January Report Back
It has again been a busy couple of weeks in Parliament and locally since I last emailed you. As I write the big political story of the week is David Cameron's deal with the EU - no doubt this will dominate the political world for months to come. I need to look at the detail and talk to you about this further but my instinctive view is that we should stay in. I'd be interested in your opinion - you can email me with your thoughts.
The Housing and Planning Bill came back to the Commons in early January, with many new amendments that had not even been discussed by the Bill Committee. This Bill imposes the Right to Buy on Housing Associations with discounts funded by enforced sale of high value Council Housing. Starter homes to buy will be sold at 80% of market value using public subsidy, and there will be no more Government support for Council and HA housing for rent. The Planning elements of the Bill enable virtually all employment land and buildings to be converted to Housing without requiring planning permission, a rule which will seriously harm the development of small businesses as they struggle to obtain office space in the
overpriced London property market. This bill will exacerbate the Housing Crisis, spells the end of new social rent housing (Council and Housing Association) and gives tax subsidy to prop up the unaffordable 'starter home' market and causes economic problems as working people can no longer afford to live in London. I spoke in the debate on the economic impact of the housing crisis, and on the privatisation of planning services.
I also attended and spoke in a very important debate about getting more women into science and engineering. We still live in a world where only 14% of all science technology roles and jobs are taken by women, and only 9% of engineering jobs. This is the lowest proportion among European countries. Given that we have a shortage of new engineers coming through (it is thought that we are not even producing enough new engineers to replace those who are leaving the profession) increasing the number of women in these professions would not only be the right thing to do but it would be good for our economy. Companies like GlaxoSmithKlein do a great apprenticeship scheme (34% of its STEM apprenticeships are taken
by women) but businesses like them need a steady pool of UK grown engineering and science talent. You can find my speech online here.
I have also been campaigning against fuel poverty following the revelation by the Office of National Statistics that the number of people dying prematurely was two and a half times higher than the previous winter. Poorly insulated cold homes are a huge part of the problem and I am very concerned that the Government is cutting back on life saving energy efficiency measures by some 65%. The House of Commons library has produced a very useful report on what help is available to consumers with their energy bills. It is quite detailed but if you know of someone who is struggling it is worth reading this report as a
Locally I have been out campaigning with Sadiq Khan - anyone who wants to join this campaign should contact Oana on 07918 853613 to get involved. Sadiq has been focussing on affordable homes which I know is a real concern for many of you. Sadiq has a comprehensive plan to tackle this problem. Among other things he will ensure:
A 50 per cent affordable housing target for new developments
Use of mayoral planning powers to stop 'buy-to-leave'
That first-time buyers and local buyers are given 'first dibs'
He will end the scandal of homes being sold off in advance to foreign investors.
As always please do get in touch with your thoughts.
Ruth Cadbury MP