How to get Councils building more homes

I gave evidence this morning to the London Assembly’s Housing and Regeneration Committee about how Councils could build more homes.

The Government could easily enable Councils to build new homes by lifting the borrowing cap on the Housing Revenue Account. London Boroughs currently have concrete plans to build around 10,000 homes in the coming years, and investment as a whole could double if the cap were lifted.

London Councils estimates that if all boroughs used all of their prudential borrowing capacity if the cap were lifted then around 54,000 homes could be built up to 2020. I have outlined my thoughts in more detail in a blog for Progress.

However, simply lifting the HRA cap will not solve the housing crisis. We need to come up with different ways to ensure we’re building the homes that families across the country are desperate for.

I was therefore pleased to read in today’s Evening Standard that Liam Byrne, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, was looking at how a Labour government could begin to transfer spending from housing benefit to investment in new homes.

Spending on housing benefit has increased rapidly in recent years because of sharp rises in private sector rents. Instead of subsidising rents, spending could be transferred to building homes which could be let at a lower cost, which would in turn reduce the housing benefit bill.

The Institute of Public Policy Research went into detail about how this could be achieved in a report published last year. I think the proposals are worth investigating further and I hope the Labour Party will look at them seriously.

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Mayor Declares Toilet Open

Mayor declares toilet open

As mayor I am called on from time to time to perform the official opening of various things – tonight, however, we broke new ground when I opened a new toilet in the annex of the Telegraph Hill Centre. It was built by St. James, part of the Berkeley Homes Group who had completed a housing development nearby. It will help Telegraph Hill Youth Club who meet there and they in turn are fundraising to twin the toilet with one in the developing world.
And here we all are in the toilet cutting the ribbon…

and here is a link to toilet twinning… http://www.toilettwinning.org/

Lobbying Lords to prevent NHS privatisation

Later this month the House of Lords will debate ‘Section 75’ regulations which will force local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to introduce competition for virtually all NHS services.

The Government was forced to withdraw their first set of regulations which had been introduced in February 2013 due to significant public pressure. The regulations being discussed later this month replace these.

While the language has been softened, the changes which were made to the regulations make virtually no difference to the impact,. CCGs will still have to use competition rather than simply award the service to an existing NHS body.

The immediate priority for CCGs should be to improve existing NHS services and their focus should be ensuring patients get the best possible health outcome. I am unconvinced that being forced into conducting lengthily tendering processes is the best way to achieve this.

The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign are urging people to write the Lords to urge them to vote against these regulations when they are debated on 24 April, you can find out more information on their website.

I’ve written to a number of Lords and would urge you to do the same. The NHS is valued highly by the British public and it’s important to ensure it’s values are maintained.

Good luck Millwall!

Millwall are playing in the FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley tomorrow – this is a fantastic achievement and they are just one game away from reaching the final.  I’m sure Kenny Jackett’s team will do us all proud.  Unfortunately for me I have a long standing engagement to speak at a Housing conference on Saturday afternoon so I shall have to watch on TV!

Welcome to the new site

Hi,

This is the new web site – I hope you will agree it looks a lot better but more importantly posting items is much more straightforward so there should be more regular updates.

Steve

10,000 Hands – Making Lewisham City Safe

City Safe Haven, 10,000 Hands 2 April 2013

I was delighted to give my support to the 10,000 Hands campaign earlier today. The campaign aims to make Lewisham a safer place to live by becoming the first City Safe Haven borough.

The campaign is being led by young people in schools across Lewisham who are hoping to increase the number of Safe Havens in our shops and public spaces, which already includes the Town Hall. They are attempting to collect 10,000 hand prints which they hope to present to the Prime Minister in Downing Street.

London Citizens and The Jimmy Mizen Foundation are supporting the campaign and it is a good example of how a community can come together and support each other to create a safer place for us all to live. I’m delighted that so many young people are already engaged with the campaign and hope that many more will join in.