An interesting evening at the Civic for me at the Housing Committee last night – as a Substitute for Mrs J (the other Cllr Johnson) who is unwell at the moment and can hardly speak.

Now, housing is not really my specialist subject, but I keep up with what is going on at the committee and read their agendas (if not always with glee!) But I found last night interesting because of the debates that took place, some good news, some really good news and a piece of bad news

Lets go with the bad news first (it helps me cheer you up at the end)

The discussion on “delivering decent homes” focused on Governments targets for council houses, really highlighted how badly Harlow has been treated recently by Gordon Brown and Co. Basically Harlow tenants have been mugged of a million quid!

Our housing subsidy this year shows a “significant reduction” (paragraph 12 here for those who want to see the document)

I asked for more details on this and was told that it would be somewhere between £800,000 and £1,300,000 that we have just lost from this years budget.

And the government had not yet clarified the details. Now remember that we had to set our budget a couple of weeks ago for the coming financial year and a gap this size is significant to our spending plans. Knowing that the new financial year starts in 20 days time, we asked when would the government let us know what the situation was. Sometime either late Spring or early Summer was the answer. What more can I say! Either the government doesn’t understand that we have to set our budget while they keep us in the dark or they just don’t care!

The Good News? We looked at a “Review of Housing needs and allocations strategy” for Harlow.
With this piece of work we were looking to strengthen the definition of local connection (which aids people in getting a house in Harlow) because previously it’s been allowed to be too broad. My colleagues still thought that being resident in Harlow for 6 out of the last 12 months was not really much of a local connection – but we were told that this is Government legislation and we can’t make it tougher than that. Shame really.

The really good news is that we added an amendment asking for a review of policy for homeless ex service personnel (who make up about 2/3rds of the homeless population). We may not all agree with the various wars that our armed forces have been asked to fight by this government, but we can surely get behind our troops when they come home. I look forward to seeing the result of this piece of work.

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