My tuppenceworth – A Free Speech event, Wednesday 17th July

My tuppenceworth is back, on Wednesday 17th July upstairs at Whispers 5 High St, Purley.

You are the star!

This is your opportunity to speak to those assembled on an issue that really matters to you and give your tuppenceworth. Each speaker will have up to 5 minutes to speak about an issue dear to their heart, followed by a short Q&A.

We ask all speeches are non-partisan and remind you the laws of slander still apply!

Come prepared or do off the cuff, this is your opportunity to exercise some free speech.

If you do have notes, we can publish to increase the reach of your ideas as we have in previous years.

If you would like to speak, please let us know by emailing [email protected].

Join us Upstairs, Whispers, 5 High St, Purley CR8 2AF on Wednesday 17th July, from 7pm.

Held as part of our regular #ThirdWednesday drinks, we hold these in association with Dick Delingpole’s #ThirdWednesday Libertarian drinks club, and POLITICS in PUBS a group of people from across the political spectrum who value the freedom to question and to speak openly.

You can also find this as a Facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/807716394294269/

Reform of the House of Lords

In November we held our 3rd My tuppenceworth event giving you the opportunity to speak to those assembled on an issue that really matters to you.

Crispin Williams spoke on House of Lords Reform and his speech is below.

“it is the only upper house of any parliament in the world to be bigger than its lower house; and it is the world’s second largest legislative chamber after the National People’s Congress of China”

There is fairly general agreement that the House of Lords is in need of reform. It currently has more members (785) than there are physical seats in the chamber; it is the only upper house of any parliament in the world to be bigger than its lower house; and it is the world’s second largest legislative chamber after the National People’s Congress of China. Many peers either rarely attend or just turn up to collect their attendance allowance.

Furthermore, there has been a tendency in recent years to make an increasing number of political appointments to the Lords, often by ‘promoting’ MPs who have lost their seats or rewarding party advisers.

“even if affiliated to a political party, Lords may express personal views without fear of losing their seat and, in fact, often speak out against party lines. I cannot express too strongly the importance of this independence from the politics of the lower chamber”

The purpose of the House of Lords is – or at least should be – as a scrutinising and revising chamber that looks dispassionately at legislation passed by the Commons, often hurriedly and for political expediency, to ensure that it is logical, workable, and fair. This should be done without the constraints of party whips. The growth in the number of overtly political Lords threatens this independence. Nevertheless, even if affiliated to a political party, Lords may express personal views without fear of losing their seat and, in fact, often speak out against party lines. I cannot express too strongly the importance of this independence from the politics of the lower chamber.

I am, therefore, vehemently against an elected House. This would almost certainly just reflect the composition of the Commons, making the Lords even more political and it would inevitably lead to legislation passed by the Commons being nodded through at the behest of the whips. In short, an elected Lords would negate the very reasons for its existence.

“I would argue that its role as a scrutinising and moderating body is essential. To achieve this role satisfactorily, the Lords should be populated with the ‘great and the good’”

There are those who would welcome the abolition of the Lords altogether, but I would argue that its role as a scrutinising and moderating body is essential. To achieve this role satisfactorily, the Lords should be populated with the ‘great and the good’, i.e., people with experience, expertise and intelligence, not just failed MPs, party donors and spotty, brown-nosing ex-SPADS (special advisers).

“This committee would be composed of people in leading positions in public life but nominated by the position they hold, not by personality. Thus, the holders of specific posts would automatically have a say in selection, whoever they may be”

My suggestion is for members of the House of Lords to be selected by an appointments committee. This committee would be composed of people in leading positions in public life but nominated by the position they hold, not by personality. Thus, the holders of specific posts would automatically have a say in selection, whoever they may be.

Below I give some examples of the kind of positions that might comprise the appointment committee. As I say, these are just examples and there can be much further debate as to the final choice.

  • The Prime Minister and, say, two leading cabinet positions
  • The Leader of the Opposition and one other Shadow Cabinet member
  • The Leader of any other party with a given number of seats in the Commons
  • The Speaker of the House of Commons
  • The Speaker of the House of Lords
  • The First Minister of Scotland
  • The First Minister of Wales
  • The Mayor of London
  • The Archbishop of Canterbury
  • The Prince of Wales
  • The Governor of the Bank of England
  • The General Secretary of the TUC
  • The Director-General of the CBI
  • The Chair of the Commission for Racial Equality
  • The Chair of the National Federation of Women’s Institutes

Each of these committee members would be free to put forward nominations for seats in the House of Lords. Nominations could also come from the public via a mechanism whereby anyone reaching a particular threshold would be put forward to the appointments committee.

This would lead to a House of high-quality people being elected by a committee with balanced views. Clearly, some of the above might also be Lords themselves.

This revised House of Lords would comprise 250 members, re-appointed on a staggered 10-year basis, with no restriction on the number of times a member could be re-appointed.

Main Photo by UK Parliament – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sLZBWcPklk @ 01:06, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=56761114

Croydon – doing less, better?

In November we held our 3rd My tuppenceworth event giving you the opportunity to speak to those assembled on an issue that really matters to you.

Mike Swadling gave an update on Croydon Council and his speech is below.

“Croydon is 29th on the list of highest real terms increase at 114%.  We are paying well over double the real terms rate we were 1993″

We are the Croydon Constitutionalists. Constitutionalists signifies that we believe in the principles of English constitutional government through electoral politics, and the Croydon part is self-evident we are a local organisation.  So, 18 months into a new Croydon council led by a new executive mayor what’s happening in our town?

Firstly, let’s take a little step back in time.  The Taxpayers’ Alliance (TPA) has published data showing that of the 450 local authorities that have continually existed since the Council Tax was first introduced in 1993, Croydon is 29th on the list of highest real terms increase at 114%.  We are paying well over double the real terms rate we were 1993.  We are still de facto bankrupt and we are paying through the nose for it.

“Croydon was one of 47 councils, about 10%, who failed to submit accounts on time.  I get that this is doing less, but can it really be called better?”

In an interview in August Croydon’s chief executive, Katherine Kerswell, gave some encouraging words when she said:
“Our ambition is to become an efficient council – to deliver essential services well, offer value for money, to listen to the people of Croydon, and simply do what we say we will do.
So how do we get there? We must do less, better”

Fine words, but what have we seen in practice. To quote: “Croydon council in South London paid 21 staff six-figure salaries last year. Its top earner was chief executive Katherine Kerswell on £192,474.”

I took this information from a June article in the Daily Express.  Not able to take it from the TPA’s Town Hall Rich list report as Croydon was one of 47 councils, about 10%, who failed to submit accounts on time.  I get that this is doing less, but can it really be called better?

I tried to verify this data on the council’s website as I should be able to.  If anyone cares to search it and can find a decent list, please send me the link.  Eventually I found a list of job titles listed in an unclear format in a PDF file on the site which is I suppose meeting their statutory requirement. 

Again, I get that this is Croydon Council doing less but is it really doing it better?  Worse still whist 21 is down on the 29 roles paid over £100K the council had last year; it is up on the 19 roles the year before.  Last year was a year of transition and I believe not all these roles overlapped, so it appears, and the lack of clear publications make this hard to see, that top end spending at the council is back on the increase.

“spending public funds on arts that are not viable commercially or via voluntary donations as the council has been doing for years, is no less of a waste of money when it comes from someone else’s funding stream”

Croydon is the London Borough of Culture for 2023. As part of this they are committed to spending £522,500 in 2022/23, and £452,500 in 2023/24. Additionally, £1,350,000 will come from the GLA, and £1,900,000 is expected from Arts Council England and National Lottery Heritage.

I believe spending public funds on arts that are not viable commercially or via voluntary donations as the council has been doing for years, is no less of a waste of money when it comes from someone else’s funding stream.

“Of the £623,000 spent on the London Borough of Culture in that time, £34K went to Redacted, what are they hiding from us?”

As part of this in the last 4 months Croydon Council has published figures of Borough of Culture spending which include £113K that went to Think Events (London) Ltd, £75K went to Stanley Arts, £67K to White Label Publishing Ltd, £42K to Theatre – Rites, and £39K to London Mozart Players, I could go on and on.  Of the £623,000 spent on the London Borough of Culture in that time, £34K went to Redacted, what are they hiding from us?

“in 4 months £623,000 of taxpayers’ money spent not feeding needy families, not boosting our town centre, not providing social services for the most vulnerable, but on painted Giraffes and non-commercially viable arts”

May I remind you this is in the last 4 months that data has been published for, May to July.  This is 4 months, not one year, not over the two-year programme.  That is in 4 months £623,000 of taxpayers’ money spent not feeding needy families, not boosting our town centre, not providing social services for the most vulnerable, but on painted Giraffes and non-commercially viable arts.   

Yes, things are better than 18 months ago.  We are no longer haemorrhaging money through Brick by Brick, and we are slowly unwinding the commercial property failures of the last administration.  But when it comes to transparency and wise use of public funds, it’s hard to argue they are doing things better at Croydon Council.

Build Baby Build

In November we held our 3rd My tuppenceworth event giving you the opportunity to speak to those assembled on an issue that really matters to you.

Mike Swadling spoke on the issue of housing and his speech is below.

“with so much of our housing stock built between the wars it’s seems likely the number of homes in need of replacement will increase rapidly in the next couple of decades”

At the recent Battle of Ideas, I attended a panel on ‘Housing Britain: Yimbys vs Nimbys’.  For a contentious topic there was a surprising degree of unanimity among the panel and audience on the need to build, and even what to build.  Most disagreement came on the process of how to get it done.

I am firmly of the belief we need to build housing, and we need to build lots of it.  There is a general consensus to meet current levels of demand we need to build around 300,000 new homes per year.  In 2022 we built 232,000 new homes. 

In checking the data for this I found numbers for new build and net new homes seemingly used interchangeably. This may be in part because of property conversions, but clearly these are not the same thing.  However, it does strike me that with so much of our housing stock built between the wars it’s seems likely the number of homes in need of replacement will increase rapidly in the next couple of decades.

All this has led to a growing number of concealed households”, now believed to total 1.6 million potential households of people who would like to be in their own home but can’t because of shortages.  We are believed to have about 260,000 long-term empty homes in England but even if somehow these were magically all brought back into use they would solve little of the overall problem.  Even second home ownership lies at about 3% and is little changed in decades.

Whatever the reasons behind it, we have a problem today with a lack of houses.  We have a problem with a younger generation feeling increasingly disengaged from our society when they can’t leave home and build their own lives.  We also have a problem with rising costs for care as an increasingly aging population often face a choice between staying in their own home or being in a care home, with little suitable middle ground alternatives.  In short, we need to build baby build.

“People will more willingly accept hosing built in their area if they believe we have control of our borders and if local people from the community the homes are built in are given priority”

Necessary Pre-requisites

There are however some necessary prerequisites to oversee a largescale increase in housebuilding.  People need to believe these are houses for their families, their community, not just to be brought by overseas property speculators or used to house the worlds migrants coming to our shores.  People will more willingly accept hosing built in their area if they believe we have control of our borders and if local people from the community the homes are built in are given priority to fill them.

“At the battle of ideas panel on housing one member of the audience was simultaneously praising the green belt and complaining about the intensification of building in the city”

At the battle of ideas panel on housing one member of the audience was simultaneously praising the green belt and complaining about the intensification of building in the city.  As someone who lives on the doorstep of the green belt and has seen 157 flats go up next to my home, I can’t help but wonder if one or two of the farmers’ fields in the green belt near me could be used to provide 157 houses rather than have flats built on what was my town’s main car park. 

Don’t worry about us running out of land, it would take about 5 football pitches to build 157 homes at 4 bedrooms (these flats are not 4 bedrooms), that would use 7 of the 17.2 million hectares of farmland we have in the UK.  (This would provide 385 million homes, with currently about 30million in the UK).

The green belt lovely though it maybe, ensures we live in ever more crowded cities, rather than expand them as the need for housing expands. We are in Croydon, a Surrey market town built out to accommodate the expanding population of London, why are we insisting that future generations live in ever more cramped environments rather than in new suburbs or towns further out. 

“Can anyone cite examples where cramping people into tighter spaces gives good outcomes?”

Can anyone cite examples where cramping people into tighter spaces gives good outcomes?  A hundred years ago we were clearing out the slums.  The high rise post war blocks of flats were generally seen as a disaster in my youth. I wonder why we are intent on recreating them.

What to do

So, what are we to do?  I say we need to build bigger, build beautiful, build better, and build for everyone.  What would this mean in practice.

Build beautiful – At last year’s Battle of Ideas, Ike Ijeh the architect, and 2019 Brexit Party candidate, spoke about how he had seen developers have success getting acceptance from the local community for new builds through well laid out design.  Beautiful well laid out communities, which could well include a mixture of flats and houses are more likely to be approved than throwing another box of 9 flats on a previous 1 home plot.

“We all benefit from better high-end homes; we all get the chance to move up the market and we will free up what used to be called starter homes”

Build bigger – I was impressed by an article I read last year on ‘how building expensive homes can help people on low incomes’.  The article proposes we should focus on building more £5million homes rather than £120,000 ones.  To quote the article “adding homes that are better quality than the existing stock allows people to move out of the existing stock into better homes, and frees up existing stock for suppressed households.”  We all benefit from better high-end homes; we all get the chance to move up the market and we will free up what used to be called starter homes.  Few communities would object to an estate of £5million homes being build on the edge of town, and few property developers would sit on this planning permission.

Build better – We need to build new estates with services, shops, schools, transport, and things that people want.  We can’t build just based on environmentalist dreamlands, where someone after a hard day’s work will somehow pick-up the kids from the childminder and pop to the shops on a push bike.

We are not going to build everything we need just on the edge of cities and as much as I don’t believe it should be sacred the green belt has a purpose.  After the war we built new towns in Crawley, Hemel Hempstead, Welwyn Garden City, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Northampton, and many other places.  These might not make it to your bucket list of destinations to visit but they are good places for work and to raise families.

“Coming into land at Gatwick airport on a sunny day you can see from Croydon to Brighton and view the miles of greenery in between”

Local to us Crawley houses 118,500 people.  Coming into land at Gatwick airport on a sunny day you can see from Croydon to Brighton and view the miles of greenery in between.  Only the airport and Crawley stand out as major developments.  3 more airports and Crawley’s in the view and it would still be overwhelmingly green, 6 more and you would still think you are viewing the countryside.  We could build 2 more Crawley’s in the area of the A22 to A24 corridors and hardly notice.

Croydon has a 10 year housing target from the Mayor of London of 20,790 new homes (2019 – 2028).  This on top of the thousands of new homes already built in the borough in recent years.  One new Crawley built with the industrial estates, shopping centres, office blocks, schools, doctors and everything else needed to form a community could at this rate supply 60 years of growth needed in Croydon and over a third of our annual UK wide rate of new homes growth.

“with about a quarter of the country having less than £500 worth of savings it is reasonable to assume many will never buy their own home”

Build for everyone – There are not many times I believe government can help, but I increasingly believe we need to build more social housing, and government will need to play a part in this. As someone who was born into the Regina Road Estate council blocks now being pulled down by Croydon Council, I have little faith in their ability to provide property.  However, with about a quarter of the country having less than £500 worth of savings it is reasonable to assume many will never buy their own home. We can argue how much government provided housing is needed, who should run it and what right to buy schemes we should have.  But, we do need to provide something for the taxpayer and for renters that is not just busting budgets to pay for private rents.

“Why not offer what I might call free ports of housing.  Designated areas with council tax holidays for new development or major upgrades to a generation of remote workers keen to get on the housing ladder, encouraged to less fashionable parts of the country”

Some of the problems I have described are local or they are a southeast problem.  We have a whole country much of which is not so expensive to live in and could do with attracting more young people.  Why not offer what I might call free ports of housing.  Designated areas with council tax holidays for new development or major upgrades to a generation of remote workers keen to get on the housing ladder, encouraged to less fashionable parts of the country by an influx of similar people and tax breaks.  Let’s level up the country by helping to spread the wealth and helping people better their lives.

We build properties not just for now but for use 100 years from now, we have a changing population, with greater demand and desires.  Why not build better, bigger homes, why not let people have second homes, whilst also catering for those who need help.  We have the land let’s make use of it, whilst also encouraging people to move across the country.  This does require some government action but is best achieved by them laying foundations and then getting out of the way whilst we build baby build.

Picture: Andy F / Building site, Wise Street, Leamington / CC BY-SA 2.0

My tuppenceworth – A Free Speech event, Wednesday 15th November

My tuppenceworth is back, on Wednesday 15th November upstairs at Whispers 5 High St, Purley.

Held as part of our regular #ThirdWednesday drinks, we hold these in association with Dick Delingpole’s #ThirdWednesday Libertarian drinks club, and POLITICS in PUBS a group of people from across the political spectrum who value the freedom to question and to speak openly.

You are the star!

This is your opportunity to speak to those assembled on an issue that really matters to you and give your tuppenceworth. Each speaker will have up to 5 minutes to speak about an issue dear to their heart, followed by a short Q&A.

We ask all speeches are non-partisan and remind you the laws of slander still apply!

Come prepared or do off the cuff, this is your opportunity to exercise some free speech.

If you do have notes, we can publish to increase the reach of your ideas as we have done for our events in 2022 and 2019.

If you would like to speak, please let us know by emailing [email protected].

Join us Upstairs, Whispers, 5 High St, Purley CR8 2AF on Wednesday 15th November, from 7pm.

You can also find this as a Facebook event at https://fb.me/e/1FpY4zTjG

Beauty

My tuppenceworth speech by Zachary Stiling

“I propose, from observation, that beauty is an objective truth. Those of us with notions of beauty will agree on what is beautiful. Sunsets, fertile valleys, swallows in flight—who will refute it?”

In post-Renaissance Europe, there can be no excuse for ugliness, and yet it abounds. Some people see no problem; many things which are ugly happen to be cheap and convenient, and perversely popular. This points to one thing: that some people are not receptive to beauty.

It does not point towards one of the most irritating, hackneyed and untruthful phrases in circulation: that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, which implies subjectivity. I propose, from observation, that beauty is an objective truth. Those of us with notions of beauty will agree on what is beautiful. Sunsets, fertile valleys, swallows in flight—who will refute it? If the matter was subjective, would someone not wish to assert that the warm glow of dusk is an aesthetic abomination?

We may quibble over minutiae because beauty is metaphysical, its laws written not in numbers as the language of physics, but perceived through feeling rather than deciphered through equations. But as it exists objectively, we perceive it in broadly the same way.

I now speak only for myself, but as one who feels exalted by beauty, you may imagine how the opposite effect is induced by its absence. A while ago, standing on the platform of East Croydon station, it occurred to me that I could see nothing beautiful, and it occasioned a sadness which was profound enough to be memorable.

“Edridge Road, off the Croydon Flyover. Face south and bask in a sense of homeliness as you look past the modest Victorian bricks and mortar to the spire of St. Peter’s Church. Then have your cosy contentment shattered as you about-turn 180 degrees”

Take also the example of Edridge Road, off the Croydon Flyover. Face south and bask in a sense of homeliness as you look past the modest Victorian bricks and mortar to the spire of St. Peter’s Church. Then have your cosy contentment shattered as you about-turn 180 degrees and look north to the hard, jackbooted tower blocks of the town centre, mocking you with their indomitable girth.

But I am fortunate. I am not entirely cut off from beauty as long so long as I live in leafy suburbia and travel the country for work. Consider the person raised on an inadequate housing estate, forced to drive every day along an anonymous dual carriageway to work in a post-war town centre designed by accountants. What nourishment does their soul get? What lifts their minds higher?

“far from being elitist, anyone may be touched by beauty, and its benefits are limitless. It gives the aimless aspiration, brings joy to the depressed and is something to he who has nothing”

It is common today that certain egalitarians should denigrate true beauty as elitist, because it takes time, money and effort to create, and some people have little aptitude for it. But far from being elitist, anyone may be touched by beauty, and its benefits are limitless. It gives the aimless aspiration, brings joy to the depressed and is something to he who has nothing.

Let us reject the weasel words which justify bad art and architecture — ‘innovative’, ‘diverse’, ‘inclusive’, ‘subversive’, ‘empowering’ and ‘progressive’ — and make planning authorities, developers, the Arts Council and other organisations responsible for the physical and cultural landscape work towards a beautiful world, for everyone’s sake.

How can we ensure there is never another lockdown?

My tuppenceworth speech by Zachary Stiling

“We cannot expect anything good to come from a Chamber stuffed with the scientifically, historically and economically illiterate, or a load of self-serving sociopaths”

There is only one course of action – to totally and utterly reform the government, clearing out every amoral politician and stringently regulating future elections to ensure only those who are demonstrably learned, wise and possessed of a genuine concern for the welfare of individuals are able to enter Parliament. We cannot expect anything good to come from a Chamber stuffed with the scientifically, historically and economically illiterate, or a load of self-serving sociopaths.

Ordinary people have two ways of influencing government policy, persuasion, and force, and both were tried and failed. Scientists and medical professionals, business owners, religious leaders and philosophers all made well-substantiated rational arguments to no avail. Protests were a display of force but achieved little. To dissent was to be ridiculed or suppressed, or even criminalised and brutalised by police.

“The underlying fact is that lockdown is a form of tyranny and must be treated as such”

The underlying fact is that lockdown is a form of tyranny and must be treated as such. Past tyrannies have only fallen with the help of external powers. The Nazi tyranny ended after a war in which millions died. The Soviet tyranny collapsed through weakened governance which Western efforts worked to undermine. The Chinese Communist tyranny has never collapsed because nobody has stood up to China.

Of course, overthrowing the status quo and completely starting again is pure fantasy; it isn’t workable, so I will alter the question because there can be no guarantee against future lockdowns, and instead ask: what should we do in the event of another?

The first thing is to defy it entirely, and maintain normality as far as we are able, hardening ourselves against the threats from government and the frowns of fuzzy-brained neighbours. We must forge connections with those who are of a like mind for the sake of mutual support.

“our next imperative is to become evangelists. We will be mistreated by the media and censored on line, so commence pamphleteering and try to bring one person to reason at a time. It worked well for Martin Luther and Thomas Paine”

If we can thus sustain ourselves, our next imperative is to become evangelists. We will be mistreated by the media and censored on line, so commence pamphleteering and try to bring one person to reason at a time. It worked well for Martin Luther and Thomas Paine. A child will consent to being locked down in his bedroom to avoid the bogeyman until, daring to step outside and goad it, he discovers it does not exist. In the same way, it must take courage and reason to expose the fearful superstition on which lockdowns depend.

Image from https://pixabay.com/illustrations/soil-health-mask-protection-corona-5935148/

Mass Surveillance and CCTV cameras in the UK.

My tuppenceworth summary by District Councillor George Pender

I was pleased to see the group’s commitment to resistance; to acting against such policies, if they were ever implemented again

District Councillor George Pender (who represents Ash and New Ash Green in the District of Sevenoaks, Kent) gave a speech about mass surveillance and argued for the removal of Chinese Hik Vision security cameras from public space.  George spoke from notes, so we can’t publish a text here, but he has written about the issue (with a greater reference to his own local area) here: https://georgepender.co.uk/articles/2022-07-parliamentarians-call-for-removal-of-hikvision-cameras/

Councillor Pender also spoke on Lockdown and wrote: I was greatly heartened by the first half of the event, focusing on how we can ensure that the kind of coercive polices we saw for two years following March 2020, can be firmly consigned to Britain’s past.  I was pleased to see the group’s commitment to resistance; to acting against such policies, if they were ever implemented again. 

” It was lovely to hear a beautifully constructed speech on the importance of beauty itself, particularly in art and architecture”

He also wrote in summary of the event as follows: It was great to hear the diverse range topics people addressed in the second half.  I was pleased to be reminded of much of the deeper reasoning for, and benefit brought about by, the right to buy policy of the 1980s, which extended far beyond merely the leg up it gave to the individuals exercising the right.  It was lovely to hear a beautifully constructed speech on the importance of beauty itself, particularly in art and architecture.  I found myself being drawn into further agreement on the need for new UK nuclear, something which we see Government will remain in firm agreement on whoever wins the current Conservative Leadership election.

Mike’s speech on the importance of maintaining humility in local government was very convincing.  This humility should lead us to prioritise the core functions of a local authority, while “getting out of the way” in many other areas.  This was well illustrated by numerous convincing examples from Croydon, under Labour.

Social housing is so last century

My tuppenceworth speech by Hilary Judge

“My contention is that it is an outdated concept and selling off better social housing to private landlords and demolishing tower blocks would benefit the community”

The concept of social housing was introduced just over 100 years ago. It started with the intentions of improving the living conditions of renters but has resulted in replacing slums 100 years ago with slums today.

My contention is that it is an outdated concept and selling off better social housing to private landlords and demolishing tower blocks would benefit the community, by encouraging tenants into work, improve property repairs and create an economically mixed tenant base.

The Housing and Town Planning Act (Addison Act) of 1919 was the beginning of social housing in the UK, enabling local authorities to use government funding to build social housing for the working classes. The aim was to provide high-quality homes with gardens in greenfield areas, with indoor toilets and fitted baths for working families who could afford to pay higher rents. Local councils began to compulsorily purchase farms, using the land for development.

These houses were spacious but expensive to build. The next phase saw former slums cleared and replaced with flats between 3 and 5 stories high, being a cheaper alternative to family houses. These flats were also 35% smaller than houses but still had 3 bedrooms.

Construction stopped during WW2. At the end of the war, the government restarted replacing homes lost by bombings with prefabricated houses, which could be made off-site and quickly assembled. These prefabs were supposed to last for 10 years, although there are still some in existence today.

“the quality of construction diminished. Instead of “high-quality houses”, families were housed in high-rise flats”

Another cheaper solution was precast reinforced concrete, where unskilled labour could be used in construction. High-rise blocks of flats were developed using precast reinforced concrete.

So the quality of construction diminished. Instead of “high-quality houses”, families were housed in high-rise flats.

In 1980, the Right to Buy scheme was introduced, resulting in around 1 million homes sold in 10 years, with tenants buying mainly the better-quality homes. Council housing stocks diminished. The precast concrete properties were found to have structural issues and prospective purchasers had difficulty securing finance.

Councils were then left with poorer quality homes considered “hard to treat”. Councils were encouraged to hand over these properties to housing associations and other social landlords who could secure funding for regeneration works.

Private tenants do not have a right to buy – quite rightly in my opinion. However, they do have a proper choice of where exactly they want to live and the type of property that they want to live in, depending upon how much rent they can afford.

“Private landlords generally want to maintain their properties to a high standard as ignoring issues increases damage and costs in the long run. Most provide a much better repairs service than social landlords as they have a financial interest in the property”

Up until the 1980s, rent was collected weekly and repairs could be reported at the same time. Council officers would undertake a pre-inspection unless the job was routine and their own workmen would carry out the repair. As landlords, it could be said that councils were fairly hands-on. Housing associations used small, local contractors but would carry out pre and post-inspections. This gradually changed, so now most social landlords contract out their entire maintenance operations to large maintenance contractors, including reporting repairs.

Opportunities to examine high-maintenance issues, from “lifestyle” to building deficiencies can be overlooked.

Private landlords generally want to maintain their properties to a high standard as ignoring issues increases damage and costs in the long run. Most provide a much better repairs service than social landlords as they have a financial interest in the property. 

In 1996, a total of 26.6m households in owner-occupied properties, 5.97m in social housing and 3.54m in private rented properties.

Statistics from June 2022 show a total of 26.62m households in owner-occupied properties, 5.94m in social housing and 8.72m in private rented properties. So the number of owner-occupied and social rented properties has stayed fairly consistent over the last 26 years, but the private rented sector has increased by 250%. 

By May 2019, claimants of Housing Benefit had reduced to 3.6 million, while 1.1 million households were receiving the housing element of Universal Credit. 73% of HB recipients (2.6 million) were tenants in the Social Rented Sector and 27% were in the Private Rented Sector (970,000). So much for the working families who could afford to pay higher rents!

Social landlords are moving from being councils to housing associations. Although they are “not for profit”, chief executives often earn six-figure salaries, and most management boards are paid. Housing associations do not pay tax on profits.

There is a regulator of social housing, who is responsible for ensuring that housing associations are properly managed, given the scale of public funds that they receive.

“Competition between landlords to have the best properties and secure highest rents. Complete choice for tenants – you can live anywhere that you want if you can pay the rent”

Contrast this with private landlords who only receive tax relief at 20% on mortgage interest and contribute to the treasury with tax on their profits.

Social housing is allocated on “need”, so having children, medical problems and no job all help to secure a home. Tenants also must prove that they are the responsibility of that local authority. Contrast that with private landlords – referencing to make sure that tenants can afford the rent so preference for those in work. Competition between landlords to have the best properties and secure highest rents. Complete choice for tenants – you can live anywhere that you want if you can pay the rent. The incentive is to have a successful career and many private tenants go on to buy their own properties.

Dumping tenants with mixed social needs together on estates simply results in chaos. High rates of crime, gangs and drugs. Private landlords are usually in mixed owner-occupied / private rented areas, so less anti-social impact.

My contention is that if all social housing was sold to private landlords – not property companies but individuals – there would be less worklessness, less crime, better properties and more tax for the treasury. 

Selling 5.9m properties at half average value would generate £800 billion. If each property generated a £5k profit annually, there would be an additional £6 billion in tax.

Image: Older social housing, Hester’s Way, Cheltenham 2 By: Jonathan Billinger

Hey Council, leave my town alone…

My tuppenceworth speech by Mike Swadling

“I wrote in the Citizen about how plans to make Croydon a living wage borough, risks jobs at the proposed Westfield Shopping Centre, I note it has never been built”

The Licensing Act 1872 – among other things – stopped the practice of adding salt to drinks, which was originally put in beer to increase thirst and sales. This ‘improvement’ was made by the government to help us as consumers. I often think of how government intervention fails to improve things, as I pay for my own salted crisps to accompany a pint.

Words from my article for the Croydon Citizen from four years ago.  The article was extensively about how Croydon Council had destroyed the bustling night time economy of the town centre of my youth, through a series of bright ideas to “improve the town”.  These included a presumption to refuse new applications in the town centre for “premises used exclusively or primarily for the sale/supply of alcohol and/or loud amplified recorded music”.  The council was thankfully finally reversing this initiative.

When they were running, I wrote in the Citizen about how plans to make Croydon a living wage borough, risks jobs at the proposed Westfield Shopping Centre, I note it has never been built.  I also wrote about how the council spending £1.1 million on improving Surrey Street Market had led to over a 20% drop in traders.

“What business is it of mine if someone wants to build this?  What business is it of Croydon Council’s politicians or officers if someone wants to spend their sweat and treasure on building this?”

At our last My Tuppenceworth, I spoke about how we needed a Democratically Elected Mayor of Croydon, we now have one.  I now want to speak about how I implore that he and his council, leave my town, our town, alone.

We hear Westfield are once again looking to develop in Croydon.  This is great news, and something is much needed.  Now clearly the council needs to be involved in granting planning permission, and no doubt will need to weigh in on changes to roads, parking, and public transport.  They have a statutory duty to be involved in these areas, beyond that, I ask they stay well clear.

“please Croydon Council stay out of their way.  Beyond that, stop with any bright ideas, grand plans, and great initiatives”

The old Allders department store building, which before the council’s intervention had reinvented itself as a successful Village Outlet store, now has plans to become an arts venue.  The idea of a venue where you can, too quote “lose oneself in art, beyond digital culture, where we can connect in the real world, in deeper and more meaningful stories.”, frankly sounds potty to me.  But so what, I’m not their target market.  What business is it of mine if someone wants to build this?  What business is it of Croydon Council’s politicians or officers if someone wants to spend their sweat and treasure on building this?  Their initiative is to be welcomed, but please Croydon Council stay out of their way.  Beyond that, stop with any bright ideas, grand plans, and great initiatives.  I’m sure if you just get out of their way, you will find many willing to invest in our great town.