Bingo Bob shows what the Eton Mess really think about the British public

The astonishing advert and tweet published by the Chairman of the Conservative Party, Grant Shapps (aka Michael Green aka Bingo Bob) illustrates the condescending and insulting view that the Tories – the Eton Mess – have of the great British public.

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If Bingo Bob thought a penny off a pint and cheaper Bingo would woo millions of working class voters then he was wrong – but it does illustrate that there is no money left, unless it has a political purpose of course.

The Budget holds out little hope for housing and has nothing at all to say about affordable homes.  However the detail of the Budget documents always includes some items that get little attention but do have an impact on the housing world, so here are some initial thoughts.

The Government are obviously still thrashing around looking for a magic bullet to get housebuilding up. They have the cheek to claim that the extension of the Help to Buy equity loan scheme counts as ‘further action to boost housing supply’ but it is perhaps more significant that they have not extended the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme – is that an admission that it is misguided? A small builders finance fund is probably quite useful and is something Labour have been talking about. Small and medium-sized builders cite lack of access to finance as a key constraint on their activities.

The Urban Development Corporation for Ebbsfleet has a ring of deju vu about it, possibly because this small New Town has been announced before. A new prospectus for additional Garden Cities will be published but they will be ‘locally-led’, a policy we have criticised on Red Brick before. Their boast that planning approvals for housing are at a 5 year high is not much to write home about given the scale of the recession and the absolute certainty that the economy would eventually recover irrespective of Government actions. Most people will support a little more help being given to self-builders.

I shiver whenever I hear the word ‘regeneration’ these days because I have seen too many council estates being pulled down for private housing with the social rented element not replaced. So a new fund available to private developers will need to be watched. More support for infrastructure around Cambridge and a new rail connection to help open up Barking Riverside (a move supported by London Labour Housing Group in its submission to Lyons) may unlock thousands of new homes. We need many more plans like these. More planning relaxations are to be proposed but the Government still seem to be missing the point that planning authorities need to be working strategically at a regional level and to be operating as proactive bodies rather than just responding to private development proposals.

The Budget also includes welcome changes to the use of ‘corporate envelopes’ to purchase property, thereby avoiding stamp duty land tax, bringing properties of value over £500K into the new regime. It involves the extraordinarily named new Annual Tax on Enveloped Dwellings (ATED).

There is also a pre-announcement of a proposed ‘Right to Move’ for social tenants to increase their mobility for work-related reasons. Options will include giving such tenants priority when a new social home becomes available, and setting aside a pool of vacant lets to enable them to move across local authority boundaries. This seems totally at odds with everything done previously on housing allocations, with a stronger emphasis on residential requirements and ‘locals first’.

There is to be a pilot project on passing a share of development benefits directly to individual households. We will have to wait to see if this is a scheme after the style of Islington’s innovative approach to development.

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2 Responses to Bingo Bob shows what the Eton Mess really think about the British public

  1. Jim says:

    Can you provide a bit more detail on (or link to) Islington’s innovative approach to development? Thanks

    • Hi Jim

      Thanks for your query. See this link about a previous piece on Red Brick

      And below is an extract about Islington’s approach which was included in London Labour Housing Group’s submission to the Lyons Enquiry.

      Hope this is useful

      Good Practice Example: Islington Council

      Islington Council is building a new generation of council homes on existing estates or on land the council owns, funded through HRA borrowing and capital resources. The arguments about councils using land, HRA resources, and other capital are well-known. However it is also important that we have developed the capacity within the council to build new homes, and we have built up as much public support as possible for what we are doing.

      To build new council homes – and to make sure we meet our commitments to new social housing more widely – has needed a combination of political determination and a way of getting it done on the ground. We therefore established a New Homes Board that meets regularly and brings together portfolio holders and senior officers from housing, planning, property, and finance. We have also significantly expanded our Housing Development team, to ensure we have the capacity to find sites, consult with the public, develop proposals, and successfully build schemes.

      When we are building new council homes on existing estates we work hard to bring local residents with us. Our Local Lettings Guarantee is key to this. Under this policy, all new council homes are offered first to existing estate tenants – initially to those who need a bigger, smaller or more suitable home, and then to anyone else who might be interested in a like-for-like move. It is only after existing estate residents have been offered all the homes that we offer the remaining properties to the wider council waiting list. Alongside the Local Lettings Guarantee, our new build proposals are always presented hand-in-hand with improvements to the existing estate – for example, better open spaces, security, lighting and so on – to build wide support.

      Alongside our own new build programme, we have been using our planning and financial resources to ensure homes for social rent are built in new schemes by developers and housing associations. Our planning policy is very firm in saying that 50% of all new homes must be affordable, and that within this the homes for rent must be social rent. We have rejected the government’s plan for ‘affordable rents’ to rise up to 80% of market level. We believe we should be able to enforce social rents as the norm and we are joined by other councils in agreeing that 80% of market rent is far too high in London.

      Our planning policy is succeeding in making sure new homes for social rent are built. Schemes of 10 or more units must include on-site affordable housing, and those of nine units or less must contribute £50,000 per unit towards new affordable housing in the borough.

      Many developers and housing associations appreciate the certainty that comes with this firm stance. We also work with like-minded housing associations – if they put their own resources or grant into a project, we will look at adding some of our resources to maximise the number of homes for social rent. On some council-owned sites where we do not have capacity for developing them ourselves, we will sell land at discounted value to a housing association on the basis that the homes built are all or mostly for social rent.

      Our robust use of the planning system, and our work with housing associations who are committed to social rent, means we can commit to a further 1,500 homes for social rent in the next council term. In the longer-term, any significant increase in the amount of homes we build can only be achieved through councils taking on a central role, as the post-war record confirms. By giving councils extra borrowing powers and financial resources, alongside a focus on capacity and community support, councils can play a vital role in ensuring we build the number and the sort of homes we need.

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