Jan 29th, 21:16
Blog 29th January 2018
In this week’s blog, I refer to: Impact Housing Association; Homes England; Service Charges; HM Treasury; the ‘Borrowing Cap’; the Local Government Association; the Department for Housing, Communities & Local Government; the County Councils’ Network; Cumbria County Council; Rory Stewart MP; David Miliband; the New European, and the European Union
Last week, we published the February 2018 edition of the ‘AWICS Housing News’. It includes articles on:
I think that my article on Impact Housing Association, Regulation and Financial Management raises some important issues for Impact Housing Association and for housing associations generally. My conclusions are as follows:
I will continue to keep readers of this blog and of the ‘AWICS Housing News’ informed of developments at Impact Housing Association.
This week I will be in the southeast of England advising and assisting a local authority with the management of service charges on mixed tenure estates. Mixed tenure estates are becoming increasingly common whether because of the ‘right to buy’ or because of planning conditions on new estates. The implications can be interesting. This issue is one of those that will be covered at our seminar: ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’.
Some clients are asking me whether the government has made any progress on its plans to raise the ‘borrowing cap’ for selected local authorities to enable them to build more council housing. Apparently, the Treasury has calculated that if the ‘borrowing cap’ is raised by £1billion, local authorities would borrow only £880million – and they have made provision for this to be phased as follows: £355million in 2019/20, £265million in 2020/21 and £260million in 2021/22. This seems a small step compared with the £7billion increase in the ‘borrowing cap’ that has been requested by the Local Government Association, and the total abolition of the ‘borrowing cap’ that has been advocated by the Parliamentary Treasury Committee (see the AWICS Housing News above).
The provisional local government funding settlement (announced in December 2017 by the Department for Housing, Communities & Local Government), included provision for councils to increase their Council Tax without holding a referendum, by up to 3% in 2018. However, this measure only allows councils to increase Council Tax in line with inflation and the Local Government Association has calculated that it still leaves a £5.8billion ‘black hole’ in local authority finances. The County Councils’ Network has also calculated that the additional Council Tax would only raise an extra £105million for County Councils over the next two years. Most authorities are planning to increase Council Tax by 3% but in their public consultation, Cumbria County Council proposed an increase of only 2%. In my response, I argued for an increase of at least 3% principally to enable better funding of adult social care and children’s services. I was interested to see in last week’s ‘Cumberland & Westmorland Herald’ that my MP, Rory Stewart (Conservative) is also advocating a 3% increase in Council Tax, saying that:
"The County Council says Council Tax is already too high, but I think that is not right"
David Miliband, the former Labour Foreign Secretary has written an interesting article in the ‘New European’ about ‘Brexit’. In it, he makes a few points that are relevant to public services as follows:
“In the European Union, we… assure for employees their rights at work and for the environment, protection from damage… Outside the European Union… the pressure will be to diminish social, environmental and consumer protection… The pressure is to lower taxes and cut regulation, not tackle inequality.
“Britain’s capacity to fund removal of the ‘bedroom tax’, never mind restore its public services and provide an alternative to austerity, depends on a social and economic model that ‘Brexit fundamentally undermines… International co-operation is core to the protection of social and environmental standards.
“The single market and the customs union… are indeed bulwarks against a race to the bottom. Freedom from their constraints will not be freedom to boost social and environmental standards. It will be licence to import chlorinated chicken and reduce employee rights.”
Our next seminars are on: