Budget offers us a chance for change

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Very few things concern me more than the housing crisis in our town and the country generally.

This week the National Housing Federation have produced a report predicting that house prices are set to rocket by 35 per cent by 2020 and that private sector rents are likely to soar by 39 per cent over the same period.

The research reveals that already an extra 310 working people a day turn to the Government for housing benefit just so they can afford increased rents in the private sector.

Their wages are not enough to keep pace.

What is fuelling these rises is the lack of supply of affordable housing, preventing people getting on the housing ladder or even being able to rent.

In trying to address this issue, Labour councils are building twice as many homes in their areas as Conservative local authorities.

Since the last election, an average of 403 social and affordable homes have been built in each Labour council area, compared with 201 in each Tory-held authority.

There are an average of 618 social and affordable homes in the pipeline, with planning permission and financing in place, in each Labour area compared with 365 homes in each Conservative council.

It is a shame that the Mayor’s team at Mansfield District Council is not following the example of Labour councils.

Last week the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Sutcliffe announced that he was abandoning plans to build 16 high quality bungalows at Flint Avenue, Forest Town.

Considerable work to bring forward this scheme has been carried out by the Council’s architects and housing development team.

The budget to build the new homes is in place and yet the Deputy Mayor has torn up the plans saying the houses will be too expensive to build.

His decision does not take account however of the costs incurred so far, nor the income in rent and Council Tax that the new homes would generate.

It overlooks the fact that the scheme would bring much needed construction jobs.

He has no alternative plan to address the housing shortage in our district.

In the week we marked the death of the great Nelson Mandela, I am reminded of one of his sayings: “There is no passion to be found in playing small”. It is a shame that those who hold power here in Mansfield do not share the same ambitious vision.

I wish everyone in our district a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. I hope you all have a great time with family and friends.

I also take the chance to thank those who work hard at this time, and indeed throughout the year, to support those who are homeless, or lonely or simply can’t afford to feed themselves and their families. It is a sad reality that these social problems are getting worse.

Let us all hope for better times ahead.

MARTIN LEE

Leader, labour Group, Mansfield District Council