April 23, 2018
We need 100,000 council homes a year not “affordable homes”
“We have a housing crisis in this country that can only be solved by local government building more. Labour’s 2017 manifesto promised to build 100,000 council homes to ‘rent or buy’. It called for a ‘pause’ to the right to buy, and to lift the borrowing cap so councils could borrow to build more.
We need to be bolder. Don’t suspend the right to buy, end it. Don’t promise to lift the borrowing cap, cancel the debt.”
Doina Cornell , Leader Stroud Council
The Labour Party has published a Green Paper, Housing for the Many. This is part one of an analysis of the proposals. The document marks some progress from the Party’s general election Manifesto. Labour’s “first housing priority” of helping young people onto the proverbial housing ladder – young people it should be said, earning up to £100,000 a year – has disappeared. Yet there is still a big gap between this document and Jeremy Corbyn’s original aspiration of Labour building 100,000 council homes a year. The policy in the ‘mini-housing manifesto’ (Labour’s New Deal for Housing) was more candid than the housing section in the general election Manifesto. It was firmly rooted in New Labour’s housing philosophy with its worship of home ownership. For that reason it was subject to much sharp criticism. (Read on below or download a PDF here greenpapercomment )
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April 5, 2018
Those Labour politicians who supported the demonstration organised by the Board of Deputies against the Labour Party, did so on the grounds that they were standing in solidarity with “the Jewish community”. In fact there is no such thing as the Jewish Community. There are many Jewish communities and the Board of Deputies is not, as it describes itself, the voice of the Jewish Community. We know this to be the case because of a range of Jewish organisations that do not support it.
Back in 2007 a new organisation of British Jews, Independent Jewish Voices, was launched “in response to a perceived pro-Israeli bias in existing Jewish bodies in the UK”. It was formed “as a counterbalance to the uncritical support for Israeli policies offered by established bodies such as the Board of Deputies of British Jews”. More than 100 prominent British Jews signed it’s initial statement (rising to more than 700 later).
“Those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Britain and other countries consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of the occupied people.” Read the rest of this entry »
April 3, 2018
What is the scale of the problem of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party, real or imagined? I am not a Labour member so I don’t directly know what happens in Labour meetings around the country, though I obviously read reports and speak to friends who are members. What is the evidence that there is a significant problem with anti-Semitism? Yesterday’s Sunday Times is typical of the anti-Labour hysteria under the headline “Corbyn’s hate machine”, as if he was directing self-selected ‘Corbyn supporting’ sites himself. According to the Sunday Times they investigated over 20 pro-Corbyn sites with a membership of 400,000. They found 2,000 posts in two months which they considered to be “racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist and abusive messages”. Consider the two numbers. How many posts and comments would there be in groups comprising 400,000 members over that time-scale? Let’s conservatively suggest that each member posted just once a week, an improbably low level of activity. There would be 3.2 million posts in eight weeks. The number in reality is probably much higher. As anyone who has been subject to abuse on Facebook knows (and that is most of us) the figures for abuse, in this context, are tiny. You can read here the comments of one of the administrators of one of these groups which has 24,000 members. They are run by volunteers who cannot have absolute control over a group on a 24/7 basis. She explains the efforts she and others make to try to keep out people who make such comments. Anybody who uses Facebook knows that discussion on an individual post can be voluminous. Only the latest posts are visible. You have to dig back to find an entire discussion. Some people spend long hours reading this stuff, most of us prefer the real world. It is easy to miss previous comments. The Sunday Times offers no breakdown of the different categories amongst these 2,000. Read on below or download a PDF here antisemitism1
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March 3, 2018
Crisis of housing affordability
Both David Renard the Council Leader and MP Robert Buckland highlighted from the Centre for Cities report the fact that house prices in Swindon were lower than many other places on the list. That might attract people from dearer areas like Reading, but what about local residents? How are house prices impacting on them? The key thing with house prices and rent is not how they compare with other towns, but how they relate to the earnings of local people. David Renard and Robert Buckland neglected to mention that the same report showed the average house price was 8.19 times earnings, up from 6.62 in 2010. So the “success” of the town’s economy includes a rising gulf between house prices and earnings. Read on below or download a PDF here housingaffordability2017 Read the rest of this entry »
February 28, 2018
What’s happening with earnings?
News from the Centre for Cities report was picked up by local politicians as an opportunity to declare how well things were going in the town. The rate of productivity per worker saw the town ranked seventh, whilst the employment rate of 80.6% ranked it third. MP Robert Buckland saw fit to comment that “Swindon’s economy is vibrant, booming and better than ever”. He also commented that Swindon’s house prices are “significantly below the national average”.
Each year that the Centre for Cities brings out is report our local politicians go through their cherry picking routine, selecting what they think makes them look good whilst conveniently ignoring more problematic statistics. For instance, last year Council Leader David Renard was pictured clutching a copy of 2017’s Cities Report and saying how well the town was doing (under his inspired leadership no doubt). In fact the report described Swindon as a “low wage, low benefit” location. As I commented at the time what that told us was that levels of exploitation are high. Read on below or download a PDF here swindonincome2017 Read the rest of this entry »
February 12, 2018
During his first leadership election Jeremy Corbyn was interviewed by Red Brick, the blog of London Labour Housing Group. He was asked about the issue of Right to Buy (RTB). He responded that he would vote against the extension of RTB to housing associations and was personally in favour of “ending RTB, full stop”.
However, such was the symbolic importance of RTB in relation to New Labour that even Jeremy’s campaign team was hesitant about crossing this particular Rubicon and calling for an end to RTB sales. His campaign document “Tackling the Housing Crisis” spoke instead of “reducing the harm it causes to our affordable housing stock”. It proposed giving local authorities the power (though only in “areas of high housing stress”) to suspend RTB in order to protect “depleting social housing assets”. We know there was a discussion in the campaign team though we don’t know the detail. Undoubtedly there were fears that ending RTB would be denounced by his opponent as left wing lunacy. Small c conservatism won the day. Read the rest of this entry »
February 8, 2018
Is Labour’s housing policy shifting leftwards? It’s official policy of suspending Right to Buy (RTB) sales was introduced by Teresa Pearce when she was temporarily Shadow Housing Minister. This was after John Healey had participated in the coordinated resignations of Shadow Cabinet members aimed at forcing Jeremy Corbyn to resign. Pearce had said that the policy “could only make sense in a time of surplus, in a time of shortage it makes no sense at all”. It didn’t go as far as we would like. We believe RTB should be ended as in Scotland and Wales. However, the new policy did at least mark a step away from New Labour’s craven support for RTB.
When this attempt to force Corbyn out failed and he won the second Leadership contest John Healey, somewhat magnanimously was invited back as Shadow Housing Minister.
In March of last year I wrote to John Healey on behalf of Swindon Tenants Campaign Group when Housing Minister Gavin Barwell made a statement about RTB. He said that the policy was only “politically justifiable” if homes sold are replaced by new homes built. Here was the political equivalent of an open goal but John Healey ignore it. We suggested that Barwell’s statement was an opportunity for him to demand that the Minister suspend RTB given the fact that homes were not being replaced. Alas, we did not get a response to our suggestion from Mr Healey. We did eventually get confirmation from his office that the policy of suspending RTB still remained in place. Yet nothing was done to campaign for it. It remained a policy on paper only. Given John Healey’s well known support for RTB we suspected that he was on strike against implementing the policy. Read on below or download a PDF here healeyland Read the rest of this entry »