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Jim Fitzpartick
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Housing

01 Aug

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Government launch consultation into leasehold properties

August 1, 2017 | By | No Comments

Last week the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) announced they would begin an 8-week consultation and consider a range of measures to tackle unfair and unreasonable abuses of leasehold.

The APPG on Leasehold Reform, which I co-chair, and the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership have campaigned tirelessly on this issue and welcome the announcement. We are pleased about the news from the DCLG that they are to consult on the proposal to ban the building of leasehold houses and the removal of opportunities to produce unfair leasehold ground rent terms on all new build homes.

However, many people will be left worried by the scope of the reforms. The APPG will now look to understand from the Housing Department what their position is on existing homeowners who will not be considered under the terms of the consultation.

If you’ve bought a new-build leasehold house or flat since 2005, please click here to fill in a 5-minute survey. We need help to fight back, your efforts will help us to make the case for reform.

13 Jan

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Housing and Planning Bill – second reading at the report stage

January 13, 2016 | By | No Comments

housing 2

Tuesday 12 January 2015

Watch online here

Jim Fitzpatrick: I am pleased to follow the hon. Member for St Albans (Mrs Main), who, apart from her other duties in this place, very ably leads the all-party parliamentary group on Bangladesh, on which I am pleased to be one of her vice-chairs.

I want to speak on new clauses 3 and 4, which stand in my name. I express my appreciation to Mr Glenn McKee in the Public Bill Office for his expert assistance in drafting them. I thank the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership for its encouragement in making sure that we have new clause 3 on leasehold reform. Poplar and Limehouse has the second highest number of leasehold properties in the country, so this is a matter of great constituency significance. In relation to new clause 4 on tenants’ rights, 50% of the properties are social-rented, so that is also a big issue locally.

I am pleased that the Government have recognised the scale of the leasehold reform issue. The hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) has led on the issue, having campaigned on leasehold reform for many years. I am pleased to support him, backed up by the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, which is organised by Martin Boyd and Sebastian O’Kelly. The hon. Gentleman and I have arranged a number of open forums here at Westminster for parties interested in leasehold reform. They have been attended by professional bodies, individual leaseholders and others who have raised these matters with the civil service and with Government. I am grateful to the Minister for affording us a number of opportunities to meet him and civil servants at DCLG to explore these issues and try to identify a way forward.

One of the major successes that we have had in the past 12 months is that although the Government initially estimated that there were between 2 million and 2.25 million leaseholders, it has now been recognised that there are now at least 4.5 million. That demonstrates that this is a bigger problem than perhaps the Government thought it was before. Of course, that does not take into account the nearly 2 million leaseholders of former council properties who exercised right to buy or who subsequently bought those properties, so we are talking about nearly 6 million households, which means that a significant number of our citizens are affected by leasehold regulation.

The issue affects my constituents, among whom are not only very wealthy professionals who live in smart and very expensive properties in Canary Wharf, but a number of pensioners in the east end who exercised right to buy and who own former council properties. They clearly do not have access to the resources, assets

12 Jan 2016 : Column 772

or finances available to some of my constituents. The issue also affects retirement homes. Leaseholders are represented in every strata of society, from the poorest right the way to the richest, so nobody is excluded from being exposed to the vulnerability of living in a leasehold property.

I use the word “vulnerable” because the lack of protection and the informal dispute resolution procedure, which is abused by unscrupulous freeholders who employ high-powered barristers, affects ordinary leaseholders, whether they be professionals, rich or poor. I see that Conservative Members are smiling because they are either vulnerable leaseholders or freeholders. I will not say that they are unscrupulous, because that certainly does not apply to the hon. Member for Bromley and Chislehurst (Robert Neill), who I know, as a fellow West Ham United supporter, would never be unscrupulous when it comes to his properties. There are major anomalies and weaknesses in leasehold regulation, including the amount paid in service charges, as well as insurance, ground rent and forfeiture charges, all of which mean that leaseholders are vulnerable to unscrupulous freeholders. Sadly, there are too many such freeholders, even though they are in the minority.

It is appropriate to recognise that the sector has been attempting to improve its performance and raise its game with a new voluntary code. Significant progress has been made, but leasehold reform should be on the Government’s radar, especially given that leasehold has been increasingly used over many years. Six major statutes, a number of statutory instruments and dozens of sections of other Acts of Parliament have dealt with the issue. Previous Conservative Administrations—notably in 1985, 1987 and 1993—and Labour’s Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 all tried to address that which is recognised collectively as an area that needs attention, but we have signally failed to protect leaseholders. I would be interested to hear the Minister’s response.

New clause 3 proposes to abolish leasehold by 2020. I hope—I am sure that other colleagues do, too—that it will galvanise the Government into asking why nothing has happened in respect of commonhold. I understand that the Government have been having key discussions on moving responsibility for commonhold legislation, which still falls under the Ministry of Justice, to the Department for Communities and Local Government and the housing department. It would make sense to place such responsibility for housing in that Department. At the end of the previous Administration, with the general election approaching, all three main political parties supported moving that responsibility to DCLG, but there has been no movement. I would be grateful to hear the Minister’s response.

New clause 4 is far less complex, but I am disappointed that there has been no movement on the issue, because it is very much one of localism and community empowerment. One of the few existing protections for leaseholders—it is, however, very difficult to implement—is the right to sack property management companies responsible for the upkeep of residents’ homes. There is provision within legislation for ballots to take place, and a simple majority allows residents to look for a new property management company to manage their properties. However, as I have said, it can very seldom be used.

In recent decades, many thousands of tenants in my constituency have voted in stock transfer ballots to move responsibility for their homes from the council to

12 Jan 2016 : Column 773

housing associations. That was one of the mechanisms that the Labour Government between 1997 and 2010 used to deal with the 2 million homes we inherited that were perceived as being below the decency threshold. That led to upgrades of nearly 1.5 million of those properties by 2010, including new kitchens and bathrooms, double glazing, new security and all the rest of it.

Most such schemes were successful. However, in a small minority of transfers, the offer provided by the housing associations when seeking the support of local tenants was not delivered. There is no provision for those tenants to express their disappointment and to sack their registered social landlord. This is a basic element of consumer protection. For any product that one buys on the open market, there are protections in consumer law—the ability to return the product, and to seek a refund, redress or compensation—but for a home, and a council tenant who has voted to move to a new registered social landlord, there is nowhere else to go once they have been transferred. A leaseholder at least has such a provision, even though it is rarely used.

With my new clause 4, I am trying to introduce an provision—with, I suggest, a five-yearly review—to give council tenants an opportunity to say to the housing association or their registered social landlord that is supposed to deliver the services for which tenants are paying, “You are not doing a good enough job. If you don’t up your game, we will have a ballot in five years’ time. We can then sack you and move to a new housing association, go back to the council or set up a tenant management organisation.” That would basically give tenants the right to hold their housing association to account.

The current protections are to complain to the Housing Ombudsman Service, the Homes and Communities Agency or the regulator. It is very difficult to go to such lengths, however, and the regulator is very reluctant to transfer ownership and responsibility from one housing association to another. New clause 4 suggests that tenants should have the right, when the registered social landlord or housing association is not delivering, to say, “You’re not doing a good enough job. We want somebody else to manage our property.”

On new clauses 3 and 4, one of which is very complex and the other relatively straightforward, I am very disappointed that the Government have not seen it to be in their interest to introduce such provisions. I am sure that there will be some interest in them when the Bill makes progress in the other place. I will be very interested to hear the Minister’s response to the points I have made in supporting my new clauses.

11 Jan

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Housing and Planning Bill

January 11, 2016 | By | No Comments

Housing remains the single biggest issue my team and I deal with in Poplar and Limehouse and I am sure this is the case for the rest of Tower Hamlets and perhaps even London.

A piece of legislation which if left unchanged will stand to heighten the housing crisis was debated by MPs last week.

There was contention around the timing of the debate, with many parliamentary colleagues arguing the six hours allocated for the debate over Tuesday evening and the early hours of Wednesday morning was inappropriate. Making laws in the wee small hours of the morning isn’t the best way to legislate. The bill should have been delayed.

I was able to attend the debate and was present to listen to contributions, to support my colleagues and to vote for key amendments to be made.

These included ‘starter homes’ currently sold at a 20 per cent publicly funded discount on the first sale, to be made a permanent discount under amendment 39. This would not only make it easier for first time buyers to get onto the property ladder but reduce the cost of these homes in perpetuity.

Further, I put forward my own amendments, one which would have required property owners to consult with tenants on their satisfaction with the management of that property, granting tenants a bigger voice in who manages property sold under LSVT. If more than 50 per cent of tenants are dissatisfied, the owner must carry out a competitive tender for the management of the property and report the outcome to the tenants. The amendment failed.  The second was to reform leasehold laws to give leaseholders stronger rights.

Both of these amendments would have empowered residents.

The bill will be debated at the report stage for a second day on Tuesday (12th January).

Jeremy Corbyn was carrying out his reshuffle around this time which has made the headlines more than this important legislation.

08 Jan

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03 Nov

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Housing and Planning Bill

November 3, 2015 | By | No Comments

Monday 2 November 2015

housing bill

Watch online: http://goo.gl/zP84QG

Jim contributed the following:

5.52 pm

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): I am delighted to follow the hon. Member for South Norfolk (Mr Bacon). Housing is the biggest issue in my constituency, as it is in many others. I want to focus on two points. First, I shall deal with the elements that I believe to be missing from the Bill; then I shall cover the elements of concern.

There is nothing in the Bill on leasehold reform. The hon. Member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley) has been leading a campaign on this issue for some time. The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership has supplied a briefing outlining the key elements missing from the Bill. It states:

“The law commission report proposing the replacement of forfeiture with a forced sale through the termination of a tenancy has been with government since 2006.”

2 Nov 2015 : Column 760

It goes on:

“The government is aware that many leasehold landlords are delaying or stopping the ‘right to manage’ on very minor technical grounds”.

It also states:

“The basic right for leaseholders to form a Recognised Tenants Association is set at a needlessly high level”.

Furthermore, the so-called informal disputes tribunal procedures are far from informal or inexpensive.

The Chairman of the Select Committee, my hon. Friend the Member for Sheffield South East (Mr Betts) mentioned electrical safety checks. A briefing from Electrical Safety First states:

“The Housing Bill…does not include anything on protecting tenants in the private rented sector from electrical accidents caused by unchecked and faulty electrical installations. Electrical safety in the private rented sector has been left behind other important safety areas, such as gas, carbon monoxide and smoke alarms.”

As my hon. Friend said, the Government have missed the opportunity to introduce regulations as part of this legislation to ensure mandatory five-year electrical safety checks.

I have already raised with the Minister the question of registered social landlord ballot transfers from councils to housing associations, and the fact that there is no reversal provision. A housing association might make an offer to tenants and they might vote yes to stop the transfer, but if the offer falls through, the tenants are stuck with that housing association ad infinitum. There should be an opportunity at some point, perhaps after five or 10 years, for tenants to be re-balloted if they so wish, to give them a chance to change their housing provider or to go back to the council.

I shall speak briefly about elements of concern. Like many others who have spoken today, I find the deficiencies in the proposals on the right to buy a matter of huge concern. I support the principle of the right to buy. However, the House of Commons Library briefing paper states:

“The ultimate aim is that replacement will be achieved within two years of sale, but the default position is that associations will achieve replacement within three years. Replacement will be at national level”.

Replacement will not be at local level, as many colleagues have pointed out. The Library briefing goes on to say that local authorities would be required

“to manage their housing assets more efficiently, with the most expensive properties sold off and replaced as they fall vacant.”

In Tower Hamlets, there is not much property that is not at the higher value end. Those are large family homes, and when they go, families in east London will not be able to afford them. According to the briefing, the Local Government Association

“has argued that the extension of Right to Buy should not be funded by forcing councils to sell off their homes.”

Another aspect that has been highlighted locally is that housing associations are having to change the way in which they work. There have been reports of employment training programmes, youth services initiatives and antisocial behaviour efforts being subjected to review, reduced or cancelled as a result of cuts in funding. Some associations are even changing the housing that they offer. For example, East Thames housing has said:

“We have had to review our housing offer in line with government changes, particularly the year on year rent cut, which will result in a £14m reduction to our annual income. We have therefore taken the decision to concentrate our resources on social housing for

2 Nov 2015 : Column 761

those in greatest need, as well as shared ownership which is supported by the government. Unfortunately we can’t continue to support and subsidise other tenures and believe those with the greatest need should be our priority.”

That language seems not only innocuous but quite positive, if we want to interpret it in that way, but translated into English it means that key workers and carers are going to be evicted from their homes. They will no longer be able to use intermediate tenures. I am sure that that is not the Government’s intention. It is totally wrong for people who have been living in those homes for 10 years to be evicted, and I would like the Minister to tell us that that is not the Government’s intention and that affordable social housing for key workers is part of the plan.

5.57 pm

27 Oct

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Jim Fitzpatrick MP vows to fight end of ‘intermediate rent scheme’

October 27, 2015 | By | No Comments

Local MP, Jim Fitzpatrick, has pledged his support for those threatened with eviction by East Thames housing association.  Residents met with Mr Fitzpatrick at his Poplar advice surgery, and told him of their plight.

East Thames residents received letters stating that they must either buy their homes or vacate them.  Those currently living in an intermediate market rented property received the news this month (October) that the housing association had taken the ‘difficult decision’ in light of ‘the current economic climate’.

A spokeswoman for East Thames told Poplar and Limehouse MP, Jim Fitzpatrick: ‘As you are aware, we have had to review our housing offer in line with government changes, particularly the year on year rent cut, which will result in a £14m reduction to our annual income’.

Mr Fitzpatrick said, ‘residents have found themselves in the most worrying of positions.  If they can’t buy their property, they’re out.  It’s as simple as that.  Having spoken with them in person, I know they are anxious and uncertain about that most fundamental of human needs – the roof over their heads.  I’ll do everything I can to support their efforts to stay in their homes.’

The MP has arranged to meet urgently with East Thames’ Chief Executive, Yvonne Arrowsmith, to discuss the matter.  Mr Fitzpatrick said, ‘this situation is even more distressing for residents because they have been given so little time in which to get to grips with this proposed change to their circumstances.  A deadline of 23 October for expressing interest in purchasing their homes was set by East Thames, and some have done so simply to ensure they are not immediately regarded as having opted for eviction instead.’  He concluded, ‘ultimately, housing associations such as East Thames are currently being put in the most invidious of positions by government policies.  However, I am calling on East Thames to review and to find a way to reverse this decision.’

This press release was shared with local news outlets yesterday.

30 Jun

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Early day motion 145 – HOMES IN LONDON

June 30, 2015 | By | No Comments

Session: 2015-16

Date Jim signed: 18.06.2015

Primary sponsor: Khan, Sadiq

Sponsors: Coyle, NeilThornberry, EmilyStreeting, WesFoxcroft, VickyLucas, Caroline

That this House believes London is facing a chronic shortage of genuinely affordable and social housing; expresses concern that the Government’s proposals to force councils to sell off large numbers of their homes, allow the sale of housing association properties through right-to-buy before replacement homes are built, and lower the welfare cap to £23,000 in London will make this crisis worse; further believes that the result will be the social cleansing of London; and calls on the Government to rethink plans to force councils to sell off homes, intended in part to subsidise right-to-buy discounts, and instead to prioritise the building of the homes Londoners need, including for social rent and for first time buyers and to make a commitment that no housing association or council homes be sold under right-to-buy until new like-for-like homes for social rent have been built in the same numbers and in the same local authority area.

http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2015-16/145

23 Mar

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Budget Speech

March 23, 2015 | By | No Comments

Excerpt taken from:

Ways and Means — Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation — Amendment of the Law

budget6

12.16 pm

Jim Fitzpatrick (Poplar and Limehouse) (Lab): It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds (Mr Ruffley). I have the highest regard for him, as I am sure he knows, and I am sorry that he is leaving the House. He has given another eloquent and solid performance on behalf of his Chancellor and his party, but he will not be surprised to learn that I do not agree with his analysis, as I shall outline in a few moments.

Many previous Budgets have taken until Sunday to unravel. It was to the credit of my right hon. Friend the Leader of the Opposition that he immediately spotted the big flaw in this Budget. In his response, he cited the Red Book to identify that the level of cuts impacting on the public sector over the next three years will be as deep as the cuts during the past five years. Many Labour colleagues have already referred to that in the debates during the past two days.

In fairness, there were some redeeming features, as there are in every Budget. The hon. Member for Bury St Edmunds mentioned that that was true of Budgets during Labour’s period in office. Those features include the initiatives on savings and the extra money for air ambulances, while bashing the banks is always popular—the hon. Gentleman is going back to the City, but that measure has gone down well with the public—and the measures on tax evasion and avoidance clearly have universal support.

There are, however, clear dividing lines between the parties. In east London, the big ticket issues are homes, training, the national health service and the public sector in general, including the issue of local authority budgets. I and my hon. Friend the Member for Bethnal Green and Bow (Rushanara Ali), whom I am happy to see in her place, have not only assisted the campaign to save the local health service for the past 18 months, but are still trying to get a clearer picture of the budget for primary care in our part of east London as well as that for east London generally. There is real concern about the funding of health centres right across the country, and it is not clear whether the Budget will offer them any help.

On adult training and further and higher education, Tower Hamlets college has had a 25% in its budget during the past four years, and only this week there has been an announcement about another 24% cut. That will have a huge impact on adult training in east London; it will certainly do so in my constituency. The announcement has united the Association of Colleges, the University

20 Mar 2015 : Column 1055

and College Union and the National Union of Students, as well as students themselves. The fact that such an alliance should come together demonstrates that the issue is very serious, and it is not just restricted to east London. My hon. Friend the Member for Coventry South (Mr Cunningham) raised it in an oral question yesterday, showing that other parts of the country are affected as well.

That announcement will also mean further cuts to English as a second language training, which is hugely important to east London. Last year, it was found that English for speakers of other languages training has already been reduced by 40% over the past five years. Such training is critical to train and educate people with English language challenges so that they can compete in the jobs market.

On policing, there seems to be something of a conundrum. Although crime figures are down, my office has supplied me with Library statistics that show that there were 825 police officers in Tower Hamlets in 2010 and 627 this year, which is almost 200 fewer. Theft is up by 8%, burglary by 24%, sexual offences by 28% and robbery by 33%. Notwithstanding the Government’s success in making efficiency savings in police budgets, at some point the pendulum is going to swing too far. We are already perilously close to that point, and, sadly, it looks like police budgets are going to be squeezed even more.

There is consensus on and support for the benefits cap, but it throws up some anomalies. In east London, a number of families live in private sector rented accommodation and are charged market rents, and the benefits cap has a disproportionate effect on their ability to live. That is one example of how a universal benefit cap affects families in London. The shadow Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central (Hilary Benn), outlined Labour’s proposals for a fairer rents policy and guaranteed rents over three years, which will go down very well in east London and elsewhere.

A number of colleagues, certainly the Chancellor, made great play of the minimum wage. Government Members have said a lot about Opposition predictions of the number of jobs that would be lost through austerity. We say that if there had been no austerity, we could have made progress a lot sooner, because when the coalition came to power the economy had been growing for a couple of months. I remind the Conservative Members that when Labour introduced the national minimum wage, they were very confident that it would cost 1 million jobs. That prediction proved to be entirely wrong. For many of us, the living wage is even more important than the minimum wage.

In Canary Wharf in my constituency there are some fantastically well-paid bankers, but 105,000 people work there, many of whom are in low-paid jobs in cleaning, security and retail. I am happy to report that the majority of companies on the wharf have a living wage policy. I would like to see the Government promoting the living wage far more aggressively than they currently do. I am sure that a Labour Government would bring that aggressiveness to bear in due course.

Mr Andy Slaughter (Hammersmith) (Lab): Does my hon. Friend agree that the Conservatives are taking exactly the same view of the living wage as they did of

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the minimum wage? That is shown by the comments of the Tory peer Lord Wolfson, who, as head of Next, paid himself £4.6 million last year, but says that the living wage is “irrelevant”. It is not irrelevant to my constituents.

Jim Fitzpatrick: My hon. Friend makes a very good point. Low wages are costing the Exchequer, and higher, fairer wages would benefit both the Exchequer and families. That argument is borne out by statistics that show that the living wage would help not only families but the economy.

I intervened earlier on the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to ask him about the Institute for Fiscal Studies report on migrant labour fuelling the economy, which was reported on in yesterday’s Independent and today’s Guardian. We do not seem to have acknowledged the contribution of migrants to the economy and how they have helped it over the past five years. The Government do not deserve all the credit. As I said, the Government wasted a number of years—a point that has been made a number of times by the Opposition.

Moving towards a conclusion—I am sure you will be pleased to hear that, Madam Deputy Speaker—I want to draw attention to some comments that have been made about the Budget. The chief executive of Citizens Advice, Gillian Guy, said:

“People on the lowest income and those without savings benefit least from this Budget…Positive moves on the personal allowance and fuel duty provide some small gains for stretched households, but there was nothing to address challenges around childcare, energy bills and private rents.”

All those challenges are addressed by Labour’s programme, which will go down well with Citizens Advice.

The Chancellor might not have been happy to hear what two commentators from the right had to say. I do not often quote right-wing commentators, but the editor of The Spectator, Fraser Nelson, said:

“I wonder: how ‘independent’ is the OBR? Osborne created it, defined its remit, appointed its chairman, banned it from assessing Labour ideas”.

If the Government, particularly the Conservative party, are so convinced and confident that Labour’s plans do not stack up and that our figures would create a black hole, why not use the independent Office for Budget Responsibility to do the analysis and reinforce their argument? I find it very strange and curious that that has not happened.

In yesterday’s Times, the subheading to an article by Tim Montgomerie—I do not agree with a lot of what he and Fraser Nelson say, but they are great writers and always a pleasure to read—stated, “The chancellor’s statement was the latest example of the Tories’ risk-averse strategy and leaves them without a vision”, while the headline stated, “We need more than this dull, simplistic budget”. If the Chancellor is being attacked from the right and from the left, I assume that some people will say, “He must be getting it right, because he’s in the middle,” but Labour Members do not agree.

The Chancellor also referred a number of times to fixing the roof while the sun shines. In Tower Hamlets when Labour was in power, most of our health centres and schools were rebuilt or refurbished; more than 20 Sure Start centres and the new Royal London hospital were opened; and thousands—possibly tens of thousands

20 Mar 2015 : Column 1057

—of council and housing association properties were raised to the decency threshold for the first time in years and in some cases decades.

I do not accept that we crashed the car. As the shadow Secretary of State, my right hon. Friend the Member for Leeds Central, said earlier, Lehman Brothers did not crash in New York because of public sector spending in east London. Labour Members not only think but know there is a better way, and on 7 May I hope people will give us a chance to show exactly what it is.

17 Mar

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Housing

March 17, 2015 | By | No Comments

homes for b

I would like to start off this week’s column by praising the many housing associations in Poplar and Limehouse that do an absolute fantastic job working with the residents of Tower Hamlets in ensuring housing needs are met.

Their consistency has not gone unnoticed. However, there are concerns about the activities of some housing associations operating in the Borough.

Just last month, one housing association was found by the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) to have breached its home standards. This was through their provision of poor repairs services which put the health and safety of tenants at risk.

Over the past few years Poplar and Limehouse has seen a dramatic regeneration in the number and quality of properties available to tenants and homeowners. There are questions about the affordability of many of these homes.

Among other concerns, this was debated in the Commons on Friday, in my debate on “Housing Association transfer ballots”. (For full text visit: http://www.jimfitzpatrickmp.org/news/?p=746)

Residents have been raising their complaints but there is no system currently in place to hold housing associations properly to account. It is my view that residents should be able to decide who to appoint as their housing association with the right to sack them and appoint another if major failures are found.

You may remember this is not the first time I have brought this issue to the House; in 2012 I highlighted in the Chamber that the housing related grievances in Poplar and Limehouse will not be going away unactioned.

The then Minister Mr Don Foster replied he would keep a close eye on the housing situation in Poplar and Limehouse and do his best to secure meetings with Ministers concerned.

Despite this, problems continue and solutions are harder to find.

This is one of the reasons I lent my support to the Homes for Britain campaign on Tuesday (17th March) for their walk to Westminster.

I joined Poplar HARCA, Tower Hamlets Homes and Tower Hamlets Community Housing in Chrisp Street for the first leg of the walk, it was great to see so many Poplar and Limehouse residents supporting the campaign.

Housing continues to be a major issue in my constituency. A Labour government in office post May 7th will ensure 200,000 more homes built a year by 2020.

Ultimately it is with more affordable homes, better living conditions and accountable housing associations that we can look forward to witnessing a better housing situation in Poplar and Limehouse once and for all.

19 Dec

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Pensions, housing and the Bedroom Tax

December 19, 2014 | By | No Comments

IMG_5516 (2)

In the past week, we have seen a number of important issues brought to the spotlight. This includes the Firefighter’s Pension Scheme, Government Housing allocation and the Bedroom Tax.

As I made clear in the Commons, the Firefighter’s Pension Scheme is not fit for purpose in its current state.

I myself am a former firefighter and was a member of the firemen’s pension scheme when I served in the London fire brigade from 1974 to 1997.

Firefighters currently contribute 14.2 per cent towards their pension, making it a very expensive scheme for them, and currently it requires firefighters to remain employed until the age of 60. This clearly raises alarm bells from a health and safety perspective.

An assessment commissioned by the Government found that up to see two thirds of firefighters would not make the cut.

Taking both of these points into consideration, it is appalling to some firefighters stand to lose out on up to a quarter of their pension because of current rules.

The second issue I want to talk about is the issue of housing.

I receive lots of representations from my constituents about housing. It’s by far the biggest issue locally.

This is why I am delighted to see through the Government’s announcement of almost £25million of funding to improve the quality of housing in Tower Hamlets. However, despite the cash injection, it is clear that more will need to be done.

Now I will move onto what has now become dubbed the Bedroom Tax.

Thanks to Labour, MPs were given the opportunity to debate and vote to scrap the tax on Wednesday.

Since the Bedroom Tax was introduced around half a million low-income households have been forced to find, on average an extra £700 a year. In Poplar and Limehouse, 1203 people have been hit by the Bedroom Tax.

Despite our efforts, the Tories and Lib Dems defeated the motion with 298 MPs voting against and 266 voting in favour.

Reflecting on the above, the Government’s response to each of these key issues provides an insight into just how out of touch the Coalition is with local issues and local people in Poplar and Limehouse.

I hope to see an end to this in only 6 months when we can elect a Labour government.

Finally, I’d like to sign off with a special thank you to my readers, wishing you all a very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2015.

– Jim

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