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Council housing despair

IN THE run-up to the Great Leader’s conference speech we were told to expect, in the words of Government minister Damian Green, nothing less than “the rebirth of council housing”.

An excited media was predicting “under the PM’s housing plan, ministers will join forces with housing associations to build hundreds of thousands of new homes” (The Sun).

However, instead of the hundreds of thousands we discovered that May’s “plan” might add up to 25,000 “affordable homes” over five years. That is, 5,000 a year.

At that rate it would only take 240 years to produce enough homes for the 1.2 million households on the waiting lists, always assuming nobody else was added to the list.

The extra money available for “affordable housing” was only £2bn, compared to £10bn for Help To Buy.

According to a Tory Party press release the £2bn “could” be used to produce 25,000 homes for social rent over five years.

On the other hand it might not. A statement by the Department of Communities and local government referred to rents “affordable to local people” rather than “social rent.”

The Government had previously banned councils from charging “social rent’.” Even though it has now said they can bid to build such homes, it is not prepared to allow all councils to do so. This will only be allowed in areas of ‘greatest need’, the criteria for which are unknown.

How will this “plan” impact on the housing crisis? It would not even replace those council homes lost to Right To Buy.

Sales are currently running at more than 12,000 a year in England. Since 2010 more than 60,000 have been sold. Government policy is destined to increase sales with its proposal to force councils to sell off their “higher value” homes to raise money to compensate housing associations for the extension of RTB to their homes.

The receipts will be stolen from councils and handed over to housing associations to compensate for the difference between the discount price and the market value.

Under the Tories councils have built fewer homes than they have demolished. From 2010-2016 20,300 council homes were demolished but only just over 10,000 built.

No wonder there has been a decline in the number of council homes by 174,000 under the Tories.

If the “estimated” figure of 25,000 homes are built they won’t, in any case, all be council homes because as May made clear councils and housing associations will have to bid for grants.

Only a large scale council house building programme can address the endemic housing crisis.

This could be started if the extra £12bn available was provided for councils to build social rent homes.

Yet this Government is not prepared to provide grants to councils so that they can begin to build social rent homes on a large scale.

Moreover, it is responsible for the continued decline in the number of council homes local authorities own.

MARTIN WICKS, Swindon Tenants Campaign Group

Gun control is vital

One of the greatest public health developments in my lifetime were changes in gun control rules which made the legal (and, by extension, the illegal) presence of firearms in our society, less common.

Sadly, it took Michael Ryan and, later, Thomas Hamilton to sponsor such sensible restriction.

In the USA, 11,000 often perfectly innocent people, are killed by firearms every year, encouraged by the second amendment, seemingly giving all Americans the right to carry M-16’s and AK47’s.

Can you visualise walking into Asda Walmart, showing your driving licence and address, then walking out on to Thamesdown Drive with an assault rifle and a trolley full of high velocity ammunition?

In the US today, you can legally buy weaponry if you are mentally ill or even on a no fly list, and this month Congress even made it easier to buy silencers.

Sadly, across the pond, politicians routinely rely on the National Rifle Association for campaign funding, meaning that there is no political stomach to do anything radical about this.

Did Stephen Paddock (or indeed does anyone?), need 23 AR57 rifles modified to fire hundreds of rounds every minute in a hotel room and a further 19 weapons at his home?

After Columbine they said “no more”… after Sandy Hook they said “no more”… but almost unbelievably by the time you read this note, the death toll at Las Vegas will have been replicated four more times, albeit spread over the whole country.

Americans are more lethal killing themselves than their enemies. By 1968, more Americans had been killed in domestic gun incidents that had been killed in all the wars America has ever fought … including the War of Independence.

Since every single corpse represents a human tragedy of monumental proportions, I say the founding fathers have got a lot to answer for.

Gun violence is not an act of nature, not an unpredictable hurricane or an unexpected earthquake. It is the presence of semi-automatic weapon and large capacity magazines, that delivers this perpetual carnage.

The favoured NRA line is: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yes, okay. But if there were not 300 million guns freely available in the USA, people would probably kill rather fewer people.

JOHN STOOKE, Haydon End, Swindon

Parking plan for flats

I AM appalled at the monstrosity that is being proposed to be built on the site of the Tented Market.

This is a 15-storey apartment block. From what I can deduct there is no parking. So where are all these folks who can afford one of these apartments going to leave their cars?

I cannot see what benefits this is going to bring to the town apart from lining the pockets of the developers.

If it has to be built why not provide subterranean parking? I have just visited my Godson’s new apartment in Spain and they have four levels of parking below his apartment block, giving two parking places for each apartment.

We all know that there is a parking problem in the town. This sort of woolly headed way of going about things only increases the problem. Remember this when it’s election time again.

DAVID COLLINS, Blake Crescent, Swindon

We battled Iraq War

Replying to Terry Reynolds’ recent letter (Political Response) October 7, he starts by saying ‘he carries no banner for the Tories, you only have to look at the town to understand why.”

What is it about the town that makes Terry not vote Tory? He then asks what does Martin think of the “Hang the Tories banner” and the dummies in Manchester and the activists who shouted ‘guillotine’ when the Royal family was mentioned in a fringe meeting in Brighton.

As two law-abiding citizens of 55 years of age can we tell Terry that we both condemn any act of violence and anything that advocates violence.

We would also like to point out to Terry that in the build-up to Bush and Blair’s folly in Iraq we both attended the many anti-war meetings organised by Swindon Stop The War Coalition at which many politicians and anti-war activists spoke of the consequences invading Iraq would bring.

Thirteen years on the world is seeing those consequences.

Did you attend any of the meetings or voice your anger with a letter to your MP, Terry?

Or were you one of the millions who clapped and cheered when Saddam Hussein’s statue was pulled down in Baghdad and when George Bush declared: ‘ Mission Accomplished.’

We have both said on these pages several times previously that Bush and Blair should have been put on trial in the International Criminal Court and tried for mass murder, not given millions of pounds for making speeches around the world while the Middle East continues to burn.

MARTIN AND MARK WEBB, Swindon Road, Old Town

Industry is the answer

The threat of doctors being on the verge of a winter walkout was your front page story (Oct 7).

This shows that the Great Western Hospital is still having trouble covering their Accident and Emergency Department during peak periods.

Many people are totally mystified as to why the public services are so constantly short of money.

There are a record 32 million people working in Britain. The unemployment rate is five per cent, the lowest since1975.

The Government coffers should be stuffed with money to the point of overflowing but the opposite is the case. We are in austerity and the Government has to borrow£1bn a week just to keep the lights on.

It is because our industrial base was destroyed in the economic crash of 2008 under the last Labour government.

Since that time manufacturing industry has never been discussed in the House of Commons.

The reason for this is that it is against EU Single Market regulations for Parliaments to discuss that particular topic. This must change. Those crazy EU regulations must be ignored.

The first thing that our members of Parliament should do every day is to discuss how we can increase industrial production.

STEVE HALDEN, Beaufort Green, Swindon