Thursday, 30 September 2010

Schools In Hyndburn encouraged to enter competition to win free solar panels worth £15m

Graham Jones MP has written to schools in Haslingden and Hyndburn urging them to take advantage of British Gas’ £15 million solar panel giveaway.

The Government’s “new homes bonus” will cause council tax chaos - more...

Speaking in Manchester at the Labour conference, John Healey Shadow Housing Minister said:

“Those councils that see new homes built will win but those that won’t or can’t build will lose out, and lose big. This scheme robs some councils to pay others. It will cause chaos in the council tax system.”

“It blows out of the water George Osborne’s promise to freeze council tax, and add extra pressure on council tax bills for councils already facing big grant cuts in public spending. Many councils will have to hike up council tax to cover the costs. Millions will face bigger bills as a result of this scheme”.

“The Government is right to want a strong incentive system for councils and communities ready to see new homes built. But this isn’t it.”

Graham Jones MP added:

Housing: Chaos at the Top on funding New Homes Bonus Scheme

 Graham Jones asked Grant Shapps, Tory Housing Minister:

“What proportion of the council tax allowance for each unit of new build housing district councils will receive under the New Homes Bonus Scheme in the first six years of its operation; and to which bodies, and in what proportion, the remainder of the allowance will be allocated.”

The Minister’s response was:

“The Government is committed to increasing housing supply and seeing more of the homes that people want, in the places that people want them, to meet Britain’s housing need. The previous Government’s policy of centralist top down targets clearly failed. The New Homes Bonus will shift power back into the hands of individuals, communities and councils and give local communities a direct and substantial share in growth rather than just absorbing the costs.”

The Government‘s decision not to answer the question and to instead side-step it entirely has only served to fuel the already growing confusion over exactly how the New Homes Bonus Scheme would operate. The scheme would offer councils in England extra money for every newly-built home, as part of a government programme aimed at easing housing shortages.

Under the New Homes Bonus scheme the government will match the council tax raised on each new house for six years, meaning that councils would have a greater incentive to build new homes.

However for dual-tier authorities like Hyndburn Council, the Government has yet to explain exactly how the bonus would be split. It appears that they are not too sure themselves either.

Graham Jones MP: “Unless Councils are certain that they will receive 100% of the bonus  then the scheme is instead likely to serve as a disincentive to Councils building new homes.”

“If the Government is truly committed to tackling the UK’s housing problems and meeting Britain’s housing needs, then it needs to provide clarity to the housing sector; something which is severely lacking at the moment.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

BT announce 40mb/sec broadband upgrade for Accrington

BT are announcing today the latest deployment phase of their £2.5billion investment in super-fast fibre broadband, covering more than 1 million additional homes and businesses.

BT has committed to reach two thirds of UK homes and businesses – some 16 million premises – by 2015.

The 159 new locations include Accrington telephone exchange, which covers part of the constituency.
This is important for this area. It should provide advantages for SME's as well as enjoyment and information for residential users.

We are still behind our European colleagues and BT have to be encouraged to make sure Haslingden and Hyndburn, and the UK maintain competitive.

I have been working with IT companies in the constituency to promote the business advantages this area has to offer.

Gt Harwood Health Centre Part 2

An update in regards to Albion Mill and the report to the PCT board.

There is now a publicly available report in circulation that will go to the PCT Board on Thursday recommending that the Board accepts that the original proposals for a health centre in Great Harwood are unaffordable.
Sadly government spending plans are further hitting investment plans. Gt Harwood is being hit again after the collapse of government funding for the Town Gate, refurbishment of the baths where free swimming has been ended and now the Health Centre.
The report also indicates that it might be possible to build a scaled down version on the Albion Mill site (at a cost of £3m rather than £8m); or that the PCT could look at other options for refurbishing the existing facility or hiring space elsewhere. I understand that the only decision that the Board will be asked to make is to confirm that the original proposals are unaffordable. It will not be asked to express a preference on any other possible options.

The Council have urged the PCT to move to an early demolition of the existing mill building and the Council have advised that the Authority would have little option than to pursue action for blight if the building is not demolished or refurbished in the near future.

The Council have made clear that in their view the PCT should be aiming to demolish the building before Christmas.

It is hoped to hear news within the next 2 weeks about the PCT's intentions.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

PCT scrap Great Harwood Health Centre

A report going to the PCT Board on Thursday, recommends that the proposals to build a new Health Centre in Great Harwood be discontinued.

This is disappointing but predictable news. The two key issues this repesents are:
1.) Dealing with the blighted site of Albion Mill (in the PCT's ownership) - which really needs to be demolished asap
2.) Engaging with the PCT about how it intends to address health needs in Great Harwood.

I'll be taking these issues up with the PCT. Coalition cuts are biting hard in East Lancashire an the choice to abandon growth and investment will be hugely damaging.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Todmorden Curve takes another big step forward

The Todmorden Curve project, the relaying of 200 hundred metres of track, has taken another big step forward with funding for final assessment stages being agreed by Network Rail.
This is something I have campaigned vigioursly for. It is vital for East Lancashire, even more so if austerity measures have a negative impact on our local economy.
Manchester is a economic major growth area and still growing and we must take advantage of that. The new service is expected to begin now in October 2013.

It will attract inward investment to East Lancashire with the better connectivity and compete against other commuter areas and the property hotspots of south Manchester. East Lancashire is an area of outstanding beauty and opportunity.

Good public transport always makes for greater economic prosperity. It gives people social and economic mobility.
Todmorden West Curve Reinstatement

Connectivity to Manchester identified as a key priority for Pennine Lancashire. Burnley Borough Council has led led the way on behalf of Pennine Lancashire on the proposed reinstatement of the Todmorden West Curve.

This project would produce a journey time to Manchester from Burnley of circa 40 minutes and Accrington of circa 49 minutes. This basically halves the current journey times.

The estimated economic impact of the scheme is an additional £8.4m GVA per annum by 2018.

Current Status (Grip stages 1-4)
• GRIP*2 report completed early 2010
• Network Rail authority to progress next stage (GRIP 3 and 4) work granted August 2010
• Client Remit and Engineering Remit signed off
• GRIP 3 work commenced
— vegetation clearance
— condition survey
— topological survey
• Demand and Revenue Forecasting study commenced August 2010
• Service Evaluation ( imetabling Study) is also currently being undertaken by Northern Rail
Northern Rail have been very proactive in supporting the service. Timetabling enables an hourly service in both directions, now terminating at Blackburn. The service to operate till 10pm.
Timescales
• GRIP 3 targeted completion - February 2011
• Demand and Revenue Forecast targeted completion February 2011
• Service Evaluation targeted completion - December 2010
• GRIP 4 targeted completion — December 2011 (subject to findings of GRIP 3)
• Targeted project completion - October 2013

Funding
Funding for Development Work
• GRIP 3 and 4 costs are now being picked up by Network Rail circa £300k
• Other work funded by Burnley Borough Council, Lancashire CountyCouncil and NWDA

Capital Funding for track laying and signalling
• Latest capital cost estimate is between £7m and £9m
• ln principal commitment was given by NWDA to consider capital funding. Decision to abolish RDAs will mean this is no longer available hwoever the new Local Economic Partnership replacing the RDA will adopt the Curve as a top priority (because it is an agreed East Lancashire Priority - MAA)
• Alternative funding options e.g. Regional Growth Fund currently being explored

Revenue Funding
• Revenue funding requirement not yet known. Gap funding is likely to be required


GRIP = Guide to Railway Investment Projects.
A process used by Network Rail to access and evaluate projects

Monday, 20 September 2010

Shelter - Evict Rogue Landlords Campaign

I am supporting Shelters campaign against rogue landlords. Last week Shelter released shocking statistics on the impact that rogue landlords have on people.
Rogue landlords blight lives whilst living luxurious lifestyles. I am supporting Shelter's campaign because all too frequently this is the case here in Haslingden & Hyndburn.

People often look at many houses and find none acceptable but are forced to accept houses one of the 40% that fall below the decent homes standard or 10% that are unfit.

Not only are they forced into poor housing but they are charged almost twice as much as former Council tenants and more than tenants with a Registered Social Landlord.
While the majority of landlords are honest and responsible, unfortunately a small minority treat their tenants in a deliberately exploitative way, making their lives a misery.

Whinney Hill Waste Transfer Station - latest

Just to keep readers up to date with progress I have written to the head of the Directorate at Lancashire Council Council last week and recievd this reponse on the latest position.

To enable construction of the East Lancashire Waste Technology Park and Whinney Hill Link Road it is essential that all land is in the County Council’s ownership and that the necessary rights over land are acquired.

Whilst lengthy negotiations were held with landowners and tenants there was no guarantee that they would be prepared to sell by negotiation and therefore, even though negotiations continued, on the 4th September 2008 the Council approved the use of the County Council’s powers of Compulsory Purchase to acquire all necessary land, and rights over land, for the construction and maintenance of the East Lancashire Waste Technology Park and Whinney Hill Link Road in the form of 2 Compulsory Purchase Orders and that those Orders be submitted to the Secretary of State for confirmation.

1GOAL! Parliamentary event to support education for all children worldwide

Recently I visited Oswaldtwistle School where they are supporting the 1GOAL! inititaive to support education for all children worldwide.
This is a siginificant campaign that will have a huge impact on the lives of children less fortunate. Education is the gateway to better life chances, a better society, a better world.

I was delighted to visit Oswaldtwsitle School which is taking part in the campaign and seeing how children in Hyndburn are discovering how very different many parts of the world are.
I was lucky enough to meet Gary and Danielle Lineker at the Houses of Parliament last week to show support for the 1 GOAL campaign. Gary Lineker is an Ambassador for 1GOAL, an initiative which aims to mobilise support for education for all through the power of football.

During the World Cup Dani Lineker joined 1 GOAL on an education trip to Khayleitsha, one of the fastest growing townships in South Africa, where opportunities for children are very limited.

The parliamentary event was held to highlight the global education crisis at this critical time. Next week in New York (20 – 22 September) world leaders will be meeting to review progress on the UN Millennium Goals; 2 of the 8 goals involve tackling poverty by ensuring that all boys and girls complete primary schooling by 2015. With just 5 years to go there are still 72 million children who are being denied even a basic primary education.

Leaseholder magazine critises Coalition over refusal to regulate landlords

NEW GOVERNMENT REFUSES TO REGULATE LANDLORDS

The new housing minister, Grant Shapps, has announced that the government will not be proceeding with Labour’s plans to regulate landlords and managing agents. The previous government was planning to implement the landlord licensing proposals as recommended in last year’s Rugg Review of the private rented sector.

Whilst CARL is dubious of the benefits of simply setting up a register of landlords and agents, we strongly disagree with Mr Shapps’ assertion that the present law “strikes the right balance” between landlords and tenants. Julian Knight, writing in the Independent on Sunday (11 July), made the point in somewhat blunter terms: “Mr Shapps, if you believe the system offers enough support to leaseholders, you are either deluded or simply don’t give a damn.”

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Hyndburn ranked 37 out of 39 for building affordable homes

Following research I have conducted, it has been revealed that Hyndburn Council is ranked a lowly 37th and 39 Councils for building affordable homes.

With some 2,000 on waiting lists and many more not applying because they know they have little chance, these figures are a disgrace.

It is unnacceptable that in the last 3 years just 65 affordable homes have been built, whilst hundreds are being built in other towns and boroughs.

I have long argued the point that Hyndburn's Conservative Council have tried to be discreet about their hidden right wing agenda. Even Tory authorities such as Trafford, Blackburn, Chorley, Fylde Ribble Valley and Wyre have a better record on the provision of affordable housing over the last three years.

Whilst canvassing meet many elderly people desperate for some form of social housing and the recent debate around Hilltop, Baxenden is an example of private-for sale developments starting at well over £100,000 being the chosen housing development rather than elderly accomodation to rent.

The Tories are engaging in a social engineering leaving the old, the vulnerable, familes to fend for themselves in the growing, substandard private rented sector. Pensioner's in their 90's forced to live downstairs, familes forced to live in damp conditions, houses not fit for habitation.

Quite frankly it's a disgrace and something should be done to change these policies.

Ranking LA Name Actual Completions 8/9 Actual Completions 9/10 Actual Completions 10/11 Total 2008/2011
1 Liverpool 528 402 431 1361
2 Manchester 271 338 413 1022
3 Salford 105 268 368 741
4 Tameside 175 106 197 478
5 Wirral 65 193 205 463
6 Rochdale 159 70 214 443
7 Warrington 24 133 278 435
8 Halton 71 141 217 429
9 Sefton 101 128 200 429
10 Trafford 194 121 102 417
11 Blackburn 65 169 147 381
12 Stockport 139 76 131 346
13 Oldham 48 166 131 345
14 Blackpool 62 21 250 333
15 Bolton 99 8 206 313
16 Knowsley 30 88 188 306
17 Wigan 37 58 197 292
18 Chorley 45 95 144 284
19 St Helens 8 158 93 259
20 Fylde 56 53 135 244
21 Cheshire West and Chester 0 45 170 215
22 Allerdale 49 98 67 214
23 Carlisle 31 35 132 198
24 Lancaster 99 26 55 180
25 Bury 13 33 132 178
26 Cheshire East 0 64 99 163
27 Ribble Valley 26 86 19 131
28 South Lakeland 57 36 23 116
29 Burnley 10 34 60 104
30 Wyre 52 38 14 104
31 Eden 27 45 28 100
32 Copeland 14 37 48 99
33 South Ribble 27 27 23 77
34 Rossendale 1 46 25 72
35 Preston 42 18 11 71
36 West Lancashire 15 26 25 66
37 Hyndburn 32 10 23 65
38 Barrow in Furness 7 0 56 63
39 Pendle 11 2 43 56
Total 2795 3498 5300 11593

Scandal of 770,000 Empty Homes in Britain

This is a major issue in Haslingden and Hyndburn. Below is the table from a parliamentary question I tabled listing the 770,000 properties that exist in England alone.

In Hyndburn the figure is 2,437 excluding Haslingden which is part of Rossendale but which makes up another one-seventh of the constituency.

PQ 0967 Graham Jones


Number  of empty dwellings in England by local authority as at October 2009
Data are taken from the Council Tax Base (CTB) and CTB(Supplementary) forms
These are completed annually by all billing authorities
Data are the sum of both long-term and short-term empty dwellings

Local Authority Total Empty Dwellings
Total England               -  
Leeds 14,828
Manchester 14,488
Bradford 13,720
Birmingham 13,573
Liverpool 12,392
Durham UA 10,156
Cornwall UA 9,407
Sheffield 8,188

North West defence contracts - A letter from Ed Milliband to Liam Fox

I have had the opportunity to speak with Ed Miliband briefing him on the importance of the BAe systemns and defence contracts to this region as part of my ongoing efforts to raise the importance of this sector to Britain and defnd workers and their jobs from ideological, unneccessary and damaging coaltion cuts.

Following our conversations, Ed took up the fight and wrote to Liam Fox to support Britain's industrial policy and the jobs of defence workers and their familes. David Miliband also came to visit workers at Salmesbury to support the argument.

Rt Hon Liam Fox MP
Secretary of State
Ministry of Defence
Main Building
Whitehall
London SW1A 2HB


6 September 2010

Dear Secretary of State,

There is growing concern about the Coalition's commitment to the Eurofighter Typhoon, and to the communities that rely on the employment this project brings.

During the election campaign debates, the Deputy Prime Minister made clear that he would axe the next stage of the Eurofighter Typhoon deal, regardless of the view that emerges in the Strategic Defence Review (SDR).

The Liberal Democrat manifesto stated "We will not purchase Tranche 3B of the Eurofighter." In contrast, Labour signed the contract for Tranche 3A and made clear the decision on when and how to proceed with Tranche 3B was a matter for the SDR.

The section on Defence in the Coalition Agreement made no mention of the Eurofighter despite its strategic importance. Despite this being an issue of clear and substantial disagreement between the parties, Burnley's new Liberal Democrat MP Gordon Birtwistle has said: "I don't think they got down to that level of detail in the talks." Yet this isn't a 'detail' but of real strategic economic importance to the region.

Astute Class Submarines at Barrow - Local suply companies that will be affected

There are a huge numbers of companies across the UK that make up the supply chain for the Astute-class submarines which are currently being built in Barrow-in-Furness.

The Astutes are the nuclear-powered ‘hunter-killer’ submarines that will replace the ageing Swiftsure class and Trafalgar class subs. They are not the ones equipped with the nuclear deterrent – those are due to be built straight after the Astutes.

According to the list I have, there are over 1,400 suppliers to the Astutes in over 1,500 locations spread right across the country. Listed below are local companies who make up the 1400 defence contractors and small businesses in the defence sector alongside the indirect supply chain involving companies outside the defence sector.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Elected Police Commissioners - Coalition chaos over the proposals

Reconnecting police and the people: Potential cost implications for Lancashire. The Constituency sizes are unparalleled in any UK election. In Lancashire this will involve over 1.5 million voters and covers an area represented by 14 Parliamentary constituencies.

For Lancashire the costs will add considerably to the policing budget at a time where police numbers are facing dramatic cuts. The cost of the election is between £1.2 and £1.4million – every four years.
It's not just the cost of the elections, or any elections that fall due to unrforseen circumstances, it's candidates royal mail delivery of election literature (and will the Police Authority have to pay for this), the whole extra cost of elections and new quango-crime panels on top of all the existing legislation, the new commissioners hefty salary and the new commissioners entourage of personal/political staff to assist him.
A staggering waste for what? The coalition is not cutting the deficit to save money, its a ideological and its an ideological choice.
The proposal that the policing and crime panel can call a referendum on precept decisions by the commissioner could add the referendum costs – these are likely to be similar to the cost of elections.
If, following a referendum, there is a decision to alter the precepting decision, Council Tax payers in the County would need to be re-billed. The approximate cost of re-billing is calculated to be approximately £1million.

Consultation by LCC on charging for travel to chu4rch schools

Currently faith schools are included by law (Education Act 1996), in free transportation for pupils who live over the statutory walking distance from their nearest suitable school, are entitled to receive free travel.

The County Council are proposing that from September 2011, the families of all new pupils who would currently be entitled to transport assistance on denominational grounds under the present discretionary arrangements, will be asked to make a contribution of £2 per day per child towards the cost, for a return journey.

This is a difficult moral issue in that encouraging secular education is on balance better however many parents value church education.

Monday, 13 September 2010

EDMO's - Shocking statistics reveal how ineffective they are.

Parliamentary Questions - Empty Dwelling Management Orders
Communities and Local Government
Written answers and statements, 9 September 2010
Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour)
To ask the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government how many empty dwelling management orders have been issued in each local authority area in each year since 2006.
* Hansard source (Citation: HC Deb, 9 September 2010, c603W)

Grant Shapps (Minister of State (Housing and Local Government), Communities and Local Government; Welwyn Hatfield, Conservative)
A list of Empty Dwelling Management Orders issued in each local authority in each year since 2006 is as follows:
Authority & Number of EDMOs
2006
South Oxfordshire DC 1

2007
Carlisle DC 1
LB Hounslow 1
LB Lewisham 5
Norwich CC 1
Peterborough CC 1
Swale BC 1
Wychavon DC 1

2008
LB Bromley 1
LB Hammersmith & Fulham 1
Norwich CC 5
South Norfolk DC 1

2009
Bolton BC 1
Carlisle DC 1
New Forest DC 1
Peterborough CC 1
Southend on Sea 2
South Gloucestershire Council 1
South Tyneside BC 1

2010
Bolton BC 1
LB Lewisham 22
Staffordshire Moorlands DC 1
Stockton on Tees Council 1
Empty Management Dwelling Orders are a waste of time and I have argued this point for quite awhile. The table above highlights just how few local authorities use them.

EDMO's allow local authorities to take over the management of badly let or vacant properties for initially a 12month period, followed by a 7 year period. Any costs have to be recovered from the rent. Ownership is not removed and can be no charge against the property for repairs.

The legislation is badly set out and set's barriers to any real effective use. Normally local authorities would consider using EDMO's where serious problems occur, in effect properties with lots of problems. In London high rents make it possible to establish EDMO's where those high rents can cover repairs.

We have seen how bad the private sector rented sector is and this figures are shocking in respect of the action required to deal with the industry.

Friday, 10 September 2010

SHELTER - Impact of the local housing allowance reforms will lead to increased homelessness

Dear Graham,

I am writing to give you advance notice of new research on the impact of the local housing allowance reforms, which Shelter has commissioned from Cambridge University.

The research will reveal shocking evidence that the LHA cuts will cause a huge surge in homelessness, as 134,000 households will be unable to negotiate cheaper rents and will either be evicted or forced to move. Providing temporary accommodation for all these people will cost government up to £120m, cancelling out a fifth of the money the government is hoping to save through the changes.

Great Harwood Health Centre & Hyndburn GP's

I have met with the PCT over many things but writing to you today is in regard to two specific issues and I attach a copy of the reply from the PCT Chief Executive.

Latterly I am very concerned about Hyndburn’s health figures and the quality of primary health care in the area. The PCT are doing an evaluation of GP performance in the Borough. Hyndburn’s health figures are very poor and they need to improve.

The major issue which follows on from this is the proposed new Great Harwood Health Centre which is very important fro the town. The attached letter below provides the latest update on this project.



Thursday, 9 September 2010

HANSARD - Yesterday's debate on Rogue Landlords

Yesterday's debate on rogue landlords by John Cruddas can be found in full in Hansard here. Below is the extracted version at the points I was able to raise.

11.19 am

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (Andrew Stunell): 

I congratulate the hon. Member for Dagenham and Rainham (Jon Cruddas) on securing the debate and other colleagues on their potent interventions. In particular, let me mention my new colleague, my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert), and thank him for bringing to the attention of the House some of the specific and horrific examples that he described.

I think that everyone present understands the importance of the private rented sector in delivering affordable and suitable accommodation for households. As has been reported, there are 3 million private tenants in this country. In the area represented by my hon. Friend the Member for St Austell and Newquay and in London, a much higher percentage-as many as one in five-are in private rented accommodation. The sector provides a lot of choice and flexibility at all levels of the housing market.

Graham Jones (Hyndburn) (Lab): 
The Minister makes the point that there is quality provision in the private rented sector, but I should like to point out the situation in my constituency and the east Lancashire corridor, which probably reflects that in many areas of the country. In my area, 40% of properties do not meet the decent homes standard and 11% are unfit for human habitation; and within those statistics, it is predominantly the private rented sector that features. How can the Minister say that there is adequate provision and no need for regulation when such squalid conditions exist? Urgent action is needed on rogue private landlords. The hon. Member for St Austell and Newquay (Stephen Gilbert) made the good point that environmental health officers are really struggling. The sector does need regulation, because such landlords are able to evade legislation. They are able to work round-

John Robertson (in the Chair): Order. The hon. Gentleman should not be making a speech.

1000 Job Losses at BAe systems

Many constituents work at BAE at Samlesbury or Warton and also at local companies that rely on contracts with them. This is devastating news for Lancashire and my first concern is for the workers and their families.

On the day that started with a report that draws on the devastating impact Government cuts will have to the north and public sector jobs this is a terrible blow to the private sector in Lancashire.

Labour set out clear policies to secure the recovery - not put it at risk. Clearly the way forward should be to invest in high value, export led advanced engineering jobs.

This is another example of the coalition cutting the deficit too fast, private sector confidence draining away and I fear it’s just the tip of the iceberg as far as cuts in military spending go.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Almost 100% of environmental health officers say they have encountered landlords who persistently ignore their responsibilities

Government claims that current laws protect tenants have been thrown into disarray today by a new Shelter investigation which exposes the truth that rogue landlords still plague the private rented sector, making tenants’ lives a misery.

As part of its new investigation the charity is revealing the shocking treatment of tenants at the hands of rogue landlords and releases new research which shows evidence of widespread abuse by a minority of landlords in the sector.

To show the reality of life for many private tenants, Shelter conducted a survey of environmental health officers and found over 90% who deal directly with private renters had encountered landlords harassing or illegally evicting tenants.
Graham Jones "I have been working with Shelter on this campaign and this survey is shocking but not surprising. It reveals an industry that has been hiding behind a false belief that most private landlords are good and that only a minority are bad. Recent statistics have shown that the average rents are £128 whilst average ex-local authority rents are as low as £63.
People in Haslingden and  Hyndburn know that seeking a decent home for rent is horriffic and the end result after many viewings is often at best unsatisfactory and worst, desperate and miserable. Private landlords need to act urgently to clean up their industry."
Other results from the survey, conducted through the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health (CIEH), paint a very worrying picture of the massive impact this small but dangerous group of landlords are having on private renters. Headline results include:

• Almost 100% of environmental health officers say they have encountered landlords who persistently ignore their responsibilities

• Half of EHOs believe the main reason for letting unsafe properties is to make as much money as possible.

• Over 90% of environmental health officers said they had encountered cases of severe damp, mould, electrical or fire safety hazards in properties they investigated in the last year.

• Over 60% of environmental health officers said that more than half of their cases involved people from vulnerable groups.

• Over half of CIEH members believe environmental health problems in the private rented sector are set to get worse in the next year.


The issue of football governance

Since the All Party Football Committee report provided an insightful view on football governance, the issue of the Glaziers leveraged debt, the leveraged debt at Liverpool and the personal indebtedness at Chelsea, Aston Villa and others has become more significant.

Even Governance at smaller clubs (such as loans at Accrington Stanley rather than share capital) has come under scrutiny with a winding up order almost seeing the club go under for the second time in it's history.

To the extent that the idea that organised crime could be running a football club is not as far from the truth as we think.

Set against this is the whole issue of greater supporter representation to secure transparency, a long term view and greater consideration for ordinary fans, often sacrificed on the alter of commercial profit or short term financial gain.

There is one overriding point, football clubs are essentially a monopoly. Fans don’t choose or shop around. Brand loyalty is 100% and clubs take advantage of this and this is at the heart of the issue.

Lancashire County Council tax payers to foot bill for cancelled Building Schools for theFuture

Earlier this year the coalition scrapped the BSF programme l;eaving Lancashire County Council with outstanding costs incurred of some £900 000.

I have now received an answer to my question to the Secretary of State for Education, if he will compensate Lancashire County Council for its expenditure incurred in relation to those elements of the Building Schools for the Future programme in Lancashire which will not now proceed. (9761)

Nick Gibb, the minister has responded saying "there are no plans to compensate local authorities for expenditure incurred in relation to these elements of Building Schools for theFuture programme that will not now proceed."

County Tax Payers have just wasted nearly £1million on a scheme that would have changed people's lives, children and communities. The Treasury's arrogance that it can just walk away and wipe it's hands sets an unhealthy prescident.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

Crackdown on rogue landlords in Blackburn and Darwen - A reflection on why regulation is required in Hyndburn

I cannot see the argument that the Private Rented Sector in Accrington does not require regulating with the pending Landlord Licensing Scheme (1 Oct).

Below is an article on Blackburn's scheme and comments from Telegraph readers. I thought it reflective.

_________________________

FOUR men have been fined a total of almost £20,000 thanks to new rules to curb rogue landlords.

The four were prosecuted by council bosses for not measuring up to strict new regulations introduced in parts of Blackburn and Darwen.

David Ashcroft, who owns four properties in Newton Street, Darwen, was fined £10,000 for breaches including not connecting a house's boiler to electricity - so it had no hot water.

He was also found guilty at Blackburn Magistrates' Court of failing to apply for a licence and not complying with environmental regulations.

On top of the fine, he was ordered to pay costs to the council and £15 towards a fund for victims of crime.

Three landlords in the Infirmary area of Blackburn were also fined by magistrates.

Shraz Ashraf, who owns a house in Longshaw Lane, and Khalid Ali, who has a property in Dyson Street, were both fined £2,000 for not having property licences, £352 costs and £15 towards a victims' fund.

And Shahid Ullah, who owns two houses in Rockcliffe Street, was handed a £4,000 fine for not having licences for the properties, £352 costs and a £15 victim surcharge.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Lighter Days - Campaign to extend daylight hours by one hour in the evenings

There is a growing campaign to move Britain over to double summer time moving the clocks backwards 1 hour. This will give an extra hours daylight during evening time.

It's a minor campaign I am fully supportive of for the reasonsput forward by the 'Lioghter Later' campaign in the letter below. (Double click for enlarged version).

There is a Bill putting this forward on the 3 December which if I can, I will support.

Big Lottery Appeal to ex Hyndburn Service Personal - Veterans Grants

Ex service personal are being sought by the big lottery to seek grants for their Heroes Return Programme.

This grant is available to veterans to enable them to visit overseas cemeteries and attend veterans memorials.

For further info please double click the photo below.



Hyndburn Landlords threaten the pending Landlord Licensing Scheme (1 Oct)

In this weekends Accrington Observer (3 September) on page 17 an organisation called Hyndburn Landlords are claiming that HBC may have failed to consult local landlords as prescribed by the guidelines set out in the Housing Act 2004 part 3.

They are attempting to have the scheme reviewed leading to a reduction in the area's that have been designated for the licensing of private landlords.They are at best seeking a more targeted manner with better prospects of success.

I have fought hard alongside Labour Councillors to bring minimum standards to bare on privately let properties in the deprived areas and for some sort of accountability of ownership, a licence, to help the Council and the Police deal trace quickly owners to assist or to take action against.

This scheme must go ahead. Resident surveys have shown 80% 67.6% in favour and around 10% against IIRC. What is disturbing is that at least one landlord faced with a £1.40 per week charge has threatened a £10 per week increase to tenants and is blaming the rise on the scheme.

It just reinforces the view that some of the worst landlords cannot be trusted and will seek to profit for greed or self interest.

The advert is asking all local landlords who feel that they have not been correctly consulted to contact them via their website (http://www.hyndburnlandlords.co.uk/) or to attend an open meeting on Thursday 9th September at 7pm at the Oaklea Public House 232 Whalley Road Accrington.

The Council wrote to all landlords that we were aware of borough wide - sending out approximately 1800 letters. However a significant number of landlords are claiming that the Council did not write to them.

It just highlights how isolated landlords are from their business, that there is no collective organisation and no industry responsibility to Hyndburn in a wider general sense. I include responsibility for strategic housing and to owner occupiers who have to put up with the consequences from the industry.

It is my view that the Council have met at least the minimum requirements for consultation as prescribed by the Act. I understand at this stage there is no intention to delay implementation, nor is there any intention to reduce the size of the licensing area. It is important the Council meet with Landlords and I believe this will occur this week as part of ongoing discussions.

It appears the Conservative Council are looking to find a way to back down from the scheme realising it is predominantly their voters they are hurting. People should take a good long hard look at the Conservatives and the people they are really standing up for and the people they are prepared to let down.