The Orwellian Mr Shapps

By Pete Challis

According to Wikipedia, the first meaning of the adjective Orwellian is that it ‘describes official deception’.

In George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four the three slogans of ‘The Inner Party’ are “WAR IS PEACE,” “FREEDOM IS SLAVERY,” and “IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH”.

In true Orwellian style, Grant Shapps has now added “UNAFFORDABLE IS AFFORDABLE”.

Shapps told the Tory Party Conference in 2009: “We want to create nothing less than a nation of homebuilders”.  Like George Osborne’s ‘March of the Makers’ it simply isn’t happening.

Figures from the Homes and Communities Agency (National Housing Statistics) dramatically reveal the collapse in the number of new homes started that are supported by the HCA.

The biggest collapse has occurred in new social rented homes where starts are down a massive 97.06%.

When Shapps talks about a big increase in ‘affordable homes’ he means the ‘affordable rent’ product – at rents up to 80% of market rents – not affordable homes generally.  The increase for ‘affordable rent’ is indeed huge.  To work out the increase you divide the figure for 2011/12 by the figure for the previous year and multiply by 100. As any GCSE mathematician will tell you, any figure divided by 0 equals infinity.

In 289 councils NO social rented homes started.

Social rented homes were started in only 35 council areas.  Here they are, with the number of starts.

  • Greenwich – 203
  • Brent – 126
  • Birmingham – 122
  • Telford and Wrekin – 64
  • Nuneaton and Bedworth – 51
  • Swindon – 45
  • Northampton – 42
  • Cambridge – 36
  • Tower Hamlets – 31
  • Slough – 31
  • County Durham – 30
  • Wiltshire – 28
  • Stoke-on-Trent – 26
  • Preston – 25
  • Wolverhampton – 23
  • Middlesbrough – 20
  • Stroud – 20
  • Mid Sussex – 17
  • Leeds – 16
  • Brighton and Hove – 15
  • Basildon – 11
  • East Devon – 11
  • Waltham Forest – 10
  • Spelthorne – 8
  • Sunderland – 6
  • Kettering – 5
  • Charnwood – 5
  • West Dorset – 5
  • North East Lincolnshire -5
  • West Oxfordshire – 4
  • Derby – 3
  • Bedford 1
  • North Tyneside – 1
  • Northumberland – 1
  • Christchurch – 1

The detailed local authority figures published by the HCA reveal that there were NO HCA funded starts at all in almost one in 4 councils (80 out of 326) and less than 10 starts in another 35 councils.

The list of councils where not a single new HCA-supported home of any type was started  includes Ipswich; Norwich; Luton; Southend on Sea; Kensington and Chelsea; Westminster; Wigan; Nottingham; Newham; Gateshead; Carlisle; York; Brentwood (local MP – Eric Pickles);and Welwyn Hatfield (local MP – Grant Shapps).

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5 Responses to The Orwellian Mr Shapps

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  3. Graham Facks-Martin says:

    Dear Pete, A voice from the past, yes you are quite right whilst performance will pick uo in 2012/13 to some extent,, we are building far fewer dwellings to be let at rents that are broadly not affordable and often with fixed term tenancies. The Government like previous Governments has not been prepared to define affordability neither have the NHF and when I tried to get the Housing Association I am involved with to define it they declined to do so, thus we are left with the Government assertion that affordable rent is affordable which without a definition is meaningless. The IFS did a very interesting study on the pattern of Public Expenditure pointing out the share of Public Expenditure taken by Health and Social Care has been rising for 20 years and is likely to go on rising in the forseeable future. For those of us intersted in increasing the proportion spent on housing this in effect makes us choose between increasing the overall tax burden surely not in the real world or to stop pretending that we can fund the NHS out of taxation in the future and introduce means testing or accept that Programmes including housing but including many others can expect ongoing reductions what ever we would wish, unattractive choices but that is the real world and if we pretend that it is not we behave like an ostrich.
    Graham Facks-Martin

  4. Just as well that some of the Labour councils in that list have their own council building programmes. Ipswich and Newham both have.

  5. Colin Wiles says:

    Pete. Snap! I wrote this on a similar theme last year. The revelations in Saturday’s Guardian about an “Affordable” home in London at £750,000 shows that words have lost their meaning.–-doublethink-in-action/

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