Friday, 31 October 2014

Council to push on with "Tesco tax"

Interesting Idea which I support for adoption in Brent
"The Guardian reports that Derby City Council will continue to lobby for support for its proposal to levy higher business rates on large out-of-town retailers despite Eric Pickles, the secretary of state for communities and local government, rejecting the idea as “lazy” and likely to push up the price of food. “This is an all-too-familiar response from a government minister who holds everything local government stands for in contempt,” said council leader Ranjit Banwait. The council said the tax would cost less than 0.1% of supermarket’s income and so would not impact prices. “It is a well-known fact that large retail outlets have a negative impact on local shops, jobs and businesses, while independent retailers ploughed investment back into their local area,” Mr Banwait said."
published in The Guardian

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Brent Council’s deal will see Wembley office block demolished to make way for new homes

Brent Council has exchanged contracts with Henley Homes for the redevelopment of the 10-storey Brent House in Wembley. Developer planes to redevelop the 1.7 acre plot and create a new residential scheme that is expected to deliver 265 homes for sale.

Councillor Margaret McLennan, lead member for regeneration and housing at Brent Council said: “Our priority is to make Brent an attractive place and to ensure that more homes are being built for our residents. This exchange represents another key milestone in the regeneration of Wembley and I hope to see high quality proposals being brought forward soon.”
source- Press release 

Coal Fires and Log Burning Stoves

Coal Fires and Log Burning in Barnhill
Open fires can be used with smokeless fuels. Some burning of kindling in open fires is permitted to get a fire started but strictly speaking wood burning in an open fire is not permitted in smokeless zones. Barn hill is a smokeless zone.
There are specific rules for the use of stoves and fuels.  The government publishes a list of approved appliances (such as log burning stoves) and approved fuels (such as anthracite). Wood is not an authorised fuel in its own right BUT can be used with appropriate log burning stoves. Some types of coal would be permitted for use.

For more information and a link to the list of authorised fuels/ appliances you can use you may refer to the following:

The council can take action to address smoke issues in a smoke control area. This is specifically in relation to smoke emitted from a domestic chimney. There is other legislation which governs smoke or odour from other sources, such as bonfires. If you, or residents in contact with you, are affected by smoke from the suspected use of unauthorised fuel or appliance they should contact the nuisance control team to investigate the matter.   You may contact us on 020 8937 5252 during normal office hours or 020 8937 1234 from 6pm to 2am any day of the week.


ESA may be cut

The BBC claims to have seen internal documents that suggest ministers are considering drastically cutting the main Employment and Support Allowance sickness benefit. It says that new claimants, judged to be capable of work with appropriate support, could be given just 50p more per week than people on job seekers allowance.
source-BBC News

Call for new council tax bands

A new study suggests that local authorities should be able to set new council tax bands to reflect property price rises. The six-month review, commissioned by the Local Government Association, recommends that councils should be given the power to raise local taxes as well as revalue all properties in their areas and set new tax bands. Darra Singh, the former council chief executive who chaired the review, said that there were huge anomalies in the system as the rates were based on property values estimated in 1991. He said: "The current outdated and unfair system of council tax has been identified as one of the major obstacles to the reform of local government finance. This is an inherently unfair tax and the lack of revaluation for the last 23 years has exacerbated that."
published in The Times,  

Monday, 27 October 2014

Think tank wants tax powers for London

The Centre for London think tank is demanding that London be given more power over its taxes - particularly property taxes - to ensure that it can meet its housing needs. Ben Rogers, director at the Centre for London, told the FT that the capital was in danger of becoming invisible in the debate over devolution. "London is hardly ever talked about. It is all about Scotland, Wales and to some extent the cities of the north," he said. George Osborne is preparing to hand a range of powers to several cities next month as part of his "northern powerhouse," but is reluctant to devolve tax-raising powers to regional cities for fear that handing more tax autonomy to the north would strengthen the case for Boris Johnson to take control of revenues in the capital.

HS3 rail link backed by Sir David Higgins

Plans for a high-speed "HS3" rail link in the north of England have moved a step closer to reality, after a report from Sir David Higgins, the chairman of the HS2 scheme, backed the proposals. Sir David said better rail links in northern England were "desirable" and "possible" after being asked to look at ways of maximising the benefits of HS2. Journey times from Manchester to Leeds could be cut from 48 to 26 minutes. Keith Wakefield, the leader of Leeds City Council, said the investment would pay for itself. "We know a 20-minute reduction in journey times between Leeds and Manchester would be worth £6.7bn and nearly 30,000 jobs across the north of England," he said. The government says it will now produce a strategy looking at options, costs and a delivery timetable for HS3. The east-west improvements backed by Sir David would be in addition to the north-of-Birmingham phase two of HS2 which will see a Y-shaped route going from Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds.
Published inThe Daily Telegraph, 

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Driverless buses mooted

The transport minister Claire Perry has suggested that driverless buses could soon be motoring through the UK countryside. Speaking at the Driverless Vehicles Conference, Ms Perry said driverless buses “could transform” rural public transport and said work was being undertaken to identify regulatory issues. Prof Stephen Glaister, of the RAC, said it was an "exciting prospect" but added: "Like some rural bus services it could be a long wait until the future actually arrives."
published in The Daily Telegraph,

HS2 chief set to reveal latest route

 The FT examines the challenges facing Sir David Higgins, the chairman of HS2, the UK’s proposed north-south high-speed rail line. Sir David will unveil his analysis of the impact of the line north of Birmingham next week, with one observer briefed on the plans commenting: “He is struggling to keep it within the spending envelope he has”. Sir David is also unlikely to support Stoke’s bid for the line to stop in the Potteries rather than Crewe. Stoke claims the route would £5bn cheaper if the route passed through it. He will also recommit to a station at Meadowhall, on the outskirts of Sheffield, rather than a more expensive station in the city centre.
published in Financial Times, 

Monday, 20 October 2014

Mental illness in maternity costs £8bn

Society is paying a "shocking" price for poor mental health care for pregnant women and new mothers in the UK, a report says. It said that for all births in one year, there would be a long-term cost of more than £8bn stemming from mental health problems. The report was written by the London School of Economics and the Centre for Mental Health. The Department of Health said it was investing in mental health training.
published in The Guardian

PM vows to create 3m apprenticeships

David Cameron will vow to end youth unemployment in the next parliament, proposing that a future Conservative government would use £1bn in welfare spending cuts to fund 3m new apprenticeships. A plan by Mr Cameron to reduce the welfare cap from £26,000 to £23,000, together with the removal of housing benefit from 18- to 21-year-olds on jobseeker's allowance, will raise £255m a year, which will be used to fund the apprenticeships. According to figures released by the Conservative Party, the reduction in the cap will have an impact on an estimated 70,000 households, with 40,000 hit for the first time. Up to 30,000 young people will be affected by the removal of housing benefit from those aged from 18 to 21 who will see their jobseeker's allowance replaced by an allowance limited to six months. Claimants who fail to find a job or an apprenticeship after six months will be forced to perform community work.
published in the The Times and others 

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Lack of social mobility keeps young off housing ladder

According to a new report to be published tomorrow, more than 1m young people have been kept off the housing ladder over the last decade due to declining social mobility. In an interview with The Sunday Times, mobility tsar Alan Milburn said that young people's dependence on their parents’ money to buy a home is “threatening to break the link between effort and reward that is core to social mobility”. The social mobility and child poverty commission, which Mr Milburn chairs, will call for “radical” solutions including building on green-belt land, giving priority access to new homes for first-time buyers and measures to boost the availability of “part-rent-part-buy” schemes to allow young people to build up equity in a home. The report points out that the rate of home ownership among 25-year-olds has halved over 20 years, from 45% for those born in the mid-1960s to 21% for those born in the mid-1980s.
published inThe Sunday Times & The Observer

Schools will take two-year-olds

The Telegraph reports that schools will be given greater freedom to enrol children aged two under new legislation designed to improve the standards of early education. Ministers insist the move will cut red tape and make it easier for schools to admit youngest pupils into nursery classes. Currently, just over one in 20 schools (6%) takes two-year-olds, with recent government figures suggesting only 12% plan to expand.
The Sunday Telegraph, Page: 8

Cuts blamed for rise in housing benefit fraud

Housing consultant Peter Barker has suggested that Government cuts and the strain on the benefits system have made it easier for people to commit housing benefit fraud. His warning follows a report from the National Audit Office which revealed that the Department for Work and Pensions lost £1.4bn in overpayment of housing benefit due to fraud or error in 2013-14 - up from £980m in 2010-11. Mr Barker said that council staff and benefit advisers have been encouraged to cut corners when processing claims in order to hit monthly targets imposed by the DWP. Councils are also coming under increasing pressure because of cuts to staffing and a rise of in-work claimants of housing benefit.
published in The Independent on Sunday

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Boris defends overseas investment

Boris Johnson, speaking at the UK MIPIM property conference, has defended the injection of overseas money into the London housing market saying there was "no logic" to bashing overseas investment, but there was a "social injustice" that Londoners could not afford to live near their workplace. He promised 500,000 affordable new homes for Londoners over the next 10 years. Meanwhile, the conference was disrupted by protestors who sought to raise awareness of the capital’s housing crisis. Sam Middleton, of the activist group Focus E15 Mums, said: “MIPIM is the place where these problems begin. It's where the councils sell off public land behind closed doors.”
 published  inThe Guardian, 

Labour promises new homes for locals

Under a future Labour government, local first-time buyers would be given priority on half of all the new homes built. Ed Miliband will announce that under Labour’s plans, local authorities would be forced to draw up housing plans and allocate enough land to meet demand; they would also be able to reserve 50% of the new homes in "housing growth areas" for local first-time buyers. Local authorities would also have powers to stop new homes being sold for buy-to-let or to be left empty. Labour's blueprint would also allow some Green Belt building, but only through "land swaps" so there was no overall loss of protected land.
The Independent, 

Local interests

: Hounslow Chronicle
Title: Wembley jewellery shop fined thousands for not having quality stamps
Publication Date: 14/10/2014

Outlet: Brent & Kilburn Times
Title: Builder fined for fly-tipping waste in Harlesden
Publication Date: 15/10/2014

Outlet: Brent & Kilburn Times
Title: Brent Council to investigate their equality policy following tribunal defeat
Publication Date: 14/10/2014

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Young less committed to recycling

A survey has found that young people are much less committed to recycling their rubbish than older generations. According to the YouGov poll, 57% of 18 to 24 year-olds believe it is very important to recycle as much as household waste as possible, compared with 74% of the over-55s. Younger people are also more likely to believe that the primary responsibility for recycling lies with local authorities. Only 29% of 18 to 24 year-olds think they bear the most responsibility to recycle, compared with 42% of over-55s. The survey also found that 81% of women “feel guilty” when they don’t separate their rubbish, whereas only 69% of men feel the same way.
The Times,

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Rough Sleepers - Brent

The Brent Council has created a new web page where residents can log in and report those who are using local parks for rough sleeping or anti social behaviour. Dog walkers and walkers in general  are asked to report location of  rough sleeper . The we web page site is "www.brent"

Housing debt a serious issue

A breakdown of the £8.3bn bill which UK citizens have accumulatively acquired through debt, shows that housing accounts for £3bn, due to people falling behind with rent and mortgage payments, as well as the costs of eviction, housing benefit payments and homelessness prevention.  
The Independent on Sunday

Biggest wage slump since 1860s

This year is the seventh consecutive year of falling real earnings for UK workers with the length and depth of the squeeze on wages not seen since the economic crisis of the 1860s, according to research from the TUC. Their analysis shows the current pay squeeze is twice as deep as the worst of any episodes since, at 8.2%. The austerity years of 1921-23 only saw falls of 4% and other recessions only lasted two to four years, the TUC says. NHS staff across England and Northern Ireland are to strike tomorrow in protest at the government’s failure to give them a 1% rise, as recommended by the independent pay review body.
The Observer, 

Row over Sikh school will lead voters to Ukip

A Conservative councillor has warned that residents in the village of Stoke Poges, in Buckinghamshire, could turn to Ukip after the Government overruled a planning inspector to allow a Sikh faith school to remain there. Eric Pickles ruled last month that the Khalsa Secondary Academy, which has been opposed by at least 200 local residents, should be allowed to stay. Councillor Trevor Egleton said: "Some will vote Ukip because of what has happened with the school in the hope that it will concentrate Pickles's mind." He said people opposed the academy on environmental grounds, not because they are “middle-class Nimbys or racists”.

Miliband plans tougher rules for migrants

In an effort to head off the exodus of Labour voters to Ukip, Ed Miliband has said Labour will pledge hard-hitting measures to ensure that migrants 'earn the right' to state benefits. In an interview with the Observer, Mr Miliband says that rules limiting access to benefits until migrants have contributed to the state will be based on the principles of "contribution, responsibility, fairness". Additionally, as well as stronger border controls and laws to stop "exploitation that has undermined wages of local workers", Labour will commit to “reforms to those who come here speak English and earn the right to any benefit entitlements". Meanwhile, the Mail carries an interview from Labour MP Andrew McKinlay who calls on Mr Miliband to step down. He cites Labour’s performance in Heywood and Middleton as a chief reason.
The Observer,