Dec 3rd 2018, 19:34
Blog 3rd December 2018
In this week’s blog, I refer to: Service Charges; Universal Credit; Inside Housing; Housing Associations; Brexit; Homes England; Moody’s; Optivo; Cumberland & Westmorland Herald; the Conservative Party; Winston Churchill; Margaret Thatcher; the European Union; the European Movement; Cumbria County Council; Appleby Town Council; Rory Stewart MP; Heritage Lottery Fund; Training & Seminars.
Last week I was in the northwest of England to present in-house training on service charges. Attendees said that the found the information provided very relevant, that the quality of presentation was good and that the training met their needs fully. They described the session as useful, clear, thorough, interesting, comprehensive and practical. After the session, the organiser contacted me to say:
"Many thanks for the presentation today which was extremely useful."
Our 2019 series of seminars starts on 12th February 2019 in London with a session of ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’. This seminar is gives an introduction and overview to this important subject and is fully up to date with all developments. Service charges are an integral part of landlords’ work in financing value for money services and sustaining customer satisfaction. They have always been relatively complex but with increased financial challenges and legal and financial complexity there is an increased need to understand how service charging works.
The Novotel Waterloo where our seminar on service charges will be held in February
The week before last I was in the southeast of England to present in-house training on Universal Credit, Rent Collection and the Management of Arrears at a local authority. Attendees said that the information provided was relevant and the quality of presentation was good. The course was described as useful, thought-provoking, interesting, practical and thorough.
This week’s ‘Inside Housing’ leads with a piece about how housing associations are preparing for Britain leaving the European Union. It is reported that:
“Housing Associations are putting in place contingency plans to protect the future of their organisations if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal… Development plans could take a hit.
“Homes England revealed this week that it had begun drawing up contingency plans around labour supply and materials.”
Credit agency Moody’s is predicting that margins would be ‘squeezed’ – especially in London and the southeast - because of increased inflation and lower house values.
It is reported that some associations have held back more liquidity than their financial stress tests have suggested is necessary because of uncertainty and that Optivo Housing Association could see its ongoing development pipeline reduced by up to 25%.
I had a letter published in the ‘Cumberland & Westmorland Herald’ last week that considered the policy of the Conservative Party on Britain’s membership of the European Union since the days of Churchill. I conclude that it is surprising that a Conservative government is now taking Britain out of the European Union as the party’s traditional position has been to support Britain’s membership. It was published under the heading: ‘Churchill and Thatcher not welcome in today’s Tory Party’.
I have also written a blog for the European Movement on European values that explains why I have always supported Britain’s membership of the European Union.
Local authorities are putting together their budgets for 2019/20 and most are looking at making further reductions in expenditure. Cumbria County Council, for example, has calculated that it needs to save £49million including £23million in 2019/20. A report considered by the Council’s cabinet in November, stated that:
“All Councils are facing difficult financial times given reductions in funding, increasing demand and rising costs… This includes greater pressure for social care services from our growing elderly population and increased costs to look after the number of children now in our care.
“These ever-increasing pressures mean that going forward, it is no longer just about efficiency. It is also about managing demand. Although the Chancellor stated in his autumn budget 2018 that the era of austerity is coming to an end, the impact of Brexit on the economy and wider social and world events all increase potential financial and economic risks.”
I support the Local Government Association’s peer review programme by preparing financial diagnostic reports for their peer review teams prior to them visiting a local authority. This work gives me a good overview of local authority finance and I can confirm that Cumbria County Council’s position is typical.
Appleby's Sixteenth Century Moot Hall
I have written in previous blogs about the poor condition of the sixteenth century Moot Hall in Appleby, the failure of Appleby Town Council to maintain it properly and their current proposal to build what I regard as an inappropriate extension on it. I responded to the Town Council’s consultation to say that I thought extending the building was not appropriate. I have also asked my Member of Parliament, Rory Stewart MP (Conservative), if he has a view on the proposed extension and he has responded as follows:
“Thank you for your email and detailed observations and conclusions on the use and development of this very special building. I of course understand your concerns and I will write to Andy Connell, passing on your email and express my sympathy of your position.”
Councillor Andy Connell (Liberal-Democrat) represents Appleby on Cumbria County Council and Eden District Council and is a Town Councillor. He has also responded to me to say that my representation to the Town Council:
“Makes good sense”
However, the Town Council is continuing with its scheme, with the ‘Cumberland & Westmorland Herald’ reporting that the estimated costs have increased from £500,000 to £800,000. They are hoping for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.