17 Rebecca Long Bailey debates involving the Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities

Wed 20th Apr 2022
Building Safety Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendments & Consideration of Lords amendments
Wed 19th Jan 2022
Building Safety Bill
Commons Chamber

Report stage & Report stage
Wed 21st Jul 2021
Building Safety Bill
Commons Chamber

2nd reading & 2nd reading

Oral Answers to Questions

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
Monday 4th March 2024

(3 months, 2 weeks ago)

Commons Chamber
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Richard Burgon Portrait Richard Burgon (Leeds East) (Lab)
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14. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of section 21 evictions on levels of homelessness.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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23. What assessment he has made of the potential impact of section 21 evictions on levels of homelessness.

Jacob Young Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Jacob Young)
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The Department publishes official statistics on homelessness duties owed, including the number of households threatened with homelessness following service of a valid section 21 notice. We are committed to the abolition of section 21 through our landmark Renters (Reform) Bill, which will deliver a fairer private rented sector for both tenants and landlords.

--- Later in debate ---
Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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I pay tribute to the hon. Lady, who I have heard campaigning on this issue a number of times. I am well aware of her concerns for her constituents. As I said, we are absolutely committed to abolishing section 21. We will bring forward the Bill as soon as we are able to do so. I would also say to her that the Mayor of London is not building enough homes. He is not building enough homes to meet the Government-assessed need for London. He is not even building homes to his own targets, so I encourage her to have a conversation with him as well.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey
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In Salford, from April to November last year, approximately 466 individuals presented to Salford City Council in crisis because of section 21 notices. Salford’s social housing waiting list is currently in the thousands. Private market rents are outstripping incomes and local housing allowance rates at a frighteningly exponential rate. There are no affordable homes to go to once someone is evicted from a property, so homelessness is now at acute levels in Salford. This is not just a housing crisis; this is a homelessness crisis in Salford. When are the Government going to bring back the Renters (Reform) Bill, with robust amendments finally banning section 21 evictions? What action will the Minister take to ensure that my constituents urgently have long-term secure tenancies?

Jacob Young Portrait Jacob Young
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Again, I have heard the hon. Lady talk about this issue a number of times. We are absolutely committed to the abolition of section 21. I am personally committed to that. We will bring back the Bill as soon as we are able to do so.

Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [Lords]

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
For all those reasons, I commend the Minister and the Secretary of State, who is now here, for the work that has been done on the Bill. It will be a big step forward in providing a much safer and more secure environment and the ability to remedy problems when they occur. Many tenants across the country would like to expect that as a right but sadly, in too many cases, it is still not provided by landlords, despite the fact that those landlords receive substantial amounts of money for the homes that they provide.
Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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Greater Manchester and, indeed, the rest of the country was shocked and horrified by the tragic death of Awaab Ishak in Rochdale. His little lungs had been exposed to deadly damp and mould in the flat that he lived in with his family. They battled against it for a number of years, and even filed disrepair claims against the housing association. I think we are united in this House that, in one of the richest economies in the world, that should never have happened. I cannot imagine the pain and heartache that Awaab’s family must feel every single day. Today, we embark on the first step towards making sure that no family should ever have to experience what they have experienced.

My hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale (Tony Lloyd) cannot be with us in person owing to his ongoing treatment, but it should be noted that he has worked relentlessly with campaigners, with Government and with me and other colleagues across the House to ensure that the robust amendments needed to the legislation were made to honour Awaab’s name and ensure the health and safety of all social housing tenants.

I also thank the amazing organisations that have been the ultimate driving force of the Awaab’s law campaign: the Ishak family, their legal team, the Manchester Evening News and change.org for spearheading the campaign, and Shelter and Grenfell United for committing such energy, compassion and knowledge.

Very briefly, the campaign has four clear asks: to require social landlords to investigate the causes of damp and mould within 14 days of complaints being made, and report findings to tenants; to give social landlords seven days to begin work to repair a property where a medical professional has flagged a risk to health; to ensure bids for new social housing properties are treated as a high priority if a medical professional has recommended a move; and to mandate social landlords to provide all tenants with the information that they need, in simple English and other languages, on their rights, on how to make a complaint and on what standards they can expect.

I thank the Secretary of State, the Minister and their team for speaking directly with the Ishak family, with campaigners and with my hon. Friend the Member for Rochdale and me, and for tabling new clauses 1 and 4, which help towards those key goals. Indeed, new clause 1 provides that the Secretary of State “must make regulations” that ensure that landlords have to remedy hazards such as mould and damp in a timely fashion. Although I appreciate that the Government want to consult on the final form of those regulations, I cannot stress enough that they must include provisions, as the Awaab’s law campaign set out, to set clear minimum safety standards, clear minimum timeframes for remedying any hazards, and an urgent priority move if the property is found to be unsafe. I am confident the Secretary of State will agree those are not unreasonable requests, and I hope that he will work hard throughout the consultation process to ensure that they are reflected in the final regulations.

I also support the amendments tabled by the shadow Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Greenwich and Woolwich (Matthew Pennycook), which seek to strengthen new clause 1 by protecting tenants from repercussions when calling on the new obligations, and by expanding court powers. I welcome, too, that Government new clause 4 gives direction that registered social housing providers must provide their tenants with information about their rights in making complaints. That is good, but it does not specifically commit to ensuring wider language accessibility. I trust that the Secretary of State and the Minister will address that point in the regulations.

In complement to the Awaab’s law campaign, I also support new clause 6, which embodies Greater Manchester Law Centre’s calls to make social housing providers subject to freedom of information requests. Without that change, social housing providers can and have refused to be transparent about important elements of their business practices, even though they are receiving public money in rent and support.

I also support new clause 5 and Government amendment 47 which detail that social housing managers must gain professional qualifications to protect residents and raise standards in the sector. That is a commitment that many have wanted to see since the Grenfell tragedy. I also support new clause 8, tabled by my hon. Friend the Member for Mitcham and Morden (Siobhain McDonagh) as chair of the all-party parliamentary group for households in temporary accommodation. The new clause would enable the regulator to set standards for supported and temporary accommodation. I know that my hon. Friend will speak at length about that in due course, but it is an important change. I am a member of the all-party group, and research that the group commissioned, led by Justlife and the Shared Health Foundation, found widespread and horrific examples of the conditions in which temporary accommodation residents were forced to live. In many cases, their accommodation was not fit for human habitation but they were frightened to say anything about it because of the risk of being made homeless. That is unacceptable.

I hope that the House will support all those amendments today, continuing the productive cross-party ethos that has been embodied in the passage of the Bill. It is important to state, however, that this legislation is one small element in a national moment of reckoning on the state of rented housing in this country. Citizens Advice suggests that more than half of private renters in England are struggling with damp, mould, excessive cold or a combination of those factors. Some 1.6 million of those affected are children. Private renters do not have access to the housing ombudsman for their complaints to be investigated independently, so millions of suffering families have no voice. They are trapped in homes that will ultimately put their lives at risk. I ask the Government to urgently introduce an equivalent Awaab’s law for the private rented sector alongside an urgent, state-funded, national housing mission to build new social homes and bring existing ones up to a decent standard.

Helen Hayes Portrait Helen Hayes (Dulwich and West Norwood) (Lab)
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I rise to speak in support of new clause 7. First, I want to put on the record my role as a vice-president of the Local Government Association.

New clause 7 would protect the tenancy rights of social housing tenants who have to make an emergency move from their home because they or a member of their household are threatened with violence. It would be a small change in the law, but it would make a big difference. Losing the right to a secure, affordable home is a price that no one should have to pay for being a victim of crime. Yet that is what happens to far too many people who have to make an emergency move because the police say that it is not safe for them to stay in their home.

It is what happened to my constituent Georgia, an NHS employee, who had been very happy living in her housing association home with her children for nine years. One day, neighbours told Georgia that while she was at work, there had been loud banging on her door at home. She eventually coaxed her teenage son into telling her that he had been threatened by gang members. Georgia reported that to the police who told her that the matter was extremely serious, that they thought her son’s life was now at risk and that she needed to leave her home immediately. So Georgia approached her local council who provided temporary accommodation in another borough. At that point, Georgia effectively joined the bottom of the housing waiting list.

The current priority needs system does not automatically award high priority for being a victim of a threat of violence. In the context of an intense shortage of social housing, that meant that Georgia effectively faced a wait of many years to be offered a new home comparable to the one she had been forced to leave. In the meantime, after she had been in temporary accommodation for six months, her housing association began the process of formally ending her tenancy.

Social Housing (Regulation) Bill [Lords]

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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I broadly support the Bill, but as it stands its scope is clearly too narrow to address the crisis in social housing, as I think the Secretary of State accepts.

I would like to focus briefly on one issue. The Bill proposes a new access to information scheme, which would make social housing providers more accountable to their tenants and regulator. However, it appears that the scheme falls short of making social housing providers truly accountable as council providers have to be, as it does not bring social housing providers under the remit of the Freedom of Information Act 2000. Without being subject to that Act, social housing providers can refuse and have refused to be transparent about important elements of their business practices, even though they are receiving public money through rent and support.

Indeed, in 2021 Greater Manchester Law Centre ran an investigation into covid evictions in which it sent freedom of information requests to 23 social housing providers across Greater Manchester. It found that six social housing providers claimed not to be classified as public authorities and that they were therefore not subject to freedom of information requests—they refused to answer. Some 13 failed to reply at all. It is clear that the Bill must be amended to make social housing providers subject to the 2000 Act. I hope that the Secretary of State and Minister will make that simple yet necessary amendment as the Bill proceeds to Committee.

More widely, I have serious concerns that the Bill fails to address the crisis. When the news broke of the shocking and tragic death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak in Rochdale, I am sure that, like me, many Members were shocked to their core. Little Awaab’s lungs had been exposed to damp and mould in the flat where he lived with his family, and it was found that his death was directly linked to those poor living conditions. The court recently heard that Awaab’s family battled the problems at their home for a number of years, even before Awaab was born. Indeed, they had filed a disrepair claim against the housing association.

What is clear is that Awaab’s death should have brought great anger to this country—one of the richest economies in the world. It should have been a moment of reckoning: the instigation of a national mission for decent homes that would have seen the rapid deployment of Government funding to build new homes and bring existing ones to a decent standard. But sadly, I do not think we have yet seen such promises from the Government—indeed, we face threats of further austerity over the coming weeks. Although the Bill suggests a regime of routine inspections of social housing, we have yet to see any detail about how that will actually be delivered and funded.

Along with other Salford MPs and our city Mayor, I wrote to all our housing providers because we were extremely worried. We asked for urgent reports detailing the quality and condition of each of the properties that our housing associations manage, evaluated against the decent homes standard. But the fact is that years of effective cuts and freezes on rents without Government funding to match have meant that housing associations often do not have the resources to inspect properties routinely, let alone upgrade them regularly to the standard required.

Let us also remember that in 2010 funding for new social rented housing stopped completely and that an affordable rent tenure was introduced, in which homes are rented at up to 80% of their market rent. As Inside Housing has reported, although many housing associations tried to use their own funds to keep building some social rented homes, in 2010 nearly 36,000 social rented homes were started; the next year, after funding cuts, that number reduced to just over 3,000. The National Housing Federation and Crisis have shown recently in their research that 90,000 new social rented homes need to be built every year, but a lack of funding has meant that only about 5,000 are being built.

In the meantime, how can any of us in this House be sure that our local residents are not living in the same conditions as little Awaab’s family, stuck in old, unsuitable properties that are riddled with issues? The fact is that at the moment we cannot be sure, because unless our residents come to us directly we do not know. When that occurs, it is usually because they feel they have not been listened to. They have tried everybody else first and felt that every single door has been shut firmly in their face.

Although we of course all have positive success stories of issues being addressed quickly by housing associations—I have worked with some brilliant housing association personnel in Salford—we also have myriad cases in which they have not been dealt with, there is not enough funding to deal with the issues, or the resident needs to be rehoused and there is simply nothing suitable available for them.

It would take me many hours to go through my list of cases, but let me give a few examples. I have cases of young families living in high-storey tower blocks without baths for their children because there are no suitable properties for their needs and they have been put in properties that are suitable for those with medical needs and given wet rooms instead. I have residents who have been told that they cannot open the windows at their properties properly because the window is too heavy and might fall out.

I have residents living in freezing buildings this winter where all the cladding has been removed but not yet replaced because the Government at first refused to fund its replacement. The local housing association had to secure a loan to carry out the works, and now structural issues have been identified that need urgent repair. Not only were the residents refused Government help during the fire safety crisis in the first instance, but there is now no additional Government support for them as they face a winter of sky-high energy costs because their buildings have no cladding. Many report to me that they are now just not putting the heating on, which is quite frightening.

I also have reports of people battling mice and rats. They should be moved out of their properties but there are no other houses available to put them in. I have elderly people with mobility issues who have been placed in upstairs flats when they need a ground-floor property to have any semblance of quality of life. Again, no suitable properties are available.

The list is endless. Social housing has been fundamentally crushed by this Government over the past 10 years. In the city of Salford alone we have almost 6,000 households on our housing register and there are 108 bids per property advertised. What does that mean? It means that families are crammed into unsuitable accommodation because there is simply nothing else available. Those who do get properties are supposedly the lucky ones who should be grateful for what they have received, while the housing team creaks under the volume of people who have not been so lucky and are desperate to find a decent home to live in.

As the cost of living crisis bites, a crisis is coming down the tracks this winter in the shape of social housing rent affordability. The Salford City Mayor and deputy mayor, along with Salford MPs, recently wrote to the Government to request a social rents freeze across the board and that they make available the funding to deliver this locally. We have yet to receive any semblance of a response from the Government.

Yes, I support the Bill. It goes some way towards regulating the sector, but it does not tackle the root causes of the problems that my local residents face, it will not provide the homes and repairs that they need now, and it will not ensure that a decent, warm, safe and secure home should be a right for all. Only a change in Government will do that.

Building Safety Bill

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
Paul Blomfield Portrait Paul Blomfield
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It is a pleasure to follow the hon. Member for Southampton, Itchen (Royston Smith). I pay tribute to him and to the hon. Member for Stevenage (Stephen McPartland) for the work that they have done in this regard.

As others have said, we have made considerable progress, but it is a disgrace that, so long after the Grenfell tragedy exposed the scandal of cladding and fire safety issues, the Government have yet to provide the comprehensive response that would address all the issues faced by the thousands of leaseholders caught up in that scandal across the country. This evolving Bill—it was clearly still evolving yesterday, with a body of new amendments tabled by the Government—and, indeed, the Secretary of State’s announcement in January were significant steps, but they still fall short of the Prime Minister’s promise—and I think we all know how much that is worth—that no leaseholders should have to pay for the remediation of problems that are not their responsibility. Moreover, there is still too much uncertainty surrounding the Government’s proposals, which in itself is frustrating progress on making buildings safe.

Let me give just one example. Mandale House, in my constituency, faces a range of problems, and has secured £3.4 million from the building safety fund towards the necessary remediation. However, that falls short of what is needed, and Mandale House is left with £7.4 million to find in order to complete the work. The building’s original developer is one of many to have gone into liquidation, so the building management are on their own. The builders who had been scheduled to carry out the remediation works have now pulled out because of the uncertainty over whether they would be paid. That leaves no foreseeable prospect of the building’s being made safe. The building management are now worried that if the money they have been granted from the building safety fund is not used promptly, it may be withdrawn. I understand that that has happened in respect of other buildings, and I would welcome the Minister’s confirmation that it will not happen in this case—as well as his advice on how Mandale House leaseholders should now proceed to make their building safe.

The second point that I want to make concerns enfranchised buildings. I urge the Government to think again about Lords amendment 117, and I hope to persuade them to do so by citing the case of Wicker Riverside, another building in my constituency, whose residents were evacuated just before Christmas 2020 because of safety concerns.

It is not good enough for the Secretary of State to write to us, as he did yesterday, saying that the amendment highlights a real problem which must be addressed, but then to reject it without putting anything else in its place. I welcome his late announcement today of a consultation, but it should have been possible four years on, and after all the months of knowing that this remained a problem following the Government’s January announcement, to include an amendment that addressed the concerns and provided a solution that the Government felt was robust, along with the bundle of amendments that were added yesterday.

Let me illustrate the problem. In 2019, Wicker Riverside leaseholders took their freeholder to court after years in which building maintenance had been neglected, with the freeholder also failing to provide proof of whether the money collected through service charges had actually been spent on the building. The freeholder did not even turn up for the court case. The leaseholders then exercised their right to manage, and took over responsibility for the building. Now they are being penalised for doing so. By treating right to manage companies in the same way as institutional freeholders, the Government are excluding them from the protections that exist for other leaseholders, such as the remediation bill cap. I would like us to go further and provide zero liability for leaseholders, but the fact remains that the cap is there for some and is not there for those in Wicker Riverside. They should qualify for the same protection as others, because without it they will face unmanageable costs, and as a result the building will not be made safe.

The Government must set out their plans. If they will not accept Lords amendment 117, I respect their concerns, but the Minister needs to explain—and I hope that he will, in his closing remarks—exactly what they intend to consult on to ensure that right to manage leaseholders are protected. I hope the Minister will also give a clear guarantee that the outcome of the consultation will be that those leaseholders will have the protection that is being provided for all others.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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Like many Members on both sides of the House, I welcomed the Secretary of State’s assurances to Parliament earlier this year that leaseholders

“are blameless, and it is morally wrong that they should be the ones asked to pay the price.”—[Official Report, 10 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 283.]

However, despite the progress that the Secretary of State and Members across the House have undoubtedly made on this issue, there are still inadequate legal protections in the Bill to ensure that residents and leaseholders do not bear the costs of a crisis that they did not cause. I therefore support Lords amendments that seek to widen the scope of the Bill, including the amendment to reduce leaseholder contributions to zero, tabled by Baroness Hayman, and the proposal for an extension of leaseholder protections to buildings of all heights, tabled by the Earl of Lytton and supported by Lord Blencathra and Lord Young. I thank Members of this House for their hard work, and I thank all the cladding campaign groups, many of whose members are present today. I want to mention in particular Manchester Cladiators, which has supported residents throughout Greater Manchester through rain and shine in their hour of need.

Those campaigners have to keep going, because the sad reality is that many residents in my constituency still fall through the gaps in the proposals that the Secretary of State has outlined so far. Indeed, a recent survey by End our Cladding Scandal of more than 2,200 properties and buildings over 11 metres tall shows that more than 64% of leaseholders outside London and more than 83% of leaseholders in London will not be protected from the costs of non-cladding fire safety defects. The recent pledges from developers to remediate the buildings that they have built over the last 30 years sadly do not go far enough, and there is continued ambiguity about the treatment of non-cladding fire safety defects. Leaseholders in buildings that are under 11 metres remain unprotected, and there is still no funding commitment from house builders for the £4 billion required for the remediation of buildings where the developer no longer exists. As we have heard today, there also remains a huge question mark over social housing.

Further to that, we still do not know what residents who have already received devastating demands for payment should do. There is no detail at all on how to recoup any sums of money already spent by residents, as sinking funds are depleted to catastrophic levels. For example, one development in my constituency has been unable to receive support from the waking watch relief fund simply because the residents acted proactively to try to reduce the cost of their waking watch by agreeing to fund the installation of a fire alarm system. Because they did this prior to the waking watch relief fund’s cut-off date of 17 December 2020, their application to the fund was rejected. Sadly, had they waited and incurred even more waking watch costs, their application probably would have been successful. The Minister must agree that that makes no sense at all, and this is just one case.

The Secretary of State informed Parliament in January that he would pursue statutory protection for leaseholders, and that nothing would be off the table. The Bill does not give that protection, and all I ask today is that the Government support the amendments that would protect leaseholders and go some way towards providing that statutory protection that they all deserve.

Oral Answers to Questions

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
Monday 7th March 2022

(2 years, 3 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Neil O'Brien Portrait Neil O’Brien
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My hon. Friend is completely correct. Some £19.4 million was allocated to projects in Bognor Regis and Littlehampton through round 1 of the levelling-up fund, in addition to the £21.1 million allocated to Crawley. I look forward to working with people in West Sussex to do more through round 2 of the levelling-up fund as well as the UK shared prosperity fund.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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T7. The Government announced the renters reform Bill in the 2019 Queen’s Speech, and they announced it again in the 2021 Queen’s Speech. My constituents desperately need this Bill to abolish no-fault section 21 evictions, introduce a national landlord database, apply the decent homes standard and much more, so will the Secretary of State confirm when he is finally going to get on with introducing this Bill?

Eddie Hughes Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (Eddie Hughes)
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We need to introduce the White Paper, which will be published in the spring, first. I look forward to discussing its terms with the hon. Lady so we can ensure that the legislation subsequently introduced is fit for purpose.

Local Government Finance (England)

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
Wednesday 9th February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My hon. Friend makes an important point, but it is vital not to pit urban against rural or Dorset against London. In the debate on the police grant report, he and my hon. Friend the Member for South Dorset (Richard Drax) drew attention to particular crime challenges that Dorset faces, with major cities such as Bournemouth in the broader Dorset area, issues of county lines and rurality, and pressure on public services overall. They were absolutely right to do so. We have sought to ensure that in the settlement we provide Dorset’s police and fire and rescue service with appropriate resource, but of course we keep things constantly under review.

For the benefit of the House, I will briefly run through the details of the funding settlement. Overall, the settlement funding assessment—in essence, what used to be the revenue support grant allocation—comes to some £14,882,000,000, a truly significant amount and a significant increase. In the local government finance settlement, we are also increasing our compensation to local authorities for under-indexing the business rates multiplier. We are making sure that local authorities have the opportunity to raise the council tax precept by 2% on the social care precept and that they benefit from an improved better care fund from the new homes bonus. The rural services delivery grant, which helps to address some of the issues that my hon. Friend the Member for West Dorset (Chris Loder) so ably raised, is being held at £85 million.

Perhaps the two most substantial changes are the increase in the social care grant, to take account of the particular pressures on local authorities as a result of the challenges that adult social care services face, and the additional £822 million that has been made available in a specific services grant. That money is unringfenced, and it is in keeping with the direction of our “Levelling Up” White Paper and of the Government overall in recognising that, wherever possible, those in local government are best equipped to meet local needs. That principle of devolution and local discretion will be in our mind as we consider how to reform local government finance further in future.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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The right hon. Gentleman is being generous in giving way. He will know that Salford City Council has faced budget cuts of £232 million since 2010 and has stated that the approach to funding that he outlines does not adequately reflect the demand that it faces. Does he agree that true levelling up requires funding to meet actual demand, and that it requires differentials for poverty, inequality and council tax payers’ ability to pay to be effectively factored into Government grant methodology?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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The hon. Lady makes an important point. As we review future reforms to local government finance, I look forward to working with her and other colleagues to make sure that her point about deprivation, which affects a considerable number of her constituents, is reflected in our overall approach. It is important to say that the most relatively deprived areas of England—those in the upper decile of the index of multiple deprivation —will receive 14% more per dwelling in available resource through this year’s settlement than the least deprived areas. The settlement serves the cause of social justice with a redistribution towards poorer areas, but of course we keep these things under review.

Levelling Up

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
Wednesday 2nd February 2022

(2 years, 4 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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My right hon. Friend is absolutely right. We need to make sure that the additional funding available through the UK shared prosperity fund goes to all the communities in Wales that deserve it.

Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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The Secretary of State bursts with enthusiasm today, yet his plans are not bursting with much new funding. Even the director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership says that

“the government is planning to spend less on English regional development than was the case under Theresa May or David Cameron.”

It said that true levelling up would need long-term financial backing from the Chancellor. When will we see that?

Michael Gove Portrait Michael Gove
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We saw it at the spending review.

Building Safety Bill

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab)
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It is nearly five years since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, yet thousands of my constituents in Salford and Eccles still live in fear. Some live in cold, draughty flats, having waited years for already removed cladding to be replaced, and for so many leaseholders every day, the bills for interim fire safety and increased insurance premiums rack up. They cannot move, they cannot sell, they struggle to get credit and the mental toll increasingly becomes unmanageable.

When the Secretary of State informed Parliament last week that he

“will pursue statutory protection for leaseholders and nothing will be off the table”—[Official Report, 10 January 2022; Vol. 706, c. 285.]

it was welcome news, but we have been here before, have we not? All his predecessors have conveyed warm, fluffy, non-binding statements to the House about protecting leaseholders, but we have seen very little action. The Minister must understand why my constituents have asked me why we are not legislating to protect them today in the Bill. There have been no clear assurances from him today, sadly, that the amendments that will be tabled in the other place will comprehensively include all leaseholders and indemnify them against all fire safety defect costs and ancillary costs that they may have incurred over the past few years.

The absence of that protection raises many more unanswered questions, which I hope the Minister will address. For example, what about my residents who have already received financially devastating demands for payment? Will he confirm what they should do? Should they ignore those demands in the hope that the Government legislate? How will he protect them when they face forfeiture and losing their home, or worse, bankruptcy?

Furthermore, there is ambiguity once again about the non-cladding fire safety defects in the majority of the affected buildings in my constituency, so will he confirm what specific actions he will take to ensure that residents and leaseholders are protected from the costs of non-cladding fire safety defects in buildings of all heights?

What about the sums spent so far? I am informed that many sinking funds in my constituency have already been wiped out by virtue of fire safety investigations and other interim fire safety costs. In addition, residents have already been paying directly for interim costs and increased insurance premiums. Will they be able to claim a refund, and will that be legislated for in the other place?

Finally, I must highlight the significant and unacceptable delays both in the completion of the fire safety works themselves and in processing building safety fund applications. A number of housing association blocks in my constituency have been without cladding for some years now, leaving many residents living in freezing conditions, and numerous other private residential buildings are reporting significant delays at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in signing off funding agreements within the building safety fund.

If the Secretary of State cannot get the limited amount of money the Government have already committed out the door, how can he assure us that any wider package he announces will be more expedient in the future? What action are the Minister and the Secretary of State taking to fast-track, expand and train up new specialists in the supply chain to carry out the urgent work required at pace?

My constituents simply deserve two urgent things from the Government: first, to have their buildings made safe as part of an urgent national building safety mission; and, secondly, to be protected from the costs of a fire safety crisis they did not cause. Sadly, as drafted so far, this Bill delivers neither. I hope the Minister reflects on the amendments that will be required in the other place and delivers the safety and protection that my constituents deserve.

Building Safety Bill

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
2nd reading
Wednesday 21st July 2021

(2 years, 11 months ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab) [V]
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Sadly, this Bill is deficient in many areas. It focuses on higher-risk buildings, currently defined as those over 18 metres, leaving the safety of residents in buildings under 18 metres unclear. Does today’s EWS1 announcement now mean that combustible cladding under 18 metres should be ignored?

The issue of funding is still not adequately addressed. As the Government well know, the building safety fund only covers unsafe cladding, yet 70% of buildings surveyed have non-cladding fire and safety defects. Providing cladding remediation funding for buildings over 18 metres, yet forcing leaseholders in buildings under 18 metres to pay, is simply unjust. As Inside Housing has previously reported, even the minority of leaseholders who could apply for loans potentially face waiting for years.

As for social landlords, the National Housing Federation has stated that, “Social housing providers will be forced to draw money from improving tenants homes in communities to fund remediation.” This is staggering.

To address these inequities, the Government plan simply to extend limitation periods to 15 years, but that will still require leaseholders and social landlords to stump up the initial cost themselves, if they do not qualify for the building safety fund. Legal processes for the recovery of such funds could take years and be very costly, if the developers and contractors even still exist.

This proposal would not help leaseholders in my constituency at Transport House, who face bills of more than £100,000 each, as they fall shy of the 15-year period, and nor would it help the tenants and residents of Sovereign Point.

Aside from the unsafe conditions such residents are forced to live in every day, the mental strain takes its toll. In a survey by UK Cladding Action Group, 90% of leaseholders said their mental health has deteriorated and a fifth—a fifth—have had thoughts of suicide and self-harm.

Let us be clear: the only way to protect both leaseholders and tenants from the unfair costs of the crisis they did not cause is for the Government to provide upfront remediation funding, then recoup the cost from those responsible for those safety defects. As we have heard, they managed to do that in Australia, so this Government can manage to do it here.

Affordable and Safe Housing for All

Rebecca Long Bailey Excerpts
Tuesday 18th May 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

Commons Chamber
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Rebecca Long Bailey Portrait Rebecca Long Bailey (Salford and Eccles) (Lab) [V]
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Sadly, the Queen’s Speech demonstrated a failure to act on acute social housing shortages, while thousands languish on housing waiting lists. It failed adequately to protect renters as the evictions ban and furlough schemes come to an end, and it failed to act urgently on fire safety and to protect leaseholders and residents from the cost of a crisis they did not cause.

On social housing, the reality is that, over the last five years, less than 10% of the amount needed has been built, but the Government had absolutely nothing to say. They should have adopted calls from organisations such as Shelter, which has suggested an investment of at least £12.8 billion a year over 10 years, which would have delivered 90,000 social rented homes a year.

On private renters, of course the Government reaffirmed commitments to end section 21 no fault evictions, but we have been waiting for over two years for that. If the Government honour their promise, that still leaves a glaring lack of protection for all those tenants in pandemic arrears who can still legitimately be evicted. The Government should have set out a package of support for them.

Finally, on cladding and fire safety, we saw nothing: no support for the victims and no remediation deadlines, just the promise of a building safety regulator. Members across this House have repeatedly called on Government to protect leaseholders and residents from the cost of a crisis they did not cause. Absurdly, the Government told us that amendments that defined responsibility for the cost of remediating fire safety defects were too complex an issue to go in a Bill whose purpose was to deal with the responsibility for fire safety defects, and it seems they were also too complex to go in the Queen’s Speech. The Government know that the building safety fund only covers unsafe cladding, yet 70% of the buildings surveyed have non-cladding fire safety defects. They know that there is no support available at all for interim measures such as increased insurance premiums and waking watches. They know that providing cladding remediation funding for buildings over 18 metres yet forcing leaseholders in buildings under 18 metres to pay is simply unjust. The Government must honour their moral duty to these victims. They must provide up-front funding to remediate all residential buildings urgently and finally legislate to protect leaseholders and residents from the cost of the crisis they are not responsible for. It is not a complex issue; it is a moral issue, and the Government need to sort it out.