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News and Comment November 2021

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11 November (Part 1) - Not a good look

The roofless house story rumbles on and the Cabinet Member in not quite Aaron Newbury mode says that only she knows the truth about it. I doubt that is true. There is the tenant, the tenant’s friend and Councillor Nicola Taylor.

My guess is that the tenant noticed a little roof leak which upon examination turned out to be a big problem with rotting timber and one thing led to another as builders had to cut the plumbing to get at the beams which rendered the house uninhabitable.

Meanwhile in a housing department with staffing cut beyond the bone (ten down to four) no one had the time to follow up a report from a tenant in trouble. A department in which its own staff have said no one seems to care any more. “The current top brass and Council Members label those who turn up [at our door] as intentionally homeless because that is the easy thing to do”.

On past form no one would have thought of telling the Cabinet Member, it has happened before in the not so distant past dropping her, in this case, deep into the mire.

The suggestion that the Cabinet Member didn’t race towards putting things right the moment she heard about the case, from Councillor Taylor perhaps, is sure to be well wide of the mark.

There are however shades of Andrew Bashford telling me he had followed all the guidance on road narrowing when it was so easy to disprove because my own son had had a hand in writing that guidance. Charlotte - see below - probably knew just as much about the case as the Cabinet Member.
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They argue about ‘Not the full story’ but no one disputes the known facts.

My exchange of messages with Councillor Taylor (Labour, Erith) revealed her original set of notes for her speech to Council last week. It is already available as an audio clip but it is repeated below for those who did not get around to listening to it. It may have been changed subtly ‘on the hoof’ when delivered to suit the circumstances but it is essentially as heard.

The Housing strategy includes some interesting facts…

• Average Monthly rent for a two bed property is £1,100 – would need an income of over £33k to afford this.
• Average house price is £385k would need an income of near to £90k to afford this.

Families with low/medium incomes can’t afford these.

The Housing strategy even acknowledges that they may not be able to afford private rents in Bexley so it seems that Bexley Housing Strategy only puts SOME people at the heart of its strategy.

The strategy notes that there has been an 83% increase in households living in Temporary Accommodation in the past five years most of these households are likely to have low/medium incomes and yet the council Housing Allocation Policy seeks to place them in Private accommodation. Private accommodation that the strategy admits may not be affordable for low/medium income families. Yet when they incur rent debt, they are deemed to be “intentionally homeless”.

If you want our residents to have affordable homes, we need to increase the supply, the Private sector will not do it as they want to keep the prices high. So it must fall to the council to supply affordable homes for our residents on low/medium incomes, clearly this council doesn’t want our residents to have affordable homes.

The Strategy states that Registered Providers have provided 1,000 new homes over the past five years, 200 per year !

However it doesn’t mention the loss of social homes through the Larner Road, Arthur Street or Peabody developments in Thamesmead East or that residents were decanted to our Temporary Accommodation whilst development took place.

It doesn’t even counter the increase in those presenting as Homeless each year let alone for the past five years! In fact in June we helped less than 0·5% of people turning to us for help with Housing.

The Strategy is intended to cover until 2025 when I suppose it is hoping to see the fruits of BexleyCo either through dividends or housing, both of which have fallen far below expectations.

To my residents who are living in unsuitable accommodation it is cold comfort. To the family living in a home without a roof, to the disabled man with leg on frame offered a second floor flat with no lift to the domestic violence victim housed in the area her perpetrator frequents to the disabled man without a working toilet and to the family suffering threats of violence who have seen their family member murdered last month.

Many of our residents feel that there is hostile environment when it comes to seeking Housing help from our council.

All documented cases raised with Housing. some with the Cabinet Member directly. They don’t feel at the heart of this strategy, in fact many of them cease to be Bexley residents as they are moved miles away from their children’s schools, their work and own support networks.

They need affordable homes, providing affordable homes is not a retrograde step they need Bexley to build council homes for the first time in a generation.

The new Cabinet Member has her work cut out getting on top of that in a Council that has run out of money.


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