Conservative plans for ‘right to buy’ are bonkers and will mean we lose a large proportion of council housing in Winchester.

The Conservatives have announced plans to force councils to sell off the most expensive 210,000 council houses and use the money to pay for a national programme of ‘right to buy’ for housing associations right across the country.

For Winchester this will be a catastrophe!

Why?

First, nearly half (48%) of all councils have sold off or transferred their council housing to housing associations.  Only around have of all councils actually have any council housing at all, and only the councils that do will be paying for this national programme: Winchester is one of them.

This unavoidably means that sales of council housing in Winchester (and other areas with council housing) will be subsidising ‘right to buy’ in the rest of the country. And because we haven’t transferred our council housing to housing associations, we also have less housing association housing than other areas – and so our area will get even less of this money!

To put it another way, 52% of councils – including Winchester – will be subsidising ‘right to buy’ in the other 48% of council areas.

The second problem is that Winchester is an expensive area – in the top 10% of the country for house prices – which means that a much higher proportion of our council housing will be amongst the most expensive 5% of council housing in the country and so will have to be sold when it becomes free.  We have a completely disproportionate share of the ‘most valuable 210,000 properties’ that the Conservatives are planning on using to fund the scheme.  As soon as a family home becomes available, it won’t be used to support people in housing need, but will be flogged off on the open market to pay for ‘right to buy’ somewhere else in the country.  And because the biggest cost relating to housing is the cost of the land, we won’t be able to afford to build many replacements.  At best, the only type of new council housing we could manage each time we were forced to sell a family homes would be a small flat – and that doesn’t help tackle our affordable housing problem.

So the net effect of this policy is a disaster.  A large proportion of our council housing – especially bigger family homes – will have to be sold off.  And our area will see hardly any of the money.

It’s completely bonkers. And another reason to vote for Jackie Porter as the only way to stop the Tories in Winchester on May 7.

Posted in Blog, Housing, Winchester | 1 Comment

Cherry picker in Tower Street

A resident asked me about the cherry picker in Tower Street.  Here’s the answer I received:

‘The works that are being undertaken in Tower Street relate to on-going maintenance work by BAM Construction to the elevations of Elizabeth II Court. Due to the location and nature of the works these are weather dependant and have resulted in the cherry picker remaining on the road for longer than originally anticipated. Hampshire County Council and BAM are sorry for any inconvenience this is causing to residents.

The siting of the cherry picker in the residential parking bays is necessary to enable uninterrupted access to Tower Street by pedestrians and vehicles. All options for the siting of the cherry picker were considered before progressing with this work and BAM are keeping the number of bays used to a minimum.

This week, work is progressing well due to the spring weather, and BAM Construction are hoping to be in a position to hand back a number of car parking spaces by the end of the week. BAM are also aiming to have work to the Tower Street elevation completed by the end of April, but once again, this date is weather dependent.’

Posted in Parking, Winchester | 1 Comment

If you’re interested in development planning in Winchester, you’re in for a busy week!

Lots on this week.

The big topic is ‘Local Plan Part 2′.  This is due to set our detailed local planning policy – mainly what type of buildings and other developments go where – for the Winchester District until 2031 – so it’s important to get it right.  To this end, a group of local organisations are running a briefing and discussion evening on the evening of Tuesday 11th of November. The City Council will be running a consultation the following day.

A more immediate issue is the plan to redevelop the Police Headquarters in Romsey Road. The Hampshire Chronicle has a useful article covering the recent past of the site. As it says:

Outline planning consent for 294 flats, access and parking was granted in 2007 and then extended in 2010.

However the proposals are likely to be quite different and it will be important to see how they match up to local housing needs, to the design of the area and whether they provide sufficient local infrastructure.

Finally, if you feel like building something yourself, RIBA South has organised a Winchester Design Day at the Guildhall featuring a bunch of local architects!

Date Time Place Event Who
Tue 11 Nov 7.30-9.30pm United Church, Jewry Street Shaping our future: the Local Plan for Winchester District City of Winchester Trust, FoE Winchester, WinACC and WACA
Wed 12 Nov 3.00-8.30pm Discovery Centre, Jewry Street Official WCC Consultation on Local Plan Part 2 Winchester City Council
Thu 13 Nov 5.00-8.00pm St Paul’s Church Hall, St Paul’s Hill Exhibition of proposals for redevelopment of the Hampshire Police HQ Adams Hendry on behalf of Berkeley Homes
Sat 15 Nov 12.30-2.30pm
Sat 15 Nov 10.00-2.30pm Bapsy Hall, Guildhall, The Broadway Winchester Design Day 2014 RIBA South
Posted in Planning, St Paul | Leave a comment

Will 20 mph be enforced in Winchester? Here’s the answer…

Following a recent report in the Hampshire Chronicle, there’s been quite a bit of confusion about whether 20 mph will be enforced in Winchester or not.

In order to sort this out, I wrote to the Police Commissioner and the Chief Constable – and now I have their answers.
more …

Posted in 20s plenty, Stanmore, Winchester | 2 Comments

What do ‘serious parties of government’ do? And what does it mean for how the Lib Dems need to change?

We’ve heard a lot from Nick Clegg and the people round him that we need to be a ‘party of government’.  Almost all Lib Dems agree with that – although many disagree strongly that this also means that we should stop being ‘a party of change’ and turn into a ‘party of the status quo’ – as our recent European campaign seemed to suggest.

But let’s focus on what we all agree on – and focus on the importance of being a ‘serious party of government’. Here are a few thoughts on what other ‘serious parties of government’ do differently to the Lib Dems and what that might mean for how the direction of the party needs to change.

Here goes:

‘Serious parties of government’ make pledges and, generally, try to keep them

One of the stranger consequences of the tuition fees catastrophe is that the leadership and leadership loyalists have decided that the Liberal Democrats shouldn’t make pledges any more.

The other ‘serious parties of government’ don’t agree with them.

While Labour don’t always appear to be serious about government now, they certainly were under Tony Blair in 1997.  Remember this?

Labour's 1997 General Election Pledge CardIt’s a pledge card.  It even has the word ‘pledge’ written on it. And Labour were pretty serious about keeping to them.

What about the 2010 pledge from David Cameron on government support for pensioners?

He’s kept it – even though it’s far more expensive than, say, the tuition fees pledge.  And he’s just made another couple with a 2017 referendum on Europe as a ‘cast iron pledge and another pledge to pensioners to increase the pension by 2.5% a year till 2020.

And this is hardly surprising.  People want to know what ‘serious parties of government’ want to do in the future.  This is particularly important in a coalition when there’s a real danger of giving the impression that what the government is doing is all you’re about.

That’s why the Conservatives are smart to be making pledges. And why it’s wrong for the Lib Dems to have decided they’re always a bad idea.

When in coalition, ‘serious parties of government’ make clear what they’re being stopped from doing

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats have taken almost diametrically opposed approaches to communicating their achievements in coalition.

Nick and his central team of advisors have gone with a “what we’ve got and what we’ve stopped” strategy – outlining Lib Dem achievements in Government – and what we’ve stopped the Conservatives from doing.

David Cameron and the Conservatives have gone with a “what we’ve got and what we’ve been stopped from doing” strategy and haven’t put any effort into telling voters what they’ve stopped the Liberal Democrats from doing.

David Cameron’s strategy is working better.

Ultimately this is hardly surprising. While not repudiating the achievements of the coalition, the Conservative strategy makes it clear that they want to be doing something more and different to what the coalition government alone is able to achieve.

The Liberal Democrat strategy does the opposite. It reinforces the Conservative message (always a bad sign) – and does nothing to give any steer on what the Liberal Democrats would be doing or trying to do if governing alone or negotiating a new coalition.

Focusing on what you’ve stopped the Conservatives doing also reminds people of what you’ve not stopped the Conservatives doing – which, unavoidably in a coalition, is going to include a bunch of things your supporters are unhappy about.

In essence, it leaves the Liberal Democrats defending the coalition as the best of all possible worlds, rather than making clear – as we should always be doing – how we want things to be better than they are today.

Not smart. Not something that ‘serious parties of government’ do. And something that needs to change.

The most successful ‘serious parties of government’ challenge the status quo

Political theorists like to contrast establishment parties and challenger parties, but real life experience suggests that the most successful politicians and ‘serious parties of government’ are able to ride both horses.

Keith House has laid out the case for being a ‘party of government and a party of protest’ on Lib Dem Voice – and I had a go on the BBC on the issue of not being a ‘party of complacency and the status quo.

Even more simply, Nick Clegg was the insurgent in the 2010 Prime Ministerial debates and won (at least the first one). He was the representative of the establishment in the 2014 EU debates and lost. Of course, that’s not the whole story. But a large chunk of the British electorate – left, right and centre – are looking for change from where we are today – and only one person in the 2014 debate was seen to be offering it.

Two of the most striking examples lie outside the Liberal Democrats.

It’s no coincidence that Britain’s most electorally successful Prime Ministers – Margaret Thatcher and Tony Blair – started out being seen as outsiders challenging the status quo and having an agenda for change – and stayed that way more or less until the end.

Margaret Thatcher – to put it mildly – never gave any sense of satisfaction with the status quo or with the establishment until the day she died.

In both cases this could put them in conflict with members of their own party, but this was generally because they were seen as wanting to change things too much or too quickly – and not because they appeared to be taking things too slowly.

And it wasn’t just something that happened to get them elected first time. It was something they kept doing all the way through their terms of office.

Is that all there is to it?

Unfortunately not. There’s the small matter of delivering distinctive policy in government (and not just what was agreed back in 2010 in the coalition agreement) – and having the right set of policies that take you beyond the status quo.

It’s possible for a policy to be radical, promised in your manifesto and wildly unpopular – as Margaret Thatcher discovered with the poll tax.

But a complacent defence of the current situation and treating the coalition government as the best of all possible worlds is no longer an option. If the leadership of our party could learn from other ‘parties of government’, start telling us what they want to do if they weren’t held back by the Conservatives – what we’d be delivering if we had more MPs and a stronger position in Government – and get the party back to challenging the status quo, it would be a huge step in the right direction.

Featured on Liberal Democrat Voice

Posted in Blog | 11 Comments