Hypocrisy and double standards: How a Tory flagship council denies the ” just about managing ” their new homes

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Nickie Aiken – Westminster Tory leader and a bit of a hypocrite over housing

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Today Philip Hammond the Chancellor made a big statement aimed to help the young get on the housing ladder with promises to build hundred of thousands of new homes and no stamp duty for the first £300,000 of the cost of a first time buyer home.

At the same time the Tory flagship council of Westminster has just decided NOT to make available affordable homes for young people which  it could provide by legally demanding a deal with a developer to provide cash and new homes for ordinary people in the centre of London.

The development around Baker Street by Portman Estates will allow the company to make a mint by building 51 homes, new offices and shops in a part of London where flats easily go for over £1m and much more.

By law Westminster could demand that nearly a third of the homes are made available at affordable (still high) rents to ordinary people and that the developers given £12.5 m towards the council’s own affordable housing fund – this is used often to export the homeless to other cheaper places.

In fact council documents show Westminster is about to agree a deal to accept the wealthy developer’s offer of providing just ten affordable homes ( under 20 per cenr) and contribute less than half the £12.5m the council could demand  from them = by agreeing to their offer of £5m.

You might think that this is well par for the course for the council that was famous in the 1990s for the ” homes for votes ” gerrymandering scandal under Dame Shirley Porter. They tried to move out poor families by letting new council homes to the middle class in Tory marginal seats.

But the new feisty leader Nickie Aiken  – she gave a good compassionate speech at the Tory party conference in a local government fringe – has made the point of NOT being another Dame Shirley.

She has told the Financial Times in June : “My view is that too many times we have not always pushed back enough in requiring affordable homes on-site, have buckled on viability or surrendered to the idea that brutal market economics simply denies housing opportunities for most people and that is just a harsh fact of life.”

And in case you missed it told the London Evening Standard  the same thing in January this year.  They reported : She suggested she would do things differently by no longer accepting “cheques” from developers in lieu of building more affordable homes.

“I can tell you there will be a lot more built under me than today.”

Well really – what a hypocrite – obviously not accepting cheques from developers meant they needn’t pay her so much to make even more money.

Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg, Labour’s Business, Planning and Public Realm spokesperson, said:

 “Once again the Conservatives prove that they cannot be trusted on delivering new affordable homes for Westminster residents. The Conservatives talk tough but roll over when developers plead poverty on major multi-million pound redevelopment schemes. The Conservatives are giving the go-ahead to more luxury housing and failing those in need of an affordable home in central London.”

If anything he was probably being too polite. The Tory leader is very keen to show a compassionate face for next May’s elections. The trouble is deeds count much more than words for the plight of young people who can’t get homes. Hypocrisy is not necessarily a good vote winner. I bet you don’t see this story in the London Evening Standard.

The full details  of the planning application and Westminster’s recommendation are here.

 

Theresa May’s wasted £11.2 billion of taxpayers money on initiatives Tory youth doesn’t want

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The Tory conference was supposed to be the point when Theresa May announced a raft of policies to challenge Jeremy Corbyn’s wooing of the youth vote.

If she had  left the main platform of the conference and slipped into a packed Adam Smith Institute fringe meeting at the Manchester conference she would have been sorely disappointed.

The meeting chaired by a young Times journalist ,Grant Tucker, was meant to be a discussion on what  the millennial generation want and how they can get young voters away from Jeremy Corbyn.

Predictably it was hostile to any Corbyn programme of  rent control and nationalisation but what was extraordinary was the hostility to the May announcements earlier in the week.

The meeting was  heavily dominated by the housing crisis facing the young Tories – almost to a man and woman – all privately renting and paying up to 50 per cent of their monthly post tax income for small rooms in shared flats.

The £10 billion put aside to massively expand the Help to Buy programme was universally condemned from both the platform, by Madsen Pirie from the Adam Smith Institute, and by the audience as exactly the wrong thing to do.

Madsen Pirie

Madsen Pirie Pic credit: wikipedia

They saw it as putting up house prices even more beyond reach and doing nothing to aid the supply of affordable homes. Nor did they want a big council house building programme.

What they wanted was a liberalisation of the planning laws and a mass release of land to allow not a few thousands but a million, yes a million, homes built  in three years to totally change the affordability of housing and bringing back mass home ownership.

Nor were they impressed with a £1.2 billion spent freezing student loans at £9250 and raising the pay back level to £25,000. What they wanted was instead the abolition of the new 6.1 per cent interest rate on loans, pointing out that this could add £5000 to payments soon after students graduated.

So how has May got this so very,very wrong. The answer was plain to see. The Tory leadership is not listening to them. What came over to me was that thus young strand of the Tory’s future had no influence on what their leaders did and were very frustrated and even angry about it.

Unlike at Labour where it is clear that young people – as members of the party had an input – these young people seemed to be treated as election fodder to get the mainly elderly Tory vote out.

There was other thing I noticed at this gathering.There was not a black or brown face to be seen, they were universally white, again unlike Labour. Yet they were not all from the Tory shires, some were from multiracial Bristol, and another from Camberwell and Peckham. Given what diverse place this is, I was surprised there was no ethnic minority representation. I had seen a more diverse audience at an earlier fringe organised by Westminster council.

What this augurs for the future of the Tory Party is not good for them. Their membership is already elderly and falling. If they don’t take any notice of their young membership they are doomed to oblivion – just as Tory campaigner John Strafford said earlier this week.

 

 

Stop these nasty attacks on people living here now

Manchester tram attack

Racist abuse on a Manchester tram this week Pic credit:www.dazeddigital.com

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During both the first and second world wars my family came under  suspicion and attack from people because our family name Hencke is German. At one stage we even considered changing it or  Anglicising it  to something like Henkey.

The reason was that we were  at war with Germany and although our family left Germany via Holland in 1862 and we were virulently  anti Nazi ( my mother is Jewish after all) the hatred of the foreigner was very high at this time.

Since the Brexit campaign there has been an upsurge in nasty, vicious attacks on EU people staying and working here and racist attacks against ethnic minorities which we have not seen  for some time.

Frankly I blame  Nigel Farage, UKIP and both Boris Johnson and Michael Gove for giving respectability and legitimacy to people who have held these views privately to think they can now openly harass foreign workers in this country.

By promising to quit the European Union and ” take control ” people have been given the impression that we can stop immigration altogether and that perhaps their wish that people could be sent home will be granted.

They have been told that all their problems getting jobs, housing, places for their kids in school, hospital operations  and even traffic jams and waiting in queues are all the fault of immigrants. If they left everything would be wonderful.

This monstrous lie was perpetuated in split screen TV campaign broadcasts by the Brexit campaign. Any sane person would know that this is far more complicated.than that.

But what has been alarming is the reaction. People attacked on a Manchester tram, women abused in the street, someone quizzing people on their nationality  in a supermarket queue and telling  the till staff to serve British born people first. Others have been nastier including abusing Polish  kids at school, putting nasty messages through Polish people’s letterboxes and daubing German made cars (presumably bought by British people) with swastikas. And there was the nasty graffiti  on the Polish centre in Hammersmith, west London.

It is soon going to become very obvious that people are NOT going to get what they want from Boris Johnson. Immigration will not stop, they are not going to be miraculously rehoused and immigrant’s children are not going to be removed from school. All because  this depends on policies that have nothing to do with immigration – such as house building or providing enough places in schools.

So what should  be done. There should be a crackdown on people who do this to show it is unacceptable.

But there also should be action to explain to people that if they want to live in  dynamic, prosperous, modern society  it is going to be a multi racial and diverse and people of different beliefs, race and sexuality all have something to contribute. We are no longer a pale male and stale society and can’t turn the clock back  centuries. That is why I think London rejected the Brexit case.

The problem is that we are left with a nasty backlash from people who see they have been left behind and want to take it out on anybody who is different to them. That must be tackled or we slip into a nasty, divisive country that no one will want to stay in.

 

 

 

Theresa May’s new immigration official: the private landlord

Home Office 2005

Home Office HQ: running ” an ineffective and possibly racist ” scheme

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On Monday Britain’s immigration officials are to be swelled by millions of new recruits – an army of private landlords.

February 1 marks the day landlords  and any private home owner  who takes in lodgers will be expected to act as immigration officers and check the immigration status of anybody renting a room. British, Swiss and EU citizens are exempt. But anyone with a foreign sounding name, black face or Aussie or American accent will immediately  be under suspicion.

Failure to do so will mean that private landlords  face a fine of  up to £3000 (less for a first offence) and even once they are registered the landlord faces another fine if he or she fails to tell the Home Office when the lodgers’ visa runs out.

According to James Brokenshire, the immigration minister, it is all very easy and should prove no burden to millions of British citizens who let out rooms or have buy to lets.

As he says “Ahead of the scheme’s roll out, we have been working very closely with an expert panel to make sure their feedback is taken on board and to design a scheme that is as simple and light touch as possible. Many responsible landlords have already been undertaking similar checks – these are straightforward and do not require any specialist knowledge.”

Apart from his insult to thousands of professionally trained immigration staff, James Brokenshire’s comment is wide of the mark. As I wrote in Tribune magazine last week the scheme is so simple that the Home Office’s  so called new ” simple guide” for landlords issued on January 8 was suddenly withdrawn and archived seven days later.

The reason became very clear. it was pretty complicated and required landlords to be able to distinguish between fake immigration papers and real ones.

The government’s brilliant test run has proved not to be so. Trialled in the West Midlands in places like Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Sandwell, it turned out that half the landlords never registered and it was difficult to find out who was taking lodgers. Some people relying on agents decided the best thing was not to take any foreign people at all, and the dangers of racism was obvious.

This suggests it could be difficult to enforce, particularly over lodgers. Nobody need be registered if they are staying less than three months. The rules say tenants leaving most of their belongings in a property for more than three months or are registered to vote or with a local doctor would have to be checked. And will  cash strapped local councils have time or inclination to check.

They also want landlords to certify the documents are genuine, the picture is of the immigrant and to be wary of damaged documents.

In my view this another example of the government dumping its responsibility to check immigrants coming into Britain on to the general public rather than having an effective and well staffed Borders Agency in the first place.

But it will also be ineffective. My  knowledge is limited  and is mainly through connections to the Kurdish community after my daughter married a Kurdish asylum seeker – who now has a UK passport.

But it seems clear to me that each community sticks to its own – and is a mixture of people who have British passports, are awaiting asylum applications, and are illegal. The  accommodation arrangements  for the latter  are informal and wouldn’t be covered by the new Immigration Act as no contracts would be signed. So unless Mr Brokenshire is going to ask the police to raid the house of every former immigrant in England he will never  discover what is really happening.

Instead he has dumped a bureaucratic system  on millions of law abiding citizens as a ” window dressing ” operation to cover up his government’s failure to police the immigration system itself.

 

 

 

Housing development where Osborne gave his speech will have separate entrances for rich and poor

The true nature of Osborne’s recovery: £1.4m front door homes for the rich ( marketed overseas) and 70 back door homes for London’s poor. ( the rich will need servants to live somewhere near). See Jules Birch’s blog on the marketing and history of the development. Those living in social housing are actually BANNED from using the posh front. entrance. A new apartheid?

Pride's Purge

(not satire – it’s George Osborne!)

George Osborne chose a new housing development in London yesterday to give his speech on how the economy is ‘turning the corner’.

The chancellor said the development – One Commercial Street – was “a physical reminder” of what has been happening to the economy.

Well, he’s certainly right about that.

Because the cheapest private apartments for sale at One Commercial Street start at £750,000 with penthouse suites costing millions.

And the 70 units which have been sold to a housing association  – included because of Section 106 affordable housing requirements – will be in a separate part of the building and will have a completely separate entrance round the corner and well out of sight of the exclusive entrance used by the well-heeled, mainly foreign private tenants.

Yes – Osborne’s absolutely right about One Commercial Street being a physical reminder of the economy.

A rich minority living lives…

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