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Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #85

[Ben ReeveBen on a chair Lewis speaks out …]

You know when you keep putting a confrontation off? That unpleasant conversation that just has to be had. You don’t want to cause offence but there is a time to call a halt to things.

Well I’ve done it. I finally told Frazzy that either her scabby old cardigan goes or I go.

“But its comforting” she whined. Not good enough I protested. Its covered in little wool balls, stretched entirely out of shape and has loads of bits of tissue in the pockets. I offered to buy a new one but she wasn’t having it.

K HepburnWhen I was growing up and fantasising about adult life, in my mind’s eye I always pictured women lounging around like Lauren Bacall, in a silk chamise (not that I even know what a chamise is it has to be said), or at least Katherine Hepburn in satin pyjamas but in practice, every woman I have been out with has an obsessive behind closed doors item that defies belief.

One ex, Hilz, had a hideous pair of shapeless green trousers made of some loathsome waffle-like material, similar to a hospital bedspread. While moving house I managed to squirrel them into the removal van and as we overtook her car on the M3 on the way to the new home I got her attention and threw them out of the window onto the motorway laughingly maniacally.

Sometimes you’ve got to tell it like it is.

All talk and no action, says report

And I’m not the only person doing that this week either. The third housing report published jointly by the National Housng Federation, the Chartered Instituite of Housng and Shelter finally grasped the cardigan of truth :-

The Government is ‘all talk and no action’ when it comes to fixing Britain’s “broken housing market”.
Covered ably by Housing Excellence  who state that despite a housing crisis that is woprsening on all fronts by the day government ministers and policies are signalling failing to come up with any meaningful action.

David Orr, chief executive of the NHF said:-

“It has been a whole year since the Government promised it would ‘Get Britain Building’ again in the Housing Strategy. We have the words and the policies but we’ve not had delivery.

After years of chronic undersupply of new homes we have millions of families now struggling to keep on top of their rising rents and priced out of the housing market. This cannot continue; we’re running out of time to fix our broken housing market and need to address the causes of rising housing costs, not just the symptoms. We need delivery, and we need it now.”

Yaaaayy, at last things are being said bluntly. The emperors clothes are being pointed to……Cameron’s trousers have been well and truly flung out of the van window onto the M3.

Insider criticism

Even people on the inside are starting to stand up and be counted, although in Sarah Teather’s case it seems to be to a chorus of catcalls rather than praise.

In case you don’t recall Ms Teather was the Children’s Minister for the Lib-dems, sacked a few months ago. She was quoted in the Guardian on Saturday turning coats as routinely as a Debenhams window dresser,  criticising plans for welfare reform and claiming she:-

“Saw clear evidence while in government that the policy would not save money and would inflict immense social damage”

One thing she says that I found curious.. She predicts that the diaspora of homeless familes that will be sent North to more affordable properties will be like a “Reverse Jarrow March”.

The Jarrow March

Does she not know her history? The Jarrow March was a Trade union protest, where hoards of angry people volunteered to march south, after which they returned to their homes.

The social cleansing of London will not be by choice and there will be no homes to return to.

To equate the coming debacle with a short term, one-off piece of industrial action doesn’t match up at all. Its like equating the 19th century Irish Diaspora with loads of Irish people flying home for Paddy’s day.

A weasly come out?

What annoyed me when I read the article was the thought “Why weren’t you saying this when you were properly in government dear?” Is she only saying it now for sour grapes? And I’m not the only person who thought her ‘coming out’ was a bit weasly.

Jules Birch writing on his blog of the same name found quite a bit to say himself:-

“Coming from someone who until two months ago was part of the same government. As more than one person has reminded me on twitter, she could have resigned rather than wait to be sacked. I wonder if she now wishes the same.”

Housing crises are like flu epidemics, they come and go but this is a particualy nasty bout and is so firmly wedded to welfare reforms and attacks on the poor its difficult to talk about one without the other cropping up, like coughs and sneezes.

Whats wrong with public AND private solutions?

What annoys me about it is the refusal of government to countenance ideas that might work because they aren’t free market driven. There is a constant attack and dislke of anything that smacks of a public service, so possible solutions get discarded if they don’t fit the ideology – but whats wrong with having a blend of public, private and coop mutual solutions all working together?.

Neil MacIllroy wrote a nice piece on CLES this week  about how public and private can work efficiently as a whole. He said:-

“The public sector is part of the solution. It must not ‘Get out of the way’. Its wrong for UK PLC, wrong for local places and economically and socially dangerous. Without the range of exisiting public inputs to business, biusiness would die on its knees.

Like it or lump it, both private and public are connected”.

Neil points out that in countries where there is little or no regulation or public infrastutcrure its citizens are left open to explouitation and a degraded environment. Things can and should come together.

Well done Brixton!

They have certainly done so in Brixton who has just won an award from the Academy of Urbanism for being the Best British Neighbourhood.

Congratulations Brixton, a nice town just how I like them, vibrant, classless and multi-cultural. A town for people not PLCs.

Audit Commission warns about public sector fraud

Finally while we are on the subject of public service, the Audit Commission published the results of its findings  that public sector fraud is estimated to run at around £2.2 Billion.

Part of that figure, an estimated £900 million is for unlawful sub letting of council and housing association properties. If you think that this doesn’t affect you then bear in mind the The National Fraud Authority claims fraud in the UK costs every adult citizen £1,460 a year.

The Audit Commission report warns that right to buy fraud is a growing area for concern.

I am currently working with web developers on a smart phone app that allows neighbours to photograph a sub let property and send to our council’s website with a GPS location so we can get officers out there to investigate. People in the community tend to know where their sub lets are better than councils do.

That’s the value of technology and using the local residents as your eyes and ears.

Now if only I could develop an app that would get rid of Frazzy’s cardigan, or maybe I’ll just set fire to it.

Ben Reeve Lewis

Katherine Hepburn picture

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3 Responses to Ben Reeve Lewis Friday newsround #85

  1. Ben, my wife dresses very well. I’m more concerned about the impending confrontation on the subject of scatter cusions.

    I genuinely know someone who has inherited a fair amount of cash and is using some of the money to put down a deposit to help buy his partner’s council home under right to buy.

    They’re due something like a 45% discount and the property is worth around £150k on the open market. They could sell in a few years and make £67.5k!

    Where is the sense in the policies of a council home for life and the right to buy?

  2. You see Jamie? As Alice ably demonstrates, every woman has their thing. Frazzy is normally very stylish, apart froom that one item and dont get me started on cushions…….

    The right to buy is the main reason we have a housing shortage, or more accurately the fact that the majority of the capital receipts from sale went to government and councils couldn’t build new replacement properties.

    The tory government always, and stil do argue that it promotes aspiration but it could equally be said that destroyed social housing not only literally but as an ethos



About the post author:

Ben Reeve-Lewis

Ben is an enforcement officer for a London Local Authority, a housing law trainer, an author on housing law who writes for the Guardian & occasionally pops up wittering away on TV. He also runs Easy Law Training with Tessa & Graeme. Occasionally he sleeps. Find him on Google, and Journalisted. Any opinions expressed are Ben's personal views & don't reflect those of any organisations he may refer to.

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