Don’t believe what you read about millionaires in Council Houses

CIMG1500Superb piece on the Red Brick blog last week about the latest absurdities of Tory Housing policies.

The proposal, trailed in the Guardian earlier this month, to cap “rent subsidy” at a household income of £60,000, (which would mean that a couple on £30,000 each could see their rent rise by about £70 a week) is seriously flawed for three reasons.

Firstly, it would disincentivise work, and discourage anyone in social housing from getting on in life.

Household income of £60,000 may seem like quite a lot (it is certainly more than my household earns in a year), and may seem like a sensible threshold for rent subsidies to be cut off at. However, a family with Mum and Dad both working on average London earnings of about £25,000 each would only need one grown-up child living at home and earning £10,000 a year (working part-time while studying, for example) to hit that threshold. Such families are not, by any stretch of the imagination, rich. But under the Tories plan they would either have to take a pay cut, move their earnings into the black market – or abandon their council home if they can no longer pay the higher rent. Read more of this post

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David’s campaign diary

A cold but sunny and dry weekend – Saturday meeting residents in Blackheath Westcombe and Sunday en famille.

Nestled at the back of the Royal Standard shopping area between Old Dover Road and Charlton Road is the Dornberg and Schofield estate where the Labour Team descended on Saturday morning. It is a well-kept estate which was tastefully refurbished in the 1990s by the Labour Council with glass panel shades giving the buildings a pyramid shape. The upper floors all have the protection of entry phones and there was no sign of vandalism, graffiti, littering or dumping. A pleasant estate around a green and, of course, very convenient for the shops. A good response with tenants pleased about the rents being kept down. The only significant issue was a faulty street lamp fitting which Alex Grant is straight onto as ever. We also visited the flats above the Old Dover Road shops which again were well maintained with some colour provided by plants and flowerpots Good to see the Blackheath Library refurbishment in progress and still due to open on time at the end of April.

Saturday afternoon we had an open coffee afternoon to mark International Women’s Day (actually 8 March) on helping young families to thrive. My daughters are now teenagers and were luck to live in Greenwich and benefit from free nursery education from the age of 3 – but now everyone does and going up to 15 hours rather than 12.5 hours per week. Also, we now have Sure Start and Children’s centres for many 0-5s as well as maternity pay for up to 39 weeks (compared to 14); paid paternity leave and child tax credits and higher child benefit. It is a different world, Mums and Dads have more options – they have the right to request flexible working and the right for emergency time off (say when the little one is ill). Many of these changes have been opposed by the Conservatives who claim to be the party of the family. A good discussion at Mycenae House led by my fellow candidate Pat Boadu Darko.

Sunday was my normal 10k run, cooking the traditional Sunday roast and a long walk in the afternoon taking in some very interesting heritage sites just north of the Thames along Greenway, Three Mills, the Lea Valley Park and Limehouse Cut. The East End does not have the great parks and open spaces that we enjoy in Greenwich, but it does have an amazing network of canals, old railway paths, old docks and industrial heritage. A busy week at work plus something on every night. Perhaps the highlight is an evening with Alistair Campbell on Wednesday in East Greenwich, a very capable and funny man even if (on occasions) given to bursts of temper.

St. David’s Day

Monday 1 March is St. David’s Day which brings out the Welsh in me (my middle name is Llewellyn) but should also be a sign of the first daffodils flowering and Batley Park (aka Blackheath Standard) breaking out in the colour of crocuses, snowdrops and daffodils. Alas, spring is delayed. Global warming is ushering in greater volatility in our weather. But hopefully soon, there will be more sunshine to help our confidence and the green shoots of the economy.

Despite, the cold and wet we have kept up the round of meeting everyone in Blackheath westcombe yesterday in the Kidbrooke Park estate nestled between Kidbrooke Park Road and the noisy A102. People were pleased to see the Labour team and the Decent Homes programme making a difference. The new entrocoms in the blocks are going in and will mean a big improvement in securtity and peace of mind. There is a problem with people dumping rubbish on the overgrown land at the back of the Rochester Way shops which is a real eyesore; the trouble is it’s private property and the council’s powers are limited. But we will press on.

Today my normal 10k run with my eldest (just adult) daughter and out meeting the people with Nick Raynsford MP (quite a few people coming back to Labour it seems) before some domestic chores. We discuss the nightly closure of the Blackwall tunnel which doesn’t affect me as a public transport fanatic but my wife and friends (and many on the doorstep) have been really inconvenienced by the southbound closure after 9pm. Why there cannot be a carefully controlled contraflow with a 20mph speed limit as in the rothehith Tunnel is quite beyond Nick and me. We will campaign on for Mayor Johnson to see some sense here.

Tomorrow is John Roan Governors which I chair. We will be reviewing progress with getting the final sign-off for the restroration of the Maze hill site and rebuilding of westcombe park under the Building School for the future programme. It is very exciting but also challenging. We fear that a change of Government would lead to the plug being pulled on the schools’ rebuilding programme and Boy George wields the axe. But the polls are now closing: it does very much look possible for Labour to win. In any event, the physical transformation of the school will not be allowed to get in the way of the educational transformation of John Roan which goes from stregth to strength. I remain very confident of continuing year-on-year improvement from 50% in 2008 to 62% in 2009, up to 70% this year and 75-80% the year after. We continue to attract more applicants, being three times over-subscribed this year.

Time to sign off for a little domestic harmony!

David Gardner