Climate Change

Beyond our current policies – As minimum to mitigate climate change I would campaign for the extension of the climate change levy into a carbon tax and use it to meet a minimum aim of being a country in the better half of impactors on climate change rather than be one of the the 35rd worst countries (out of around 200) by 2030.

I would set up an organisation whose task is threefold:

  • One group of independent experts would estimate the likely production of climate change gas each country would be producing in 2030 and provide the data for a target for Britain.  This target to be set so that Britain is on the less polluting side of the median of countries in the world – in the better half.
  • A second group of independent experts would analyse the polluting factors involved in climate change and work out whether they are significant to bother counting, can be suitably measured and what the carbon tax figure would be appropriate for them.
  • A third group of independent experts would establish the carbon tax rate that would be needed to hit the target set by the first group using the figures produced by the second group.  This tax rate would always be set five years in advance.

The target will be dynamic as each country develops in its own way.  If other countries become more active in mitigating climate change then our task will be become harder. The carbon tax rate will rise faster.  If other countries are lax then our task will be easier and our carbon tax will rise more slowly.  However, as we are currently 35rd worst we have our work cut out in any case.

All this work would be public to allow for independent scrutiny.

In independent taxation system will provide a neutral way of nudging consumers into making decisions that favour the environment (often without consciously thinking about it because the cost is subsumed in the purchase price of what they are buying) and nudging industry to invest in more sustainable projects.  Because the taxation is set in an independent framework business would be able to rely on the direction of travel.  Although having the carbon tax set for five years hence can be quite short term for many industries such a move is far better than what we have now.

This tax would replace road fuel duty either partially or fully depending on whether or not road user charging was introduced.  It would also replace all the special charges, grants and funding that government currently undertake to clumsily attempt to influence the economy – picking winners as it is often called.  Government investment in research is fine as is investing in demonstration projects but subsidizing industries is counter productive.

The tax could either become part of general taxation to reduce other taxes – to raise the threshold for income tax higher for example and/or fund the insulation of homes and the general decarbonizing of commercial activities.

Rent Controls

I have had many types of tenancies in my time, rent control flat, council house, tied house, bedsit, shared house, licensed squat, mortgagee, and house owner, so I can see what the Labour party is try to achieve for people who want to rent their home.

Labour plans are to:

  • Cap rents so they cannot rise by more than the rate of inflation (CPI) during secure three-year tenancies
  • Require landlords and letting agents to disclose the rent levels charged to previous tenants so that householders can negotiate the best possible deal at the start of their contract.
  • Labour’s also planning to introduce new ways for landlords to evict tenants within that three year period, for example if they want to sell your home or get it back for other reasons. These loopholes are pretty scary when you think they’re attached to a big financial incentive to use them – because that’s the only way they will be able to put the rent up in the first three years.

The problems with this are:

  • As the charity Generation Rentsays – it won’t bring down rents and will incentivise landlords to evict tenants.
  • Housing expert Henry Pryor said: “Don’t be taken in by Labour rent controls, it won’t make it cheaper, increase supply” but “it will distort the market”.
  • Rather than reduce rents, Labour’s plans will lead to huge rent hikes every three years, higher rents overall and fewer available rental properties.
  • There is a rare consensus amongst economists that rent controls impact negatively on housing market, with a recent survey finding that 95 per cent of economists disagreed with the proposition that rent controls had a positive impact on the amount and quality of broadly affordable rental housing.

Rents are high in England for a number of reasons but the main one is that the demand for homes for rent is higher than supply.  Artificially keeping rents down will mean that landlords will withdraw from the market and the supply will decrease.

The only way to keep rents under control and stop house prices from spiralling is to follow the Liberal Democrat plan to build 300,000 homes.  As well as ambition house build targets, the Liberal Democrats will help young people with their tenancy deposit and support people to gradually buy their home through our Rent to Own policy.

Labour in the past

  • Failed to build anywhere near enough homes in Government – with house building falling to levels not seen since the 1920s.
  • Even Ed Balls admitted that Labour failed to recognise the “importance of building more homes and more affordable homes”.

Liberal Democrat plans

Set an ambitious goal to build 300,000 homes a year, including in 10 new garden cities in areas where homes are needed most, in areas where there is local support, providing tens of thousands of high-quality new homes, with gardens and shared green space, jobs, schools and public transport.
Introduce a new “Help to Rent” and “Rent to Own” schemes which will provide government-backed tenancy deposit loans for all first time renters under 30. And we will help working people buy their first home for the same cost as renting, with a new model of Rent to Own homes, where each month’s rental payment steadily buys you a share in the home, which you’ll own outright after 30 years.
Directly commission house building from government. As is being trialled in Northstowe in Cambridgeshire, we will support government-backed schemes to build houses for sale, where necessary, to compensate for the shortfall in the private market.

Labour have used the example of Germany as evidence that a rent control system could work in Britain. In Germany, rents are set by the market initially but then can only be raised within tenancies according to inflation or increases in the landlord’s costs. However, this ignores huge structural differences in the housing market more broadly compared with Britain, the biggest one being that Germany has been able to deliver the number of houses required to meet demand, as demonstrated by the fact that both rents and house prices are much lower-relative to income-than in Britain.

The German example only proves one thing, which is that the priority has to be building the 300,000 homes a year that Britain needs-only the Liberal Democrats have committed to achieving this.

Housing in the Green Belt?

Suburban spreadThe national government has changed its policy in relation to providing new housing and planning law (for England only – the other parts of Britain have their own policies). This has meant that Elmbridge has had to reconsider its approach to housing development.

Why is Elmbridge in this position?
Since  Elmbridge adopted its core planning strategy in 2011, the national government has made significant changes to the way local governments have to plan for new housing through the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) in 2012.  A number of decisions by planning inspectors and the High Court in 2014 have called into question plans that were adopted before the publication of the NPPF.

What are these significant changes that the national government has made?
The NPPF now requires all local governments to assess, and try to meet in full, the need
for new homes in their area including looking at the potential to accommodate them in the Green Belt.

Why does Elmbridge have to reconsider its approach?
Elmbridge’s core Strategy and evidence that supports it were produced before the NPPF and so are considered to be out of date. Specifically, the approach to housing development and the housing target are based on the assumption that the Green Belt
is ‘off limits’.

How will Elmbridge reconsider its approach?
The borough will have to: find out how many more homes are needed; identify where these new homes can and can’t go including looking at the Green Belt; work with other local authorities, particularly the boroughs bordering Elmbridge over the border in London, to identify and meet the need for new homes in our area.

What is happening to current work in progress?
Work on settlement investment and development plans is halted until work on the evidence review is completed.

What will be the benefit of Elmbridge reconsidering its approach to housing
development?
This work is vital to ensure that Elmbridge has a robust and defendable local plan, and one that is in accordance with the NPPF. Specifically it will: ensure that decisions on where housing goes are made locally and not by the national government; support us in working with other local governments to ensure they provide their fair share of new homes; send a clear message that we are looking seriously at options for meeting housing need; help us to defend planning applications for new development within the Green Belt ensuring that we get to choose where and when development happens; and, enable us to plan for the infrastructure needed to support new development.

What will happen if we don’t do this work?
If the borough doesn’t do this work it would face the following risks: other local governemnts and developers are likely to challenge our plans; future plans, such as settlement ID plans, are likely to be found unsound resulting in significant and unnecessary costs to the borough; developers will start to make applications for development within the Green Belt and these will become increasingly difficult to defend; and, without an up to date plan, the borough will lose the ability to choose where housing
goes and will not be able to plan for infrastructure.

Are all the boroughs in England going to be affected in this way, or is it just
Elmbridge?
Yes, those boroughs with plans adopted before the publication of the new national government policy in 2012 will need to reconsider their approach. This applies to
boroughs with and without green belt.

What will the work tell us?
Once the work is completed it will enable us to determine either: that the housing target in Elmbridge’s core strategy, evidence base and strategy for locating development are okay and provide an appropriate basis on which to continue preparing future plans, such as Settlement ID Plans; that the housing target in the core strategy, evidence base and strategy for locating development need reviewing and a new local plan needs to be prepared.

Does this mean that development will take place on the Green Belt?
No. The evidence base will determine whether or not we need to locate development
within the Green Belt. A Green Belt boundary review would be in accordance with the
NPPF, having regard to the intended permanence of the Green Belt in the long term, enduring beyond the plan period.  When looking at the potential to accommodate new development within the Green Belt we will need to ensure that it continues to meet its key aim – preventing the spread of the London conurbation.

How is Surrey involved in all this?  transport, infrastructure, education etc?
Once Elmbridge has an initial idea of how many homes can be accommodated we will need to speak to Surrey to identify what infrastructure will be required. If there are problems that cannot be resolved through the provision of additional infrastructure then
this may mean we need to reduce the amount of new housing we can deliver.

Why do we have to work with others to do this?
The NPPF requires us to identify and meet housing need across a wider area – called
our housing market area. We will need to identify our housing market area and work
with boroughs within it to undertake this work.

When will the new work/review start?
Work reviewing the evidence will start immediately. The borough will start by identifying the housing market area and work on identifying and meeting the need for new homes,
working with local government partners. Further information and a detailed timetable is
set out within Elmbridge’s local development scheme.

How long will the work/review take?
Elmbridge will have completed most of the evidence base by summer 2015.

How is Elmbridge going to keep the burghers in touch with progress?
Elmbridge will continue to keep its burghers up to date with progress at key stages though letters, emails and community meetings. Specifically, when the work is complete and the outcome.

Where can I find more information about the review?
On Elmbridge’s website or by contacting the planning policy team via email: planningpolicy@elmbridge.gov.uk

New Mayor for Elmbridge

Homestart website

Following his election as Mayor of Elmbridge at the annual meeting of the borough’s council on Wednesday, 4 June, Councillor Barry Fairbank has chosen to support Home-Start Elmbridge during his Mayoral Year.

 

 

Cllr Fairbank, erstwhile leader of the Liberal Democrats at the borough,  represents Long Ditton but now lives in Weybridge.

Councillor Fairbank has been involved with Home-Start Elmbridge for several years and wanted to offer more support with his fundraising during his Mayoral year.

One of the aims of the fundraising for his mayoral year is to be able to train more volunteers to give their help and support to the many families, with a child under five, experiencing difficulties.

In an ideal world Home-Start Elmbridge wouldn’t be needed. But for many parents the pressures of family life are simply too much to cope with alone. There are so many reasons for this including; poverty, illness, family breakdowns and parental isolation.  And this is where Home-Start steps in… by recruiting and training local parent volunteers to offer emotional and practical support to families in their own homes. Home-Start volunteers provide vital early intervention support, often stopping a family from reaching crisis point. Life is getting tougher for many families, and the demand for Home-Start support is at an all-time high.

I think that Cllr Fairbanks choice of charity is excellent and you can donate here on-line. Remember ever little helps.  If you are an income taxpayer then you can even make the national government chip in too.

 

Green Homes

strawbaleYou do not have to build a straw bale home to make your life greener and save money on heating bills because throughout Surrey on 17 and 18 May 2014, inspirational eco-home owners are opening their doors to members of the public, to show how they have made their homes cheaper to heat and more comfortable to live in.

This is a free opportunity to see energy-saving technologies in action and to ask the homeowners those burning questions. Plus every resident who visits an eco- home can enter a prize draw to win a free green deal assessment worth £100.

To find out more or to book visit the website or call Action Surrey 0800 783 2503.

Old Palace Road Green

Old Palace Road Green websiteResidents have been concerned about the parking on the little green.

Before anything can be done I have to establish who owns the land.  At the moment the Borough of Elmbridge says it does not own it because it transferred the land with the houses around it to Paragon Housing Trust but similarly Paragon Housing Trust says it does not own it.  I have asked them to both dig deeper.  Perhaps Surrey owns it as part of the highway – I doubt it.

Might you be the owner?