For the past 12 months it’s been all about mocking the Coalition.
From their radical but ill-thought out reforms and brutal housing budget cuts to their ridiculous personalities, I have spent every waking hour as Editor of this magazine lambasting the Government in the hope that they might pause and reflect on what they’re doing to the housing sector and announce a volteface along the lines of selling off forests, enforcing weekly bin collections or reforming the National Health Service. Fat chance.
While Lansley’s NHS shake-up caused such uproar that the ‘People’s President’ David Cameron had to personally intervene, the slow motion car crash that is Coalition housing policy continues to escape under the radar because the public at large couldn’t really care less and the sector itself has been so passive in its collective response. Personally, I blame the Labour Party.
At a time when the country needs an effective and vocal opposition, Labour has been found wanting. And I’m not just talking about Miliband and Balls here. This is also about shadow ministers acting as the eyes and ears of the public by drilling into the detail of different policy areas and exposing the flaws.
So where are you Alison Seabeck? Or should that be who are you?
While Grant Shapps and Eric Pickles continue to build on their reputation as the most formidable double act since Laurel and Hardy, Seabeck and Shadow Communities Secretary Caroline Flint seem to have gone AWOL. Despite being presented with numerous open goals to expose the farcical nature of some areas of policy, Labour has failed to capitalise.
Recent Commons’ debates are a case in point. While it’s only right to give Seabeck some credit for the eloquent way she argued against the introduction of fixed-term tenancies in the Localism Bill, the impact was minimal. Currently, the only way to find out what the Opposition has to say on housing is to plough through pages of Hansard and even then it’s rarely worth quoting. This, coupled with a complete lack of alternative ideas, is not good enough.
Quite simply, Labour should be making absolutely sure it is in step with the sector’s (many) concerns and helping it to find a united voice that everyone can get behind. So, where better for Seabeck and Co. to start than reading how homelessness charities are unanimously agreed that the Government’s housing benefit reforms represent a false economy that could ultimately end in disaster for thousands of vulnerable people.
Elsewhere in this issue, Ross Macmillan is given a guided tour of the Olympic Village to check on progress ahead of next year’s Games and you can remind yourself who Caroline Flint is by reading all about her in Fact or Fiction?
Editor, 24housing Magazine