Labour ‘Rackman’ Landlord Behaviour

I’ve have had a number of residents contact me from East Dulwich and neighbouring areas living in Southwark Council street properties with rotten windows. I’ve even had neighbours of such properties contact me.

These ancient sash windows are rotten, without locks, victims of burglary, breezy from ill fitting, wet from condensation, stop residents heating their homes because the heat blown straight out of the home.

I’ve tried working with council officers but they’re stuck. When Lib Dems ran led Southwark Council we replaced such windows.

Last night I asked the Labour councillor in charge the following question:

“Why is the council not implementing its Warm, Dry and safe policy of ensuring “windows in good condition or double glazed with secure locks” for acquire street properties and instead leaving tenants with cold, we, dangerous ancient sash windows, well over 40 years old, which consist of more putty, fuller and rot than wood and are often without window locks?”


“The Arm, Dry and Safe standard ensures that all residents’ windows will be wind and water tight.

The current Warm, Dr and Safe brief for street properties is to repaid the existing windows and decorate as and where required to ensure that this standard is achieved and are in a secure state. The council will also renew sections of any such windows that are beyond reasonable repair on a like for like basis.”

To push the point I spoke solely about this during the debate about Southwark Council spending £2 billion pounds of capital works over the next 10 years. But still they refuse to replace windows in street properties.

All of these properties are worth more than £500,000 and the council has a policy of selling such properties when they’re no longer tenanted.

A cynic would suggest they’re not replacing the windows because they’re waiting for the tenants to leave from desperation or die. Rackman landlord behaviour that Labour Southwark should be ashamed of.

Ending Generation Rent

Under Lib Dem manifesto plans announced today, young people will be able to buy their own home without needing a deposit.

The Rent to Own scheme will help first-time buyers onto the housing ladder by allowing them to build up a share in their home through renting without the need for a deposit.

This is a revolutionary shift in housing policy that will give young people caught in ‘generation rent’ a chance at home ownership

During the last decade home ownership for those under 35 years has plummeted. The percentage owning a home has gone down from 59% to 36%.

I was able to buy my first flat – or at least get a mortgage on my first flat – when I was 28. I could not do that now as prices and salaries stand.

So the Lib Dems in the next government partnering with housing associations and other providers would launch a Rent to Own scheme.

Rather than being trapped in rental accommodation forever, working young people who are unable to afford a deposit would be able to become home owners.

Rent to Own will see first-time buyers steadily build up a share in their home through monthly payments equivalent to rent until they own the property outright after 30 years, just like a normal mortgage. with monthly payments no higher than market rent.

This is forms part of Liberal Democrat plans to deliver 300,000 new homes each year, with the government bridging the gap between private sector building and demand.

It is only fair that working young people also have the dream of home ownership. Prices are so high now that renters cannot afford to even save for a deposit, which means they can never take that first step onto the housing ladder. Young people deserve better. Rent to Own will mean, regardless of their background and family circumstance, they will be able to make this a dream a reality. They will have the same opportunity I had.

This is about building a stronger economy and fairer society, and making sure Generation Rent has the same opportunity to get on in life as their parents and grandparents before them. Roll on the Lib Dems in the next government.


Dulwich Community Solar – when ?

Chase Community Solar, working alongside Cannock Chase District Council has what appears a ground-breaking initiative. They’ve created a Community Benefit Society to install PV solar panels on the roofs of council properties.

The council tenants or leaseholders will receive £100-£200 of their electric bills for hosting PV solar panels on their roofs.

This is funded by people investing a minimum of £100 with a 7% projected rate of return for 20 years from selling electricity generated by the solar panels to pay this interest and expenses. Bit better than 0.5% with any money sitting in the bank. The capital raised pays for PV cells to be bought and installed. Additionally community shares are eligible for 30% tax relief through the Enterprise Investment Scheme. So this appears a cracking deal for local investors as well.

Solar energy can play a key part improving energy efficiency, as well as helping the environment by reducing carbon emissions, but the cost of installing panels is a deterrent. Community share issues such as this may be an ideal solution. Those who put up their cash not only help to improve their community but may also get a decent rate of return. The project is also very attractive to councils as it helps both their tenants and their carbon footprint.

When will we create Dulwich Community Solar?

Southwark Council 1/3 Residents Unhappy

One in every three Southwark Council tenants and leaseholders is dissatisfied with the housing service they receive from the borough – with no improvement since last year. Overall satisfaction with the landlord services the Council provides is just 65%. Ouch.

Only 61% of Southwark tenants and leaseholders are happy with the overall quality of their homes, while one in three believes that they do not get value for money from their rent or service charge. 35% of residents are not satisfied with the repairs and maintenance service with over 3,000 complaints up to November 2014 about the service.

The Council’s latest housing complaints figures are staggeringly bad. Complaints are up in nearly every part of the borough and overall they have more than doubled in the time since Labour took control of the council – and these figures are not even for the whole year yet.

Even the Labour Cabinet councillor admits that the housing repairs contractors are not up to scratch and that the Council’s major works programme has upset a lot of tenants and leaseholders. It’s clear they are having problems managing existing council homes.

Solving Cold Private Rented Homes

Lib Dems in government have announced new regulations that up to 1 million tenants renting energy inefficient homes can benefit from – warmer homes with cheaper energy bills:

  • From April 2016 residential private landlords can’t unreasonably turn down a tenant’s request for energy efficiency improvements. This will mean landlords have to accept the request if they can get help through widely available support like Green Deal finance, the Energy Companies Obligation (ECO), or grants from the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund.
  • From April 2018 private landlords will not be able to rent out properties which do not meet minimum energy efficiency standards.

They will help reduce fuel poverty as many privately rented homes already cost much more to heat than the average home.

In East Dulwich we’ve seen that around 600 of the 4000 roofs of homes have no loft insulation from aerial thermal imaging.

The problem is landlords don’t pay energy bills so many have shown no interest in investing in energy saving measures. These new regulations should make them interested. And clearly it’s only going to affect dodgier landlords.

Another great policy from Lib Dems in government – well done Ed Davey.

Dulwich Council Housing Forum Chairs Annual Report

At the AGM of the Dulwich Area Housing Forum – the forum for council tenants and leaseholders – Bill Newman gave his chairs annual report where he thanked delegates and council officers and then spoke about council housing…

When major works are carried out to our homes we have endured a project that should be making our homes “Warm, Dry and Safe” but it’s not. We still have homes without insulated walls which are cold and damp resulting in the growth of mould. Condensation arising from badly fitted double glazing. Residents are being told that in a lot of cases that this is due “life style issues”.

We keep being told the repair service will be improved. We find it’s not. Mears now have has the contract to carry out their repairs to our homes for over two year’s Again we hearing they are having another “restructure” to improve their service to us, many residents are finding that they have to re-book appointments. Reasons being given of that the contractors were unable to get access, or that they are delayed, or they do not have the right materials or the job. 

We have been promised an improved service to the communal repairs, the council employing new staff to manage these repairs. “Estate action days” are now used to complete some of the working which should have been done on normal day to day level.

The call centre was brought back “in house” last tear with again promises of an improved services to the residents. As we see from theirs stats it has not, We hear that by bringing it back ”in house” that the council have saved over 3 million pounds. Would it not have been better to use some of the savings to improve the service we receive. The managers at the call centres say they are now receiving a larger amount of calls., which is most likely due to the fact that this is the main way many residents can contact the council. If residents are lucky to be near one the one stop shops they find they have to wait or be given as appointment to have the questions answers. (more…)

Keeping Warm This winter

If you are or know an older resident and help is needed to keep warm this winter please direct them to the Warm & Well In Winter project.

Six key things AgeConcern told me:

1. Stay Warm In Your Home. Keep your home 18-21 degrees C. Wear plenty of thin layers so you can easilly adjust your termperature.  If you need to wear bed socks, thermal underwaear and a nightcap at night.

2. Get Financial Support. There are grants, bemefits and avice avaialb to improve your homes energy efficiency, heting system and controls.

3. Eat Well And Drink Regularlry. Food is the bodies fuel giving us energy. So make sure you eat well and keep hydrated. Nothing quite like a hot meal or drink to warm you up. great idea is a flask of hot drink or soup to wake up to in the morning.

4. Get A Flu Jab. They’re free for everyone over 65 and those with long-term medical conditions and for others only cost around £9. Flu nasal sprays are free for infants 2-4 years old. If you get a cold or flue do rest and potentially stay in bed. Get well and make sure you keep hydrated.

5. Look After Yourself And Others. On cold days wrap up well and keep warm. Keep an eye out for others and make sure they’re alert and have everything they need to follow these 6 key things.

6. Have Heating And Cooking Appliances Checked. Carbon monoxide is a killer.

Lambeth residents can call 020 7346 6800 for further advice.

Southwark residents can call 020 7358 4077.

EU Migration

It has been worrying over the last couple of years to hear so many concerns and fears about migration into the UK that felt really OTT. This has been used as the main part of the argument against remaining part of the European Union (EU).

So how bad is it – migration of EU citizens into the UK? 

Lib Dem Lord Oakeshott has asked a formal questions about this.

British figures indicate 2.3 million EU citizens living in the UK. This figure is pretty reliable because without a National Insurance number people are outside of reciving NHS treatment, being employed legimately, etc.

British consular authorities estimate that 2.2 million registered Britons live in the other 26 EU countries, excluding Croatia, which joined in 2013, with 400,000 of them being pensioners. Brits abroad don’t need to register with British consular authorities to work in EU countries, receive medical help, etc. The countries are stable so little risk to people so they don’t feel the need to register with British consular authorities.

The country breakdown says over 1 million British people live in Spain; France (330,000); Ireland (329,000); Germany (107,000); Cyprus (65,000); the Netherlands (48,000); Greece (45,000); Portugal (39,000); and Italy (37,000).

The government reply also indicated the real numbers could be much higher, due to “a high evidence of non-registration” in France, Portugal and Spain.

So the reality is more Brits living in Europe than EU citizens living in Britain.

What would happen if we left the EU? Would Brits have to return to the UK or do we think EU countries would still be happy seeing a mass exodus of their citiziens being kicked out of the UK. Could our NHS cope with an extra 400,000+ forced repatriated UK pensioners to the UK. Would those pensioners be able to afford a return to the UK property markets or would councils have a mass homelessness issue on a scale never seen before. Do we think EU countries would be gracious with Britain leaving the EU or follow narrow national interests even if BRtish citiazens suffer?

Clearly the free movement of people isn’t the problem it has reputed to be. BUT the ending of this free movement could be huge headache for the UK citiziens both here and abroard.

Stark Housing Choices

London is anticipated to grow from 8.5 million residents mid 2013  to 10.1 million residents within 22 years. That is a huge increase. It comes from the rise in births, fewer deaths and migration.

We can not house 10.1 million people in London without either making new builds in London significantly taller or expanding London’s footprint. In Southwark the Labour council is choosing to allow much taller buildings and many more of them. It is even proposing to remove the protection of suburban areas and allow skyscrapers to be considered in such places.

House prices are already ridiculously high. 2013 in Southwark the average house price was 9.67 x median earnings. Completely unreachable for most people. it means so many people live in substandard cramped homes. Blighting their life choices.

One proposal is to expand London by 1/2 mile in all directions. Slice off a little green belt land. This measure alone would enable 800,000 new homes to be built on top of normal house building in London. It would allow us to house the expected growth of London and some, so reducing house prices in real terms over time. Estimates that British house prices are 40% higher than those in the Netherlands which has a higher popularion density. Reducing house prices by 40% would see a huge rebalance of our economy. It would return hope to people that one day they could own their own home. Building 800,000 additional homes would be a huge economic fillup.

The alternative is to make inner London emulate Manhattan. I for one have not chosen to live in a city full of skyscrapers. And I don’t see why I should have a London Manhattan built around me when it fundamentally won’t solve house prices or give the scale of new homes needed.

If we don’t want skyscrappers and as a society don’t want to eat up a little green belt we would need to reduce the population of London.

How would you solve this problem?



Lambeth Living ALMO Banished

Liberal Democrats vehemently opposed the creation of the Lambeth Living ALMO when Lambeth Labour first proposed it moving council tenants to this quango.

Labour politicians had set up a dodgy poll of tenants and leaseholders promising a whole raft of improvements and cost savings. They also told tenants that voting for the ALMO would guarantee heaps of money from a friendly Labour Government that would transform their dire living conditions. Even this was not persuasive to perceptive residents, more of whom voted “No” and “Don’t Know” to setting the organisation up than voted “Yes”. Yet Labour ignored that verdict and ploughed on. In the event, not one penny of the promised funds arrived until the Labour Government was ejected from office.

The best news for Labour was that the ALMO they’d created meant none of their raft of elected councillors nor their run of expensive cabinet members had any direct responsibility to their tenants – still less to leaseholders – for the catalogue of housing disasters that ensued.

The management of leasehold properties has been a disaster, with millions being lost through mismanagement and homeowners forced to pay through the nose through overpriced contracts, while tenants have suffered misery from a failing repair service. Lambeth LIving’s first chair was even forced to resign after being arrested on fraud allegations and later convicted.

After the 2010 general election, the new Coalition Government announced that Lambeth was to be awarded £100 million, the highest amount of Decent Homes cash in the UK. And the Government has made hundreds of millions more available to Lambeth by reforming housing finance. Labour then cynically claimed credit for these funds – refused to Lambeth over a decade from their Labour colleagues in Westminster – at the same time as attacking the very government which made them available.

So with the coalition government changes Lambeth Labour are able to save money by closing their ALMO disaster. About time it was banished to.