Debates between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

There have been 128 exchanges between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth

1 Wed 17th July 2019 Devolution: English Cities
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (5,254 words)
2 Mon 15th July 2019 Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,039 words)
3 Wed 10th July 2019 Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill [HL]
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,966 words)
4 Tue 2nd July 2019 Homes for Social Rent
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (205 words)
5 Tue 11th June 2019 Non-Domestic Rating (Preparation for Digital Services) Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (755 words)
6 Mon 10th June 2019 Grenfell Response
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (2,218 words)
7 Tue 4th June 2019 Council Funding
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (335 words)
8 Tue 4th June 2019 Housing: Social Rent
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (180 words)
9 Tue 21st May 2019 Homelessness
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (236 words)
10 Tue 14th May 2019 Domestic Abuse
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,672 words)
11 Thu 9th May 2019 Social Housing: Older People
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (274 words)
12 Wed 8th May 2019 Architects Act 1997 (Swiss Qualifications) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (457 words)
13 Tue 7th May 2019 Yorkshire: Devolution
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (211 words)
14 Thu 11th April 2019 Public Conveniences
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (294 words)
15 Tue 2nd April 2019 Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2019
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (837 words)
16 Mon 1st April 2019 Rough Sleeping
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (326 words)
17 Tue 26th March 2019 Property Guardians
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (306 words)
18 Thu 21st March 2019 Housing: Future Homes Standard
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (336 words)
19 Thu 14th March 2019 Local Authorities: Fair Funding Review
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (185 words)
20 Thu 14th March 2019 Council Tax
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (220 words)
21 Tue 12th March 2019 Local Government (Structural and Boundary Changes) (Supplementary Provision and Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (732 words)
22 Tue 12th March 2019 Fracking: Planning Guidance
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (212 words)
23 Tue 5th March 2019 Stronger Towns Fund
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (1,818 words)
24 Mon 4th March 2019 Parking (Code of Practice) Bill
Leader of the House
2 interactions (117 words)
25 Mon 4th March 2019 Specialist Domestic Abuse Services
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (203 words)
26 Wed 27th February 2019 Help to Buy: Housebuilders’ Profits
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (304 words)
27 Mon 25th February 2019 Business Rate Appeals
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (228 words)
28 Tue 19th February 2019 Housing: Private Rented Sector
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (265 words)
29 Tue 12th February 2019 Yorkshire: Devolution
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (332 words)
30 Thu 24th January 2019 Local Authorities: Essential Services
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (4,002 words)
31 Tue 22nd January 2019 Tower Blocks: Cladding
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (768 words)
32 Fri 18th January 2019 Parking (Code of Practice) Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (2,347 words)
33 Wed 16th January 2019 Planning: Permitted Development Rights
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (264 words)
34 Tue 15th January 2019 Tenant Fees Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (131 words)
35 Mon 14th January 2019 Islamophobia
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (313 words)
36 Thu 10th January 2019 New Home Building Programme
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (205 words)
37 Mon 7th January 2019 Combustible Cladding
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (220 words)
38 Thu 13th December 2018 Provisional Local Government Finance Settlement
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (2,417 words)
39 Wed 12th December 2018 Housing: Serviced Plots
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (222 words)
40 Tue 11th December 2018 Tenant Fees Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
12 interactions (2,560 words)
41 Fri 23rd November 2018 Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
6 interactions (3,347 words)
42 Wed 21st November 2018 Women’s Refuges: Funding
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (254 words)
43 Tue 20th November 2018 Tenant Fees Bill
Cabinet Office
2 interactions (1,079 words)
44 Tue 13th November 2018 Rogue Landlords
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (372 words)
45 Mon 12th November 2018 First World War Commemoration: Pakistan
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (373 words)
46 Tue 6th November 2018 Housing: Shared Ownership
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (202 words)
47 Mon 5th November 2018 Tenant Fees Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
37 interactions (6,088 words)
48 Mon 5th November 2018 Devolution: Sheffield City Region
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (253 words)
49 Thu 1st November 2018 Housing: Prefabricated Council Houses
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (256 words)
50 Thu 25th October 2018 Affordable Housing
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (4,388 words)
51 Wed 17th October 2018 Yorkshire: Devolution
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (248 words)
52 Tue 16th October 2018 Private Rented Sector Licensing Schemes
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (284 words)
53 Wed 10th October 2018 Tenant Fees Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (4,413 words)
54 Thu 13th September 2018 Housing: Local Plans
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (358 words)
55 Wed 12th September 2018 Homelessness
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (2,469 words)
56 Tue 24th July 2018 Non-Domestic Rating (Nursery Grounds) Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,222 words)
57 Wed 18th July 2018 Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (687 words)
58 Tue 10th July 2018 Housing: Rent
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (261 words)
59 Tue 3rd July 2018 Affordable Housing: Social Homes for Rent
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (176 words)
60 Tue 26th June 2018 Anti-Semitism
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (226 words)
61 Tue 19th June 2018 Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
22 interactions (5,253 words)
62 Tue 19th June 2018 Short-Term Holiday Lets
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (294 words)
63 Thu 14th June 2018 Housing: Private Rented Sector
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (274 words)
64 Wed 13th June 2018 Client Money Protection Schemes for Property Agents (Approval and Designation of Schemes) Regulations 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,180 words)
65 Mon 11th June 2018 Grenfell Tower
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (2,812 words)
66 Mon 4th June 2018 Rating (Property in Common Occupation) and Council Tax (Empty Dwellings) Bill
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,602 words)
67 Tue 22nd May 2018 Leaseholders’ Rights: High-rise Blocks
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (229 words)
68 Mon 21st May 2018 Tower Blocks: Dangerous Cladding
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (958 words)
69 Wed 9th May 2018 Licensing of Houses in Multiple Occupation (Mandatory Conditions of Licences) (England) Regulations 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,289 words)
70 Wed 9th May 2018 East Suffolk (Local Government Changes) Order 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
7 interactions (630 words)
71 Tue 1st May 2018 Combined Authorities (Borrowing) Regulations 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (496 words)
72 Tue 1st May 2018 Fire Safety: Building Materials
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (266 words)
73 Wed 28th March 2018 Community Football Clubs
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (250 words)
74 Tue 27th March 2018 Non-Domestic Rating (Rates Retention and Levy and Safety Net) (Amendment) Regulations 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,167 words)
75 Tue 27th March 2018 Northamptonshire County Council
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,923 words)
76 Tue 27th March 2018 Housing: Right-to-Buy Sales
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (250 words)
77 Thu 22nd March 2018 Grenfell Tower
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (2,534 words)
78 Tue 20th March 2018 Insolvency of Registered Providers of Social Housing Regulations 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (1,073 words)
79 Tue 20th March 2018 Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Amendment) Order 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,030 words)
80 Thu 15th March 2018 Building Safety Update
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (1,410 words)
81 Thu 15th March 2018 Integrated Communities
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (2,065 words)
82 Wed 7th March 2018 Housing: Holiday Lets
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (383 words)
83 Tue 6th March 2018 Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [HL]
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
8 interactions (1,645 words)
84 Tue 6th March 2018 National Planning Policy Framework
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (2,521 words)
85 Tue 27th February 2018 Grenfell Tower
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (389 words)
86 Mon 26th February 2018 Private Rented Housing: Electrical Safety Checks
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (295 words)
87 Wed 21st February 2018 Local Neighbourhood Services
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (197 words)
88 Tue 6th February 2018 Northamptonshire County Council
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (706 words)
89 Mon 5th February 2018 Grenfell Tower: Insulation Materials
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
3 interactions (582 words)
90 Thu 1st February 2018 Non-Domestic Rating (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2018
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (373 words)
91 Thu 1st February 2018 Rough Sleeping
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (390 words)
92 Wed 24th January 2018 Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [HL]
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
15 interactions (3,816 words)
93 Thu 18th January 2018 MV “Empire Windrush”
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (2,308 words)
94 Thu 11th January 2018 Housebuilders
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
2 interactions (4,887 words)
95 Tue 9th January 2018 Secure Tenancies (Victims of Domestic Abuse) Bill [HL]
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
5 interactions (2,494 words)
96 Tue 9th January 2018 Homelessness
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
4 interactions (266 words)
97 Tue 19th December 2017 Local Government Finance Settlement
Wales Office
2 interactions (2,459 words)
98 Tue 19th December 2017 Homelessness: Temporary Accommodation
Wales Office
3 interactions (427 words)
99 Mon 18th December 2017 Grenfell Tower and Building Safety
Wales Office
2 interactions (3,254 words)
100 Wed 6th December 2017 Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017
Wales Office
4 interactions (1,434 words)
101 Wed 6th December 2017 Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill
Wales Office
5 interactions (347 words)
102 Wed 6th December 2017 Private Rented Sector: Electrical Safety Checks
Wales Office
3 interactions (314 words)
103 Tue 28th November 2017 Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill
Wales Office
3 interactions (714 words)
104 Wed 22nd November 2017 Waste Collection Services
Wales Office
3 interactions (284 words)
105 Tue 21st November 2017 Social Housing
Wales Office
3 interactions (259 words)
106 Mon 20th November 2017 Housing: Offsite Manufactured Housing
Wales Office
4 interactions (353 words)
107 Tue 14th November 2017 New Towns
Wales Office
3 interactions (274 words)
108 Tue 7th November 2017 Regulation of Social Housing (Influence of Local Authorities) (England) Regulations 2017
Wales Office
2 interactions (1,270 words)
109 Mon 6th November 2017 Grenfell Recovery Taskforce
Wales Office
2 interactions (2,390 words)
110 Thu 26th October 2017 Social Rented Housing: Construction
Northern Ireland Office
3 interactions (261 words)
111 Tue 24th October 2017 Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
5 interactions (2,262 words)
112 Thu 19th October 2017 Grenfell Tower
Northern Ireland Office
3 interactions (916 words)
113 Thu 19th October 2017 District Councils
Northern Ireland Office
2 interactions (1,671 words)
114 Wed 18th October 2017 Property Agents: Registration
Northern Ireland Office
2 interactions (1,424 words)
115 Tue 17th October 2017 Home Ownership
Northern Ireland Office
4 interactions (318 words)
116 Mon 16th October 2017 Yorkshire: Devolution
Northern Ireland Office
3 interactions (296 words)
117 Mon 9th October 2017 Telecommunications Infrastructure (Relief from Non-Domestic Rates) Bill
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport
2 interactions (2,101 words)
118 Mon 9th October 2017 Fire Safety
Northern Ireland Office
4 interactions (348 words)
119 Thu 14th September 2017 Local Housing Need
Northern Ireland Office
2 interactions (1,929 words)
120 Mon 11th September 2017 Non-Domestic Rating (Alteration of Lists and Appeals) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2017
Northern Ireland Office
2 interactions (250 words)
121 Mon 11th September 2017 Housing: Social and Affordable Rents
Northern Ireland Office
4 interactions (350 words)
122 Tue 5th September 2017 Update on Grenfell Response and Building Safety
Northern Ireland Office
2 interactions (2,285 words)
123 Thu 20th July 2017 Grenfell Tower and Fire Safety: Update
Northern Ireland Office
6 interactions (3,023 words)
124 Wed 19th July 2017 Business Rates Hardship Fund
Northern Ireland Office
3 interactions (244 words)
125 Wed 5th July 2017 Grenfell Tower: Rehousing Update
Northern Ireland Office
2 interactions (2,048 words)
126 Mon 3rd July 2017 Grenfell Tower Update
Northern Ireland Office
5 interactions (3,072 words)
127 Tue 27th June 2017 Fire Safety: Lakanal House Fire
Northern Ireland Office
3 interactions (306 words)
128 Mon 26th June 2017 Update on the Grenfell Tower Fire and Fire Safety
Northern Ireland Office
2 interactions (2,127 words)

Devolution: English Cities

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Wednesday 17th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
Read Full debate Read Hansard Text
Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, first, may I say how pleased I am to be able to respond to this debate on a motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine? I commend the work he has done in this report and also over many years to empower our great cities, support communities and enable them to face up to the challenges in our world. That is not to say that I agree with every word in the report; but, like my noble friend Lord Rooker, I say that it is an excellent report and an important contribution. There are many recommendations in the report that I fully agree with and would want to take further.

When he introduced the debate, the noble Lord talked about two cities. You could feel that you are living in two different worlds, but actually be living close by the other. In my own borough of Southwark, we have the very prosperous south of the borough, which is a wealthy and nice place to live in, and we now have a much more regenerated north of the borough. There are lots of tourists there and things have improved dramatically in the last 20 or 30 years. In other parts, though, in Walworth, Camberwell and Peckham, the borough is still struggling and there are all sorts of problems in terms of drugs, knife crime and housing. You really could be living in a different world in the same borough, so that was a very important point that he made.

I should also at this point declare that I am vice-president of the Local Government Association—my usual declaration that I make on the numerous times that I speak in this House. Among other things, I am a Londoner, as you can probably tell; but for many years I lived in Coventry, Leicester and Nottingham, so I know the east Midlands very well. It is a great place to live and needs to have power to be developed and to move forward. As the noble Lord said in his introduction, such places have to be able to compete in a world that is changing at a pace unprecedented in our history. Things are moving so fast now; new technologies arrive in our country, become obsolete and then something else moves in, whereas before, things used to never change. We need to address this bigger picture to ensure that our great cities and institutions are fit for purpose.

I have raised several times in the House the issue of the combined authorities. We seem to be creating a confused patchwork for local government, and for me that is not good. We need a sense of what is going on in each area and who is governing it. The noble Lord, Lord Lansley, mentioned the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority, and I am conscious of the number of different bodies that potentially can be involved in taxation and so on. Not too far away is Bedfordshire, which is a very different operation. We need to understand how places are governed. Perhaps the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, does not agree with me on that but it is my view, and the report gives some welcome structure to the combined authority model.

My noble friend Lord Beecham made a point about the sums of money made available by the Government to the combined authorities, and I agree that they are still quite small sums of money over 30 years or so. If any of the suggestions made by the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, are to be taken up by the Government, much greater sums of money will have to be made available. If we contrast the money presently available with the money that has been lost to local government since 2010, we see that there is a huge gap.

I agree with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Butler of Brockwell. If we want something to happen in a local area, it is not going to be delivered from behind a desk in Whitehall. The noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, made a similar point when she called for further devolution. Local people have a much better understanding of the problems and challenges in their area. If they can get that job, they will do it well. The noble Lord, Lord Horam, said that we need people in charge, and one thing I have learned in my life is that if there are not people in charge to make decisions, you get drift; nothing happens, and there is a lack of focus and then failure. Having people in charge is very important.

Looking at the proposals in the report, I agree that reform of government and of Whitehall is a crucial first step. I like the idea of a department for the English regions, but it would involve significant restructuring and there must be reform as to how Parliament and elected MPs would relate to any new department with such a clear focus. Others might not, but I would welcome the return of the government regional offices; it is disappointing that they were abolished. I have no problem with the Boundary Commission looking at local authority boundaries and at what the authorities do.

The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, made a good point about how some of our cities work. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, made a fair point when he talked about city boundaries. I have served on a number of local authorities, including one with 59 Labour members, one Green and a Labour mayor—to be honest, that did not always make for the best government. It does not matter which party it is, we need people on councils to say when a budget is not very good and what should be done instead. If you do not have that, you need it, so we need to find a way for that to happen. I am not an advocate of PR, but in many towns and cities we now have one party dominant in the council chamber. That is not good. I do not know whether we can do anything about that, but we need to find a way of getting somebody else into the chamber—but I do not know how. There is an issue there.

Select Committees of both Houses have an important role to play, but as I said earlier, we need to think about how Members of the House of Commons engage with the governance of English regions. We might not like it, but the world did not come to an end with a Conservative Government in the UK, an SNP Government in Scotland and a Labour Government in Wales. Clearly, parties of different perspectives can work together and function. We need some broader thinking they are about where we are in England. My noble friend Lady Quin talked about what we do there as well.

There is also the point about bringing the heads of the combined authorities together with the Prime Minister and the Chancellor. That would give a good focus, but if that happened, it should be expanded to some of our bigger cities, such as Nottingham, Derby or Leicester, where the mayor there, Sir Peter Soulsby, makes a big contribution. Getting them wired into the policy challenges and the policy solutions nationally would be a good thing to do.

I very much liked the idea of looking at what goes on in cities around the world. We can learn much from our partners abroad, and it is a very good thing to do. The noble Lord, Lord Inglewood, mentioned that. I was not so keen on his football analogy, though. As a Millwall supporter, we do not get any European football. Our trips are normally up to Birmingham to play Birmingham City, or perhaps to visit my noble friend Lord Beecham in Newcastle. Getting together and working with other cities is an important thing to do.

Greater Manchester, which in many ways is the most developed of all the combined authorities, is a very good example. As a noble Lord said in a previous debate, many of the authorities in Greater Manchester have changed control in recent years, but they still work together very well as a group. There is clearly maturity there. It is a really good model and other parts of our country can look at what goes on in Greater Manchester: even when political control changes, there are still the same problems and challenges, yet they work very well together. It is important that that happens.

I can see the logic of combined authority mayors taking over the roles of the police and crime commissioners. That would be a very good thing. Again, I am not convinced, and many other noble Lords were not, by the idea of transferring various services, such as affordable housing and schools, to the combined authority. I do not necessarily see the merit in that.

I agree with the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, who spoke about housing. We have debated this many times. Housebuilding is in the hands of four or five developers. It does not always necessarily get us what we need. As my noble friend Lady Warwick of Undercliffe said, partnership between local authorities, housing associations and builders could get the housing we need built. We need to build more social housing in this country. For all sorts of reasons, that would help all of us deal with the problems we have to face.

I agree with the comments of the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle about the northern powerhouse and the need to provide additional funding and support for the north of England. I am also conscious that we often debate transport. Try to get from Bradford to Manchester: it is impossible. That is really important to talk about as well, as there are important issues there.

My noble friend Lord Beecham made a welcome call for more funding and power for mayoral authorities to raise taxes and charges, including a tourist tax. I very much support the call from my noble friend Lord Hunt of Kings Heath in that respect regarding the Commonwealth Games. I also agree with his point about the NHS. Again, this is something where Greater Manchester is certainly ahead of the game.

Finally, I was a very young councillor in the 1980s in Southwark. It is fair to say that we were not that happy with the setting up of the London Docklands Development Corporation. It was not universally popular locally, but looking back it is fair to say that what the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, did there was absolutely right. Much good was done in the area. Significant regeneration happened and lots of money was brought into the area, with new housing, better transport, with the Docklands Light Railway, and a new financial sector in Canary Wharf. That might not have happened if he had not pushed those things forward. We are very grateful to him for that. In north Southwark, maybe William Shakespeare and Sam Wanamaker had a bit of a role in that too, but we were very lucky with what happened there and what he did. We are grateful for what he pursued there.

I am also really pleased, because the early 1980s were a difficult time for local government: there was a great fracture between central and local government. For all our difficulties, local and national government have a much better relationship nowadays, and we should all welcome that.

In conclusion, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Heseltine, for bringing this Motion to Grand Committee today. It has been an excellent debate. He started off by mentioning Brexit, so I will finish on it as well. I agree entirely with his remarks on Brexit. I had the privilege of being in Parliament Square when he addressed the People’s Vote rally. I believed every single word he said then, as I do today.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank noble Lords immensely for what has been an excellent debate. Most importantly, I thank my noble friend Lord Heseltine for bringing this forward and for a thought-provoking report with excellent ideas—making this a full house of compliments from every single speaker, which is a rare event in any debate—and for a first-class introduction to this debate.

I do not necessarily always agree with the noble Lord, Lord Adonis, but I do on the point about my noble friend’s lasting contribution to British life and the impact he has made. It is singularly rare for somebody to make the sort of impact across the board that he has made in British life, both at the Board of Trade and in the massive impact he has made on regional policy, particularly during his time in Liverpool. I had the privilege of being in Liverpool about three weeks ago, in Berry Street in Toxteth—it is not necessarily an area where people would always vote Conservative, but my noble friend is held in massive affection there, as he is throughout that great city.

As the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, just said, his contribution to the Docklands area of London is immense. In Wales, I remember the opening of the National Botanic Garden in Llanarthney, which my noble friend did so much to help with. He was there with Lady Heseltine on that occasion. In terms of lasting contributions, the same is true in Wales.

Turning to the debate, I will make some general points and then try to go through and pick up on the contributions made by noble Lords. I should say in advance that I will make sure that a record of this debate is sent to all relevant government departments, because there is a great danger of silo thinking here. This is not just about the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. Probably every single government department needs to see this debate, not least the Treasury. If I miss any points in replying to the debate or run out of time I will make sure that all the points that have been raised are answered in correspondence.

There have clearly been differences over some issues in the excellent contributions—whether people are in favour of having a department of the regions or of having regional offices. There has not necessarily been uniformity on that issue. Where there has been complete agreement is that this is unfinished business in England. I happen to think that responsibility should lie with a metro mayor; not everybody does, but everybody accepts that there has to be somebody there. There has to be accountability for this to move forward. I believe strongly in having someone at the helm, such as Andy Burnham. He is politically different from me, but I do not think one could argue that he has not made a good fist of carrying things forward for Manchester. He is there at the helm, and that is important. The same is true of Andy Street in the West Midlands. I happen to believe that that is important, and so do the Government.

There is also the importance of localism, trusting people locally with things that should be decided locally. As I go around the country—this morning I was in Oakham and then Peterborough; as I have said, I have been in Liverpool, Leeds, Bradford, Manchester and Cornwall within the last month—what consistently comes across is that people want that sense of belonging to something and being able to help decide things locally. The most responsive way of doing that in most cases—clearly some decisions have to be made at a different level to the most local—is having people doing it locally. That sense of localism is important.

I also believe that we cannot go for a rigid blueprint. We have heard very different stories from different communities, partly because of their size and partly because of the nature of where they are in the country. A town of 50,000 people just outside London is very different to a town of 50,000 people in Cumbria or Northumberland; their needs will be very different.

We are at a pivotal point for the country, with a new Prime Minister and a new Government, and clearly there are decisions to be made—the in-tray will be substantial. I agree with a sentiment that has come across that because of Brexit, whatever view one takes of it, our eyes have been taken off the ball as a country, and probably as a Government, on all sorts of decisions that need resolution. Again, there is a very real sense of that up and down the country when one visits communities, whether people are for remain or for Brexit. There are things that they say the Government and Parliament should be getting on with. There is a sense of alienation—that might be too strong a word, but there is certainly a sense that, as a Parliament, we are perhaps losing the plot. This is something that a new Government must grapple with.

I will turn to individual contributions and once again thank noble Lords for a very wide-ranging debate. The noble Lord, Lord Tyler, spoke of Cornwall, with which he has a close connection and expertise. As he well knows, we have a devolution deal in place for Cornwall. It is the one area in England where we have a devolution deal where there is not a metro mayor. I agree with the noble Lord that there are issues relating to Cornwall that are very different from other parts of the country—I had better not say other parts of England because one thing that much of Cornwall is united on is that it is not part of England. There are issues of language and culture; I was down there last week and understand very well their importance. It is very different from metropolitan Britain, and we must not forget those important distinctions.

The noble Lord, Lord Beecham, reminded us quite rightly that this is not just about the money; it certainly is about the money, but that is not the only point of regional policy. I very much agree with that and the point he made about levering in private sector funding—a point also made by the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle. I also agree with the noble Lord on Richard III, but that is perhaps by the way; we can discuss that at leisure at some other time.

The noble Lord, Lord Turnbull, spoke of nostalgia and welcomed by and large the report and the sense of direction from it. He had some doubt about a department for the regions but agreed with the main thrust of what my noble friend Lord Heseltine says in his report.

My noble friend Lord Hodgson spoke with great authority from different perspectives—from the committee perspective, from being MP for Walsall North and from his commercial experience. That was extremely useful. He referred again to the need to belong and the sense of alienation, which I think was referred to as well by the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. There is a great danger of alienation, not just from Brussels. Perhaps alienation is too strong a word, but there is a turning away from London and wanting things to be done more locally and pride in the local area. That is something we need to be aware of, as well as the sense of two nations. We need to be wary, as we always have been, as a party and as a country, of the danger of the two nations to which Disraeli referred in Sybil; we do not want that in any shape or form.

The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, whom I thank very much for her contribution and her expertise from the National Housing Federation, asked whether we were going to be doing things more deeply and more widely. To deal first with the “more deeply”, it is very much unfinished business as far as the metropolitan areas are concerned. If they want to come forward with proposals for further devolution, we are very open to that. Touching on the issue of police and crime commissioners, that too could be brought forward by the areas that already have devolution. There is, of course, one example other than London where we have a police and crime commissioner who is also the metro mayor: Manchester. The issue of coterminosity of boundaries would need to be looked at in that connection, but that is certainly a point.

As for the “more widely”, certainly there is unfinished business, as we have heard quite rightly from the noble Lord, Lord Wallace, on Yorkshire. There is unfinished business in South Yorkshire, where, having had authorities sign up to the agreement, we have not got all of them over the threshold to carry things forward. That has caused frustration across parties. We have been doing what we can, and we will still do that across parties to try to achieve that. In Tyneside as well, we have heard that there is unfinished business. I think we all would want to end what is a patent absurdity of devolution north of the Tyne but largely not south of the Tyne, except for transport.

The noble Baroness, Lady Quin, referred to the great things achieved in Gateshead, which is absolutely true, including the Sage, the BALTIC and the bridge. However, for them to be part of the agreement with Newcastle must follow, as night follows day; it is crazy for one part of the Newcastle area to be devolved and not the other part.

The noble Lord, Lord Shipley, said that this was not to detract from London, but that the aim must be to bring economic development elsewhere—although that is not the only aim of what we seek to do. However, I hope the noble Lord will forgive me for saying that he then seemed to round on Oxford and Cambridge. Following on from what my noble friend Lord Lansley said, by the same token, they are not seeking money and this is an area of growth that helps the whole country. The aim must be to help all areas flourish, and that is what we are seeking to do.

The noble Lord raised the question of the northern powerhouse. The north in general is benefitting from £3.4 billion of investment going to locally determined projects, and specifically £337 million going to transport in the metro area of Newcastle, an area that includes places south of the Tyne. Government money does find its way to the north, but I understand that people will want to argue the case for their own area.

I thank the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Newcastle for her positive and powerful contribution, as always, on behalf of her area and more generally. She cautioned against the creation of two nations and alienation, which is absolutely right.

I thank my noble friend Lord Lansley for his point about the chambers of commerce. I will take that away and underline it with BEIS. It is a very important point in carrying this forward. We must note the concrete examples he gave from Birmingham of the NEC, the airport and so on. I thank him for that. He also talked about the nature of Cambridge, the most prosperous city in Europe, which is something that should benefit the whole country.

The noble Lord, Lord Rooker, was very supportive of the report and referred to the transformation of Liverpool. He said quite correctly that Whitehall finds devolution difficult, which I know about from the Welsh perspective. It has got better in relation to Wales—much better—but there is still work to be done. I recognise what the noble Lord said.

I neglected to mention earlier the Select Committee, which I think is a good idea. Whether it is in the shape of a Joint Committee or not is above my pay grade and expertise, but it is an idea worth pushing.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and others referred to the tourist tax. From going to Europe, we are all familiar with the bill at breakfast time for the tourist tax. We all pay it very willingly, and so it seems like a good idea. I had better be careful in going any further than that, except to say that we will forward the idea and the comments made to the Treasury.

Recently, I was in Birmingham for Windrush events, and was taken to an event in support of the Commonwealth Games. There is a growing enthusiasm, as there was in London, but I agree that it needs financial underpinning. Presumably the Treasury will be aware of that and will want to make sure that it is at least as great a success as the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

The noble Baroness, Lady Janke, spoke from her experience in Bristol and talked about the great European cities. The politicians on the continent who have come forward from being mayor are notable, including Jacques Chirac and Sarkozy, Matteo Renzi in Florence and, a generation previously, Willy Brandt in Berlin. There is a much closer link there, whereas here we have previously been able to offer only Joe Chamberlain. I suspect that that is about to change next week when it comes to mayors who have gone on to other things.

The noble Lord, Lord Adonis, asked about the borrowing cap. I will give him more details in a letter, if I may, but work is progressing on that, with examples in Brighton and Hove and in Stoke. It is beginning to happen, but it is early days; I will enlarge on that in a letter. He referred also to the general position on constitutional reform, for which a case could certainly be made. He also asked about the issue of mayors and police and crime commissioners, which I think I have covered.

My noble friend Lord Inglewood also talked about the great European cities and the global nature of London. Many people referred to the growing imbalance in Britain and the centralisation. It is true of France, to some extent, but it is possibly greater in Britain. Part of that is just because of the global nature of London, which it would be very difficult to do anything about even if we wanted to. We do need to encourage the provincial dynamism that he spoke about; it was a point very well made.

My noble friend Lord Haselhurst, with his great experience of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Birmingham and, more recently, Saffron Walden and north Essex, recognised how valuable it is to seek to ensure that we get a rebalancing within the country and have local power going to our great cities and, indeed, beyond, throughout England.

The noble Baroness, Lady Quin, spoke powerfully about what is going on in Gateshead, as did my noble friend Lord Horam. In terms of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums, where she does so much, she recognised that the current structure does not make sense. Anything that we are able to do in a pragmatic way to make it work more effectively would be really welcomed.

The noble Lord, Lord Storey, who has roots in Liverpool, referred powerfully to the situation in Toxteth and how that was turned round, so that now one goes to Liverpool and there is a great sense of pride about the Albert Dock, the cathedrals and Toxteth. It has changed massively and, although there are still challenges, it is very different from how it was previously.

The noble Lord, Lord Butler, gave a great welcome to the report. He talked about putting someone in charge, which is a theme that came across and with which many agree. He had doubts about a department for the regions and talked about the dangers of silo thinking, which I think we all recognise. He also talked about the focus on Brexit, which has meant that we have not paid attention to other things, and indicated that there is a “fertile field for enthusiasm”. That is a message to carry forward and I thank him very much.

My noble friend Lady Eaton talked about councils being best placed to deliver for local people. Again, that theme came through.

The noble Lord, Lord Desai, perhaps gave this more of a Brexit spin. I am not sure that I agree with him totally that Brexit is an English crisis. For example, Wales voted almost the same way as England. That is not something I am happy with, but it is a fact of life, so it is a little bit wider than that.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, talked about the energy of my noble friend Lord Heseltine and how he brought this issue to bear, which has been a mission for him through the years—and thank goodness for that. He had some very valid points about traffic situations. Again, I recognise that from Wales, where if you wanted to get a speed limit changed in a village you had to wait for an accident and pray that there was not going to be too serious an accident before you could do it. That has all changed and is very much better.

My noble friend Lord Horam talked about his experience from Preston, Gateshead and, more recently, Orpington, and the importance of putting someone in charge and having drive at the centre.

The noble Lord, Lord Hunt, welcomed what we are seeking to do and, though not necessarily agreeing with all that was in the report, talked about the importance of a new financial settlement. I agree with that. Clearly, it is going to be a matter for a spending review and the new Government, but these things will come with a price tag. It is not just about the money, but money will be needed for much of this. I have dealt with the point on the Commonwealth Games and the tourist tax.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, made valid points, some of which we have been dealing with in the public lavatories legislation, such as the position in Saltaire and Bradford. He talked about how we need to break the logjam in Yorkshire, not least because the area he represents and is from is unrepresented by a metro mayor—my personal view is that that is not a desirable situation—and an impasse exists in South Yorkshire. He asked about the shared prosperity fund. I fear this is the usual line, but there is no change on it; it will be a matter for the spending review. It will obviously take into account the interests of different parts of the country and seek to ensure that those which most need the shared prosperity fund—perhaps those which previously benefited from cohesion funding—will continue to receive benefits.

Lastly, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for the points he raised. I agree with much, but not all, of what he said. As usual, he made some very good points. He spoke about the transformative changes brought about in Docklands in London, which is absolutely true. I should perhaps say in parenthesis that, in Wales, something similar happened with the Cardiff Bay development, which Nicholas Edwards, the late Lord Crickhowell, took forward. The docklands in Cardiff is a larger area than the docklands in London, but the project has been similarly transformative.

With that, I thank noble Lords very much. I will write to answer points of detail that I have missed, but I once again thank my noble friend Lord Heseltine for ensuring that we have had such a great debate. This must be a rare occasion on which there are probably more people in the Moses Room than in the Chamber of the House. That is another tribute to him.

Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications, Deemed Applications, Requests and Site Visits) (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2019

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Monday 15th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the Committee’s attention to my relevant registered interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. As noble Lords have heard, these regulations will remove the sunset clause to enable fees to be charged beyond the date the noble Lord referred to and introduce an additional £96 fee for prior approval applications for larger new extensions.

As far as they go, I am very happy to support the regulations. The increases in fees in recent times have generally been welcome, but it is still fair to say that planning departments are still being subsidised by the local council tax payer. We should try to eliminate that over a period of time. I agree very much with the comments of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, who asked how the £96 fee was arrived at. It would be good to hear that from the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, because it is a fair point that there are different associated costs across the country. How was this one figure reached? I look forward to hearing that.

I have mentioned many times during these debates that the Government often want to try new things out, such as new pilot schemes. I have asked many times: why can we not find just one volunteer authority to look at full cost recovery of planning fees? Surely we can find just one council in England to do that for us to see whether full cost recovery would work. It might not, and the pilot might show that that is the case, but I cannot see why we cannot find just one council somewhere in England to pilot full cost recovery on planning fees for the Government to see what effect it has. We hear lots of stuff about planning, most of it a load of old nonsense about how planning committees and planning departments are holding up all this housebuilding. It is absolutely rubbish. Was it 300,000 applications without a brick being laid? I know that the noble Lord did not say that, but we read this rubbish all over the place. I do not see why we cannot look at full cost recovery and at how it is not the planning regime, the council or the planning committees holding up housebuilding.

Having said that, I have no objection at all to the regulations. I am very happy to approve them and I look forward to the noble Lord’s response to the few points that I and the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, have raised.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, and the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for their contributions on the issue of planning fees. I seek to deal with their points in the order they were raised.

I thank the noble Baroness for her general welcome of the 20% increase, which has certainly made a difference to the running of planning departments up and down the country. She rightly referred to the use of prior approval for larger, single-storey, rear-of-house extensions. In the two years up to March 2019 there were just over 52,900 prior approval applications for such extensions of which 81% proceeded. That indicates the importance of the £96 cost.

Both the noble Baroness and the noble Lord asked how that cost was arrived at. I referred to the fact that some applications already attracted it. I will not go through the whole list as it is quite long, but I will give a sample and ensure that I send the full list to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord. Here are some examples: the erection of an agricultural building; the method of demolition of a building; development consisting of the erection or construction of a click-and-collect facility within the curtilage of a shop; the temporary use of buildings or land and the associated temporary structures for the purpose of commercial filmmaking; the installation, alteration or replacement of solar photovoltaic equipment on the roofs of non-domestic buildings; the change in use of buildings or land from offices in class B1(a)—the list goes on. I accept that the question of how the figure of £96 was arrived at remains but I hope that the fact that it is the consistent amount charged for so many different applications is helpful for the noble Baroness and the noble Lord. I will ensure that it is assessed.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, asked about the quality of developments. As I indicated, permitted development rights are delivering additional, much-needed new homes. Of course, all homes are required to meet building regulations right across the board, including in respect of fire safety. We expect all homes to be of good quality, but we are aware of concerns raised about certain developments. That is why we announced in the Spring Statement that we will review permitted development rights for the conversion of buildings to residential use in respect of the quality standards for homes delivered. I think that the noble Baroness made that point relating to Article 4, but I will pick up on it in more detail in a letter; I thank her for what she said.

The noble Baroness and the noble Lord both raised the issue of additional fees. The accelerated planning Green Paper will be issued later this year and will look at some of the issues that were touched on. For example, it could cover the point made quite fairly by the noble Lord about a pilot for full cost recovery, although let us wait to see to what extent; there will certainly be an opportunity to look at that matter.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for his support. I agree that it is important that we get this right and fund planning departments appropriately; they should be funded by planning applications fees, not cross-subsidy, unless that is what councils want, perhaps in addition to putting in extra staff. That remains a possibility but, in principle, we expect the fees to pay for planning departments. I anticipate that the accelerated planning Green Paper, which will be out later this year, will look at that issue.

Once again, I would be grateful to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord if they would allow me to pick up on their points of detail in correspondence.

Non-Domestic Rating (Public Lavatories) Bill [HL]

(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Wednesday 10th July 2019

(1 year, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, first I declare my interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Secondly, I am very happy to support the principle behind this Bill, and the Bill itself, as far as it goes, although, like the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, I might want to explore options for improving it in Committee. The noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, set out what the Bill will achieve, and I will simply say that it clearly seeks to provide 100% mandatory business rate relief.

The closure of public toilets, over many years, is a matter of concern for the general population, particularly those with specific needs—they could be medical needs but are not exclusively so. The lives of an increasing number of people are affected by the state of Britain’s public toilets, such as people with disabilities, or their carers, the infirm, the elderly, or people with babies and young children. People of all ages—as I said earlier—are coping with a range of medical conditions and not finding adequate provision when they are out and about.

We need to be conscious of the ageing profile of our population. We travel more within the country than we used to. Furthermore, Britain welcomes many millions of tourists, and while that is something we want to increase, it adds further pressure on our existing facilities. These sometimes do not give the best impression, for example when you visit a tourist area and find the facilities are non-existent or in a not particularly good state. I was pleased with the progress that has been made—I think this was raised earlier—in making all the toilets at mainline stations free. That is not quite what we have yet but there has certainly been progress.

We should all be concerned about public health, hygiene and environmental standards in respect of toilet facilities. I agree very much with the British Toilets Association and its campaign to improve these essential facilities. If this measure helps—as I am sure it will—I very much welcome it.

Will the Minister, set out how this measure will increase the provision of facilities for women and for particular user groups such as wheelchair users, the elderly and people with young children and families who have medical conditions? The way in which the Bill is designed does not do that: there is a blanket exemption. Perhaps we should explore in Committee what we can do. The noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, made a powerful case highlighting the needs of disabled people. What problem would there be in saying that investing in more facilities for disabled people, young children and families, should attract double relief? What is the issue there? That would be a way of encouraging provision for disabled people, for example. These things need to be looked at in Committee.

The noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, made a very good point about lavatories in libraries, town halls and other public sites. I accept the point about hereditaments, but we should explore whether we could do something in that regard, because these are important facilities. Another issue is better security provisions—ensuring that these facilities are safe and secure.

The noble Lord—again, as a sort of aside—referred to the Can’t Wait card. That is a very good initiative; it is disappointing to pass places with signs telling you that you are not welcome if you want to use the toilet, and that you need to go somewhere else. That is not a friendly way of operating.

I also agree with the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. I know the area a little—though not as well as he does—and the problem that he describes. I was in Stratford-upon-Avon at the weekend and I tried to find a public toilet. I found the sign indicating the public toilets but could not find them. In the end I went into the theatre and used the facilities there. I could not find the public toilets, yet the place is teeming with tourists; there are coaches and people going up and down the road. It seemed to me that people were operating on the basis that people will use the facilities at coffee-shops, pubs and restaurants. That did not seem to be a particularly good way to operate.

I support the Bill: I will certainly think about tabling some amendments in Committee, perhaps along the lines we heard from the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire. We may be able to improve the Bill, narrow in scope as it is.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in the debate on this important Bill. I do not accept for a minute that it is a small, unimportant Bill. It is a short Bill, certainly, but I think it has significance, so I do not understand the reference to it being a mouse of a Bill. It will take a substantial amount of public spending to help keep public lavatories open.

Let me deal with the various points made by noble Lords who participated and who gave a warm welcome to the principle of the Bill. I say in passing that this goes further than the provision in the Bill of 2017 that fell with the general election, in that it is mandatory. Secondly, there was a promise by the Chancellor in the Budget Statement 2018 that we would do this in relation to self-standing public lavatories. The reason we have not gone beyond that is one of cost and resource. I am happy to engage with noble Lords before Committee to go through that. It is not just a question of the relief itself, but the fact that we have to assess all these different properties to assess what would be the stand-alone cost of the public lavatory, and that is a massive undertaking which would be costly and time-consuming. I am conscious of the fact that there may be some urgency in relation to this measure—not just doing it quickly because it is desirable, but in terms of the days in which we live and the desirability of getting this legislation through.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, very much for her general welcome. She mentioned Cornwall. I was in Cornwall last Thursday, Friday and Saturday and because I knew this was coming I had the opportunity to discuss it with people in museums, particularly in Helston. I remember stopping there to find six public lavatories in a fairly small town—admittedly with tourist visitors. Cornwall is not an incredibly wealthy area, yet they had six public lavatories. They welcomed this because it will help some, if not all, of the public lavatories, which I think would be separately accessed. So I do not quite recognise the picture the noble Baroness was painting of Cornwall. I was variously in Redruth, Truro, Falmouth, Helston and Saltash, where the provision seemed to me perfectly adequate and probably beyond adequate, so far as I could see. Certainly, all those communities are far smaller than Kirklees.

I am not totally familiar with the position in Huddersfield, but I believe there are shopping centres, where there is presumably provision of lavatories. They are valued, in so far as shopping centres are concerned. There are technical reasons for this, but the rate that attaches to the public lavatory is very low because it is factored in with the shops in the shopping centre. I assume that that is the case. I do not know the position at Huddersfield railway station, although it is not so long since I was there because it has one of the most marvellous facades in the country.

We have to recognise that we are living in a different world. For example, I referred to the ability to check on a mobile phone where the nearest lavatory is. I do not know whether the noble Lord tried this when he was finding difficulties in Stratford-upon-Avon, but it is well worth doing. Yes, I think we need to publicise it far more than we do, but it is a very easy way of finding the nearest lavatory, wherever one happens to be in the country. There are many more shopping centres than there used to be, and many more coffee bars. I am not saying that that is the sum total of where we need to be, but it is a changing world. That was not the world we were in even 10 years ago—certainly not 20 years ago. We need to recognise that circumstances change. As I say, the principal reasons we are not going further than we are—and this has an annual cost of £6 million—are the cost and resourcing, particularly in getting it done quickly.

I thank the noble and learned Lord, Lord Hope, very much indeed for his contribution. His experience here, his knowledge of the complicated situation and of where we are, is welcome. I was very interested in the legal tourism possibilities, and noted down that the lavatories at Westminster could perhaps be a stop-off point between Sayers v Harlow Urban District Council, which I think was a case of false imprisonment in a public lavatory, and Hightrees House in Clapham, which had nothing to do with lavatories but was a significant case. Some very interesting possibilities of legal tourism open up which we could perhaps engage in on another occasion. The noble and learned Lord made the point about rail stations, airports, shopping centres and so on; the challenge of extending it is an economic one.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas of Winchester, a doughty campaigner for the rights of disabled people, for her contribution. I will very happily make officials available to talk through the consultation we are currently holding. I extend that offer to other noble Lords who may want come along and talk to officials; I hope that they will participate in our consultation on changing places and toilet provision. I note, as I said in opening, that this rating relief will of course allow the reopening of lavatories—or, indeed, the building of completely new lavatories if they are self-standing—to attract the rating relief. I know that some councils have closed the buildings where there are stand-alone lavatories, and they remain boarded up. That may well be a possibility. I can also think of councils up and down the country whose reason for closures has not necessarily been just about the cost. Often, as noble Lords will appreciate and agree, it has been about drug use and other factors. That also needs to be said.

Perhaps implicit in what noble Lords have said—in fairness, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, who is always fair, said this too—is that this did not just happen overnight. I took down what he said; I think he said it has happened “over many years”. That is indeed true. This did not suddenly happen when we got a Conservative Government in 2015. I do not have figures, but, in so far as I have been able to get some figures about closures, this has been happening for a long time, so it does not stand up that this has been brought about by the suggestion of Gradgrinds in 2015. That is not remotely the case.

I will happily look at the issue raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Thomas, of the audit of accessible facilities. I do not know how easy that will be to do, but, when we discuss this with officials, we can look at it if that would be helpful.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, very much indeed. He is always quite rightly fighting for his community and the legacy of Titus Salt. I think that Salts Mill and the Hockney Museum are free entry and open seven days a week, and that the lavatories there are essentially open to the public.

Homes for Social Rent

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 2nd July 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I know better than to try to stop the noble Lord doing just that. I am keen to associate myself with that during what, as he rightly says, is Rural Housing Week. We do this already, although I recognise the challenges, having represented a deeply rural area. We do already have rural exceptions and provide weighting for housing developments because of the small and medium-sized enterprises prevalent in rural areas. The noble Lord is absolutely right: we need to do more.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant interests in the register. Does the Minister support an increase in the number of co-operative housing schemes? If so, what support do he and his department give to local authorities and others to increase the number of schemes year on year?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I know the noble Lord is very wedded to this and I am certainly happy to look at it. If he has specific schemes that he wants me to look at, I will very gladly do that with him. We have to be much more open-minded and diverse in forms of supply across the board. Certainly, the Co-operative movement and co-operative housing have a lot to offer in this regard.

Non-Domestic Rating (Preparation for Digital Services) Bill

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 11th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I make my usual declaration of my relevant interest a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I am very happy to support this two-clause Bill and the general principle of the digitisation of tax payments and services, making them simpler for businesses and individuals. Making things easier for business is to be welcomed, and I know that this is paving legislation, but perhaps the Minister could confirm the intention behind it. Can he confirm that nothing in the Bill will change the role of local authorities as a billing authority? I think it is quite important to get that on the record.

Again, I accept that this is paving, but we have to be clear about the principle. When this is finally resolved, we must have an efficient process of transfer of payments from HMRC to local authorities. I would not want to see us here in a couple of years’ time discussing a situation where local authorities are worse off because the system in place has made things more difficult for them. I am also conscious that what local authorities call for can imply a whole range of discounts and amendments to the system. We need to make sure when we design the system that all this is taken into account.

I did have two or three questions for the Minister, but he answered them all in his introduction. I was very happy with the answers in his initial speech, so I have no questions at all for the Minister. I am so grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Lytton, who demonstrated the importance of expertise in this House. I am confident that there will not have been that level of scrutiny in the other place. A number of points raised by the noble Earl were very valuable; I am sure the Minister will respond to those. When further Bills come to us to implement all this in more detail, I am sure that the noble Earl’s expertise will be valuable once again. If we are going to make these changes, we have to get them right; this will involve computers, IT and digital, and we always worry about that, about what we are designing. We need to make these things better and more efficient for business and for local government. But, in principle, I fully support the Bill.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank noble Lords who have participated in this debate. I am most grateful for the support of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, and the noble Earl, Lord Lytton. I understand the concerns that they have raised. I sought in my opening remarks to provide the reassurance that this is simply paving legislation to enable HMRC to explore options and to firm up a proposal that will then have to come back to us. Further legislation will be needed to implement the new digital system and it is perhaps then that the detailed scrutiny that we have been touching on will become appropriate.

I will ensure that the noble Earl gets a detailed response to the questions he has asked, both today and when he wrote to me. I had prepared answers, but when I first saw the speakers’ list I do not think he was on it, so I was reassured and did not prepare my speech on the basis of answering some of his questions. However, I will ensure that he gets a detailed response to his very good points.

I thank the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for her support. To reiterate her point, this is enabling legislation. It is important that we involve all the stakeholders in looking at the possible options before we come back with the design that will then be voted on.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, very much. It is not often that I show that degree of prescience and foresight, but clearly something was working when I was developing the speech earlier. Again, I reassure him that we will ensure that a detailed proposal comes forward after being honed by HMRC. It is important not to put HMRC in the dock here; this is something that business has been asking us to look at because it wants to remove some of these administrative burdens. Businesses—representative as they are of individuals, as the noble Earl said—have asked us to do this. HMRC is responding to that call and we will look at its proposals in detail. I am most grateful for the comments made and I commend the Bill to the House.

Grenfell Response

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Monday 10th June 2019

(1 year, 3 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, with the permission of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made in another place by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Statement is as follows:

“Mr Speaker, I wish to make a Statement on the Government’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire. I am also writing to the chair of the Select Committee to provide a formal report on progress, a copy of which will be placed in the Library of the House. But before I begin, I would like to take a moment to thank all those who responded to the serious fire in Barking, east London, yesterday afternoon. The London Borough of Barking and Dagenham provided emergency accommodation for those residents who needed it, and we will continue to work with the council to ensure that residents receive the support they need at this most difficult time. While the cause of the fire has yet to be confirmed, I have asked the Building Research Establishment to investigate the fire, working with the London Fire Brigade. I have also asked the independent expert panel on wider fire safety issues to provide urgent advice to the Government. We will take account of the findings of the investigation and the advice of the panel in our further work on reviewing the fire safety guidance. The local authority and the building owners are reviewing fire safety for the rest of the development, and I remain in close contact with the London Fire Brigade. I will also be visiting the community later today.

As we mark two years since the devastating events of 14 June 2017, I know the whole House will join me in remembrance and solidarity with the people of north Kensington. I want them to know that this House is behind them in honouring the loved ones they lost, in helping those left behind to heal and rebuild their lives, and in our determination to ensure that nothing like this can ever happen again.

This unprecedented disaster has been met with an unprecedented response across government, our public services, local government and the voluntary sector. I am hugely thankful to everyone involved, especially our emergency services and the public and voluntary sectors. In total, we have spent over £46 million of national government funds and committed a further £55 million to help meet rehousing costs, reimburse the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea for Grenfell site management costs, deliver new health and well-being services, and deliver improvements to the Lancaster West Estate. More than £27.8 million of the nearly £29 million raised through the generosity of the British public has also now been distributed, thanks to the Charity Commission. Those affected are also getting vital support from the NHS, with a further £50 million committed over the next five years to addressing long-term physical and mental health needs. To date, nearly 8,000 health screenings have been completed, including for more than 900 children, with over 2,700 individuals receiving or having received treatment for trauma, including over 600 children.

We are determined to make sure that those affected remain at the heart of the response to this tragedy. That is why my right honourable friend the Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner continues to meet families regularly in his role as the Grenfell Victims’ Minister. It is why the Prime Minister recently appointed two new panel members for phase two of the Grenfell Tower public inquiry, to make sure it has the necessary diversity of skills and experience. And it is why the community will be pivotal to decisions about the long-term future of the site as the Government take ownership of this to ensure sensitivities are respected, and they are fully engaged in additional environmental checks after concerns were raised.

Testing has started to assess any risks to health. We will ensure that all appropriate action is taken. One of our biggest priorities has been rehousing the 201 households who lost their homes, with the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea acquiring over 300 homes to meet their needs and provide choice. I am pleased that all 201 households have accepted permanent or temporary homes, with 184 households in permanent accommodation and 14 in good-quality temporary homes. This represents significant progress since last year, but I am concerned that three households remain in emergency accommodation, including one in a hotel. I have asked the Independent Grenfell Recovery Taskforce, which was set up to ensure that the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea better supports residents and rebuilds trust, to look into this. I have been assured that the council is taking an appropriate and sensitive approach, given the complex needs of these households, to find the right long-term solution for each of them.

A new home is undoubtedly an important step on the road to recovery, and it is vital that this is reinforced by long-term support such as the recovery services co-designed by the council in partnership with the community and local health partners. It is essential that we build on this collaboration, with the council listening and the community being heard. That is fundamental to laying the foundations for a new and stronger partnership between residents and those who serve them.

Central to this relationship, and indeed to so much of the work flowing from the fire, is the need to rebuild trust. Above all, this means ensuring that people are safe, and feel safe, in their homes. With that in mind, Members will be aware that we launched a consultation last week on proposals to implement meaningful reform to our building and fire safety regulatory systems following the independent review led by Dame Judith Hackitt. It will provide a clear focus on responsibility and accountability and give residents a stronger voice to achieve the enduring change that is needed. Alongside this, the Government have also launched a call for evidence on the fire safety order to determine what changes may be required to strengthen it. This follows the recent launch of a new fund to expedite remediation of buildings with unsafe ACM cladding in the private sector and protect leaseholders, adding up to a £600 million commitment from the Government to make buildings in both the private and social sectors safe.

This builds on other significant measures we have undertaken, such as a ban on combustible cladding, a review of the building regulations fire safety guidance—Approved Document B—and tests on non-ACM materials not only to keep people safe now but also to fundamentally transform the way we build in the future, through legislation, yes, but more crucially through a change in culture. But I know that we must continue to challenge on what more needs to be done.

People living in buildings like Grenfell Tower need to trust that there can be no repeat of what happened that night, to trust that the state understands their lives and is working for them. That is why the social housing Green Paper, published last year, and the new deal it sets out for people living in social housing matter so much. My thanks go to the many residents who engaged with us on this for their invaluable contribution. We are assessing the consultation responses and finalising our response. The deal it proposes aims to rebalance the relationship between residents and landlords, address stigma and ensure that homes are safe and decent. In addition to our drive, backed by billions, to boost the supply of social housing, it is a deal that promises to renew our commitment to people in social housing, ensuring that everyone, no matter where they live, has the security, dignity and opportunities they need to build a better life.

This, ultimately, is what we hope for for the bereaved and survivors and for the strong, proud people of north Kensington, who have shown us the power of community. They, and we, will never, ever forget those who died in the most horrific circumstances.

I know that the pain of that loss continues as they wait for answers and to see justice done as the police investigation and public inquiry continue their important work. But they should know that they are not alone. The Government, this House and, indeed, our whole country will always have a stake in the future of Grenfell. I have every faith that this remarkable community, working in partnership, will move forward, rebuild and emerge even stronger. I commend this Statement to the House”.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, for repeating the Statement given by his right honourable friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup in the other place earlier today. I refer the House to my relevant interests as a vice-president of the Local Government Association.

I join the noble Lord in paying tribute to the London fire brigade, the other emergency services and the staff of the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham for the way they responded to yesterday’s fire. They are true public servants, one and all, and we owe them our thanks and gratitude for the exemplary way they carry out their duties.

I welcome the reviews referred to in the Statement, but more needs to be done to ensure that the regulations in force are fit for purpose, and this needs to be done urgently. While progress has been made in many areas, and is to be welcomed, things are generally moving too slowly. Perhaps the noble Lord could tell the House what he is doing to inject more speed into matters.

I join the noble Lord and others in remembering those who lost their lives on that terrible night two years ago, and I am thinking of those who were injured and their families and friends. I also pay tribute to all the emergency services, the local authority staff, civil servants, the faith communities and the community at large in north Kensington, who have done so much to get people back on their feet.

What have the Government learned over the past two years to ensure that the initial response from the local authority, which failed two years ago, will not happen again? Specifically, I am concerned about the department’s thinking, as opposed to any recommendations that will come out of the public inquiry. That thinking will, I am sure, have played some role in how events last night in Barking and Dagenham were dealt with. It would be good if the noble Lord could update the House.

I was pleased to note that the honourable Member for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner meets regularly with the families. Can the noble Lord tell the House when was the last time the Secretary of State sat down with the families and others in the community for a formal discussion, as opposed to the event today in Speaker’s House? When did the Secretary of State last meet both the leader of the council, Councillor Elizabeth Campbell, and the chief executive, Mr Barry Quirk?

Clearly progress has been made in finding people new accommodation, but we need to get the remaining households into permanent accommodation as quickly as possible. It is now two years since the fire, and a new permanent home is an important milestone on the road to recovery.

In respect of the consultation launched last week, does the noble Lord accept that there is some urgency here? Across the country, people living in blocks of flats want to see action. I have no doubt at all about the good intention but, as I said, it is the pace of change and reform that concerns me.

The Statement referred to the social housing Green Paper, and I was surprised to hear reference to the need to “address stigma”. I grew up on a council estate and see no stigma about it whatever. Council estates are full of law-abiding, hard-working citizens. My parents always paid their taxes and their rent, and they worked hard. I do not see the stigma there. What worries me is that, if that is the Government’s view, how is it impacting government policy? It would be good to hear the noble Lord’s view on that.

I also want to make reference to the position of the blocks that are in private hands. We need to make urgent progress with the recladding programme. I was obviously pleased that the Government announced additional funding, but will we get to the point when, if progress is not sufficiently quick, we will name the owners of the blocks with dangerous cladding? Will we set a deadline for when the work needs to be done—say, September this year or some time early next year? Are the Government considering giving additional powers to local authorities under the Housing Act 2004 to include fines or other action if the owners of these blocks are not moving quickly enough? Where blocks are not being dealt with quickly enough, will the Government consider allowing local authorities to apply for that funding to actually do the work? We need to ensure that people are safe. It would be good to get a response from the noble Lord on those points.

What about other public buildings with dangerous cladding, such as schools and hospitals? What are we doing there?

I understand fully that the noble Lord may not be able to answer all my questions, but I am sure he will respond to me in writing, as he normally does.

Council Funding

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 4th June 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord’s Question refers to the Institute for Fiscal Studies report, which I have read. The authors of the report, Neil Amin-Smith and David Phillips, are fair in acknowledging some of the things that we have done with regard to local government spending—for example, they cite a 10% increase in children’s social services. But the noble Lord is right in that there has been a reduction in other areas. The report canvasses the possibility of a local income tax, but I do not think that that is the way forward, and nor does my party. However, I am sure that the noble Lord would want to acknowledge that there is much innovation. He referred to libraries—a subject which I know is close to his heart. In Warrington, for example, hubs provide library services with other services, which is an innovative way of improving the service. That has also happened in Leeds and in other areas. I think that that is the way forward.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I again refer the House to my relevant registered interest. Can the noble Lord tell the House why he thinks that so many councils are struggling to deliver services, one of the most serious examples being the difficulties faced by Northamptonshire County Council?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I readily acknowledge that there are challenges, but it is important to say that many facets indicate that things are improving. We know—the Chancellor has said—that we have ended austerity, and the comprehensive spending review is around the corner. It is also the case, as I am sure the noble Lord will acknowledge, that the last settlement was a good settlement. The noble Lord, Lord Porter, acknowledged as much, and other people in other parties have done the same. Innovation is a way of improving services and so too are some central government grants for such things as the Future High Streets Fund, Stronger Towns funding and so on, which do not go through local government but directly to the towns concerned.

Housing: Social Rent

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 4th June 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I think my noble friend is referring to the policy initiative of the leader of the Opposition, and I tend to agree that that will not help solve the problem. We are intent on getting the balance right and ensuring that, in tenancies, there are the right measures to deal with disreputable landlords. However, the compulsory purchase of people’s property is not the way forward.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. How many homes for social rent have been lost since 2015 by the conversion to the affordable rent model?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I do not have that specific figure to hand, but I will write to the noble Lord with it. As I have indicated, it is important that we build more homes for social rent, and we are intent on doing that outside London. Within London, there will be provision of affordable homes at the level of social rents; that is part of the programme and we are delivering that with the Greater London Authority.

Homelessness

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 21st May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, my noble friend is absolutely right: this is a key feature of our housing provision, not just to take pressure off London and the big conurbations but because of the need for housing generally. There is significant development in the Oxford-Cambridge arc, where we are spending a lot of money, and elsewhere as well. If I may, I will update him and ensure that a letter on the current progress of all the towns and villages is placed in the Library.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my relevant interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. My noble friend Lord McNicol has raised a really important issue. What are the Government doing to tackle child homelessness, as living in insecure accommodation as a child will negatively affect their mental health, emotional well-being and schooling?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord raises a fair point. He is right about the issues around child poverty and child homelessness, which is a particular concern for the Government. That is why, in relation to welfare spending, we are keen that money is directed to those households with children, to make sure that they are able to gain a home. It remains a key priority. If I may, I will write to him on the suite of policies to tackle this across other government departments, because it is an area where we have concerns.

Domestic Abuse

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 14th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement on domestic abuse made yesterday by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I should like to make a Statement to the House today on a consultation on a new, sustainable approach to delivering support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in accommodation-based services across England.

Domestic abuse is a devastating crime experienced by more than 2 million adults a year, with women twice as likely to be victims. This is completely unacceptable, and we have much more to do if we are to reach a point where no family lives with the threat of domestic abuse.

Domestic abuse can take many forms and affects the young and old, male and female. But whoever the victim, those fleeing abuse must have somewhere safe to go. Just last year, we announced £22 million to provide more than 2,220 new beds in refuges and other safe accommodation, supporting more than 25,000 survivors with a safe space to rebuild their lives, but I know that more must be done to ensure a consistent approach across the country to ensure that survivors have a safer future.

At the 2017 general election, the Prime Minister made a manifesto commitment to review funding for refuges. The Ending Violence Against Women and Girls strategy for 2016-20 set out our ambition to provide support for refuges and other accommodation-based services, helping local areas ensure that no victim is turned away from the support they require at the time of need. We also committed to reviewing the locally led approach to commissioning of domestic abuse services.

To meet these commitments, in January 2018 we began a full review of the funding and commissioning of domestic abuse services in England. We have worked closely with sector partners, drawing on their data, expertise and knowledge. This review complements wider government work on tackling this devastating crime and supporting victims, including our new domestic abuse Bill.

Through the course of the review, we have engaged with specialist domestic abuse service providers and their representative bodies, local authorities, police and crime commissioners and other organisations which support victims to fully understand the challenges in commissioning and delivering these vital services and the positive features of the current system. We are grateful for their engagement and extensive input into our work.

We know that there are dedicated professionals delivering support to victims and their children in accommodation-based services across England. This support helps victims move from danger and abuse to safety and independence, and their children to regain their childhoods, and includes the vital work of service managers and support staff, counsellors, outreach workers and play therapists. But we also know that we need to do more to ensure that all victims and their children can access this support at the right time, underpinned by a sustainable approach to providing it.

We understand that victims and their children will live in a variety of different forms of safe accommodation and will need support to stay safe and rebuild their lives in all of them. This includes outreach support to remain safe in properties with enhanced security measures, in emergency or temporary accommodation, in dispersed accommodation and in refuges.

While refuge plays a critical role in supporting those victims at high risk of serious harm, we have deliberately kept our definition of “accommodation-based” wide to include the full range of safe accommodation in which victims and their children may require support. This will help local areas meet the support needs of diverse groups of victims and their children and those at lower and medium risk to prevent their needs escalating.

Having reviewed the current system and listened to the views of expert stakeholders, I am today proposing new, local authority-led arrangements for delivering support to victims of domestic abuse and their children in accommodation-based services in England.

Our proposals would place a new statutory duty on upper-tier local authorities—county councils, metropolitan and unitary authorities and, in the case of London, the Greater London Authority—to convene a local partnership board for domestic abuse accommodation support services. The local partnership board should include representation from police and crime commissioners, health bodies, children’s services and housing providers, along with specialist domestic abuse service providers. The board would be required to assess need for domestic abuse services, develop domestic abuse strategies, commission services to meet the support needs of victims and their children and report progress to MHCLG.

In two-tier areas, lower-tier local authorities—city, district and borough councils and, in this instance, London boroughs—will have a significant role to play in contributing to needs assessments, strategy development, service commissioning and reporting on progress. Authorities in those areas would be subject to a statutory duty to co-operate with the local partnership board.

To support local authorities and local partnership boards to meet these new requirements, I am proposing that we should produce new statutory guidance, making our expectations clear. This new approach will be backed by funding from the Government to ensure that services are put on a sustainable, long-term footing. This will be determined through the forthcoming spending review and informed by the consultation.

I want to safeguard provision of support, clarify expectations of governance and accountability, ensure that needs assessments are undertaken, and enhance our understanding of service provision across England through monitoring and reporting. I also want to ensure that the diverse needs of all victims and their children are met, including those with protected characteristics.

This is part of a wider government drive to tackle domestic abuse and end this pernicious crime for good. Our domestic abuse Bill, published in January this year, is the most comprehensive package ever to tackle domestic abuse. We have also brought in a new offence to capture coercive and controlling behaviour, and new domestic abuse protection orders will allow police and courts to intervene earlier.

It is our duty to ensure that victims and survivors can receive help by providing the support they need to transform their lives and move to safety and independence. Through this consultation, I want to hear views on our proposals from victims and survivors, service providers, local authorities, housing providers and other public agencies, as well as professionals who support victims and children every day.

I believe that my announcement today will provide much-needed help to ensure that more victims and their families better overcome their experiences and move on to live full and independent lives. The consultation will run from today until 2 August 2019. A copy of the consultation document will be placed in the House Library”.

My Lords, that concludes the Statement.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the House’s attention to my relevant registered interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement delivered yesterday in the other place by the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup.

I welcome the announcement. Many people deserve credit for the Government taking this step, but I think that the survivors of domestic abuse, who have campaigned for this and shown real courage and strength, are to be congratulated on the progress made to deal with this disgusting and appalling crime. While men are sometimes the victims, most victims are women, often suffering years of sustained, horrific abuse.

There are several questions still to be answered by the Government to ensure that this announcement delivers what it is intended to. Funding will be a huge issue. Without adequate funding, this policy will fail. At this stage, what is the Minister’s estimate of the likely cost of the new legal duty, and will the Government provide these funds? I ask this in the context of the £8 billion funding gap for local authorities in England by 2025.

Why is this announcement wholly focused on crisis-point intervention? What about early intervention? I welcome the idea of local partnership boards. Getting all the agencies together to deal with the issue across the broad spectrum of services and interventions is very welcome.

However, I was less impressed with the reply to my Parliamentary Question from the Minister’s noble friend, the noble Baroness, Lady Blackwood of North Oxford. I tabled a Question on 11 April and received a Written Answer on 29 April. It was about GPs charging domestic abuse survivors outrageous sums of money to write letters confirming that they are victims of domestic abuse. Clearly, no progress has been made on getting these charges banned. I will keep raising the issue until they are banned, because there is a real risk that we cannot help victims here if we do not get this right.

The Statement says:

“I also want to ensure that the diverse needs of all victims and their children are met”,

and that,

“I know that more must be done to ensure a consistent approach across the country to ensure that survivors have a safer future”.

Victims of domestic abuse are now in a postcode lottery. They can be charged for these letters in one area and not in another. That is not good enough. Will the Minister confirm that the guidance that is to be issued will make it clear that such charges are unacceptable until we can bring forward a Bill to ensure that they are abandoned entirely? We also need a greater focus on social rather than affordable housing and further support for refuges, a fifth of which have closed since 2010. Can the Minister also confirm that police officers dealing with domestic abuse will form part of the partnership board? They can bring valuable experience of helping to deal with the issues faced by victims seeking to get to a place of safety.

In conclusion, I welcome the announcement, but we need to see much more in terms of funding, policy change and legislation from the Government if we are to tackle this sickening crime—one that is committed by the very person who should be supporting and protecting you. As the Prime Minister said:

“Whoever you are, wherever you live and whatever the abuse you face, you will have access to the services you need to be safe”.

Social Housing: Older People

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Thursday 9th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, on behalf of my noble friend Lady Kennedy of Cradley, and with her permission, I beg leave to ask the Question standing in her name on the Order Paper. In doing so, I draw the attention of the House to my relevant interests as a vice-president of the Local Government Association and as a trustee of the United St Saviour’s Charity in Southwark, which provides social housing for older people.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord on so ably stepping into the breach. The Government have made £9 billion available through the affordable homes programme to March 2022 to deliver new affordable homes of a range of tenures, including social rent and supported housing. Supported housing, including sheltered housing, plays a vital role in the lives of the most vulnerable, including older people. Since 2011, we have delivered 34,000 units of specialist and other supported housing for disabled, vulnerable and older people.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark - Hansard

My Lords, what plans do the Government have to support calls for the lifetime homes standard to be mandatory for at least some, if not all, social housing built in future? That would enable people to stay in their homes longer, help them to remain independent and save money on future aids and adaptions.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord is right to concentrate on that standard. He will know that Part M of the building regulations is about to be reviewed; we have touched on it previously. We very much hope that will be tightened for its requirements for disabled and older people. That will help to inform the sort of progress that we are all keen to make.

Architects Act 1997 (Swiss Qualifications) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Wednesday 8th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, for explaining to us the purpose of the regulations before us today. I do not intend to detain the House for very long, and I am very happy to support the regulations as far as they go. However, I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, that there are many other pressing issues that he and I are keen to get on with. There are many issues—in the department of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, and in others—that we desperately need to get on to. Having said that, I have no particular questions for the noble Lord on the regulations before us. As far as they go, I am content with them.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have responded to this debate. The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, took quite a long while to tell us that he thinks we are wasting our time dealing with this; that was uncharacteristically churlish of him, if I may say so. These regulations are important. This affects only about seven people a year in Switzerland, but it is important that we recognise that there is considerable interest in the United Kingdom in making sure we regularise this position. I am not going to enter into the pantomime knockabout of Brexit. On behalf of my department, I am doing what is responsible for an important sector of the UK economy. We do not want a no-deal scenario, as the noble Lord knows. However, if, God forbid, that happened, and we had not protected these Swiss architects, I would feel very guilty.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, asked why we are not spending time on fire safety. As a Government, and in my department, we have spent an awful lot of time on that. We are in the process of implementing the Hackitt review—I make no apologies for that—and we answer questions on it and debate it. He mentioned homelessness. On Friday, we announced extra money for homelessness, and I answered a Question on it on Thursday. He mentioned climate change. My noble friend Lord Henley, who is present, answered a Question on that yesterday. We are, quite rightly, always answering questions in these very important areas. In spending a short time on this issue, we are not detracting from the importance of those others. We are doing something rather important.

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for his positive response and responsible position. We need to ensure that architects are able to act, and this will be mutually in our interest too: British architects will be able to operate in the EEA countries and in Switzerland.

We have, I think, not taken too long on this important legislation. I beg to move.

Yorkshire: Devolution

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 7th May 2019

(1 year, 4 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, as I have indicated to the House, we are looking at the prospects and possibilities for all of Yorkshire. Discussions are going on with officials about the way forward. I am sure the noble Lord will welcome what has happened in Sheffield, as I know many other Members will. That is very welcome and it is within the context of looking at the wider Yorkshire position that we are moving things forward, which is to be welcomed.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, can I confirm that the Minister is saying that at the end of the term for South Yorkshire, if the authorities want to leave that arrangement they can go into another arrangement in Yorkshire and that the Government will not stand in their way?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I am very happy to confirm that that is the case. If authorities were to leave the Sheffield City Region—the two authorities that have previously had difficulties with that arrangement, say—the city region would carry on with the remaining two. It would still be a viable entity, but we are running ahead of ourselves. There is a commitment within the agreement whose details we are now looking at. We are making progress on that to ensure that it carries on until at least 2022.

Public Conveniences

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Thursday 11th April 2019

(1 year, 5 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for a genuinely important Question. I will pick up two points. First, Changing Places helps with the provision of disabled lavatory facilities. That is important nationwide—we have about 11,000 of them. Secondly, I, too, give a shout out for Pret A Manger, which is helping by making its lavatories available. That is part of community schemes that we are promoting up and down the country. These started in Richmond upon Thames in 2004, where, in addition to public lavatories, local businesses make their lavatories available. That is advertised locally and on apps in the area.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I come from a family of London cab drivers and very much welcome the Question. Does the Minister join me in welcoming the British Toilet Association’s Use Our Loos campaign, where pubs, cafés and other places allow people other than customers to use their toilets? Does he also welcome the trend at some mainline stations, such as London Bridge, Charing Cross and St Pancras, where the toilets are now free? I am waiting for Euston and Waterloo to follow suit.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, on the cabbies’ business, the noble Lord told me how his brother drove past him in his cab the other day—I could well understand his point of view. The noble Lord mentioned the important Use Our Loos campaign, which the British Toilet Association is supportive of—I was going to say “behind”. Unfortunately, it is advertised on its website as an “open doors” campaign—the inverted commas are useful. Seriously, it is a very worthwhile campaign. I have good news on Waterloo. All the mainline stations in London now have free toilet entrance, which is a good thing. The Department for Transport is encouraging other train operators to do similarly.

Greater Manchester Combined Authority (Functions and Amendment) Order 2019

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 2nd April 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my relevant registered interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Like my noble friend Lord Bradley and the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, I very much welcome this order. It is another part of the transfer of powers to the northern powerhouse, to the mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham, and to the combined authority. It will be able to deliver bus franchising, smart ticketing and the multimodal ticketing system that my noble friend talked about.

I was involved in the passage of the Bus Services Act through your Lordships’ House and I am very supportive of bus franchising; the mayor will be able to set the fares, the routes and the timetables and the bus companies can then deliver those services. I think that is a very good way forward and I endorse what my noble friend Lord Bradley said: I hope that the Mayor of Greater Manchester will be able to move forward and introduce bus franchising, which is what people want to see locally.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, raised a number of questions I was going to raise, so I hope he will get a response. They were about the taxation trap—we clearly have the same briefing—and the issue of the oversight committee, so I look forward to the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, on those matters and on the question raised by my noble friend Lord Bradley about bus passes for16 to 18 year-olds. I shall leave the matter there because those points have been raised. As I said, I very much support the introduction of the order, like the other noble Lords who have spoken.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords who have participated in the debate on this important SI. It is worth noting that in the other place there was just one contribution from the Official Opposition, which welcomed the SI and commended the Government for acting very quickly in bringing it forward following the request from Greater Manchester. I am very grateful for that support in the other place.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, rightly referred to the civic pride and sense of togetherness in Manchester, and the rivalry between some of the boroughs and authorities that now make up the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. All that is absolutely true—I was in Manchester recently and saw the strength of the Manchester area. Of course, we were all very conscious of that at the time of the dreadful terrorist attack on the Manchester Arena—the sense of coming together in the area was very strong. I was there recently to launch the ESOL funding programme. There was a very good bid from Manchester and I was very conscious, again, of the sense of coming together and civic pride.

The noble Lord, Lord Stunell, also asked about financial arrangements, particularly in relation to the mayoral precept. It is the position that the mayor makes proposals which can be overturned by a two-thirds vote, which is a veto of seven of the 10 authorities. The noble Lord went on to ask about measures in relation to oversight in this committee. It is a streamlined committee, a fact welcomed by the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, for which I am very grateful. The order reflects the request for flexibility on the membership of the committee. Greater Manchester asked for the reduction to 23 members, and based on what the noble Lord was saying about responding to the bottom-up approach and sensing what is important in the area, we went along with the request. We judged that it is reasonable and will lead, as the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, said, to more streamlined decision-making. I think it maintains—not in the same proportions, I accept—some of the checks and balances that are needed.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Bradley, for saying that transferring powers to the Mayor of Manchester is a step in the right direction. Although the mayor is not of my politics I think that people locally recognise that he has been doing a good job and giving some sense of direction to Manchester. That is a good thing and it is true of all our metro mayors. It is something we should welcome widely and, as the noble Lord rightly said, it opens up possibilities in relation to the franchising schemes and so on as well. I confirm that I think it does underpin the costs of the young people’s passes in relation to the financial settlement.

I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for the welcome he gave to the order; he reiterated some of the questions I hope I have dealt with. This is an important part of the suite of powers that were promised to Manchester: we have been listening to the people of Manchester and responding to what they have asked for, and this represents another step in that journey. I am very grateful to the support given by noble Lords and I beg to move.

Rough Sleeping

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Monday 1st April 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, once again, my noble friend refers to a different aspect of this. He is right that sensitive policing often helps to tackle these issues. I know that police throughout the country are very aware of that. He is also right that there is a complex range of issues, including addiction, which is very much related to rough sleeping. We are intent on trying to deal with that, as we are with other aspects. For example, a lot of people who sleep rough have come from a secure background, sometimes prison and sometimes the Armed Forces. It is a much more complex issue than just the finances, although that is an important part of it.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I refer the House to my registered interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. In addition to the figures that the noble Lord gave about individual change from year to year, could he set out why he believes homelessness has more than trebled since 2010?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord is right that the figures have gone up relentlessly over a period of time, until this last year, which I think was in response to the money that has been invested and the concentration the Government are putting on this. As I indicated in my earlier response, it is a much more complex issue than just the money. It is related to addiction, mental health and people in a secure environment. We are looking at this on a broad front. As the noble Lord will appreciate, it is a very complex problem, but I am pleased that the money we are spending on the rough sleeping initiative and have invested in the rapid rehousing pathway has succeeded in bringing the figures down by assigning, for example, individuals to look after particular people who are rough sleeping to see what is the particular issue for them, because every person is an individual and every case is different.

Property Guardians

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 26th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

I thank the noble Baroness for her interest in this. As far as we can tell, there are 5,000 to 7,000 property guardians—the figure is in that area. It is the case that some protections apply. Under the housing health and safety rating system, certain key rights apply, as do rights relating to electrical safety, gas safety and so on. I agree with the noble Baroness that those rights cannot be overridden by non-disclosure agreements. As I said, we are keen to ensure that existing rights are enforced and are planning work to look at the current position and inform possible further action.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my relevant registered interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Does the Minister think it acceptable that most property guardians must provide their own fire safety equipment when staying in a place as a guardian? Does he agree with the London Fire Brigade, which has raised safety concerns about these dangerous and inadequate arrangements?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I should be grateful to the noble Lord if we could arrange a meeting at which he can raise some of the matters he has just disclosed. As I said, under the housing health and safety rating system, as both tenants and licensees, property guardians have rights in relation to fire and hazards of the first category, which include fire protection. As I said, we are very keen to look at this situation. Some property guardianships are perfectly legitimate but they are not tenancies. For example, if a student looks after a house for a family member or friend in their summer break, that is perfectly acceptable. What is of concern is where the rights of people who are there on a much more permanent basis are overridden; that is what we are looking at.

Housing: Future Homes Standard

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Thursday 21st March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord does much good work in this area, for which I thank him. He makes a powerful case but it is for those reasons that we had the Hackitt review, are holding a review of building regulations and will act as a consequence. Things are moving in that direction. Those are not the only things happening, of course—for example, the ECO places an obligation on energy companies so that energy bills are lower and less carbon energy is used—but they are central. Again, I speak to the importance of document M on accessible housing. The requirement to take account of the interests of people with disabilities and an ageing population is provided for in the NPPF—the planning framework—and the Neighbourhood Planning Act. It is all moving in that direction.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant interests in the register. The Chancellor of the Exchequer told us that he fully supports the need for future-proofed new homes but does not think we should wait until 2025 to tackle energy efficiency and carbon reduction. In that case, can the Minister explain why the Government scrapped the zero-carbon homes plan in 2015, and in 2016, during the passage of the dreaded Housing and Planning Act, opposed the introduction of carbon compliance standards for new homes, which would have helped reduce carbon emissions and given people lower fuel bills?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, first, it is important to note that the energy standard for new homes has improved by more than 30% since 2010, reducing energy bills by £200 per annum per household on average. That is indicative of the progress made. The noble Lord referred to previous policies; to some extent, they depended on offsetting, which did not have a direct impact. This measure will: it will look at things such as heat pumps, solar panels and the replacement of old gas boilers. That will have a direct impact, unlike the old offsetting principle. To that extent, it is very much to be welcomed.

Local Authorities: Fair Funding Review

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Thursday 14th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Earl raises another very important point in relation to children’s care. He will be aware that we again made special provision in this year’s settlement, but he is right about the continuing importance of this issue. Earlier, he referenced the troubled families programme, which is important in that regard.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant registered interest. Would the noble Lord dispute the statement that the top 10 most deprived councils in England are set to see cuts higher than the national average, with nine on course for cuts more than three times the national average, and will the fair funding review address that?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the 10 most deprived areas in England spend on average 22% more on care per household than the 10 least deprived, and that is an important statistic in contradistinction to those the noble Lord mentioned. However, he is absolutely right that it is important that in settling the fair funding formula we look at the needs of particular areas, as well as their resources, and we will do so later this year.

Council Tax

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Thursday 14th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, when the national statistics are published, the calculation is almost certainly going to be that the level is 4.8%, but we cannot be absolutely certain about that. Of course, local authorities have the option of going to their electorate and seeking a higher level of council tax. The fact that they do not is indicative of the fact that they know what the result would be.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my relevant interest as a vice-president of the LGA. Can the Minister explain to the House the policy idea behind shifting the burden of local government funding further from central government and more on to the council tax payer?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, as the noble Lord will know, the Government are looking at the fair funding formula at the moment—I am trailing the next Question—but that does not transfer a burden; it ensures that we have equity across the piece. It does not make the cake any larger; it ensures that there is fairness, as the noble Lord will know. The levels of council tax contributing to local authorities vary enormously: 84% in Surrey and Buckinghamshire; 20% in the City of London. We are not seeking to address that. Although it may look innately unfair, closer attention will show that it is not.

Local Government (Structural and Boundary Changes) (Supplementary Provision and Miscellaneous Amendments) Order 2019

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 12th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

Grand Committee
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I also think this will be a relatively short debate. I have a couple of questions for the Minister. As we have heard, these changes are to local government areas in three parts of the country. The Minister made a point about charter trustees and talked about areas retaining their right to appoint a mayor. The councillors in that ward would then have to appoint a mayor. What happens at the next level? They also get a mayor. We are getting more mayors, who become chairs of councils. We are creating a lot of mayors here. I just want to point that out.

The point about housing debt was well made by the noble Lord, Lord Stunell. I look forward to the Minister’s response on that. On chartered markets, it is just a case of carrying forward people’s rights.

Generally speaking, I am not against the order as it stands. The only point I would make is a more general observation that I have made it before on other issues, such as local government income. We have a strange kind of patchwork developing all over England. I am not convinced that is necessarily the right way to go. Local government in Scotland and Wales is certainly much more straightforward. When we have all sorts of tiers of local government throughout England, I am not convinced that in the longer term it will make for good government. However, I am not against the order as it stands.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lords, Lord Stunell and Lord Kennedy, for their helpful contributions. I very much agree about the importance of these statutory instruments on two grounds. As the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, said, it is rather marvellous to debate something that has no Brexit implications at all, which is good news in these very Brexity days in both Houses. It is also refreshing to have something which is all about the traditions of our local government in England, and the capture and retention of those historic traditions.

I was interested to find that Poole is one of only seven towns in the country to have sheriffs. These are quite separate from high sheriffs. One of the other seven is of course Nottingham—we all remember the sheriff of Nottingham—and another is Lichfield; the honourable Member for Lichfield talked about that in the House of Commons. It is great to see those historic roles retained. In the case of Poole, I understand that it retains the keys to a prison where there are no prisoners. I am not sure whether schools or possibly tourists are able to visit it but that is a great thing.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark - Hansard

I have met many sheriffs of Nottingham in my time, as I used to work in the east Midlands. What is interesting is that the sheriff is a member of its council in Nottingham. The position is very famous, so everybody wants to meet the sheriff, but in civic terms it also has a deputy lord mayor and a lord mayor. When people move up others do not want to meet them so much; they want to meet the sheriff, who is a very important figure in the city.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord very much for that intervention. I hope people do not hiss when the sheriff walks into the room, because I am sure they are very different from the sheriff of Nottingham we all remember from legend.

That filtering through of civic pride to which the noble Lord, Lord Stunell, referred is extremely important. Let me try to pick up the two questions that were raised. First, on the transfer of housing debt, the order simply ensures that new councils are properly referenced for calculating their debt caps. I should say that all the provisions here are consensual, so all the councils concerned are happy with that provision. Secondly, the noble Lord sought specific information on West Suffolk. It has no housing revenue accounts, so there are no consequences there.

The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked about the number of mayors. I think precisely the same number is retained, so there are no new mayors but no fewer mayors than there used to be. That is extremely valuable, too.

It is good to see cross-party consensus on this issue. It is typical of the way we operate on these issues, so with that I commend the order to the Committee.

Fracking: Planning Guidance

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 12th March 2019

(1 year, 6 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, in case people are misled into thinking that there are hundreds of such wells at the moment, there are not. Once again, this was a policy introduced under the coalition Government. We believe that the technology is worth looking at, because methane presents a bridge between fossil fuels and renewables, and is the best of the hydrocarbons in terms of pollution. But we are committed to ensuring that it is also safe and environmentally sound and that there is a strong regulatory system.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my relevant registered interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. How does the Minister respond to the suggestion that the Government have behaved irresponsibly and recklessly in these matters and that the consultation was a complete farce?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I am not sure whether that is an accusation made by the noble Lord or somebody else: I do not recognise it as being from a neutral source, I have to say. Consultations are ongoing. There is a consultation on permitted development and on nationally significant infrastructure projects, as well as on compulsory community pre-application. The judgment itself came less than a week ago and, as I said, we are considering our position and will respond.

Stronger Towns Fund

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 5th March 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, with the leave of the House, I shall repeat a Statement made in another place by the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government. The Statement is as follows:

“With permission, Mr Speaker, I would like to make a Statement on the work the Government are doing to support our towns. Last week, my right honourable friend the Prime Minister informed this House that the Government would launch a new fund to help our towns to grow and prosper. Today, I am delighted to confirm further details of our new stronger towns fund, a £1.6 billion fund in England between now and 2026 to help our towns to grasp the opportunities available to them in the years to come.

The British people, supported by the balanced, long-term approach taken by this Government, have worked hard to rebuild the economy after the debts we inherited in 2010. As a result, we have seen strong and consistent growth, but we want to make sure that the benefits of that growth help to support towns across the country. The country voted for Brexit, with communities expressing their desire to see change in their local areas. That must be a change for the better, with more opportunity and greater control.

It is important to remind all Members that as we move to support our nations and regions to take control of their own economic destiny, we do not start with a blank slate. Since 2010, seven city regions in England have elected metro mayors, with an eighth to follow in May. We created the local growth fund and devolved it to local enterprise partnerships across England to invest in their priorities for growth. We have agreed, jointly with the devolved Governments and their local authorities, city and growth deals, including in Cardiff Capital Region and in Glasgow and the Clyde Valley, with billions of pounds of additional funding.

Our modern industrial strategy sets out a clear plan for the future that puts places at the heart of our ambition to create an economy that works for everyone, but we know there is more to do. That is why we are in negotiations with other parts of the United Kingdom on more deals, including in Belfast and Derry/Londonderry. It is why we are agreeing local industrial strategies with all places in England, to get for the first time a real long-term sense of what their local economies could look like in 30 years’ time.

Our new stronger towns fund will build on that approach and extend our principles of devolution further, out to the towns that our success was built on. Through this, we will ensure that we spread opportunity more widely so that every community can benefit from our economic prosperity. It will be used to create new jobs, help to train local people and boost growth, with communities having a say on how the money is spent.

Today, I have published notional allocations of £1 billion of the fund. I have allocated that amount based on need. I have looked at the relative productivity and income and skills levels and targeted more funding to those places with levels that are lower than the average, ensuring that local towns can access the funding needed to support productivity growth. Given that we all know that pockets of deprivation exist even in our most successful local economies, I have made sure that we take into account such very localised economic conditions. We will work with local areas to explore town deals which unlock local potential, investing in places and investing in people.

Today, I can therefore confirm initial allocations of £583 million to towns across the northern powerhouse, £322 million to those in the Midlands engine and £95 million across the south. The remaining £600 million will be invested following a competitive process that I invite all towns to take part in. I will publish a prospectus which will include further details of the process and I am keen to encourage high-quality, ambitious bids.

The message today to all Members who serve our towns is that we want those who know these places best—community leaders, local businessmen and women, civic leaders and others—to begin to think about the investments that could build on their heritage, improve productivity and boost the life chances of all their people and to bring those into a coherent plan that sets out a positive vision that people living there can rally behind and play a role in making happen.

As a Government, we have set out the value of investing in infrastructure, people, business and ideas in our industrial strategy and we want each place to tell us the balance between those priorities for their town. We also want our local institutions to be involved. No one knows towns better than the local councils which serve them, and we want to ensure that local enterprise partnerships and mayoral combined authorities take a leading role. The Business Secretary and I are working with them on the development of local industrial strategies across England. LEPs and mayoral combined authorities should play a guiding role to ensure that the plans of individual towns across a functional economic area are joined up, so that the overall strategy is greater than the sum of its parts. After all, we know that the success of many of our towns is intrinsically linked to the success of those around them.

Today’s announcement is also about our commitment to the whole union. The Government will seek to ensure that towns in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland can benefit from the stronger towns fund. This will build on the success of our city and growth deal initiatives. Today, we extend our approach to devolution and make a new offer to towns and the millions of hard-working people who live in them to set their own futures.

Finally, I want to impress on the House what the prize at stake is: people coming together, the public and private sectors working with their communities to set out what their towns can be if everyone pulls together and works together, and the steps it will take in the short term to make that vision happen. The stronger towns fund is this Government’s offer to help make that become a reality.

My right honourable friend the Member for Harlow is spearheading plans in his constituency, and other towns, such as Blackpool, are bursting with ideas. So many people who care so much about the towns in which they live are passionate to see that their potential is fulfilled, harnessing the strength of place and identity and unlocking the potential of all parts of our proud United Kingdom. I share that ambition and am intent to see that, as we look to the future, all parts of our country play their part and no one is left behind. This fund is part of helping to achieve that, and I commend this Statement to the House”.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the Minister for repeating the Statement made yesterday in the other place by his right honourable friend the Member for Old Bexley and Sidcup. This supposed funding boost is extremely disappointing and will do little compared with the billions of pounds that his Government have already cut from local communities. After all the hype, I would have expected more from him and the Government. This will do little to reverse the damage that they have inflicted in each region of England.

The reason why many of our towns are struggling is a near-decade of cuts to local authority funding and to public services by the Minister’s Government. The fact is that between 2010 and 2020 councils will have lost 60p in every £1 that the Government provide for services. Can the Minister tell the House why nine of the 10 most deprived councils in England have seen cuts three times the national average? How can that be right?

The Statement says that the Government have taken deprivation into account when considering the allocation of this fund. I am very pleased that they have done that, but I am also conscious that the Minister’s right honourable friend in the other place refused to say that deprivation would be taken into account when considering the local government settlement. Can the Minister tell the House why that is the case? It is quite rightly included in this fund but not in the fair funding formula review.

The Minister mentioned Blackpool. Blackpool is one of the most deprived areas in England and has seen a cut in spending power of more than £45 million. That is more than the £40 million a year that the entire north-west of England will get from this fund. Look at the east Midlands, an area I know very well. Over seven years it will get £110 million, which is £15.71 million a year. If the Government allocate that funding evenly per local authority—I know they will not do that, but if they did—it works out at around £393,000 per year per authority.

This funding announcement is a drop in the ocean. We have seen spending cuts of £7.3 billion over the past decade because of nine years of austerity. Even if we are being favourable to the Government and to Ministers, this enticement is £5.7 billion short of the cuts that they have already inflicted.

The funding promised by the Secretary of State over the next seven years does not even get close to matching the amount of funding that regions have received from the European Union over the last seven years from the European Regional Development Fund. This package is £642 million a year short of the money that England would have received.

Also, why is £600 million unallocated? I know the Minister said that there will be some sort of bidding process, but we have had no more clarity about that. How will the money be allocated? He also mentioned other parts of the United Kingdom. Will the money be distributed through Barnett-type formulas? Will there be additional money for the other parts of the United Kingdom? What will the allocations to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland be?

This is a most disappointing announcement indeed from the Government, but unfortunately not surprising. We have such serious problems in our towns, seaside resorts, communities and high streets that we need an ambitious programme to deliver their success so that they can thrive, with proper support for jobs, transport, housing and communities. As I said, the Government have failed in this announcement.

Break in Debate

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark - Hansard

Before the Minister responds, when I spoke earlier, I should have drawn the House’s attention to my registered interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, and the noble Baroness, Lady Pinnock, for their contributions from the Front Benches of their respective parties. I will try to cover the points they raised. First, I will try to put into perspective what is regarded as “something for nowt”.

Parking (Code of Practice) Bill

(3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Monday 4th March 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Leader of the House
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral for bringing the Bill to this stage with his customary aplomb and expertise. It is not a flashy Bill but a necessary and welcome one, providing for uniformity and consistency in private parking practice. I also thank the honourable Member for East Yorkshire, Sir Greg Knight, for introducing the Bill and progressing it through the other place. I think the whole House—indeed, the whole country—should be grateful for this small but necessary measure.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I join the Minister in thanking the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, and the honourable Member for East Yorkshire, Sir Greg Knight. I agree entirely with the comments that he has made.

Specialist Domestic Abuse Services

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Monday 4th March 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, my noble friend highlights a very real problem and in doing so, indicates just how broad this issue is. As we have heard around the Chamber, there are many different instances and different victims of domestic abuse, indicating the need to really grapple with this issue. We should all welcome the opportunity the Bill gives to look at it in the round. My noble friend is absolutely right about the needs of victims in rural areas.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, domestic abuse is an appalling, disgusting crime committed behind closed doors. I have raised before the issue of some GPs charging up to £175 for a letter confirming that a victim has been assaulted, so that they can get access to other services. Can the Minister update the House on the progress that has been made in banning this outrageous practice?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I recall the noble Lord rightly raising this issue. The new contract is being revised and considered, and is part of that discussion. I do not have any progress to report at the moment but as soon as I do, I will be happy to write to the noble Lord, if I may, and share that information with the House.

Help to Buy: Housebuilders’ Profits

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Wednesday 27th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I should point out to the noble Lord that the Help to Buy scheme was initiated under the coalition Government. Some of the figures he has quoted were made by his leader, the right honourable Member for Twickenham, Vince Cable, who is in a much better position than I am to know how successful the scheme has been in delivering houses. It has delivered over 190,000, and he was a Cabinet Minister when it started. Ensuring we get value for money is of course important, and we are focused on that. Regarding directors’ salaries, there are provisions in the Companies Act 2006 relating to directors’ duties. Section 173 includes a complex corporate code that governs listed companies. Persimmon, which he has referenced, realised how unacceptable the situation was and the chairman, the chairman of the remuneration committee and the chief executive resigned. That is an indication of the realisation, which I share, that it was inappropriate.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the Government should set a framework for space standards, quality of design and energy efficiency so that, no matter if the home is for sale or rent, it will provide a quality dwelling for many years to come? It is disappointing that many of the homes benefiting from the Government’s scheme fail in these respects.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I do accept that standards are important. The noble Lord will be aware that the National Planning Policy Framework tightens up some of these quality and design requirements, and there are also rules relating to safety. These will be at the forefront of the Government’s mind when we have the new Help to Buy scheme. We will look at all of the providers, not just Persimmon, to make sure that they are delivering value for money for the consumer and the taxpayer.

Business Rate Appeals

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Monday 25th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank my noble friend very much indeed; I know he has done much work on this area. The new system was set up in the spring of 2017 and we were always clear that there would be a review this year. Of the backlog, 100,000 were cleared last year and, as of September 2018—the latest date for which we have figures since the new system came in—there have been 50,000 checks and 6,500 challenges. However, I agree that there are challenges to address. My honourable friend the Minister in the other place meets regularly with Melissa Tatton, the chief executive, to discuss them.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, it is good that the noble Lord agreed that there are challenges to meet. The situation described by the noble Lord, Lord Naseby, is, frankly, appalling. Is there nothing that the Government can do in the meantime, or will we have to wait for this review to take place?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, as I indicated, we are having that review, as we committed to do, and we have regular meetings with the VOA, which operates independently of government, to discuss the many concerns that do exist. However, I think most fair-minded people would say that the system has improved. As I said, we have regular meetings to address those concerns and we will reflect on them when we conduct the review.

Housing: Private Rented Sector

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 19th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, it is important to keep this in perspective. That 380,000 represents 6% of the private rented sector. That has figure has undeniably gone up, although it has gone down from last year, so I hasten to add that the pattern is not uniform. Many people choose to rent; it is not wise to assume that all these people renting do not want to do so. There are challenges, some of which are met by the Prevention of Eviction Act, as the noble Baroness will know, and others by the Fitness for Habitation Act which we recently passed. So I do not share her analysis.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, does the Minister accept that the number of older people in private rented accommodation is rising and that that trend is likely to continue? If he does, will he tell the House what he is doing to address the resulting policy challenges?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, as I said, we cannot assume that this is uniform. According to our figures, last year there were some 40,000 fewer such people, although that is not necessarily statistically significant. I do not think we can draw conclusions. The figure has been on an upward trend for the last 10 years but there was more than a blip last year. As I have indicated, the private rented sector in general undoubtedly presents challenges. We know that 25% of it is unfit for habitation, although that is better than a decade ago when the figure was 45%. We are seeking to meet those challenges, which apply across the board, not just to older people.

Yorkshire: Devolution

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 12th February 2019

(1 year, 7 months ago)

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Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, my noble friend takes a very different approach to the issue. I read the article on balkanisation to which she may have been referring. Many people have addressed this issue, saying that it would be wrong to cut across existing economic entities. For example, the Select Committee chairman, Clive Betts, the honourable Member for Sheffield South East, takes the view that a One Yorkshire deal would be wrong. We need to look at this issue in terms of where economic ties and cohesive agreements already exist and proceed on that basis. I understand the emotional pull of Yorkshire but we must look at the economic issues as well.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I first declare an interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I am aware of the letter sent to Dan Jarvis, and I thank the Minister for sending me a copy. Can he give the House some more details of the timescales proposed here? It appears perverse that the Government are straightaway ruling out an option that clearly commands a lot of support in Yorkshire and are prepared to discuss only options that seem to have less support.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I first thank the noble Lord for his comments, but on simply ruling it out he will be aware that copious documents have gone forward from the Yorkshire leaders. Some 100 pages of complex analytical documents on this have been studied, so it is not the sort of capricious decision he was perhaps suggesting. A lot of thought has gone into this. If he looks at the other metro mayors, he will see that they represent much smaller, more appropriate, cohesive economic regions—around the West Midlands, Manchester and Liverpool—than a county. Also, historically Yorkshire has never been a single devolved entity in its administration. As the noble Lord will know, it was split into ridings, for example, so perhaps the Government’s thinking is much more reflective of the economic units that used to be in place in Yorkshire.

Local Authorities: Essential Services

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Thursday 24th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, like other noble Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, on securing this most timely debate. I welcome our debating these issues again, which are of such importance to communities. I draw attention to my relevant interests in the register as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I am grateful to various organisations for providing us with some excellent briefing materials.

Local authorities understand their communities. They deliver essential services every day: everything from refuse collection to housing, fire and rescue services, trading standards and social services, including individual care packages for people. However, as we debate in this Chamber time and again, they are under severe pressure to deliver what is expected of them with the resources they are provided with. I had the privilege of serving on two local authorities, both in London: most recently, on Lewisham Borough Council and, in the 1980s and 1990s, on the council in Southwark, where I grew up. I held a number of positions on Southwark Council: deputy council leader; chair of the finance committee; deputy chief whip; and chair of the highways committee. I have seen and experienced the power of local authorities to make a real difference to their communities. I want to place on record my thanks to councillors, of all political parties and none, for their work and to the staff working in local authorities, who seek to deliver services with considerably reduced resources. I very much concur with the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, in that respect.

The money from central government that has been taken away is of immense proportion. By next year, local authorities will have lost nearly 60p in every pound of central government funding. This leaves an overall funding gap of over £3.1 billion for 2019-20, which is estimated to rise to £8 billion by 2024-25. This pressure places local authorities in very difficult situations. The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, made some good points about financial stability for local government. It is important that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, responds fully to those points because, as we have heard, councils are now in real difficulty. Indeed, we heard about the case in Northampton, where they are completely collapsing.

Coping with rising demand for key statutory services, such as social care, conflicts with other services relied on by communities, such as street cleaning, cutting the grass, looking after parks or keeping the street lights on. Other pressures, such as where people have no recourse to public funds and present themselves for help and assistance, are placing huge strain on some local authorities. We all know examples of local authorities turning off the street lights at night, not cutting the grass in the local park or asking the community to look after their local green space. In many areas, large parts of the library service have been handed over to the local community to run. We are very lucky that so many members of our communities are prepared to help on a voluntary basis, but we should not operate our services in that way.

The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, highlighted the capacity of communities to replace the local authority delivery of services. That may be possible in Saltaire, but it would not be so easy in other parts of Bradford, where people would struggle; I think that was the point the noble Lord was making. Digressing slightly, the noble Lord also mentioned the TaxPayers’ Alliance and the Institute of Economic Affairs. I often listen to those two organisations giving us the benefit of their advice, but I would be more interested in what they have to say if I knew who funded them. Perhaps we would all be more interested if we lifted the veil of secrecy. That is a matter for them, but perhaps we will find out one day who is behind them. Only time will tell.

Local authorities are having to look carefully at the services they provide. There is no question that discretionary services are under threat in many areas, as statutory services have been protected as far as possible at their expense. The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, referred to the loss of discretionary services and those services that people think they are paying their council tax for. In recent years, we have seen the Government allow councils to increase council tax specifically for social care on top of any other increases they may want to levy. Council tax is a regressive tax: there has been no revaluation of the property bands, as my noble friend Lord Beecham mentioned. It is a wholly unsatisfactory way of collecting money to run council services. We must find a better way of raising local funds for services.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Scriven: we need to deliver a proper devolution settlement in England to provide more responsive services. As I have said in this House many times before, the metro mayor patchwork model is odd and is not devolution in any sense at all. We need a situation where funds and powers are properly devolved to a devolved body. The metro mayor model is not the model to deliver that.

On the specific services provided by local authorities, the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, rightly highlighted the cumulative impact of spending reductions from a number of different agencies in the public sector, and in the voluntary sector through reductions in grant funding. I agree with her very powerful points about local government funding in general. If the fair funding review takes out or reduces in any way the indicators of deprivation in funding, that would be a disgrace—it would be an unfair funding review, which would make the most vulnerable people in our society suffer even more. We cannot have that.

Adult social care was mentioned many times in the debate. It is an area where demand will increase in future. Medical advances mean that we are all living longer, which is very welcome, but people are living longer with complex care needs. If those are not addressed, people’s quality of life will be dramatically reduced. We cannot have an NHS that responds to all the demands placed on it unless we sort out adult social care. So far, we have seen only a sticking-plaster response from the Government. Can the noble Lord, Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth, tell us where we are with the adult social care Green Paper? We need properly funded adult social care services. The Government got their fingers burned with their ill-thought-out proposals in the 2017 general election, which the Prime Minister had no need to call and is paying the price for at the moment. Adult social care is one area where, given the issues that every Government and every local authority need to tackle and which every community and family will face, it should be possible to agree long-term solutions on funding and service delivery. For me, that includes treating staff with respect. There are dreadful stories of how staff are treated totally unacceptably by some companies in the social care sector.

Children’s services face a funding gap of nearly £1 billion, which is estimated to reach £3.1 billion in 2024-25. Here, again, local authorities are dealing with vulnerable people: children at risk of neglect or being neglected and children at risk of abuse or being abused. I was shocked to read in the Local Government Association briefing note that, every day, social workers open case files for more than 1,000 children, half of which involve suspected abuse or neglect. In the past 10 years, the number of child protection inquires has increased by 158% and the number of children on child protection plans has increased by 84%. Those are truly shocking and shameful figures. The noble Earl, Lord Listowel, spoke with great authority on matters concerning children, young people and families. Early intervention strategies are so important in helping young people to lead better lives and make a better contribution to society. We all win when that is done: the young person, the community and society as a whole.

The noble Lord, Lord Bird, posed important questions about the role of local authorities, the pressure on the NHS and how we can address the issues in today’s debate that concern us all.

The noble Baroness, Lady Randerson, made an excellent contribution focusing largely on bus services. I agree with almost every single word of what she said. The problems with bus services have to be sorted out. As the noble Baroness said, they could be dealt with in one year if the Government changed their political position.

Homelessness is a subject that we have discussed many times before, and here again there is a funding gap of £110 million in 2019-20 which is estimated to rise to £421 million by 2024-25. There is also a human side to the numbers. We live and work in one of the richest countries and richest cities on the planet, and yet last year a homeless man died outside an entrance to the Palace. If you walk from any of the mainline stations such as Charing Cross, Waterloo and Victoria to get to the Palace, you will see homeless people sitting in doorways. Almost every evening you can see hundreds of homeless people waiting opposite Charing Cross station for soup and bread. I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Bourne, will mention the Homelessness Reduction Act 2017 when he responds to the debate. We all supported the Act, but where we differ is that so far the Government have not provided the funding to enable it to deliver the good work it could do and the changes that it could make.

The noble Lord, Lord Patten, was right to say that we need to build more housing, but as he said, it has to be quality housing built to the best design and environmental standards possible. I often fear that we have not learned the lessons of the 1960s and 1970s in what we are building. One of the most disappointing things is the lack of social housing being built and the lack of money being spent by the Government to bring properties up to decent standards, along with the “affordable rent model”, which in many parts of the country is totally unaffordable. The noble Lord, Lord Best, pointed out that housing has suffered the largest reductions in spending over recent years and that we have serious problems to address. I thought that the points made by the noble Lord about the right to buy were compelling. The original intention of the policy was to enable more people to become home owners, which is perfectly laudable. However, that has long since been lost and instead it has quickly created the problems highlighted by the noble Lord in his contribution.

I note that the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives have all been in government in recent years. No matter how much we love our respective parties—and I love the Labour Party very much—we can all say that we have not always got things right. Perhaps only the right reverend Prelate and noble Lords on the Front Benches may be able to get away scot free, but the rest of us must take our fair share of the blame for when we got things wrong. However, we have also got things right. What we should be aiming for is to deal with the many issues of the day that we should agree on: I have mentioned social care, the housing crisis and the scandal of homelessness, the risks to children through neglect or abuse, dealing with criminal landlords and the vital work of trading standards. Given what has to be done, a considerable increase in funding has to be part of the solution.

I concur with the remarks of my noble friend Lord Liddle. I was a member of Southwark Council at about the same time my noble friend was a member of Lambeth Council—I was born in Lambeth, so I have great affection for the borough. I think that we faced similar problems at the time, although we now have a much better situation. I hope all noble Lords will agree that the relationships between local government and national government and those between councils are much better now than they were in the 1980s and 1990s. That is due to my noble friend Lord Beecham, the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, the noble Lord, Lord Porter of Spalding, and many others who have worked to make that happen. They deserve much credit for that. That work is also being done with London Councils, which is much better than the old London Boroughs Association which was full of Tory councils and the Association of London Authorities which was full of Labour councils. London Councils gives a united voice to London; it is a better and more responsive way to work with government, which I think will be much better for us all.

In conclusion, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, very much for bringing forward this Motion for debate. I am sure that we will discuss the issues again and again. I also look forward to the response of the noble Lord, Lord Bourne.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I am most grateful for all the valuable contributions to this debate. It has been frank and honest and, obviously, it has given us much to consider and ponder. I will ensure that any particular points of detail, or indeed anything else that I have missed, are covered in a letter to noble Lords. I am sure that it is understood that this debate has covered many different areas of governmental activity, and quite correctly I would not want to mislead. I will also ensure that the debate is brought to the attention of all government Ministers because it has touched on so many subjects. I want in particular to thank the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, for introducing the debate so effectively and enabling us to discuss these very important issues.

I certainly concur with what has been said about the vital importance of local government at all levels, as the noble Lord said in opening the debate. That work is important not just for local government; it is vital for everyone living in our communities. We all benefit from the considerable work that is done by councils. I should like to thank all those who work for our councils and, indeed, councillors of all political persuasions and none.

I also agree with the comments that have been made, most recently by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, that in so far as there is blame to apportion—and I am sure that that is the case—no party can walk away from this scot free. Only the right reverend Prelate can leave with his head held high, not having been steeped in the blood of any mistakes which have been made. It is best that we are candid about this, so I will say no more on that. However, it is an important point to make.

I shall first cover matters of local government finance and council tax and then say a little about the structure of local government. Finally, I will deal with the many issues relating to local services which have been raised.

First, I understand what has been said about local government finance over the years. All the political parties have been in government during a time when incredible pressure has been put on to local government—that is undoubtedly the case—and, again, at all levels. I would also agree with what the noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, said about how we should be grateful to local councils for doing what they have done, given the pressures that are there. He is right to point out that our thanks are due to local authorities for what they have done.

I shall make a couple of points which I do not think have been articulated in the debate. Whatever one thinks about local government, the last settlement was a step in the right direction. The chairman of the Local Government Association, my noble friend Lord Porter, who is not in his place at present, welcomed the settlement as a good one. Newcastle will see a 1.36% increase in core spending power and an increase in real spending power. Bristol, the area of the noble Baroness, Lady Janke, gets 2.24%. Lewisham will receive a 2.74% rise, Kirklees will receive 1.75%, while Watford, not doing quite as well, will see an increase of 0.8%. I am not saying that this will solve the problem, but in the spirit of being open-minded and fair, we should acknowledge that it is a step in the direction that the noble Lord, Lord Beecham, for example, is keen for us to pursue, and correctly so.

I should also say what the Chancellor and others have said: we have come to the end of austerity. I do not want to go over the history and look at the reasons for taking that action. It was needed; at least two political parties—and I think possibly three—accepted that there was a need for austerity. However, we are coming to the end of it, and that needs to be said as well.

I have referred to the cash increase, and I will touch briefly on the 50% business rates retention scheme that is due to come forward in 2021. As is currently the case where pilots are being run, that should lead to an increase in spending power for those councils.

Much has been said about the consultation on the fair funding formula, which of course sets the objective that this should be brought forward in 2021. We are still looking a little way ahead, although it is getting closer by the day. Noble Lords know that this is a consultation, so there will be ample opportunity to express views. The noble Lord, Lord Liddle, asked when the consultation is to come to an end. It is important to know when that will be, and I think that it is 21 February. There is an opportunity for people to participate in that consultation. Obviously, we will look at and consider the responses in detail. The importance of deprivation is expressly recognised in four areas in the consultation—adult social care; children and young people’s services; fire; and public health—although that is without prejudice to people to mention other issues in the consultation, if they feel that it is important that they are considered elsewhere.

Mention was also made of council tax and the local referendum restricting increases. The noble Lord, Lord Scriven, touched on this and said how important it was that we recognise that there is the power of the ballot box to restrict increases. He was thinking of council elections, which is presumably why this has not been tested by local councils—they know what the outcome would be. We are not stopping local increases but saying that a referendum should be called if local increases are beyond this. All three political parties have lived with this system, so I hear what is said but I would caution that it is there for reasons.

I have noted a couple of other stray but important issues. The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, talked about dissatisfaction with local services increasing. I see that too. Complaints about services arise from time to time, but the latest survey taken—I have no reason to doubt it—shows that satisfaction remains relatively high, with nearly four out of five people, 78%, saying that they are very satisfied with the level of local services. I just wanted to put that in perspective. Yes, we should be concerned and wherever there is any concern with a local service we should look at it, but the level of satisfaction remains very high. If a political party got 80% satisfaction, I think we would all say, “Whoopee!” —though I cannot remember the last time that happened.

On local government structure and reform, there has been much talk—the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, raised it first of all—on devolution. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, talked about the patchwork of devolution. He did not seem to approve of the metro mayors, but to my knowledge he has voted in favour of every order that has come before the House on this. That does not mean he does not think we could do better, but I suggest that it shows he thought it was at least a step in the right direction. I am open to challenge on that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Janke, also talked about centralisation. We are a centralised country—that is perfectly true—but on the metro mayors we have tested opinion and proceeded where it is in favour. As I recall, the most recent exercise on regional devolution—in the north-east, admittedly some time ago—did not exactly find overwhelming support, so I once again caution a little trepidation at putting much more than a toe in the water on this. That said, we seek to redress the balance—with what admittedly is a magnet of activity to the south—with the northern powerhouse, the Midlands engine and the metro mayor system.

Mention was made of unitarisation, and in a very fair contribution the noble Lord, Lord Liddle, said this is a way of councils saving money and also potentially responding to local feeling. It might not be about just money, and in the process one of the considerations will be local support. The noble Lord, Lord Wallace of Saltaire, also discussed this but without the same approbation.

I turn to a general point on services before I look at the particulars. The noble Lord, Lord Kerslake, touched on working innovatively, which we should always be doing even if there are not significant cost pressures. I pay tribute to what local authorities have been doing in this regard. Pendle is an example. The noble Lord, Lord Greaves, is not in his place, but I am sure he would take great pride in the back-office systems and processes review that has led to significant savings and a significant increase in efficiency.

I turn to housing. I thank noble Lords for their approbation of the raising of the housing revenue account borrowing cap, which has been widely welcomed. That is absolutely right and a step in the right direction. The noble Lord, Lord Best, whom I thank very much for his contribution and for all that he does in this area, asked for a response on lifting the cap in relation to housing associations. It is not a straightforward matter, but I will get a detailed response to the noble Lord and ensure that that is in the letter copied to all noble Lords. I thank him very much for that contribution.

In this regard, mention was made of the Homelessness Reduction Act. The noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, also mentioned it briefly. All parties supported this. We can all take credit for this measure and thank the noble Lord, Lord Best, for piloting it through this House and Bob Blackman for piloting it through the other House. To my knowledge, we are funding the extra burdens, but if there are specific issues that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, would like me to look at, I am happy to look at them.

Having talked about innovation, I once again say that Birmingham City Council is a housing exemplar. It has done some very good things in mixed-tenure schemes, including affordable and social rent, as has Ashford Borough Council, and that is important.

Social housing was mentioned specifically. I know that £9 billion was committed in the spending review period as recently as autumn 2018.

Rough sleepers was also mentioned in different ways. Extra funding was announced last year, because this is very serious. I understand what noble Lords are saying: this is very evident on our own doorstep. But I would not want noble Lords to think it is just our own doorstep. That may be where we see it most obviously—we certainly should not forget that—but it is much more serious and widespread than that. We are tackling it.

Tower Blocks: Cladding

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 22nd January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, with the leave of the House I shall repeat as a Statement the Answer given to an Urgent Question in another place by my right honourable friend the Minister for Housing. The Statement is as follows:

“There is nothing more important than making sure that people are safe in their homes. We remain determined to ensure that no community suffers again as the community did so tragically and appallingly at Grenfell Tower.

Within days of the tragedy, a comprehensive building safety programme was put in place to ensure that residents of high-rise blocks of flats are safe and feel safe, now and in the future. Our department has worked with fire and rescue services, local authorities and landlords to identify high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding, and ensured that interim safety measures are in place until they are permanently remediated. These have included measures such as “waking watch”, which has been put in place in all high-rise buildings with ACM cladding, with the oversight of the National Fire Chiefs Council. As of 31 December 2018, interim measures have been in place in all 176 high-rise private residential buildings with unsafe ACM cladding.

Permanent remediation must now, rightly, be our key focus. On 18 December we published our plan to implement the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which will create a stronger regulatory framework and fix these issues for the long term.

We have repeatedly called on private building owners not to pass costs on to leaseholders who find themselves in this position through no fault of their own. We have also warned private building owners that unless they remove and replace unsafe ACM cladding from their high-rise residential buildings now, local authorities have the power to complete the works and recover the costs from the owner. As a result of our interventions, we have secured commitments from the owners of 268 privately owned buildings, while 212 have either started, completed or have commitments in place to remediate. There remain 42 private residential buildings where the owners’ plans are unclear. On this we are maintaining pressure, and we rule out no solutions.

This is obviously a matter of great importance to many colleagues and indeed to many constituents, and that is reflected by the huge amount of activity that is taking place within the department, externally within the industry concerned and, critically, in this House, with an Adjournment Debate tomorrow and appearances by me at Oral Questions and in front of the Select Committee this coming Monday”.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I refer the House to my relevant interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. I thank the Minister for repeating the Answer given in the other place to this Urgent Question.

I agree with the Minister that there is nothing more important than making sure that people are safe in their own home. The fire at Grenfell Tower happened on 14 June 2017. Today is 22 January 2019. The fact that 19 months later dangerous, even lethal, cladding has not been removed from all buildings is a national scandal. Does the Minister agree that it is time for all the information about individual tower blocks, school, hospitals and other buildings covered in dangerous cladding to be published so that all residents, staff and users can see what the situation is and question those in authority about what they are doing to make sure that the building they live in or use is safe? It is clear from the latest scandal reported in today’s Daily Mirror that we cannot rely on those who have responsibility for building safety to do the right thing.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, I thank the noble Lord for his questions and for his welcome of the Statement. I understand, and I shall repeat what was in the Statement: there is nothing more important than making sure that people are safe in their homes. I think we would all agree with that, and that is precisely what I have said today. The measures that are in place ensure that everyone is safe tonight and every night in the buildings where they are. There are two aspects to this. One is making sure that people are safe, and the other is the remediation to make sure that we have a permanent solution to the cladding issue. I have given the figures on that. Even since I last gave figures in this House in answer to the noble Lord on 7 January, the first day after recess, we have made significant progress. He will see that we are closer to ensuring that we complete that process.

Parking (Code of Practice) Bill

(2nd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Friday 18th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I am delighted to give the Bill my full support. Car ownership, parking, the charges associated with parking, disputes over charges and appeals can cause considerable disagreement, as we have heard. To put it mildly, people can get very angry about these issues, as the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, said. The noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, set out the problems that some motorists have had to contend with in dealing with those who operate poorly in the industry. I also endorse the comments made by the noble Baroness about the abuse directed at parking officials, which is totally unacceptable. They are doing their job; she is absolutely right that certain elements really wind that sort of thing up. I very much support her comments on that. The noble Viscount, Lord Goschen, was absolutely right to comment on how some of the worst elements in the private industry are ripping people off. I fully endorse his comments, and that is why the Bill is so welcome.

We need a system that is clear, consistent and deals with people fairly. What we all want to see is fairness. As we have heard, the situation at present is not as good as it could be. Many people in the industry operate perfectly fairly and do their job properly, but of course, as always, there are those who do not. Where people have not paid their parking charges, the owners of private car parks need their details and so they need access to the DVLA database. To do that, they must be members of one of two accredited trade associations. As we have heard, both trade associations have codes of practice, but they have different terms, standards and appeal mechanisms, and it is confusing to say the least. That is not a good place for us to be. The confusion and inconsistency has led to different standards and things not being right, so we need to get this right.

I strongly support the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Kirkhope of Harrogate. He said that when drivers enter a car park they should be clear about the contract they are entering into and that the terms should be absolutely transparent. If they do not like them, they should be able to leave quickly. The Bill is welcome in dealing with the inconsistency and confusion by creating a single code of practice which would apply to all operators and seek to deliver best practice. That is good for car park operators and, more importantly, it is good for motorists.

Proper consultation with car park operators, the trade associations and other relevant organisations must happen before the code is produced. I am sure that will happen. It should then be laid before Parliament before coming into force. I am also pleased to see that the Bill allows for the code to be regularly reviewed because practices change over time. It is only right that we should be able to get the code looked at quickly and amended as necessary. It is also right that the Bill provides for the ability to levy the accredited associations in order to pay for the cost of the scheme, as is the ability for a single independent person to be authorised by the code to deal with appeals brought against parking charges and to be able to charge fees to persons operating private parking facilities. It would be very good to get that consistency in place.

It has been an extraordinary week in Parliament to say the least, so I will not detain the House for much longer. I am delighted to learn that the Bill has the support of the British Parking Association, the RAC Foundation and others in the industry. I look forward to it making swift progress through your Lordships’ House. In order for that to happen, I do not intend to table any amendments and I hope that no other noble Lord will do so. That is because a well-meaning amendment which would make the Bill even better than it is now would risk, at this late stage of this Session of Parliament, wrecking the entire Bill and it falling. We do not want that to happen. It is important, no matter how tempted we are, that we do not table any amendments. We must leave the Bill as it is so that it can move swiftly through the House.

I put on record my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Hunt of Wirral, for taking the Bill through the Lords. I also offer my thanks to the right honourable Sir Greg Knight MP, who first brought the legislation forward in the other place. I very much endorse the comments made by the noble Lord, Lord Hunt, about the Member for East Yorkshire. As I said at the start of my contribution, the Bill has my full support. I look forward to seeing its swift passage through the House and it becoming an Act of Parliament shortly.

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Wales Office (Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth) (Con) - Hansard

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate—a very consensual debate, I am pleased to say. I will try to deal with the points that have been raised. This debate on Second Reading has been wide-ranging in many ways. It has been full of important content and some very interesting and important points have been made. In so far as I cannot deal in detail with any of the issues which have been raised, I will make sure that noble Lords get a detailed response. I will write to noble Lords and place a copy of that letter in the Library.

I want to thank very sincerely my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral for his hard work in promoting this Bill. It is a matter for which the whole House is most grateful. I also thank my right honourable friend the Member for East Yorkshire, Sir Greg Knight, for introducing this Bill in the other place. It is pleasing, as the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has just said, that in these times of discord to have before us something on which we are so totally in agreement and have reasonable concerns. This is the Lords at its best, just as it was on the Tenant Fees Bill earlier this week.

My noble friend Lord Hunt has shown considerable determination in ensuring that this comes to us and is navigated successfully. I very much endorse the comments that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has just made on the need for no amendments to this Bill. I will endeavour to deal with some of the issues that have come up on council car parking and so on, but that is without this Bill. I want noble Lords, if they would, to remain focused on this issue.

My noble friend Lord Hunt gave us an effective overview of the Bill and why it is needed—for consistency and clarity. There has been an increase in private parking tickets. I endorse the point that many noble Lords have made that there are many ethical operators which are operating quite appropriately and where there is no concern. But there are others. We all have our horror stories; I too have suffered from a cliff-edge car parking charge—as my noble friend Lord Lucas, mentioned—so there are concerns. We all have our examples or—in the case of the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill—our close relatives’ examples to consider and quote.

This is in essence a very simple Bill. It facilitates bringing in a code of practice for private operators to ensure we have consistency, clarity and a proper appeals system. I will nail this at the outset, but will probably come back to it as I go through my speech: there will be a code of practice with an advisory committee drawn from people with expertise in this area. That code of practice will be consulted on and there will then be appropriate parliamentary procedures on the detail.

On the point made by my noble friend Lord Lucas about a meeting, I am happy to facilitate that—hopefully along with Sir Greg and my noble friend Lord Hunt of Wirral—to talk about some of these aspects and provide reassurance. The important point is to provide the focus to ensure that this measure, which is simple and straightforward and should command our support, goes through unamended.

The code of practice will deal with matters such as appeals to ensure that there is clarity and consistency; that is important. It seems appropriate—this is subject to the consultation exercise—that it mirrors appeals procedure elsewhere. I am sure that is at the forefront of people’s minds. On notices and the points made about signage, that should reflect best practice and the same process as in local authority car parks and on Network Rail land—where there is a slightly separate regime with slightly different considerations, but it very much mirrors what we have here.

I am sure fines would be considered in the code of practice, particularly in those cliff-edge cases. You see the sign telling you how long you can park for, then if you overstay by a short amount you are very often subject to some horrific charge and the ransom types of situation that the noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, referred to. My department has been made aware recently of somebody accidentally mistyping their registration number into a parking system and for the sake of a 50p ticket receiving a £45 charge. This is unacceptable and the sort of thing that would be dealt with.

The noble Baroness and others raised the issue of those that are unlicensed and do not receive the appropriate laying-on of hands as a registered provider. They will not have access to the DVLA data, so will not be able to enforce the charges at all or to operate successfully. I am sure the code of practice will reflect this, but clearly the sanctions would not necessarily go for denial of access to the DVLA data straightaway if it is a very minor breach, but that would be appropriate in some situations. It could be the case that it would be like endorsing a licence.

Signage will be dealt with. Noble Lords have raised the issue of contractual signage before you actually go into the car park. It is a basic principle of contract law that you can only be subject to terms known to you and agreed by you, either expressly or implicitly, at the time the contract is concluded. I will look at that, but I am sure it will be borne in mind by those putting together the code of practice. After the contract is concluded, you cannot then seek unilaterally to put in extra terms, as per the case of Olley v Marlborough Court. If I may, I will cover that in more detail in the letter.

My noble friend Lord Goschen referred to county court judgments. There is certainly an issue there that we want to take care of. There have been instances of having notices sent to their old addresses when they have made known their present address, and such cases should also be covered.

I have covered the issues of unlicensed operators and fine levels, and the use of debt collectors will no doubt be covered in the code.

I shall deal now with one or two of the issues that have been raised. My noble friend Lord Hunt referred to the fact that he first entered this arena through passenger vehicles legislation—the Minibus Act 1977. It says much for the contribution he has made to public life that he is still firing on all cylinders and helping us with these issues. I put on record my thanks and the House’s thanks for that.

The noble Baroness, Lady Thornhill, referred to the local pub test in Watford. I will not ask how she is aware of what is being talked about in the local pubs but we all recognise that unfair car park charges fire people up, and we all have our horror stories to tell about them and I thank her for her contribution and support. She referred to the synergy with local authorities. Many people would suggest that local authorities often make hefty charges but I will deal with that issue in separate correspondence with her. I agree that sometimes people are unfair in the abuse and attacks they direct at people who are responsible for enforcing the rules, a point also made by the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy.

I am grateful to my noble friend Lord Goschen for his comments on this focused legislation. As he said, it seeks to deal with legalised unfairness. I am also grateful to my noble friend Lord Leigh of Hurley for his contribution and his broader discussion of car parking. We recognise some of the issues he raised, particularly about the need for compatibility. He said that many companies behave perfectly properly and ethically. They have nothing to fear. We want to make good operators the norm, the universal situation.

My noble friend Lord Kirkhope also goes back some way on this issue of parking and I thank him for his expert knowledge and for his support of the need to move forward with this legislation. I also thank my noble friend Lord Lucas for recognising some of the challenges. He referred to the cliff-edge operators. I have been a victim and note that it is very unfair on people.

All we are seeking is clarity, consistency, transparency and fairness. This is a process measure rather than a substance; it is to make sure that people are dealt with fairly.

In particular I thank the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, for, as always, putting his finger on what needs to happen here—which is support from around the House to ensure that this sensible legislation, which has universal support in the Lords, goes forward without amendment. In the meantime, I am happy to write to noble Lords on some of the issues that have been raised and, indeed, to facilitate a meeting if that is felt appropriate. With that, I again thank my noble friend Lord Hunt for bringing forward this legislation.

Planning: Permitted Development Rights

Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Wednesday 16th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government
Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Baroness will be aware that the consultation closed on Monday. We have had more than 400 responses. One thing that people will be able to comment on is design, which I think the noble Baroness referred to tangentially. Obviously, we will want to analyse those responses before going further, but this is about ensuring that there are more homes available and seeking to liven up the high street, which is much needed.

Lord Kennedy of Southwark Portrait Lord Kennedy of Southwark (Lab Co-op) - Hansard

My Lords, I draw the attention of the House to my relevant interest as a vice-president of the Local Government Association. What does the Minister see as the risk to quality and space standards of increased permitted development rights, and what would be the benefit to our struggling high street of the loss of more shops, reducing the variety available to customers?

Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth Portrait Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth - Hansard

My Lords, the noble Lord will be aware that this is not about losing shops but about permitting speedier change of use from one medium to another. It is also about looking at the ability to build up to five storeys from ground level, so it is not necessarily about losing shops. There are many vacant shops and there is a question about what we do about that, but, as I say, the consultation has just ended. We are beginning to analyse the more than 400 responses that have come in, so there is a job of work to be done, but we are very conscious of the need for more homes and to liven up the high street. Those two things are not necessarily inconsistent.

Tenant Fees Bill

(3rd reading (Hansard): House of Lords)
Debate between Lord Kennedy of Southwark and Lord Bourne of Aberystwyth
Tuesday 15th January 2019

(1 year, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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