YEP Letters: October 29

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Check out today’s YEP letters

City housing crisis not being tackled

John Davies, chair of Hands off our Homes

For those seeking a comfortable, secure, reasonably priced place to live there is a housing crisis that I suspect will be debated at the forthcoming summit hosted by the YEP but not “tackled” in any meaningful sense.

The number of council houses has been reduced over the last 20 years by about 20,000 units.

People have exercised their “Right to Buy” (RtB) and obtained a huge discount at the expense of the tax/council tax/rent payers and large numbers of homes were demolished for such dreams as the “EASEL Project” which was to have regenerated large areas of east and south east Leeds but largely turned council housing stock into scrubland now being offered for sale to private developers.

There is currently a Housing Bill progressing through Parliament which could extend the RtB to tenants of housing associations (again at a hugely discounted price) so further reducing the social housing available and as if to add insult to injury “high value” council houses will be sold as they become vacant to compensate the HAs for their financial loss.

We wrote to Cllr Lewis and the council leader, Judith Blake, asking that they join a campaign to oppose the Bill but a response has not been forthcoming.

Housing Associations which were originally set up as local providers of social housing are seemingly sleepwalking into a situation where their housing stock is reduced and to remain viable they will enter into mergers to create larger organisations that reflect the private, rather than the social landlord.

As their financial viability comes under pressure they will be at risk of being taken over by companies of commercial landlords – those people who as Rob Greenland pointed out are investors “snapping up properties as a way of making money”.

Without serious intervention social housing is at risk and those rich front bench Tories know just what they are doing. Regrettably, local councils seem to be reluctant to make a stand. Local authority owned land is now to be sold to private developers by LCC. When visiting a display of “Your City Your Plan” I was told the land earmarked for housing was generally in private hands or even that the owner of the land was currently unknown. To my mind this means that housing development is not controlled by the council but at the whim of “the market”.

If inflation runs at zero per cent but house prices are increasing by 10 per cent each year what incentive is there for a developer to build homes now when they could wait five years and make an even greater profit.

Until the council decides to build housing for rent without resorting to the expensive Private Finance Initiative and rejects the RtB option there will remain large numbers of people seeking a secure and truly affordable property in which to live whilst the investors make money hand over fist.

Mrs Thatcher and all who have followed her are wrong when they suggest we all aspire to own our own homes.

The 25000 currently patiently waiting on the council house list prove that.


Junior doctors deserve respect

Coun Peter Gruen, Chair of Adult Social Care, Public Health and NHS Scrutiny Board

So yesterday we saw thousands of ‘junior’ doctors and many sympathetic colleagues as well as the public demonstrate in the centre of Leeds and many other cities nationwide. Why has it come to this?

There is no doubt that patients would welcome the increased flexibility of access to their GPs which seven day cover would mean and the assurance that if they happen to need hospital treatment at the weekend, they will find both staff and time to be treated, as if it were a weekday.

From all I have watched, listened to and people I have spoken with, doctors do not disagree with this principle; after all they are in the job to improve people’s lives and make them better.

No, the issue at hand is once again the manner of the consultations by Government, the doubts about their integrity and real intent and their five year track record of bringing the NHS almost to bankruptcy.

Why at this very moment Leeds is struggling to even begin to find in-year revenue savings of around £2.8m which have just been imposed on Public Health by Mr Osborne. Oh and by the way that consultation took place in four weeks in August! Enough said!

So called ‘junior’ doctors are of course young people who have studied for up to ten years, who carry very serious responsibilities in hospitals and make life and death decisions every day.

Their work - and that of all their colleagues in the NHS - deserves recognition, respect and thanks.

Clear need to question claims

Christopher Todd, Leeds 6

Unfortunately for all of us there are people like Gary Scholes (YEP Letters October 28) who seem to deem any disagreement with authority and its power and influence a nuisance if not a crime.

In suggesting that I undermine my case in my letter (YEP, October 20), by quoting the phrase from the trolleybus conference that implies that only insiders had enough information about a project to make an informed choice, Mr Scholes simply underscores the hubris from which it stemmed.

Neither can he blame protestors for the delay in publishing the inspector’s report, as it was completed and sent to the ministry months ago.

If he had followed the inquiry as closely as many of us did, he would have seen that there was a clear need to question many of the claims made by NGT.

He makes light of the damage to the trees, implying that this would happen anyway because of road schemes, but NGT documentation shows that the installation of the complex wires would need far more than simply trimming the foliage.

To quote places like San Francisco and Lyon is disingenuous, as these towns have long-established trolleybus schemes, and one of the recurrent dishonest features of the arguments made by the supporters of NGT is to quote aspects of old schemes in order to justify a new one.