Friday, 29 July 2011

Hyndburn companies that should be included in the 'Made by Britain' business list

Made By Britain is a project of the All Party Manufacturing Group, APMG, designed to address the reputation problems facing the manufacturing sector. All 650 MPs have been asked to find a product that is manufactured in their constituency today that exports British made products abroad. The objective is to draw up a diverse and comprehensive picture of contemporary British industry.

Here are just some of my suggestions and I am looking for more from Haslingden & Hyndburn. At the foot are the contact details for UKTI, the governments industry advisers.

Bamboo Textiles is a company whose product does have potential in overseas markets and UKTI could be able to help them in this regard. I have alerted UKTI to the company. (I also helped design their logo!)

Emerson and Renwick, a company I have helped are working with UKTI Gateway to Global Growth Programme. UKTI are now helping with the Governments Export Credits Guarantee Department (ECGD) could help them to increase their trade in Russia, in particular, and other overseas markets as well.

Senator are trying to penetrate markets in Australia and United Arab Emirates. A company with exceptional growth that now employs around 1000 staff making furniture.

Langtec Ltd, based on Altham Industrial Estate. The company won the Queens Award for International Trade in 2006, they manufacture mica and frp products and are exporting over 40% of output to countries such as USA, Germany, France, Ireland and even China.

Metflex Precision Moulding, in Great Harwood. Just relocated, last year, to brand new, purpose built premises and have increased the workforce to cater for the growing demand for their products. They are currently selling into USA, Malaysia and most European countries.

Caligen Foam

Surface Coatings

William Blyth

Callendar Engineering

Andrew Industries

Reach Global
IT firm - Reach Global is a global group of technology companies specialising in online advertising, digital media, internet portals, acquisitions, property.

Icon Designs
Upholstery, top quality leather chairs as well as innovative memory foam manufacture and distribution. Concentrated on memory foam mattresses and some pillow production supplying over 600 shops. Progressed into the manufacturing of sofa beds, beds, head boards, contract furniture and with the emphasis still on memory foam mattresses, its production ranged on mattresses and pillows.

Added foam conversion unit providing Icon Designs to extend its range of foam products, and also be a service to a range of manufacturing arras from play areas, to office furniture, sports mattresses, domestic furniture, bedding, and all other foam related areas

They can be followed on Twitter @MadeByBritain

Kick-start your success in world markets - 
take advantage of our bespoke service that puts your business directly in touch with UKTI staff in overseas offices. They can help you access vital information and contacts, understand the market environment and identify opportunities. They can also help you set up meetings or promotional events. To find out more information about our Overseas Market Introduction Service contact your International Trade Adviser on 0845 603 7053 or email

UKTI North West International Trade Team
Business Support Solutions
North West International Trade Centre
Warren Bruce Court
Warren Bruce Road
Trafford Park
M17 1LB

Tel: 0845 603 7053
Web site:

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

LandlordLaw: Can landlords be liable to neighbours for tenants from Hell?

Regulating the private rented sector is key to improving public service in housing. Given that 50% of residents living in the PRS in Hyndburn are recipients of Housing Benefit (Local Housing Allowance) it's time the tax payer got value for money.

Regulation seems unlikely with the current Conservative led government but what about the tax paying home owner facing neighbours from hell living in rented property.

LandlordLaw have published an interesting article laying the ground for potential legal remedy to absent landlords with anti-social tenants.

Can landlords be liable to neighbours for tenants from Hell?
Written on March 2, 2011 by Tessa Shepperson in Analysis

Landlords from hell on Channel four - Landlordlaw website calls for greater regulation

Written on July 6, 2011 by Tessa Shepperson- 22 Comments
Republished from Landlordlaw website

I have just seen Jon Snow’s Dispatches program on landlords from hell and I have to say that it makes very depressing watching.

Tenants forced out of properties without due process because the landlord wants a rent increase, families with young children being moved into substandard and dangerous houses, illegal immigrants living in garden sheds.

Hats off to Jon Snow and Channel Four for making the program, we need more of this sort of thing to bring the problem kicking and screaming out into the daylight. However we all know what the answer is. More houses.

Housing: The Battersby Report – Are private tenants being protected?

| 22 July, 2011

A new report by Dr Stephen Battersby (current President of the CIEH) questions whether Local Housing Authorities are adequately protecting private sector tenants.

The report entitled ‘Are Private Sector Tenants Being Protected Adequately?’ (The Battersby Report), was prepared by Dr Stephen Battersby for Alison Seabeck MP, Shadow Housing Minister and Karen Buck MP, Shadow Work and Pensions Minister. It is based on an analysis of Freedom of Information Requests sent to local housing authorities in the autumn 2010.

Daily Mirror - 'Landlords from hell' Channel 4 Dispatches - Worst property scams revealed

Daily Mirror article

Millions of tenants are falling foul of property scams or having their lives blighted by rogue landlords who fail to maintain their homes.

Research by housing charity Shelter also found cases of families being harassed or illegally evicted by property-owners.

There are 3.5 million households in private rented accommodation, around eight million people.
While most landlords are honest and responsible, Shelter says local authorities must clamp down on a "small but dangerous group" whose actions are making people's lives a living hell.

Last week, Shelter named and shamed Manchester-based landlord Tame Estates which it accused of imposing rip-off charges and failing to carry out basic property repairs for tenants such as Chelsea Williams.

She was 16 when she moved from her foster home into a two-bed Tame Estates home in Ashton-under-Lyne, Greater Manchester, at the start of this year with her partner Grant and 13-month-old baby Harvey.

Campaign for better regulation of private landlords gets supportive landord letter in Wirral News

Jul 27 2011
Birkenhead News

Letters page

Wirral News Letters: July 27- Need for regulation

LABOUR MP Graham Jones has demanded an “urgent statement” from housing minister Grant Shapps “on the crisis of rogue landlords in the private rented sector”.

Speaking in the Commons, Jones referred to Channel 4 recent dispatches programme “Landlords from Hell”, which showed one landlord, who was operating a charity, boasting that he could break the law and would sort out his tenants with a baseball bat.

Jones said: “Tens of thousands of people are trapped with poor or rogue landlords in the private rented sector.”

The MP is opposed to the landlord’s move to have selective licensing regime thrown out. He has gone on record as saying: “Given the chronic state the sector is in – it is more regulation and intervention that is required, and not less.”

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Inspections of private landlords are failing - by Keith Cooper - Inside Housing

Rate Your Landlord

Councils are failing to pinpoint dangerous, damp and overcrowded private rented homes, research by a leading environmental health officer has discovered.

The study by Dr Stephen Battersby, president of the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, has indicated that many councils lack a systematic approach to inspecting private rental properties.

Figures from 221 councils, obtained from freedom of information requests, suggest that fewer than 10 per cent of privately rented homes that would receive the most severe ‘category one’ hazard are dealt with each year.

‘Without changes in approach, the rate at which hazardous dwellings are dealt with is also unlikely to increase given the cuts happening in local government,’ the report added.

The study found councils were failing to pinpoint properties in the worst condition or the most irresponsible landlords.

Dr Battersby said: ‘The worst landlords are escaping because local authorities don’t have any real strategy to regulate conditions in the private rented sector.’

Housing Minister Grant Shapps response to my call for an urgent debate on private landlords

I raised the issue of the Channel 4's Dispatches programme, 'Landlords from Hell'. The ministers view is quite clearly one of ignorance to the problems within the private rented sector in particular in low demand areas. His comments in the Dispatches programme were met with derision on Twitter during the programme.

The minster needs to wake up the facts. Grant Shapps argues that only 1 person in 2009-10 was evicted due to retaliatory eviction but Shelters survey of Environmental Health Officers revealed that;
  • almost 1 million Britons have been the victim of a scam involving a private tenancy or landlord in the last three years 
  • 9 out of 10 environmental health officers working with tenants have encountered landlords who are harassing or illegally evicting them
One has to ask who is submitting to evidence to the minister?

The minster also argues the sector needs to grow yet the PRS does not build homes so what impact assessment has the minister undertook to access reductions in other housing markets and the cost to government through housing benefit paid through the Local Housing Allowance?

Shelter argue;
"Over the past 10 years, the private rented sector has been the fastest growing type of housing in the UK and is likely to continue to expand, as waiting lists for social housing rise and more people are priced out of home ownership."
The media have been quick to pick up on the return of Rackmanism to the UK. Whilst the minster argues that;
"the private rented sector has grown steadily and responded flexibly to changes in the wider housing market ... and the current framework strikes the right balance "
    Conversely Shelter's survey of Environmental Health Officers found;
    • 78% had dealt with landlords who persistently refuse to maintain their property in a safe condition.
    • More than 90% had encountered cases of severe damp, mould, electrical or fire safety hazard in properties they investigated in the last year. 
    The minister in his letter seems keen to point out that Local Authorities have the powers to deal with the worst conditions. They may be true but it is only true up to point. Undesirable houses, often grotesquely unfit houses often pass the HHSRS and it is no gatekeeper of decent home.

    Further swinging cuts, particularly to Labour areas dependent on the government formula grant are in less of a position to undertake preventative work. It is more likely the case they are overstretched as merely a responsive authority.
      Mr Shapps seems keen to pass the buck to anywhere but his friends, the landlords. In the last 3 years according to HMRC sources some £61m in tax has been recovered private landlords in upaid tax.

      As John Snow summised in Landlords form Hell, in 40 years of reporting housing matters, he has never seen conditions like that of today's rental market.
      Channel 4 Landlords from Hell
      In this undercover investigation, Jon Snow reports on the return of the slum landlord in 21st-century Britain. At a time when more people than ever are having to rent privately, unable to get on the property ladder, Dispatches reveals the shocking conditions in which tenants are forced to live.
      Dispatches sends an undercover reporter to work for a rogue property empire in the north of England. He reveals a world of forced evictions, slum properties in dangerous condition, and routine bullying of tenants. Jon confronts the man raking in millions while his tenants suffer.
      Dispatches also exposes an extraordinary new phenomenon: thousands of people living in illegal sheds, transforming parts of London into slums. A second undercover reporter lives in a squalid, illegal shed in London, paying £40 a week rent to another rogue landlord.
      Dispatches lifts the lid on a world where unscrupulous landlords are exploiting the most vulnerable people in society and getting away with it.
      Follow the discussion on Twitter: #LandlordsFromHell
      Graham Jones (Hyndburn, Labour)
      May we have an urgent statement from the Housing Minister on the crisis of rogue landlords in the private rented sector, following a series of television exposés, including “Dispatches” on Channel 4 on Monday night, which showed one landlord, who was operating as a charity, boasting that he could break the law and that he would sort his tenants out with a baseball bat?

      Tens of thousands of people are trapped with poor or rogue landlords in the private rented sector. Following the programme, the Housing Minister was bombarded on Twitter, to which he replied.

      May we have an urgent statement from the Minister about his comments?

      Monday, 25 July 2011

      Urgent Letter to Grant Shapps, Housing Minister

      Monday 25th July 2011 - Urgent Letter to Grant Shapps, Housing Minister who reads this blog.

      Dear Mr Shapps,

      Unitary and Districts – an unfair playing field
      Following our recent conversation in the lobby of the House of Commons I am writing to you with serious concerns regarding current tendering process for £30m HMR transitional relief which is some £14 oversubscribed I understand. From the figures I can see Merseyside, the second worst affected area as measured by past funding, has bid a total of £17.3m combined. The issue as I raised at the back of the speakers chair is that Merseyside is able to draw on the financial resources of a unitary authority. Hyndburn Council however has not and will not receive any financial support from Lancashire County Council who collect 84% of Council Tax combined.

      Local problems a barrier to progress
      Hyndburn has £2.4m of outstanding commitments in the West of Accrington as that scheme comes to a conclusion. A combination of CPO and effective ransom strips or outstanding acquisitions in an intervention area preventing full assembly and full site value. Legal agreements that it cannot renege on. In the East Accrington where HMR has just begun and where there are rows of boarded up houses which have recently been a target for arson whilst people remain living in them. In this area the Council has bought almost acquired 5 blocks.

      Too big a problem for a District Council
      Currently Hyndburn Council has a small shortfall on the 5 blocks in East Accrington it was trying to acquire.

      There are however another 12 blocks which qualify (150-180) where there exists under 50% occupancy rates qualifying them for a HMR transitional relief submission. Any bid to resolve this issues is hampered by the £2.4m overhanging costs from West Accrington.

      In detail Hyndburn’s current bid of £4.6m (£2.3+£2.3m) to the transitional relief must first accommodate the £2.4m overhang leaving just under £2m (there is a small budget shortfall on the 5 blocks).

      Funding unfairness
      Aside from the degenerative wasteland that encompasses the Council owned properties, people within the 12 blocks with more than 50% vacancy will question why they are not getting any funding when they qualify under the criteria laid out by DCLG and your good self. Why is it that Liverpool are able to bid £17.3m and potentially find a solution for their residents yet Hyndburn’s residents have little or no hope of funding? Hyndburn would increase its bid if it had financial support from Lancs. County Council.

      This current process is clearly unfair. The transitional scheme design is unsuitable but that is another argument as is the original decision to withdraw HMR in the CSR. Hyndburn has also seen the withdrawal of the ABG. The largest support grant cut and a pitiful £63,000 new homes bonus which punitively deducts demolitions of short term voids.

      In summary
      It is not fair to criticise Liverpool. They are bidding based on need and within a restrictive process. Hyndburn faces a glass ceiling as a small District authority. It qualifies for further funding but cannot get it.

      Promised visit
      I hope you will be able to fulfil your promise to come to Hyndburn before the end of 2011 and take a look at the scale of the problem.


      Graham Jones MP
      House of Commons
      SW1A 0AA

      Hyndburn Centre to close - Response from LCC

      The Hyndburn Centre in Accrington is to close. I know its sister building in the Nelson town centre, The Marsden Centre has seen sit in protests.

      Clearly County are trying to rationalise resources at Enfield Day Centre. Usually a euphemism for cuts . The County will leave - like with the neighbouring old peoples establishment - an unwanted eyesore in a problematic part of town.

      When resources are being withdrawn but also put back in, which is clearly happening it is difficult to quantify whether there is a net benefit or net loss.

      Wednesday, 20 July 2011

      MP demands urgent action over rogue landlords 'crisis' - Landlord ...

      Labour MP Graham Jones has demanded an "urgent statement" from housing minister Grant Shapps "on the crisis of rogue landlords in the private sector". ...

      MP demands urgent action over rogue landlords 'crisis' - Landlord ...

      Friday, 15 July 2011

      Todmorden Curve and Rawtenstall to Bury Rail Lines

      Here is the latest reply from Network Rail. Burnley and Lancashire County Council have submitted a RGF in the last two weeks.

      Thursday, 14 July 2011

      Update on "Sob Stories"

      Hansard censors minister calling deprivation reports "sob stories"

      The Speaker has said the words used by the minister Andrew Stunnell MP are indeterminate. Everyone I have spoken too has stated that Mr Stunnell on the video clearly says "sob stories".

      Not a good day for Parliament or Hansard.

      Phone hacking and News International - prepared speech

      Due to Government business and Gordon browns long intervention, I like many was unable to speak but this is what I had prepared)

      Housing market renewal. Minister says he is fed up with "sob stories"

      I have worked hard to bring togteher a coaltion of those affected by cuts to HMR areas to challange the Governments axing of the scheme.

      Tuesday's debate in parliament so the Government unable to justify clearly and concisely whyu it has abandoned so many communties leaving their neighbourhoods looking like ghettos.

      Under pressure the minister, Andrew Stunnel MP said "anyone can bring their sob stories" relating to the plight of people trapped in blighted run down HMR areas. (Scroll video to 1:12:30 to watch)

      This language was insenstive to say the least and was objected to by members representing HMR areas with Jack Dromey asking the minister to withdraw the comment which he declined to do.

      Hansard later omitted the word "sob" raising a Point of Order to Speaker john Bercow on the floor of the Commons as to why this had occurred. Had officials run up after to alter the record? It is absolutely clear on the video the minister uses the words "sob stories".

      The Speaker (Bercow) promised to look into the matter but with no answer a further Point of Order was raised yesterday to point out hansard had been corrected but that the word 'difficult' had been added. Not a word the minister used.

      With all the furore at the moment it would be ill judged to do anyting other than ensure Hansard of all publications is reporting the facts.

      Tuesday, 12 July 2011

      Speech on HMR in Parliament - unabridged version

      Thank you Mr Gale, it’s a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship.

      I'd like to congratulate the member for Liverpool Wavertree for securing this debate on what is a most important of debates to my constituents : the axing of HMR. HMR overall was a successful scheme though there were problems which I will come on to address.
      Much shortened version delivered - video 
      I want to address how the ending of this scheme affects my constituency Mr Gale. How it affects low demand areas? And some of the false statements put out by the minister and finally the issue around the governments £30m offer.

      Where we are now.

      Let’s be clear where we are now. We are facing a human misery. People were given assurances that the HMR red line around their neighbourhood would be a 15 year programme

      Not one which would first of all encourage de-investment and then at the bottom of the regeneration trough be pulled, leaving streets abandoned in the worst cases looking like ghettos.

      Sunday, 10 July 2011

      Phone hacking

      So much has been said and written about the proprietary of newspapers it's difficult to avoid repetition and contribute little.

      There seems to be battle lines being drawn albeit subtly. The newspaper industry suggesting the News of the World was a great investigative paper.

      This may true in it's salacious assault on immorality and sensationalism of crime but both rather ironic now reflecting a shallowness of righteousness and a rather more commercial reason de'tra.

      Politicians of all shades have bedfellowed Rupert and Co, partly as part of the democratic process but more recently in the age of neo-liberalism and multi-national corporations as a bed over backwards usurping voter opinion. It's not just the media.

      The reality is most people think the News of the World is a salubrious title of little merit outside crass enjoyment. I suspect most readers cast doubt even on the accuracy of its journalism. I must confess I bought it because tabloids have good sports coverage.

      With the terms of reference of a newspaper/media inquiry widening now is the time to ask whether a magazine that prints little news but plenty of bums, tits and chests is a newspaper? Let alone a good newspaper.

      If it hasn't served our national interest then what is our national interest. Where are the lines? No-one acted back in 2002 when Mrs Brooks told a Commons Committee she knew The Police had been paid. Remarkably it was Mr Coulson the man at the centre of it at the moment who jumped in to deny that occurred.

      People don't want restrictions on newspaper reporting in my view. They do want easier, and cheaper access to litigious justice with stiff penalties and commensurate plus apologies. Front page defamation should be reflected by an equal or greater sized apology.

      I believe it is time to question the morality of the media. A clear separation of news and tittle tattle. A question of whether we tax the latter and give tax breaks to the former and in return the former will accept a code of conduct not just on morality and criminality, but like TV News legislated to provide a balanced approach and that there is responsibility not only in editorial but in presentation, typography and advertisements.

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      Greater transparency for low level radioactive waste

      This week in Parliament I spoke out against the governments new legislation - (Draft Environmental Permitting (England and Wales) (Amendment) Regulations 2011) - which will remove paperwork recording the disposal of low level radioactive waste including radioactive waste from the NHS.

      In response to the minister, I questioned whether this was a wise move sighting the controversial example of decades old low grade waste which was been deposited on Oswaldtwistle Moor. (see notes)

      Thursday, 7 July 2011

      Statement from Lancashire County Council - Gt Harwood recycling centre to close?

      LANCASHIRE County Council has announced the outcome of a review into Household Waste Recycling Centres (HWRC) following a decision taken earlier this year to reduce costs and reshape the service by closing four sites (see statement below).

      My view is that this is more front line cuts and is another government blow to Grreat Harwood adding to the loss of regeneration funding for the Towngate and significant funding cuts to the new Health Centre.

      It will result in less recycling at a time the government is trying to claim it is the greenest government ever. It will certainly mean more waste going to landfill or more car journeys to the next nearest centre at Accrington. It may well lead to more fly tipping.

      David Cameron promised no frontline cuts during the leaders debates at the last general election. Lancashire Councty Council are hinding behind a review which is a euphemism for cuts.
      I have tabled a Parliamentary Question to The Communities and Local Government Secreatry for answer on 11 July 2011;

      Can the Secretary of State confirm (i) the numbers of recycling centres in the UK in each of the last 10 years and (ii) how many have closed from May 2010?
      The review examined the existing 19 sites with a focus on continuing to provide people with the opportunity to dispose of bulky household items near their home, while reflecting changes to doorstep rubbish collections, and the need to balance a smaller budget.

      Changes to Local Bus Services

      Public Transport is on it's knee's with more and more services withdrawn such as the 464 and No 12 service. It's not that there are less potential patrons in my view but that that there is an under selling and subsequent unde rusage.

      Withdrawel of passenger real time information where GPS live informatioon had been rolled out in Preston is a backward step by Lancashire Councty Council.

      It goes beyond that. Bus de-regualtion has failed. Bus subsidies have doubled over the 25 years in real terms whilst profitable routes have buses running for very little profit as they share custom to thinly. GM Buses have calculated there subsidey for less routes has risen from £18m in 1986 at todays money, to £41m this year.

      I met with Maria Eagle, Labours transport spokesperson twice this week and it is clear the systme is not working as more routes are lost.

      From 1 August 2011 Pilkington Bus will revise their Hyndburn Local bus services by withdrawing all Saturday journeys on the following services:

      Wednesday, 6 July 2011

      Last night's Newsnight report on HMR

      Having provided Newsnight with significant amount of information for last night HMR piece, I was terribly disapointed with the standard of journalism.

      Blaming the last government was sloppy. Reminding viewers it was a pathfinder should have provided a clue. The Council's were given the money and told to 'find a path'. There was never any dictats from government on expenditure other than low demand areas.

      To omit the recent discussion on whay the government have cut the scheme and to apply a note form DCLG on why at the end was again poor. The note itself full of innacuracies and misleading statements.

      The jopurmalist asks "why can't we just get people out". And then what?

      A community activist was asked if she worried about the money running out and she said she had. The reality is bad decisions were taken by LibDem Councils in Hull, Sheffield, Liverpool, Stoke and it was wrong to suggest it was the incompetence of the Labour Government.

      Newsnight had asked if a discussion took place would I go on the programme. News International squeezed out the discussion whicgh was a shame. This piece needed a discussion and I would have welcomed the chance to explain what the issues are.

      Labour Council establishes of Public Transport Group - A huge step forward

      Hyndburn Borough Council have established a new Transport Forum. A move by the new Leader Miles Parkinson that is a very postive and democratic move. A forum that is long overdue and which the new Council have responded quickly too.

      In a statement the new Labour Council has stated that "The Borough Council would wish to be in a position where it could influence the outcome of those initiatives. The purpose of the Public Transport Group would therefore be to consider the issues surrounding those initiatives, with a view to ensuring that the schemes met the needs of the Borough and did not have an adverse impact on local residents."

      I believe public transport is essential to social mobility and increase work capability, to reduce congestion and pollution and according the Chamber of Commerce and lcoal businesses, help the local economy.

      There are significant number of large infrastructure projects being considered at regional and national levels and it is important the public, the industry, other professionals and Councillors sit down and look at these important public transport issues.

      These schemes include Pennine Reach, Accrington Bus Station and Great Harwood Interchange,the reinstatement of the Todmorden Curve (rail improvement), potential improvements to M65 or A56, Blackburn Road, Accrington and Whinney Hill Link Road.