Examination of Witnesses(Questions 220-233)|
TUESDAY 22 OCTOBER 2002
220. If it is wider and more flexible, how would
you like to see the key workers' situation resolved? If you give
a subsidy to vast numbers of people on low pay in the South East
you are not going to resolve the problem, so what is the most
effective economic solution?
(Mr Dunnett) I clearly recognise the difficulty of
opening up a definition to include absolutely everybody who needs
a subsidy. What I think should be reviewed is if locally people
agree to include additional areas of key services for the public
good such as bus drivers, postmen, care workers, leisure centre
operators or whatever, that can be subject to local agreement
as to the availability of affordable housing and how far it should
be done. We should remember that with the amount of contracting
out being done in the South East, a substantial number of so-called
private sector people are undertaking public sector tasks.
221. So you are in favour of public funds being
used to micro manage the local economy? Would that be a fair way
of putting it?
(Mr Dunnett) No, I would not put it that way.
222. I know you would not put it that way but
that is more or less what you said.
(Mr Dunnett) I do believe there is a role for the
public sector to become involved in increasing the supply of housing
and increasing the supply of land which is the real issue. It
is the affordability and cost of land and making that available
for key workers, yes.
223. If the public purse is involved, should
it be involved in trying to help low-paid workers find homes or
does it involve more socially rented housing?
(Mr Dunnett) We have a huge issue with respect to
the payment of public workers in the South East in the first place
with the ACA and the recent statement changes such that there
are huge cuts being taken. £800 million has been taken out
of local authorities in the South East for next year with regard
to movements with respect to the most recent Government statement.
So somehow or other people have got to be enabled to take housing
forward, whether it is in their salary or whether it is in us
looking for alternatives to tackle the land equation which is
driving the housing problem.
(Mr Bevan) The definition of key workers is a bit
of an academic one. We are so far short of meeting affordable
housing targets that adjusting the definition of key workers is
pointless. The important thing is to provide more for all who
Sir Paul Beresford
224. You are all looking at the short term at
your level. If we go back to your point about infrastructure,
really the answer lies in the government waking up and getting
the DETR and the capital to move on putting infrastructure in
so that we have a long-term solution.
(Mr Dunnett) Absolutely.
225. The £200 million Challenge Fund is
supposed to tackle the housing needs of the South East. What kind
of housing in your view should it be spent on, in a word?
(Mr Dunnett) Affordable housing in areas of economic
226. I want to refer back to the problem of
the South West very brieflyand I am very glad that you
are here. I certainly agree with the comments that have been made
that we should be including in Challenge Fund money and a bigger
slice of the Housing Corporation budget should go to the West
Country. The pressures are very real. For example, in South Hams
the average price is now £157,000 and the average salary
is £15,000. How do you afford that? I also agree on legislation
on council tax. Could you be a bit more specific about the kind
of action other than those things that you really want to see
happen here because the RDA, which you oversee, has a large number
of resources and people. This is one of the biggest issues facing
the West Country and it is not going to go away over the next
few years. Do you have any ideas at all as to the kind of research
that you want the Government to do. Are you looking for a new
form of legal tenure? What is the solution to this problem?
(Councillor Clarke) It would be helpful for the Government
to look at some of the research we already have. I am glad you
have picked up that point because some of that has been overlooked.
Yes, I think that new forms of tenure do seriously need to be
looked at and I do not think we should overlook this aspiration
which has become very well embedded in the British way of life,
and in equity terms alone it is an aspiration which ought to be
shared. In terms of key workers, my colleague will comment in
a moment but, for example, it is only in the last couple of years
or so that teacher recruitment has become an issue in many parts
of our region because it has been an environmentally attractive
region to which people have aspired to move and live and work,
but nevertheless now these pressures are such that recruitment
for that kind of job is becoming difficult.
(Ms Houlden) In terms of the different forms of tenure,
South Hams has already been experimenting with placing covenants
on properties being sold so they do remain in the local market.
Chairman: How many?
227. They have not done it yet.
(Ms Houlden) They have got it in place but they have
not delivered any through it.
228. They do not know how to do it.
(Ms Houlden) We will have to wait and see. There is
an issue around that of sharing of best practice because I do
not think there has been much government concentration on sharing
of good practice. Lots of local authorities are having to reinvent
the wheel all over the place. I think that is a particular problem.
In terms of key workers, we should not get too hung up on the
definitions. In South Hams, again they have got a problem with
lifeboat personnel and they would not naturally be defined in
that group. We do have problems already recruiting occupational
therapists in and around Bristol which leads to bed blocking because
there is no one to assess when people can leave the beds. It is
building up a range of different problems which we need to try
229. Do you believe the Government is right
to create housing developments in the Thames Gateway, Ashford,
Milton Keynes and the Stansted-Cambridge corridor? Do you believe
the developments should be spread across all of the South East?
(Mr Bevan) I mentioned earlier that I think the focus
on these areas is problematic because that probably where the
least pressure is. Longer term of course we are talking about
a communities approach, building sustainable communities, and
new development or housing that goes in alongside jobs and other
community infrastructure and transport is of course important
but, equally, that holistic approach needs to be applied in areas
of economic pressure in the South East and the tools given to
local authority to enable them to do that, along the lines of
the urban design plans that were mentioned earlier.
Mr Cummings: Are you saying that it is right
for the Government to concentrate in these four areas or are you
putting in some caveats?
Sir Paul Beresford
230. Or would it be right if they put in the
(Mr Dunnett) The four areas cannot be taken forward
without the up-front infrastructure of housing, health, and all
the community services which are absolutely essential. That must
be done up front.
(Mr Bevan) It is right but not enough.
231. Are you agreed or not agreed?
(Mr Bevan) I am agreeing but I do not think it is
232. I am going to have to cut you off at that
point. In one word, should the Government be stopping right to
buy or not?
(Mr Bevan) Yes.
(Councillor Clarke) In some places.
(Mr Dunnett) In some places.
233. That is the wrong answer!
(Mr Dunnett) For a point of clarity on something I
mentioned earlier. I mentioned that we did not have the funding
for BLAT. We have the funding for the piloting of BLAT; we do
not have the funding for significant roll out. Thank you.
Chairman: On that point, thank you very much
for your evidence. Can we have the next set of witnesses please.