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If there's one part of the UK's housing market which is thriving it's the private rented sector. As councils struggle to replace the social housing lost through decades of Right-to-Buy and young people remain priced out of becoming owner-occupiers, the private rented sector has seen huge growth over recent years. 

There's a place for a private rented sector in the housing market, but it also comes with problems and due to the national shortage of housing brought about by decades of lacklustre building all the power is in landlords' favour. 

Crawley Borough Council does have private sector housing officers try to resolve issues within the private rented sector and at our last Cabinet meeting we approved new powers for officers in dealing with rogue landlords. However, we can only go so far as legislation will permit, which is why we're now watching the progress of the new Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation and Liability for Housing Standards) Bill. 

The proposed law is a Private Member's Bill, meaning it's an individual MP and not the Government who is bringing the legislation forward, in this case Labour's Karen Buck. The law will, for the first time, require rented accommodation to be maintained in a condition fit for human habitation, giving tenants the right to act if landlords fail to do so. 

Doesn't that seem like the very least a private tenant should be able to expect? Apparently not, because this is the third time Labour MPs have tried to get the requirement onto the statute book, the first attempt was talked out and the second was voted down by Conservative MPs. 

So, what are the chances of success this time? Ordinarily Private Member's Bills have no possibility of passing without Government support due to the majority they can call upon to vote a law down. Yet, as we now have a Hung Parliament, that built-in majority is no longer there. The Bill can pass and it's up to every MP to search their conscience and for every constituent to let their MP know they believe people deserve homes fit for human habitation. 

CllrPeterLamb.jpgCllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

 

Homes fit to live in

If there's one part of the UK's housing market which is thriving it's the private rented sector. As councils struggle to replace the social housing lost through decades of Right-to-Buy...

It must be something about the darkness of the late autumn and winter months which makes fireworks such as suitable companion of late year celebrations. There were certainly fireworks last weekend when I attended the 49th Annual Diwali Show of Crawley's Gurjar Hindu Union, New Year Celebrations typically involve the launch of large numbers of fireworks and of course this week we have Guy Fawkes Night.

Every school child knows the origins of the celebration, of the plot to blow up both King and Parliament, of the leaked letter and Guy Fawkes' discovery just a few hours before Westminster would have been reduced to rubble. Remember, remember the fifth of November. In a year which has seen another attack on Parliament, sadly costing the lives of six people, and multiple other acts of terrorism on the UK mainland, this year's event perhaps serves as a more poignant reminder than most that while we have faced hatred and terror in the past, we're still here.

Yes, we live in challenging times, times when we feel under threat but we've been here before. The attempt on Parliament by Guy Fawkes and his co-conspirators didn't come out of nowhere, it followed centuries of religiously motivated conflict between Protestants and Catholics both in England and across Europe. At home, such conflict involved some of the most gruesome tortures and executions imaginable and in Europe it produced wars on a continental scale. For those alive in England at the time this was the definitive political issue and the idea it could be resolved without the ultimate victory of one side or the other was ludicrous.

Yet, today we regularly see leaders of the world's major faiths engaged in dialogue, there is peace at last in Northern Ireland and for decades predominantly-Protestant and predominantly-Catholic countries have formed a political and economic union in Europe together. For every generation there have been issues which have seemed to define their times, to threaten their way of life, perhaps their very existence and yet 411 years on from Guy Fawkes' death Parliament still sits on the banks of the Thames.

CllrPeterLamb.jpgCllr Peter Lamb

Leader Crawley Borough Council

Living in Challenging Times

It must be something about the darkness of the late autumn and winter months which makes fireworks such as suitable companion of late year celebrations. There were certainly fireworks last...

We spend so much of our waking lives at work, it’s surprising how little we seem to discuss our employment rights and conditions.

Paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, sick pay, weekends, reasonable weekly working hours and decent pay all had to be fought for and today’s employees reap the benefits.

Yet, over recent years these rights and conditions have been put at risk, as some employers have sought to increase their profit margins straight from their employee’s pockets. Zero-hours contracts, umbrella contracts and any other number of legal loopholes have started to roll back 200 years of improvements to people’s working conditions.

A classic case of this can be seen at the Royal Mail. For over 500 years, Royal Mail was a public service, a vital part of our national infrastructure and a source of secure employment for many thousands of postal workers. Then came privatisation and, despite all of the assurances provided in the run-up to the sale, now that the service is in the hands of private investors, little-by-little the rights and conditions of postal workers are beginning to disappear.

Fortunately for postal workers, they have a union which is willing to stick up for them and the CWU is now balloting its members—many of whom live and work in our community—to decide whether or not to undertake industrial action to ensure the Royal Mail provides a pension solution for all, a full-time working week of 35 hours, an extension to the service’s current legally binding agreements and a re-designed pipeline.

Strikes can be inconvenient for customers and I know that there are those who complain about unions always pushing for a better deal for their members when their own working conditions aren’t getting any better. It’s true that alongside the general rights unions have secured us all over the years, unionised professions have tended to fare better than un-unionised professions. This isn’t a coincidence, it’s a rallying cry, if you want to retain and improve the rights past generations have handed down to us, we all need to band together to fight for them.

Cllr Peter Lamb

Leader, Crawley Borough Council

Proper rights at Work

We spend so much of our waking lives at work, it’s surprising how little we seem to discuss our employment rights and conditions. Paid holiday, maternity and paternity leave, sick...

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