Sunday, June 12, 2011

Caroline Flint MP “a tough love sort of girl”

Caroline Flint, the Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government was the guest speaker at the Tower Hamlets Labour Party Housing Policy forum at The Centre in Merchant Street, E3 last month. I was invited as a member of Tower Hamlets TULO. She gave us a presentation followed by a Q&A.

Now, some of the things she said that I thought interesting. “Housing is not just about having a roof over your head. It is linked to your journey
through life and what are your aspirations. People still want to buy their own home.  Home ownership may be “the english disease” but this is what people want if they win the lottery. They want a stake in life.  Not only for their children but for help with social care when they are older. How to increase the supply? Look at finance and supply. There are uncompetitive banks and building societies. It is easier to get a mortgage on a £200k new build than get £50k to do up and refurbish a home. There are over a million empty homes in UK. New build is VAT free, with a refurbishment you pay VAT. A very narrow range of builders.  A few big ones and lots of very,very small ones.  

Caroline was brought up in the private rental sector then the family had a council flat.  But with secure tenancies with fair rents. This is nonexistent nowadays.  While the private sector needs to be part of the solution.  This governments unfettered faith in the private sector is wrong. Labour is now engaged in a completely open policy debate. Willing to look at piloting housing policies in Labour Councils. Turn a talking shop into reality. 

In the Q&A I made a comment about despairing about housing in London due to the very high land prices.  Each Social housing unit in London had cost an average £100k in subsidy.  My question was related to her comments about pension funds and housing investment.  The Local Government Pension scheme has £160 billion investments and wants to invest long term secure low risk asset based investments.  What joined up thinking can her Shadow CLG team bring on this matter?  She said they will be looking into such ideas.
Question about Paris having a more successful housing policy since most people rent. Caroline said they may rent in Paris but many own homes elsewhere. Then one on the sub-letting of social
Housing it not only immoral - but should it be made illegal? (No real answer to that one)  

Social housing should not be a refuse of last resort. We need mixed neighbourhoods. So if someone gets a pay rise and they then risk losing their home, what is the incentive to work? Cameron and Shapps have a lack of understanding about what is and what isn’t possible. We need to help people make the journey they want to make.

Caroline says she is a tough love sort of girl. You should respect your environment, your neighbours and pay your rent. There are not only entitlements but responsibilities.

Caroline has three messages to Labour Councils. Show that Labour can get good value for money for services, they can get more people involved and have a say and have a sense of what you want to do.

Finally “aspiration”. Not everyone can own their own home at the end of the day. It is sad that so many people from all walks of life think their children will not do better than them. We should be on the right side of these people. Most people don’t want too much from government. The 1945 victory was broad based coalition who believed that Labour was about offering them a better future”.

Great action picture taken by Dan McCurry (with my camera!). Many thanks to TH Labour Party for the invite (and well done for arranging such good events.  Next one is on Health in July with John Healey MP). 

This post was from the last time I attended a "meeting" with Caroline, also in Tower Hamlets.


Robert said...

But the problem for labour is a Tory party which is doing U turns like hell, so why would I vote labour when in fact the Tories are more social then Labour.

Joking of course.

But why would I want a labour government in power now after the last 13 years of social housing and welfare reforms. Yes labour pulled the NHS out of a mire, but most of the money went on wages and the people at the top helped themselves, under brown my NHS went into massive debt, by the time Brown left power it was in serious problems about to be closed, but lucky it laid off the disabled it laid off all nurses who were non trained the helpers, it has now cut the debt to a mere ten million, but has been told to make cuts of twenty millions ontop of the debt.

Ms Flint said a lot as a minister about social housing, labour have now made it plain that people on benefits are scroungers.

lets see where they get in four years time.

John Gray said...

Hi Robert

But this debt argument is simply untrue. The debts were caused by the Banking crisis. FULL STOP. If we had no thieving, fraud and reckless spending by the Bankers (Tory supporters also to a man or women) then there would not have been a near depression.

Check out this link about the truth over "labour" debt Circle UNISON Convenor

Robert said...

Did you hear Miliband to day, labour needs to be the party of the grafters, in my area a grafter is a person who steals, so the party of grafters could I suspect people who make expenses fraud.

I just think Labour would love to go back not so much to old labour but a socialist Labour, but are to scared of losing the remaining middle England vote.

While the people at the bottom who are unemployed and we all know some people do not work, but I also know myself how hard it is to find work, I left home at fifteen because I could not get a job ended up in Aberdeen.

Long walk from Pembroke, but I worked for a few years until Thatcher came to power, and I had to go to Germany to find work, but I was lucky because the company I worked for had the jobs available.

I saw my mates spending three four years on the dole, all these lads were hard working, but to labour they are scroungers not grafter, then you look at the background of labour MP's and those in the house of Lords, and you wonder who are the grafters.

John Gray said...

Hi Robert

No, you are wrong about Ed's speech. If you are who you suggest you are then you will know that ordinary working class people do feel gutted by benefit cheats. If you work hard and see your neighbour taking the P and the political classes do nothing about it. Then now wonder people disengage or worse.

This has nothing to do with people who are genuinely in need of benefits.

I was pleased about his attack on the bankers and hope that this will be followed by policies to really redress this imbalance in our society.

Neville said...

Sure, there was reckless lending, but what about the reckless borrowing? Nobody seems to make a point about the borrowers' voting preferences.

John Gray said...

Hi Neville

Excessive personal borrowing did not cause the recession either. It was the Banks.