Benlowndes

a perspective on PR in social housing and regeneration

Tag Archives: Department for Communities and Local Government

City Deals: big news outside London

I’ve been following the news in my car and online today for reaction to the Government’s City Deals announcement, which hands more powers to some of England’s largest metropolitan areas outside London.

These deals for Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Liverpool, Newcastle, Nottingham, Sheffield and Manchester will see them take on new responsibilities and, in some cases, form new bodies which aim to drive growth and create thousands of new jobs in their areas.

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The policy behind the headlines

A new acronym hit the media today, with the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (or NPPF), which doesn’t really trip off the tongue but has set them wagging all the same.

The new system, announced today, sets out proposals to simplify planning, which is seen by the Government as vital in creating sustainable and thriving communities in this country.

It was debated on the radio early this morning as I drove to Hampshire, and on the way home at the end of the day. And it has had a variety of reaction from the Conservative-supporting Telegraph, which has campaigned against elements of the changes, to The Guardian, which has been more sanguine today.

You can read the documents behind the headlines and make up your own mind about it.

Shapps’ speech signals support for ‘self build’

Encouraging support for ‘self builders’ was signalled by the Government today, with Grant Shapps articulating his strong belief that helping more people to build their own homes could be the answer to the country’s housing crisis.

His speech today at ‘Grand Designs Live 2011′ outlined Shapps’ vision for self build (which doesn’t necessarily mean ‘build your own’) to become a mainstream housing option. He wants the Government (and the HCA, as a major landowner) to play a part by making available publicly owned land to people to build their own homes.

He also mentioned a project I am familiar with (and blogged about as being one to watch last year) in Bristol, where the Community Self Build Agency is leading the development of accommodation for homeless ex-servicemen and offering those same people vital training on the construction project. Although this project is not being built on public land, and would not be happening without financial support from the HCA, it remains a fine example of the very best of what the Government wants to achieve.

I blogged recently about considering self build for my family. As I continue to read about the pitfalls and risks involved, announcements like today’s are welcome. It won’t help us get the finance together, find a decent plot or a trusted builder, but it may stabilise the housing market stabilise by bringing a greater number of ‘small time’ builders into the game. This can only be good for those people who can’t get onto the housing ladder.

Besides, I don’t suppose it would be called ‘self build’ if someone else had to do everything for you. But if one of the publicly owned plots the Government releases to self builders happens to be in Temple Cloud, that really would be a bonus.

Is ‘self build’ the answer to our housing headache?

I remember the feeling as a reporter when I wrote about workers who were taking action over what they perceived to be bad wages, and would realise they were paid more than me.

I’m reminded of this today when I hear of measures aimed at helping young families onto the housing ladder and the need to address the country’s housing crisis. I am not debt ridden, or badly paid. But when Grant Shapps talks of young families who are caught in a pincer movement between the paucity of available credit, high housing prices and the substantial deposits needed to get decent mortgages, it feels like he could be talking about me.

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Budget briefings leave little room for surprise

The media briefings orchestrated over the last few days left hardly any surprises to come out of George Osborne’s budget announcement this afternoon.

Driving to work this morning, the country was treated to the news that first time buyers are going to be helped by a £250m fund which will help 10,000 people onto the housing ladder and give the construction industry a boost. A bit premature perhaps, but it was only following up what newspapers reported the previous day.

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Eric Pickles’ spring conference speech in full

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles used the Conservative spring conference yesterday to speak about some of his priorities for local government.

In his speech, he drew an interesting parallel with a Private Members Bill brought forward by Margaret Thatcher more than 50 years ago, which opened up council meetings to the press, and his challenge to authorities to be more open and accountable.

Senior executive pay, town hall secrecy and the publication of council newspapers (or ‘town hall Pravdas’ as his speech writers call them) all featured in the conference address and a number of Labour councils came under fire too. 

A full version of his speech can be found here.

Sharing services – the way forward?

This blog post from We Love Local Government looks at the well-publicised idea of sharing services between councils to improve efficiency and reduce duplication. This is an issue that will (or should) be familiar to public sector communicators, with their teams often put forward as merger potential. I could blog for hours on this topic. But this blog is worth a look for now.

Sharing services – an introduction Eric Pickles and Grant Shapps are fond of responding to Local Government leaders complaining about Local Government cuts with three responses: Local Authorities should not complain when they pay their Chief Executive more than the amount paid to the Prime Minister Local Government would be fine if … Read More

via We Love Local Government

Don’t bet the house on an end to complex council finance

Councils who have long called for an end to the fiendishly complex system that takes money from their housing departments payments to fund them elsewhere are getting closer to their goal.

The Government today ‘fired the starting gun’ on its proposals to end the controversial Housing Revenue Account (HRA) system by publishing details of how it intends to do it.

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Plain English localism, in black and white

The Government has today published a revised guide to its Localism Bill, in a document it says is written in plain English (without jargon).

It is only available as a pdf, and the black and white design may not be as engaging as more glossy documents produced by the public sector in the past. But communication is all matt, no gloss, now. And if that means less jargon and flowery language too, then I’d welcome that. 

Anything that can explain things like council housing finance in simple terms without becoming crushed under the weight of its own jargon and acronyms (RSL, RP, ALMO, HRA, HCA, to name a few) deserves to be shared with the whole sector.

I would send one to every local council in the country (by email, of course), although some could show the rest of us a thing or two.

Election publicty rules raise their head in Oldham

The Oldham East and Saddleworth by-election (which concluded yesterday) has thrown up a familiar issue for those who work in or with the public sector, albeit in a rather unusual way.

The Guardian and Labour Party blogs were yesterday reporting that Local Government Minister Andrew Stunell had apologised for a series of events which led to complaints that purdah regulations were breached.

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