Schools out, we’re waking up to a small flood of by-election results, the Communities Minister is threatening Councils and Housing Associations and the government has responded to the Farmer Review.
We’ve given our Senior Account Manager Alex the editors chair, here’s his take on the news this week…
Recess is upon us
It’s the first day of parliamentary recess and, as MPs head back to their host constituencies, the Prime Minister has likely waved them off with some relief that the next three weeks at least can be spent without having to be in such close proximity to many of them.
The first day of recess is one that has become known for being an excellent day to dump bad news; given MPs won’t quite so easily be able to cause trouble for the government and although this administration is certainly one for firsts, it hasn’t broken this tradition, so what’s the storm?
- We’ve lost 7,000 full time soldiers in the last three years and 570 service personnel in the last year alone.
- We’re facing the largest increase in crime levels for the last 10 years, this coincides with police numbers being at a 30-year low.
- The Midland Main Line electrification plans have now been formally abandoned.
- The Foreign Office has reported on their “grave concerns” regarding human rights in a number of key overseas partner countries including Saudi Arabia, this unsettling assessment sits poorly alongside our ongoing arms sales to the Kingdom (at some £3.3 Billion in recent years).
- Britain not teaching math to age 18 has been trashed by a government commissioned report. Even more concerningly, our school system won’t be able to handle any increased mathematic teaching programme without 10 years to get going according to the same report.
It’s the morning after a very good night for 8 new councillors after a small swathe of by-elections prompted by resignations and one re-run. The by-elections took place across the country taking in the north and south, Conservative and Labour seats.
Labour emerged the victors of the arbitrary collection of contests, settling at 4 seats with 2 gains, the Conservatives on 3 with 1 loss and the Liberal Democrats bottoming out having lost both seats they were defending.
Notable results are the Labour gain from Conservative in Staffordshire Moorlands District increasing their vote share rose by 25% to the Conservatives gain of 1%. An interesting result in Shepway District as the Conservatives held off considerable vote share gains from Labour and an Independent, taking the seat on just 35% of the vote.
Overall, the national picture resembling an imitation Pollock painting certainly didn’t exert any significant drag on the local votes of either Labour or the Conservatives, with both making modest to significant vote gains across the board. In the new bastion of independence, Whissendine ward in the County Council of Rutland, congratulations to Councillor Ian Arnold (IND) with 54% of the vote following a Liberal Democrat resignation.
Javid turns the screws
Sajid Javid MP has hit out at local councils this week saying he’s prepared to name and shame those councils and also housing associations which have not yet provided central government with cladding samples.
A number of local authorities and associations have previously noted concerns regarding the overall value of the new, stringent and cladding focused testing with a number more beside criticising the deadlines as unrealistic. The National Housing Federation complained on Wednesday that central government was not promptly processing test results submitted by associations.
This brewing row comes on the back of a slow shuffle back from the overall scale of the challenge, central government now contends there are 208 high rises fitted with potentially problematic Aluminium Composite Materials (ACM), this down from 530.
At least five councils have already requested financial assistance from central government to handle the unforeseen cost implications of removing cladding. Central government currently says they haven’t. Expect quite the row.
Construction skills gap – a challenge but no punitive measures yet
New Housing Minister Alok Sharma has broadly endorsed the Farmer ‘Modernise or Die’ review of construction published October of last year but held back from agreeing to the suggested 0.5% levy on schemes which do not support construction training, the response noting “…the introduction of a client charge to encourage and fund modernisation could risk damaging developer confidence and increasing costs, at least in the short term.”
Support has been signalled for the already started reorganisation of the Construction Industry Training Board.
Disappointingly, in the sense that the ongoing lack of central direction on the subject is liable to continue for a while yet, the Government did not respond to suggestions within the report that government had a greater role to play in stimulating the development of the off-site sector, with one suggestion being possibly commissioning units itself.