Thursday, 29 December 2011

Why the governments new metal theft initiative needed more thought

Today I did an interview broadcast on Sky News on metal theft

Next week the government will begin its £5m scheme to tackle metal theft aimed at making it easier to trace sellers. 

The new scheme will be trialled in North East England from January 3, under which people selling scrap metal to dealers will have to provide proof of identity, supported with a utility bill.

Police said they hoped the estimated 240 scrap metal dealers in Northumbria, Durham and Cleveland will sign up to the six-month trial, codenamed operation Tornado.

It's all well meaning but a number of flaws need to be highlighted.

- This is a voluntary scheme. Why would one of the unregistered 900 scrap metal dealers join this scheme? Why would a dealer knowingly  receiving stolen scrap metal join up? Why would a scrap steal thief go to a registered dealer? 

- The idea of identity is important but most of the good dealers already do this as a matter of good practice. The problem they face is contamination from dubious dealers able to remove the identity of stolen material.

-this trial does not include cashless payments which is worrying and goes against the governments prince argument of traceability.

- the 6 month trial, operation Tornado will now end on the 3rd of July with time thereafter for analysis. The Olympics are in July. Are the government going to delay legislation or pass legislation without knowing the results of this pilot? Dithering and confusion seems to exist and in times of austerity can this £5m be justified considering it is not a complex issue and has precedent in new legislation in Belgium, Bulgaria and France as well as many states in the US.

- it fails to join up HMRC and the EA as well as local government, all whom have an important role in the future regulation and tax revenues.

Monday, 19 December 2011

My Private Members Bill takes another step forward

Margot James (Stourbridge) (Con): Metal theft is a scourge across the entire country and yesterday my hon. Friend the Member for Dudley South (Chris Kelly) and I met the Minister responsible at the Home Office, Lord Henley, and found much agreement with the provisions in the Bill promoted by the hon. Member for Hyndburn (Graham Jones), which has widespread cross-party support. Will my right hon. Friend ask the Home Secretary for a statement on this subject as a matter of urgency when the House returns in January?

Sir George Young: I think I am right in saying that there was an exchange on metal theft during Home Office questions on Monday. I can confirm that we are considering a range of measures, which include banning cash payments, supporting scrap metal dealers in identifying stolen metal and seeing how we can make it more difficult to steal such types of metals. We are also working with the Association of Chief Police Officers and the British Transport police have set up a new unit, but I will pass on my hon. Friend’s suggestion that we reconsider the (Graham Jones's) private Member’s Bill to see whether we can make swift progress.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Supporting the Warm Homes Campaign

The Warm Homes Campaign is a national campaign run by the UKs leading fuel poverty charity National Energy Action to raise awareness of fuel poverty and the issues surrounding living in a cold home.

This year has seen energy prices rise to record levels and the number of fuel poor households in the UK is now over 6.6 million. Over 29% of households in Hyndburn are struggling to heat their homes.

No-one should be dying of the cold in this country. I want to work with groups and individuals within my constituency to help them access the support available to insulate homes and reduce energy bills.

The Warm Homes Campaign highlights that there are still millions of people who are simply struggling to keep their homes warm and protect their families from the ill effects of the cold. Fuel-poor households experience a number of detrimental health impacts and reductions in general wellbeing as a result of cold, damp living conditions. Whilst this is unacceptable, the campaign also demonstrates how help is available. It also underlines how important it is that future government schemes are able to target support for the most vulnerable households effectively.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

PMQs and a Government running out of steam

Following several weeks of non prime ministerial PMQs and a Government running out of steam questions have to be asked about Mr Cameron.

If Ed Miliband is so bad, how is it that Mr Cameron loses more than he wins. He offers up windbag answers and when struggling, which is often, rants on about Labour making I up as he goes. His jokes are wooden and he has lost his temper so many times I have lost count. It's got so bad that Tory whips have 'cheer now' boards.

Private tenants 'let down' by unregulated lettings market - new report

Tenants are being let down by an unregulated lettings market, with significant upfront costs, variable fees and a lack of transparency around charges, according to a new report published today by the Resolution Foundation.

In a mystery shopping exercise of letting agents in three cities carried out by the think-tank, the range and type of fees charged varied significantly; for example, administrative fees ranged from £95 to £375.

Total upfront costs (including deposit, admin fees and rent in advance) for a one bed property in London were £2,166, around double those in Manchester (£1,028) and Gloucester (£1,094).


Labour understands the problems people face in the Private Rented Sector and will regulate

Shadow housing minister Jack Dromey has stated that a Labour Government's intention is to regulate the private rented sector (PRS) after he said the abuse of tenants shown in Channel 4's Landlords from Hell programme was 'truly shocking'.

The programme - which uncovered families sent by councils to live in filthy, bed bug-infested homes - aired on Monday night.

I have worked with Jack on a number of housing issues including this the PRS and he is committed to fairness and the right to a decent home before profit.

This week as labour'[s shadow housing minister: “The abuse of tenants that was highlighted in “Landlords from Hell” was truly shocking. Rather than taking decisive action to tackle bad landlords, this out of touch Government has labelled protections for tenants as “red tape”.

“More and more people live in privately rented homes. New research shows that rents are soaring and a growing amount of tenants face abuse. Labour introduced a national register of landlords, regulation of letting and managing agents and compulsory written tenancy agreements, all scrapped by Grant Shapps.

“Labour policy is to regulate the Private Rented Sector to drive standards up and rogue landlords out, protecting tenants and the many reputable landlords.”

Thursday, 8 December 2011

One Planet, Accrington - Community Film

One Planet community shop in Accrington, along with Huckleberry Films have with some of the local people who supply goods to the shop, have created a film documenting their work, showing the processes behind it. It interviews local people about why they like to choose local produce, and the benefits that shopping local can have.

This project has been commissioned by the One Planet shop, a community benefit co-operative in Accrington which sells a wide range of organic, Fairtrade and local products. One Planet is based on six defining principles: local, ethical, sustainable, Fairtrade, natural wellbeing and innovative.

The shop was set up by volunteers who raised £15,000 in shares from local people. For more information about One Planet please call into the shop: One Planet, 54 Abbey Street, Accrington, BB5 1EE, or visit

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

R3 report on Payday Loans

Insolvency trade body R3 has today released a report into payday loans, featured on the Today Programme (clip).
Key findings include:
  • 3.5 million adults are considering taking out a payday loan over the next six months
  • Of those sampled who took out a payday loan, 60% regret the decision and 48% believe the loan has made their financial situation worse
  • Only 13% believe their payday loan had a positive impact on their finances
  • One in six UK adults are only able to pay the interest on their debt rather than paying off the debt itself, so-called ‘zombies’
  • The highest ever levels of concern over debt were recorded this quarter - 60% of individuals are worried about their debt levels

Monday, 5 December 2011

Why the New Homes Bonus is outrageously unfair to the North and East Lancashire

The average amount allocated to each region is £47,900,897. However, the North West which has chronic housing problems is to receive a total of £37,114,439; a full £10.8 million less than the average regional allocation.

If we break this down further and look at the funding which has been allocated for the five local authorities of East Lancashire, we can see an even meaner picture emerge.

East Lancashire:
  • · Rossendale £217,111
  • · Blackburn with Darwen £323,533
  • · Hyndburn £115,313
  • · Burnley £83,442
  • · Ribble Valley £167,234
Total: £906,663

The entire historical region of East Lancashire is collectively receiving only £906,663; which is miniscule when you bear in mind that there are over 100 local authorities which are receiving between £1-10million just for themselves. The entire Pennine Lancashire region is not receiving as much as nearby Lancashire authority Rochdale BC is receiving just for itself. That is not to say that Rochdale does not deserve this money – just that East Lancashire clearly deserves more.

Hyndburn and Burnley fare particularly badly, receiving only £115,313 and £83,442 respectively, putting them both in the bottom six recipients of New Home Bonus funding (See below).

Losers (those LAs receiving less than £150,000)
1. Isles of Scilly - £22,920
2. Copeland BC - £33,446 (National Park)
3. South Lakeland DC - £74,306 (National Park)
4. Oadby and Wigston BC - £78,776
5. Burnley BC - £83,442
6. Hyndburn BC - £115,313
7. Allerdale BC - £100, 138 (National Park)
8. High Peak BC - £147,406 (National Park)
Winners (those LAs receiving over £5m)
1. Tower Hamlets - £10,109,809
2. Birmingham City Council - £7,416,103
3. Islington Council - £5,680,167
4. Leeds City Council - £5,472,579
5. Southwark Council– £5,181,792
6. Cornwall Council - £5,132,877

Jon Snow uncovers more housing scandals in the latest edition of Dispatches tonight on Channel 4

Jon Snow uncovers more housing scandals in the latest edition of Dispatches tonight on Channel 4 at 20:30 as part of ‘The Great British Property Scandal’ series, which will be screening throughout this week. We urge you to watch live or catch up later at this link.

The hard hitting documentary will highlight some appalling housing conditions and looks at the growing concern around the housing options in place for vulnerable families.

Shelter is committed to working with elected representatives to help alleviate the distress highlighted in tonight’s documentary.

We have been calling on the government to increase the supply of truly affordable housing, as well as provide greater protection for homeless households by ensuring they are not placed in dangerous or unsuitable private rented sector housing. MPs can help with these efforts by maintaining the momentum of our campaign for greater action on tackling rogue landlords, through parliamentary questions and debates.

Shelter is also asking MPs to check their local council’s homelessness policies to ensure that families in their constituency are not being placed in unsuitable accommodation.

On a local level Shelter has been working with councils to promote robust accreditation schemes, to help ensure residents do not fall victim of rogue landlords. If you want to know more about how your local council can crack down on this problem, please read our briefing: Asserting authority: calling time on rogue landlords.

Should anyone in Hyndburn have housing problems please do not hesistate tto contact me or Shelter’s advice services.

Friday, 2 December 2011

More New Homes Bonus misery for East Lancashire

The Governments relentless drive to cut local government, and to cut it even further in the North transferring resources to the south goes on unabated.

The Tories simply don't care about the North. This weeks announcements on New Homes Bonus funding to Hyndburn and Rossendale and indicate there has been no change to the rise in the rich south at the expense of the North.

Last year Hyndburn received £62,942 in its first year allocation of The New Homes Bonus, the 11th lowest from 354 local authorities. This year that has been reduced to just  £52,371.

Last year Rossendale Council received £102,472 rising this year by a small amount to £114,639.

What the Tories don't get is less local funding for Council's in the North - where it must be said there are greater problems and pressures on local Councils -  means local Council's have to reduce grants to charities, voluntary groups and if you are listening Mr Cameron, your Big Society.

The gap is widening at huge rate and the New Homes Bonus is one of the problems, not one of the solutions.