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Blog 5th March 2018

Mar 5th 2018, 22:25

Blog 5th March 2018

In this week’s blog, I refer to: Theresa May, Housing, Planning, Local Government Association, Lord Gary Porter, Mark Rutte, Institute for Fiscal Studies, Business Rates Retention, Impact Housing Association, Riverside Group, Cumberland News, Service Charges and Local Authority Housing Finance.

Theresa May, the Prime Minister, used the opportunity of a speech to the National Planning Conference to announce that the National Planning Policy Framework will be overhauled. She recognises that insufficient new homes are being built in England and has concluded that this is principally because of delays in the planning system.

The main announcements are that:

  • 10% of homes on major sites will be available for affordable home ownership
  • Builders will be more open about affordable housing commitments at planning stage
  • Councils will have to adopt a new nationwide standard showing housing need in their areas
  • Infrastructure needs will be considered at pre-planning stage
  • Councils will consider revoking planning permission after two years if building has not started
  • Ancient Woodland and aged trees will get specific protection
  • A separate review, due to be concluded later this year, will look at creating a new automatic right for homeowners to extend upwards and to make it easier to develop agricultural land for housing.

The Local Government Association has said it is wrong to blame local authorities as they were approving nine out of ten proposed developments and yet more than 420,000 homes with permission were still waiting to be built. Lord Gary Porter (Conservative), Leader of the Local Government Association and Leader of South Holland District Council, said that:

"No-one can live in a planning permission… Developers need to get on with building affordable homes with the needed infrastructure and councils need greater powers to act where housebuilding has stalled."

Meanwhile, Mark Rutte, Prime-Minister of the Netherlands, was also talking about housing, saying that:

"Woorden bouwen geen huizen"

Translated into English, that means:

"Words do not build houses"

The Institute for Fiscal Studies has published an interesting report entitled: ‘Spending Needs, Tax Revenue Capacity and the Business Rates Retention Scheme’ that considers the government’s proposals to allow local authorities in England to retain all the proceeds of business rates. It concludes that if 100% retention were applied generally councils that saw the highest increases in revenues would not necessarily be those with the greatest increase in their relative spending needs, and that the scheme:

“Risks growing divergences between the funding available to different councils… This implies that central and local government face a difficult trade off when moving to 75% or 100% rates retention… More frequent and fuller periodic redistributions of revenues could limit the scale of funding divergences… But they would also dampen the incentives for councils to grow revenues and tackle spending needs.”

In other words, business rates retention is likely to result in a redistribution of resources away from poorer areas and towards richer areas.

I have written previously in this blog about the planned merger between Impact Housing Association and the Riverside Group. This subject was also featured last week in the ‘Cumberland News’. Under the heading ‘Worry as association merger talks are shrouded in secrecy’, reporter Stephen Blease provides a useful summary of the issues that have been raised.

In the article, John Barker, Secretary of the Carlisle Tenants’ & Residents’ Federation, is quoted as saying that:

“There is a lot of secrecy and spin about this planned merger… Impact tenants and other members of the public are completely in the dark about why the merger is having to take place, and what is proposed.”

Councillor Barbara Cannon (Labour), who represents Salterbeck (Impact’s largest estate) on Allerdale District Council and Cumbria County Council is quoted as saying that:

“The residents need to be included and I don’t know what consultation is taking place… When Riverside and Impact made the decision to go for a merger, it was announced on social media before the Salterbeck residents got a letter telling them what was happening. I think that’s very poor communication… If you are running a company, you make sure the shareholders hear about something before the rest of the world does.”

And Councillor Rob Burns (Labour) of Carlisle City Council is quoted as saying that:

“I am against mergers that create monolithic organisations… as that inevitably reduces people’s choices… I think this one will.”

I will continue to keep readers of this blog informed of developments.

Our seminar ‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’ was held in London on 27th February 2018. It was well attended and well received. Delegates said that the information provided was very relevant, the quality of presentation was good and that the training met their needs fully. They described the seminar as useful, interesting, clear, thought-provoking and valuable. Specific comments included:

  • Trainer was very good. I am much more confident with service charges.
  • The handout was very useful. Very thought provoking and enjoyed group conversations.
  • Good sized group to network.
  • Really Useful.

This is a very useful introduction and overview of this very important subject. The next session will be held in Manchester on 22nd May 2018. For further information or to make a booking, please click HERE

‘All You Want to Know about Service Charges in Social Housing’ is also available as an in-house course. For further information, please click HERE

I am currently putting together the finishing touches for our next seminar: ‘All You Want to Know about Local Authority Housing Finance’ that will be held in London on 13th March 2018. This seminar is a useful introduction and overview of this important subject and is suitable for anyone who would like to have a working knowledge of local authority housing finance. As usual, the seminar is proving very popular, but we still have a few places available. For more information, or to make a booking, please click HERE

For information about all our seminars, please click HERE

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