Saturday, March 20, 2010

Time for Grown-Up Politics Please

I see that one of our Labour councillors, has taken Thanet Council to task over a shelter report which criticizes us for not building enough affordable housing on the island.

Shelter claims that the council is delivering just 4% of the affordable homes needed in Thanet and ranks the council 309 out of 323 local authorities.

It's reasonable to take a view on the report but it's equally reasonable to judge the facts and the circumstances that shape the problem in Thanet. You may have noticed that other councils across England, have, over the term of this government, been tempted to give many of their problem residents a one-way ticket to the seaside, leaving us with an unusual and unwelcome form of inflation which adds to the stresses on our housing situation, month-in and month-out.

Shelter points out that there are 4,697 households on the waiting list for affordable housing and independent experts say we need to build 1,544 new homes per year.

The charity's figures, showing that Thanet only delivered 63 affordable homes in 2008/09 are incorrect, with 90 homes built in the area during that year. This would move the authority up the league table to around the same position as neighbouring authorities in Canterbury and Dover. This figure also exceeds the Kent wide target that was set for Thanet in 2008/09, when it was expected to get just 70 affordable homes built in that year.

Since then, the council's performance in this area has seen a huge improvement, with the figures almost doubling in just one year. In 2009/10, 176 affordable homes have been delivered in Thanet, well above the target set for the council of just 70 homes. (Please see the LGA response here)

Cllr. Zita Wiltshire who is Cabinet Member for Community Services, has tried to paint a clearer picture when she comments: "We're aware that we've not delivered as many affordable homes as we'd like to, but sadly this survey isn't giving the true picture of the work we're doing. Understandably, they've based their research on experts' assessment of how many affordable homes are needed in an area. That automatically favours areas with less housing need and that's exactly what these league tables have shown. In somewhere like Thanet, which has a huge housing need, it's almost impossible to deliver all the houses needed, especially in just one year. For those authorities at the top of the table, the experts estimate that only a few hundred, or in some cases, as few as 24 new affordable homes were needed in those areas. Here in Thanet we'd love to be in that enviable position. To meet all the need here, we'd need to come up with around 1,500 new homes. That's a huge challenge for anyone and something we're never going to achieve in one year alone."

So quite what this Shelter Report has to do with Cllr Nottingham's next set of remarks which then move on towards the subject of anti-social behavior when he writes:

"On housing Cllr. Zita Wiltshire has held the Cabinet portfolio for three years and her performance leaves a lot to be desired.

One aspect of the housing portfolio is tackling issues of anti-social behaviour. On this like her fellow Thanet Cabinet members Martin Wise and Simon Moores she has a very poor record, readily tolerating and defending anti-social behaviour when carried out by Conservative colleagues"

The answer appears to be a cynical game of politicising and poisoning the Google search engine with statements which simply aren't true. In this case, it's one more poor excuse to bring me into the picture; suggesting that I'm somehow tolerant of anti-social behavior in any form.



This is almost as risible as Lord Matt's earlier blog allegation that I'm  involved in shady internet activities, sex sites and gambling! Readers, we are never going to have a future for 'grown-up' politics here in Thanet, while unpleasant character smears in the best traditions of 'Labour List' and No10's  Damian McBride, keep dripping out of Cllr Nottingham's 'stately home' on Ramsgate seafront.

And to manipulate the Shelter report to do so, is rather ironic; it's rather like Tony Blair chairing Poverty in Action!

9 comments:

Steve Higgins @ SMEG said...

DrM,

"...other councils across England, have... been tempted to give many of their problem residents a one-way ticket to the seaside".

Who gives the permission to convert/build the one bed flats/bedsits to put them in?

TDC have encouraged this influx, and play the "deprivation" card at any opportunity.

If its not this type of immigrant to Thanet you are trying to attract ( to take up the "thousands" of low paid jobs as places like Manston, Chinagateway and Thanet Earth that are supposedly being created), who exactly are TDC trying to attract to the area?

DrM. said...

Completely and wildly untrue Steve!

As for 'permission' to build, we now have a policy in place in Cliftonville and Margate Central but the principal issue of concern surrounds conversion of hotels etc into flats and the legal right of landlords/owners to do so within the planning regulations.

So you think we sit around all day thinking of new and interesting ways of driving the community towards further decline by playing the deprivation card? Do get real!

Next, you'll be complaining about Manston being used as an airport rather than a theme park!

Michael Child said...

Simon I suppose the point here is that Cliftonville and Margate central have in fact reached a point, if not of no return, then at least considerable deprivation.

Here in Ramsgate and due to years of neglect and unwise decisions by both administrations Ramsgate Eastcliff ward is starting to head the same way.

So the question begged is why doesn’t the council impose the same restrictions there?

At the moment the inference is that in another few years it will have reached the same sorry state that Margate and Cliftonville have now and will then attract regeneration funding, possibly through modern art or some such thing.

I would say at the moment the most significant attraction for visitors with money to spend is Ramsgate marina, the council seem to be intent on ruining this too, could it be that when it is rated the worst in the country and it very nearly is, it will attract grant funding?

Incidentally the word verification on your blog is almost impossible to use when posting from my mobile.

DrM. said...

Michael

In ideal circumstances would be treated equally but in this example, Clftonville and Margate Central have a unique type of housing stock which is easily converted to flats, old hotels and big family homes of the 19th century.

To a lesser degree, this is shared with parts of Westgate which Cllr King and I are now concerned about, as 'displacement' from Cliftonville encourages landlords looking to profit from Hoes of Multiple Occupation and the Local Housing Allowance, turn their attention elsewhere.

Of course, housing is outside my own responsibility so I can only comment as a concerned observer hoping to encourage and support policies that can tackle and or reverse a tide of homelessness and deprivation constantly aimed in our direction from authorities outside Thanet.

Rather like the Michael Portillo documentary last night, I'm in favour of letting local councils having far more authority to intervene to protect their communities.

Steve Higgins @ SMEG said...

DrM,
As Michael as said, this is a problem across Thanet. Cliftonville is no different to Broadstairs and Ramsgate in its mix of old hotels and big houses. If you stop bedsits being built in one ward, the developers will move onto another.

Too many people in Thanet have a vested interest in it being a "deprived" area. Cheap housing stock for slum conversions for the unemployed, fresh from jail or childrens home, and large houses to foster problem children into, which help to keep us deprived in the eyes of SEEDA/EU/Government, so you are first in line when grants are handed out (well, its much easier than actually taking the place forward and increasing your revenue, isn't it?).

Whats "completely untrue"? Are you saying all the conversions from big houses/hotels to bedsits/one bed flats across the isle has been done behind TDC's back?

Manston could have been put to a number of different uses in the 10 years it as sat as debit on Thanets balance sheet. What have we got to look forward to if it reaches TDC's and Infratils levels of use? Somewhere for all the dross from Cliftonville to move to when its becomes gentrified through all your efforts.

DrM. said...

Steve

In any community of this size, there are likely to be those who have a vested interest' in deprivation, the slum landlords and so on, although many of them appear to live elsewhere and see human misery as a nice little earner!

You might say that Thanet has been the victim of a broader housing shortage. What we need are the tools and legal instruments somehow to prevent houses being turned into temporary rented accommodation for benefits claimants 'en masse' from elsewhere. rather than family units.

It's rather like the property I can see out of my window, now being turned into 12 single bed units. The Planning application for change of use was declined twice and local councillors, which included me protested vigorously. However, the independent planning inspectorate in Bristol overturned the Thanet Council Planning Committee and granted the application and so we will have more vulnerable people housed in Westgate!

We need the local power to say "No" and mean "No" and not be constantly overturned by Quangos or face the the risk of losing legal actions with taxpayers money when we object to unreasonable developments!

Michael Child said...

Simon my point here is that the eastcliff ward in Ramsgate has particular problems and needs the “permission to build policy” the housing of the two tower block in the middle of it has been mismanaged, so it has unsuitable tenants the entrance security has collapsed.

There has been a considerable influx of problem tenants into the housing association properties in this part of the town.

The seafront area has been mostly derelict, pavilion, Pleasurama, marina theatre, marina swimming pool are all council owned and all have been mismanaged to a lesser or greater degree.

Parts of Wellington Crescent look like a slum although it is an historic building of international significance.

Even Albion House has been maintained by the council to the extent that it has netting on it to stop parts of it falling on people.

These problems all date back to before the recession and most would attract grant funding, so it’s much more a problem of organisation that the need for money.

Anonymous said...

anon again!
Thanet has enough of society's scum dogs now. Can't the rest be sent to Maidenhead or Virginia Water, where most of the people live who make these damning decisions? Build some Thanet rabbit hutch prefabs round those areas..... and there will be a posh riot!!!

Call me Infidel said...

I always like to browse through the records of "charities" as I find it instructive to see just how charitable they really are. The Labour party are forever banging on about taking away charitable status from public schools. Shelter I was interested to learn received in excess of £9.9 million direct from government in 2007 out of a total income of £49 million or 18% they are exempt from income and corporation tax as they are a "charity" Frankly I think there is a strong case for taking away charitable status from an organisation that is substantially funded directly by the UK government.