Thursday, 27 July 2017

Breckland Full Council 27.07.17

Full Council at Breckland today. There's 8 Councillors covering the wards in Thetford - just 3 turned up for the meeting. Myself, Mark Robinson and Mark Taylor - bit pathetic hey? Just 1 of the 4 strong UKIP group bothered to turn up - they're the official opposition and get paid to help keep the ruling administration in check and ask questions - pah! More often than not they vote with the Tories and say nothing at the meeting and can't even turn up today. I made the following points: 1. Void rates: Has the situation with void rates for Flagship properties improved? previously properties were being left empty on average for 30 days when someone moved out and someone new moved in (primarily due to the uselessness of RFT) - other housing associations are achieving turnarounds on average under a week. Is the Council continuing to apply pressure on Flagship. The longer dozens of properties are left empty the longer people sit on the housing waiting list or suffer homelessness etc. 2. I asked for clarity on the Council's constitution - can a member of the Council continue to serve even though they are resident in another Country? Will they still be paid their £440 a month allowance as a Cllr despite not attending resident meetings or Council meetings? 3. Local plan / Affordable housing targets - I asked whether the Council's new Local Plan accurately quantified the need for affordable homes - some of the data is years old and recent austerity measures have surely significantly increased the demand. The target for affordable homes on new developments is being cut in Breckland from 40% of all new developments to just 25%, will that meet the demand? The numbers of affordable homes delivered is much less than the number of affordable homes anticipated to be delivered - is this realistic and how will the Council reassure people that these figures are deliverable? I didn't think I was being overly party political but Councillor Bill Borrett accused me of "cheap political point scoring" - no shock there then, everything I say elicits a similar response from him. He carries on as if there is no hardship in Breckland and everything is hunky dory - apparently we have very high employment. As I responded, yes wonderful, we could have 100% employment but frankly if wages remain as low as they are, and the cost of living is such, there will remain hardship and a need for affordable housing. I reminded him and other Councillors that the majority of clients at Thetford Foodbank are in full time work - such is the situation with low wages locally (Breckland nationally recognised as a low wage area). Who locally on minimum wage or even somewhat above minimum wage can afford to rent a property? or get a deposit / mortgage offer together? Also reminded him that public sector workers continue to have pay freezes or rises not significant enough to keep up with the cost of living increases. Arghhhhhh another day where I wish to god there were more Labour Councillors on Breckland or frankly anyone that spouted something different to what the huge number of Tories do. And breathe and back to work.

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