Lib Dem Transport Minister Norman Baker has announced that a new £560 million ‘Local Sustainable Transport Fund’ is being set up to promote more sustainable modes of transport. Local councils will be able to bid for funding from the new fund to support local sustainable transport initiatives. This is the replacement for the Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) set up and then dropped by the previous Labour government a year ago.
Welcoming the new fund, Lib Dem Transport Spokesperson in Reading, Cllr Ricky Duveen, said, I am very hopeful that Reading can tap into this fund to help develop our own ideas for reducing the carbon footprint of local transport.’
‘I am also pleased that the new fund will support the Bikeability scheme which provides cycle training to young children. This scheme has already helped hundreds of children in Reading and its future has been secured for the next 5 years.’
Image by jon smith ‘una nos lucror’ licensed under Creative Commons.
Responding to the Government’s Consultation on the Future of Social Housing, Cllr Daisy Benson, Lead Member for Housing on Reading Borough Council said:
“Council housing is a vitally important public asset and we welcome the opportunity to take part in the the national debate on the future of social housing launched recently by the Coalition Government .”
“The reality we face in Reading is the demand for social housing to rent vastly outstrips supply.
“This is as a direct result of number of factors including high house prices, a net reduction in council housing stock through Right To Buy, and crucially the failure of the previous Labour Government’s build new council housing over the past 13 years.”
“The Coalition Administration of Reading Borough Council is 100% committed to working alongside tenants and their representatives to protect the rights of existing Council tenants, as well as ensuring all local residents have fair access to Council housing.
“We have considered the Government’s proposals carefully and plan to continue to continue to offer lifetime tenancies to existing tenants and new tenants.”
“We have no plans to introduce so-called ‘fixed term’ tenancies as we feel the negative impacts these could have on tenants and communities outweigh the potential benefits.”"We agree with the Government that all decisions about council housing and tenancies should be taken locally by elected councillors in consultation with tenants and residents and this reinforces our commitment to putting residents first.
“This is in stark contrast with the years of micromanagement of council housing by the previous Labour government.”
Link to Government consultation: http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/socialhousingreform
Key elements from our consultation response:
- We strongly welcome the protection of security of tenure and other rights for existing tenants, including when they move. This will be especially important for under occupying tenants seeking a move, particularly when the housing benefit restrictions commence in April 2013.
- We also welcome the duty on Local Authorities to set the strategic policy for tenancies for social landlords in their area as they are best equipped with knowledge of local circumstances.
- We hope that this will also provide the opportunity to encourage social housing providers to continue to contribute, through their tenancy policies, to sustainable and thriving communities.
- In the Reading context we will continue to offer lifetime tenancies or homes to those who may need the security of these and would not foresee any circumstances whereby we would change the tenancy type or rights of existing tenants (including those who move home within our stock) and strongly support the continued provision of lifetime guarantees of a social home for rent through the Tenancy Standard for older people and people with long term illness or disability
In principle we agree that there should be some freedom to offer flexible tenancies. Used responsibly and appropriately they may assist in meeting shorter or fixed term housing needs for particular households.
- However we recognise the challenges of ensuring that these new freedoms and flexibilities can be used creatively to best meet local needs and priorities while avoiding the risks of revolving door homelessness, residulisation of older and disabled tenants, disincentivising people from improving their circumstances for fear of losing their home and limiting the opportunities for a wide range of people to put down roots and contribute to a sustainable, mixed, community.
- It will be important to have the time to fully consult with tenants and local stakeholders, using up to date housing needs and market information to inform the debates, on setting both the strategic policy for tenancies in our area and our own tenancy policy. (It is of concern that this will not be possible to complete before Housing Associations will have had to set their policies on the use of Affordable Rented homes for April 2011).
- We will want to ensure that these policies balance the key strategic demands of relieving the most pressing housing need, making best use of stock, providing long term settled accommodation for those who need it and shorter term support for those who may be able to move on. It will be important to look too at the strategic needs for the wider area housing market and to collaborate in ensuring that one local authorities policies do not cause a ‘push’ of residents to another area.
- We suggest that it might be appropriate for landlords to be required to agree with their tenants a review period for their Tenancy policy and that its impact and operation is reported to and scrutinised by tenants to inform that review.
- We strongly welcome the investment in bringing the very difficult empty homes back into use and support the New homes Bonus (NHB) being applied to empty homes.
- We strongly welcome the reform of the Housing Revenue Account as a means to provide a sound and sustainable platform for Council Housing and the move to true self financed balance sheets.
- The proposed reform will enable tenants and Councils to develop a strategic relationship that is not subject to micro-management from the Treasury and means that Councils will (in consultation with tenants) be able to develop much longer term business planning and asset management strategies.
- The ability to take local and meaningful decision about how the rent yield is spent is an important step towards localism and will encourage place based budgeting
To speak to Cllr Daisy Benson call 07766157857