conversion of office accommodation to residential (without the need for planning permission)
  • Council self-financing (HRA Reforms) since April 2012

It is worth dwelling on the self-financing ability of Council as this is one of the significant areas of housing growth that has the potential to be untapped subject to reform of the cap on local borrowing. Below are some salient points on self-financing and its potential impact on the housing market:

  • Councils now have self-financing since April 2012. According to ARCH [Association of Retained Council Houses] 71% of stock holding local authorities plan to develop new council housing – 20,000 to 25,000 units over the next five years.
  • Of those authorities that have indicated they are planning to undertake new build, 50% are planning to use Affordable Rents to help finance the new homes. The other 50% are planning to continue to use Social Rents.
  • The self-financing settlement also involved the imposition of a cap on local borrowing. The cap is set significantly below the amount of borrowing councils could safely afford to repay. Most councils have some headroom within the cap to undertake additional borrowing, but some do not. The availability of headroom bears no relation to a council’s need for additional borrowing or to its housing needs.
  • A significant number of local authorities (39%) are considering new build outside of the HRA although many of these schemes are at an early stage. These include building through Arms Length Management Organisations [ALMOs], through Housing Association partners and through special purpose vehicles (SPVs).
  • ARCH, together with the LGA (Local Government Association), NFA (National Federation of ALMOs) and CWAG (Councils with ALMOs Group) are arguing for restrictions on borrowing to be removed to enable councils to gear up their investment programmes to meet housing need. ARCH estimates that, with the cap removed, councils would have the capacity to deliver up to an additional 60,000 homes over five years. This would require an additional £7 billion of borrowing which would be well within what councils could reasonably afford to borrow.

Examples of Councils developing within and outside their HRA and using different funding models:

Oxford City Council owns and manages around 7,800 properties and has borrowing headroom of some £19m. Prior to the implementation of self-financing, the council had already established a Limited Liability Partnership with developers Grosvenor to develop up to 1,000 new homes at Barton, 350-400 of which will be affordable.

The LA new build scheme, though limited to 108 homes, bred success in terms of the next phase of bidding to the HCA: AHP grant of £2.5m towards 112 affordable rent properties. The HRA is able to finance the balance of expenditure for these homes entirely from revenue in the early years of the business plan.

Through ongoing prudent management of the existing stock, significant resources are potentially available to be allocated within the HRA business plan in the medium term to acquire some or all of the affordable Barton properties upon completion. Purchase of the initial 60 properties has been provided for in 2015, again from revenue.

 The focus is heavily on using the HRA as the delivery vehicle for LA build, taking advantage of future rent income for reinvestment. The future could potentially be one in which Oxford could add over 5 per cent additional stock to the HRA over the next 10 years.

The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham manages over 19,000 properties. The Council is embarking on a ground breaking venture with a private equity firm to deliver 477 new units by April 2015 on estates that have already been demolished as part of the options appraisal process. The scheme requires a Special Purpose Vehicle to be set up and will run for 60 years in conjunction with the equity grant and will let properties at a range of between 50 per cent and 80 per cent of market rent levels. The HRA will provide the day to day management of the units. In addition both HCA and LGA funding has been secured to deliver 285 HRA units at slightly above existing social rent levels to be built on sites where no previous housing has stood.

 The debate on lifting the borrowing cap has been ongoing and a CLG Parliamentary Committee was formed to consider options for Local Authorities to increase housing supply. Following a committee meeting on 7 May 2012, the committee concluded that:

  1. We have seen that local authorities, working in partnership, have the potential to make a significant contribution to the financing of new housing supply. There is, however, a risk that local government will not be able to make the most of this potential because of constraints placed upon it by central government. The moves towards self-financing under Housing Revenue Account reform are positive and could significantly increase the finance available for housing supply. However, the cap upon borrowing, the refusal to allow councils to share headroom, and the centrally-imposed Right to Buy proposals will all place restrictions on councils’ ability to finance the building of new homes. The local government sector should be trusted to manage its own finances in accordance with the Prudential Code. We urge the Government to give councils the freedoms they need to provide finance for new housing supply.

Source:http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmselect/cmcomloc/1652/165209.htm

The committee addressed a number of suggestions and below is a summary of the Committee’s response to suggestions:

SUGGESTION 1) Lifting borrowing caps

Committee conclusion: ‘We recommend that the Government lift the cap on local authorities’ borrowing for housing, and allow councils to borrow in accordance with the Prudential Code. We are also concerned at the Government’s warning that it will “take action” if public borrowing increases as a result of Housing Revenue Account reform. It is important that it does not place any further constraints upon local authority borrowing for housing. The cap is already unnecessary, and further borrowing restrictions would have a detrimental impact upon the contribution councils can make to new housing supply’.

SUGGESTION 2) Sharing/trading borrowing ‘headroom’ between councils

Committee conclusion: ‘We are disappointed that the Minister (Shapps) has ruled out allowing local authorities to pool or swap Housing Revenue Account borrowing headroom. Such arrangements could help to make best use of councils’ borrowing capacity, enabling more homes to be built. In our experience, the Government is usually enthusiastic about local authorities collaborating, sharing services and pooling resources to achieve better value for money; we consider that it should take a similar attitude to joint working on housing finance. We recommend that the Government consult on proposals to enable local authorities to ‘trade’, swap and pool borrowing headroom. This should be subject to councils’ agreeing that any borrowing under these arrangements will still be in accordance with the Prudential Code’.

SUGGESTION 3) Change constitutions of Arms-length Management Organisations

Three models proposed by National Federation of ALMOs:

  1. The first model involved “the ALMO having a much longer contract and on the local authority having a one-third (rather than sole) interest in the ALMO’s ownership”.
  2. The second model was similar but also involved the transfer of some vacant properties or land, thereby giving the ALMO an asset base.
  3. The third, and most radical, model involved a transfer to a “Community- and Council-Owned Organisation (CoCo)”. This model would see the ALMO becoming “the owner of the stock, but on a different basis to current stock transfers”

In Models 1 and 2, the ALMO is primarily still a management vehicle, but no longer majority-owned by the local authority. The authority could no longer award the management contract to the ALMO without a tendering process that complies with EU procurement rules. They would need to assess the risk that potentially another housing management provider could be awarded the contract. In Model 3, where the ALMO takes ownership of the stock, there is no requirement for a tendering process. But it would mean that tenancies would no longer be secure council tenancies. However, legal steps can be taken which effectively give all tenants the same security in future as they enjoy now.

Committee conclusion: ‘We consider that Arm’s Length Management Organisations should be free to adopt one of the new ownership models, subject to approval from the council and tenants. As well as promoting the involvement of tenants in the management of their housing, these models could also enable ALMOs to raise additional finance for the building of new homes (although any borrowing should continue to be affordable and sustainable). We are encouraged by reports that Gloucester City Homes will be consulting its residents on proposals to establish a ‘community owned, council owned’ organisation. We recommend that the Government give its support to those ALMOs wishing to adopt the new models, which would enable them to borrow prudentially to build more homes’.

SUGGESTION 4) Changing the classification of debt

  • Change the way Council’s debt is classified, so that it was not included within the national debt figures.
  • Use of what many European states use- the GGFD (general government financial deficit) model, which means that trading activities, such as housing, are viewed as off-balance sheet, off the national debt figures.

Committee conclusion: The Government argues that a cap on local authority borrowing for housing is necessary because of the need to reduce the deficit; by implication, a cap would not be necessary under the GGFD rules as such borrowing would be outside of the national debt. We are not convinced that the existing accounting treatment, or the cap, is justified. A change of rules would bring the UK in line with other European countries and enable councils to borrow on the same terms as housing associations. As we have already established, the provisions of the Prudential Code should be a sufficient control upon council borrowing. We recommend that the Government thoroughly examine a move to the General Government Financial Deficit rules and then consult on proposals.

Another means of potentially increasing new build homes would be to release public land for self-build initiatives.

The Coalition Government is a great supporter of self-build, they have set out their priorities and intentions for Self-Build in their 2011 policy doc ument Laying the Foundations: A Housing Strategy for England

‘The Custom Build industry is important for our national economy. It is worth approximately £3.6 billion a year, safeguarding and creating new jobs, strengthening the construction supply chain and making a real contribution to local economies. Currently custom home builders are building as many homes each year as each of our individual volume house builders, with around 13,800 custom homes completed in the UK in 2010/11’. (p.14)

The Government proposals to further self-build include:

  • Supporting the industry-led Action Plan [1] that has identified a wide range of proposals to help custom home builders and enable the sector to become a mainstream source of housing provision.
  • To unlock the growth potential of the custom homes market and double its size over the next decade, to create up to 100,000 additional Custom Build Homes over the next decade and enable the industry to support up to 50,000 jobs directly and indirectly per year. The Government intend doing this by:
  1. Asking councils to establish the demand for Custom Build Housing in their area, and take positive steps to facilitate it
  2. Helping home builders to access land which central government is releasing as part of its accelerated public land disposals programme. As part of this we will maximise, where possible, the use of our innovative Build Now, Pay Later model if there is market demand, it presents good value for money and is affordable
  3. Continuing to work closely with industry to establish a one-stop-shop for advice and support to would-be custom home builders, helping them to take the first steps in building their futures
  4. Appointing a Custom Homes champion to raise greater public awareness of the benefits of custom home building
  5. Making up to £30 million available to support provision of short-term project finance to this sector on a repayable basis.

In order to assess the impact of the Government’s proposal the action plan drawn up in 2011 (see reference 2 above), the National Self Building Association has undertaken two updates, the second and most recent in August 2013. Their conclusions were:

  • Self build completions remain depressed.
  • Measures being progressed will lead to around 3,000 additional self and custom build homes being constructed.
  • Below is a summary of the Government’s achievements and priorities which help formulate some suggestions in which to lobby Ministers specific to Exeter
Policy Area               Key progress Key priorities going forward
Land and Procurement Models • Eight HCA sites identified so far (more expected)

• Growing local council and builder/developer/enabler activity to promote self/custom build opportunities

• Published specialist Guides on custom build planning issues, how small builders and developers can get involved in custom build, and a guide to public authorities promoting the many ways of encouraging group self/custom build projects.

• Launched a new ‘matchmaking’ database to help connect housebuilders with specialist custom build developers/enablers

• Secure more site releases – encourage HCA to continue to identify more sites including some larger ones (100+ homes) and engage with councils to identify self/custom build development opportunities

• Work with Government to bring together a more comprehensive list of public land and private sector plot information for self builders

• Visit large scale European projects in Autumn 2013 and disseminate experience of different business models to local authorities to enable them to better understand the end-to-end process

Lending and Finance • Modest increase in lender activity

• Publication of Lloyds Banking Group report and ongoing commitment to support sector

• Launch of £30m investment fund which is generating fair level of interest (about half of fund is subject to bids)

• Revised £17m community-led project support fund launched by Government

• Peer-to-peer lending facility in development.

• Ensure that the Government’s Help to Buy scheme includes self/custom builders

• Host round table with lenders to encourage more self build mortgages

• Support industry initiatives to replace Government £30m fund when this closes in 2015

Further suggestions on ways to promote greater house building include lobbying for the introduction of Land Tax.

1) Land Tax – What is it?

  • Land Value Taxation is a method of raising public revenue by means of an annual charge on the rental value of land.
  • “Land” means the site alone, not counting any improvements. The value of buildings, crops, drainage or any other works which people have erected or carried out on each plot of land would be ignored, but it would be assumed that all neighbouring properties were developed as at the time of the valuation; other things being equal, a vacant site in a row of houses would be assessed at the same value as the adjacent sites occupied by houses.
  • Targeted at ‘unproductive wealth and speculation’
  • Would incentivise those who trade and sit on empty land to develop it for the common good. It would mean that the costs and proceeds of investment were more fairly shared.
  • It should be levied on all land except for that which lies under ordinary people’s homes. Very wealthy homeowners should pay, but those with limited incomes could defer payment where required. For it to work, all land ownership would have to be declared.

2) Land Tax – Key proponents:

  • Centre for Labour and Social Studies (CLASS)
  • Land Value Taxation Campaign

Land Value Tax Core Arguments:

Sources:

1) CLASS Report: In land revenue: The case for a land value tax in the UK [2]; and
2) Land Value Tax Campaign Website [3]

Why supporters say it should be introduced

  • Targets unproductive wealth, encouraging capital investment in place of land speculation.
  • Would remedy long-term shortage of housing, encouraging developers holding on to land to actually build properties in order to make their ownership of land financially viable.
  • Could moderate house price inflation by the curbing of speculation on the price of land.
  • By taxing the value of the land itself and not the value of the buildings upon it (like Council Tax does) , the level of Land Value Tax will always be proportional to the level of investment and prosperity in the wider area- it is right that land owners enjoying their location in faster growing areas pay more for their land. Land Value Tax, by definition, bears lightly or not at all where land has little or no value, thereby stimulating economic activity away from the centre – it creates what are in effect tax havens exactly where they are most needed.
  • Hard to avoid or evade as land is fixed and tangible, efficient due to fixed supply, meaning that there is no substitution effect, and thus no deadweight or distortion.
  • Tax on labour, buildings or machinery reduces incentives for entrepreneurial or constructive activities, whereas a tax on the value of land no matter how it is occupied would stimulate long term investment.
  • Would supposedly end boom and bust- speculation created unsustainable booms, often followed by damaging corrective slumps. An end to speculation means an end to this cycle.
  • Already used in Denmark and Australia under the name Site Value Rating.
  • Land has no cost of production, why should speculation and scarcity drive up its value? Should be taxed according to relative prosperity of area as it owes all that it is worth to the wider community.

3) Land Tax – In Parliament

The Land Value Tax Bill 2012-13 began it’s passage through Parliament after being suggested as a a Private Members Bill by MP for Brighton Pavilion Caroline Lucas (Green Party). The Bill died as it failed to make it through before the end of the 2013-13 session. To see a draft of the Bill follow this link [4].

About the Bill: The bill required the Secretary of State to commission a programme of research into the merits of replacing the Council Tax and Non-domestic rates in England with an annual levy on the unimproved value of all land, including transitional arrangements; to report to Parliament within 12 months of completion of the research; and for connected purposes.

 Other suggestions worth lobbying government assistant (financial or otherwise) to enhance the delivery of house building include:

Kickstarting an off-site revolution

Due to there being an insufficient number of homes being built to meet even current levels of demand, consideration needs to be given to ways in which new homes can be built more quickly and efficiently. At present housebuilders build rate is less than one new home a week per site. Off-site solutions offer increased speed of construction on-site improved build quality, much greater accuracy, safer working conditions, predictable in-use performance, and reduced waste in the manufacturing and construction process. Off-site systems and components however require investment in manufacturing facilities, which in turn require high-volume sales to make the business viable. In some cities (could be Exeter) some developers (Housing Associations, Councils, private investors) are increasingly building medium to high rise flats or rationalising older estates and having the potential to build more homes at quite some scale. This is a market where the use of off-site solutions is likely to be attractive as homes can be completed and brought to use more quickly (and in-use performance, including energy efficiency and upfront action to mitigate fuel poverty can be incorporated).

If the government could invest in the creation of manufacturing facilities on a local or regional level then there is the scope for the private, public and charitable sectors to all benefit and housing delivery could be accelerated and the standards of construction improved for everyone’s long term benefit.

It is worth noting that institutional investors could be key players in providing the ‘scale’ to support such a venture given their desire to enter the build-to-rent development sector. In this market where new entrants are investing for the long term and looking to manage risk to achieve assured levels of income, they are seeking suppliers who can offer certainty regarding quality, construction cost and in-use performance – the kind of characteristics that off-site solutions are best to deliver.

Sharing risk

At a local level, the Council and Housing Associations have the capability to work much more collaboratively with the private sector in sharing risks, especially given that most housing associations have been restructuring into group structures that incorporate the charity alongside a profit-making arm, which ‘gifts; funds in the form of donations to replace government grant. By Councils and/or Housing Associations working with private developers beyond just being affordable housing providers but as equal partners, there are greater opportunities for more and larger developments and for real mixed and sustainable communities to emerge.

Lobbying the government for the removal of the borrowing cap on Councils will assist to promote such partnerships, risk sharing and the facilitation of larger and more sustainable communities.

Exit strategy for Help to Buy

The government’s Help to Buy scheme is a welcome approach to growing demand for housing but only as long as there is a clear exit strategy that helps avoid the dangers of a housing bubble. Since its announcement in July 2013, the number of potential buyers looking to enter the market grew at the fastest rate since July 2009. At the same time, house prices rose again, at the fastest rate seen since the market peak of November 2006. The second tranche of Help to Buy could magnify what has already happened and whilst the UK economy is seeing the very early signs of recovery, the last thing needed is a housing bubble to derail this slow and steady progress.

It is reassuring that the government has instructed the Bank of England to implement a strategy for using ‘speed bumps’ and close monitoring by the Financial Policy Committee, to avoid a potential bubble, however the government could consider other measures to control the further impact. It is suggested that the government considers specific measures to ensure that the Funding for Lending scheme should be explicitly for business expansion in the small and regional housebuilders.

Realistic Prices

House prices are too high relative to average incomes. There is no quick fix to this so a longer term solution needs to be found to address affordability. Increasing the rate of housebuilding helps, and this helps contribute to the economic recovery but this takes time and whilst mortgage availability is improving the private sector developers will only develop to meet market demand, so any policy that improves mortgage availability will lead to an inevitable increase in supply. However, developers will not deliver more than market demand, so it is unrealistic to expect this ot lead to an easing of house prices.

The Barker Review target of 245,000 annual new-build completions, surpressing long-term real house price growth to 1.1% is base on outdated analysis from 2004 but provides a useful aspiration. Given that market demand is unlikely to reach those levels (it only reached 150,000 in 2007), it is left to the public sector to delivery the majority of the housing need.

The lack of realistic priced homes also leaves the private sector to act as a longer tenure for those who remain priced out.

Unlocking Land through Local Infrastructure Funding

The Government’s Local Infrastructure Fund (LIF) launched in February 2013 is purposely earmarked to unlock large sites but given that funds need to be drawn down before March 2015, only shovel-ready schemes will be deliverable. This type of funding is to be encouraged but lobbying made to extend the timeframe and to also extend the funding scheme.

Local Enterprise Partnership Involvement

In his Government-commissioned report into a path of sustainable growth for Britain, Lord Heseltine heavily advocated a transfer of both funds and decision-making responsibility to the local level. He stated that a number of current schemes initiated by the Government, for example the Growing Places Fund, New Homes Bonus and Community Infrastructure Levy, are promising steps towards the kind of local rebalancing that the British economy needs. However, he also stated that ‘we need to go further and faster to achieve an essential rebalancing of central and local power and resources, extending not just to cities, but to local areas right across England’[5].

His first of 81 recommendations made is to create a single funding pot for local areas, without internal ring fencing which limits the spending flexibility of local leaders. The focal point of this local investment is the Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP).

Heart of South West LEP has scope within its Strategic Growth Plans and programmes for including similar funding schemes as the Local Infrastructure Funding (LIF), so the opportunity to use this approach could be multiplied on a sub-regional basis.

Localism Act 2011

The Localism Act allows Local Authorities to act as companies, in doing so they could provide housing loans for repayment or equity to facilitate more households into home ownership (therefore increasing demand for housing and facilitating supply by housebuilders or even the LA themselves).

Cllr Pete Edwards
Leader Exeter City Council

Notes:
[1] NaSBA (2011) An Action Plan to promote the growth of self build housing: the report of the self build Government-Industry Working Group, http://www.buildstore.co.uk/ActionPlan/Govt-Action-Plan-July-2011.pdf

[2] CLASS Report: In land revenue: The case for a land value tax in the UK http://classonline.org.uk/docs/2013_05_Think_piece_-_In_Land_Revenue_(Andy_Hull).pdf

[3] Land Value Tax Campaign Website http://www.landvaluetax.org/what-is-lvt/

[4]The Land Value Tax Bill, http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2012-13/landvaluetax.html

[5] Heseltine, D. (October 2012) No Stone Unturned In Pursuit of Growth, p.36 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/34648/12-1213-no-stone-unturned-in-pursuit-of-growth.pdf

 

The Cowick Rose | Paul Bull – YOUR Labour candidate for Cowick

Screen shot 2016-03-27 at 12.54.37

Paul Bull – YOUR Labour candidate for Cowick

Cowick Labour Party are pleased to announce that Paul Bull will be standing as the Labour & Co-operative Party candidate for the forthcoming Exeter City Council elections on 05 May 2011.

Paul has previously stood for the City Council in West Exe 3 times and he knows the area well.

We wish him good luck this coming May.

We’ll let Paul introduce himself.

“Hello. And can I say how proud I am to be selected as your Labour candidate for the May elections.

“I was born in the West Country, but moved away to go to university in 1974. It was while at university that my career path changed. I left Plymouth planning to be a research biologist but became sidetracked. I now have a successful career as an award-winning freelance theatre sound designer and sound engineer for a wide range of musical styles.

“During my time at university, as well as developing an interest in theatre and music, I gained a passion for politics.

“In 1994, I gained experience as a councillor when I was elected to Blaby District Council.

“I moved back to the South West and settled in Exeter with my wife, Rachel, in 2004.

“Exeter was a city I never really visited when I was growing up [except for visiting the judo club next to St James Park for area championships].

“Arriving here, I was struck by what an amazing city it is, especially when I realise that I can easily walk from home to the city centre, and experience the unique delights of this glorious city and its surrounding countryside. The Cowick ward with its wonderful walks – such as Hambeer Lane, Ide and Doctor’s Walk – is a perfect example of this.

“As well a Labour candidate, I am also standing for the Co-operatve Party, the sister party to Labour. With that in mind, I would like to promote fair trade, ethical business and community solutions, and all forms of mutual organistion. I believe that we need to create a just and fair society, and that can be achieved by power being evenly spread throughout society and not based on wealth, class, gender or race.

“As a sound engineer, I spend my working life actively listening. If elected, I would be a councillor who actively listens to what you have to save. Help me be that listening voice.”

COWICK ROSE | January 2011 s1

Michael Foot – A true RED …and GREEN

Michael Foot with his portrait by Robert Lenkiewicz

I have 3 major passions in my life – Labour/Socialist politics, Plymouth Argyle and the theatre.

Uniting at least 2 [theatre is a by-product, as the extraordinary Footsbarn Theatre Company was originally founded in Cornwall, in a barn owned by his nephew, Oliver] was the unique Michael Foot.

And this week, all are united in their grief at the loss of a great giant.

The picture above shows Michael alongside his portrait [in in his Green and Black Argyle scarf which is almost as famous in Plymouth as his “donkey jacket” is nationally] by Plymouth artist, the late Robert Lenkiewicz from his “Addictive Behaviour” project and currently hangs in Portcullis House

I can’t hope to compete with the wealth of detail and insight put into the many obituaries published in the media [I favour The Guardian], but I am sure that Michael – a Leveller, in the historical sense of the word – would truly believe the world had turned upside down when the Torygraph published a tribute to him by TONY BENN…

To close, I can only add the biography when he joined the Plymouth Argyle playing staff on his 90th birthday [still the oldest registered league player!]:

Evergreen left-winger in his first season with the club that he has supported all his life. Unlikely to stray out of position and drift towards the right. Brings with him plenty of experience.

Although never called upon to play, it would have been fantastic to see him on the subs bench.

The Greens will be wearing black armbands today, and I will take my cue from Michael and spend the afternoon at Home Park rather than canvassing with Ben Bradshaw in Exeter.

Michael using state-of-the art PA in 1950 -oh how times change!