Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Another broken promise

Despite months of denial and prevarication, government ministers have finally had to concede that they are breaking their promises on protecting the NHS – it will have a cut in cash resources, let alone real terms, next year; it is unsurprising that waiting times and waiting lists are rocketing, and targets are not being met – and in housebuilding – there is no chance of 1 million new homes being built in this parliament as David Cameron claimed.

So, it’s now time to reveal this government’s latest broken promise – to protect the schools’ budget.

Both the National Audit Office and the independent Institute for Fiscal Studies have now confirmed that there will be an “8.0% real-terms reduction in per-pupil funding for mainstream schools between 2014-15 and 2019-20”.  This equates to around £3bn worth of savings that schools will be forced to make.

For many schools, the problem will be exacerbated by the implementation of the National Funding Formula. In December, the government said that 10,740 schools (54%) were set to gain extra money, while 9,128 (46%) will lose money from this redistribution. These changes are to be phased in from 2018.

The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has commissioned its own research and this suggests that the combination of the national funding cut and the redistribution will mean that
  • 98% of schools will have per-pupil funding cut,
  • the average cut for a primary school will be £87,117, with the average loss per primary school pupil being £339, and
  • the average cut to a secondary school will be £405,611 with the average loss per secondary school pupil being £477.
In my Sheffield South East constituency, the NUT estimates that schools will have a funding cut between 2013 and 2019 of about 8% on average.  Overall, Sheffield schools will be more than £22 million pa worse off in 2019/20 than they are this year.

In NE Derbyshire and Chesterfield, school budgets are predicted to fall by an average 4-7% - slightly lower than the national average cut; in Rotherham, it’s a 12% cut. As about 80% of a school’s budget goes on staff, it is inevitable that there will be reductions in teaching and teaching assistant staff in most schools.

You can see the expected outcome for every school at

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Between 1997 and 2010, the UK built an additional two million homes, increased owner-occupation by more than a million and delivered the largest investment in social housing in a generation. [I wasn’t satisfied by this achievement, especially believing that there should also have been big investment in new social housing.] Further, headline or ‘statutory’ homelessness fell by almost two-thirds (62%), from over 100,000 households to 40,000, and the number of people sleeping rough fell by roughly three-quarters (75%).
By contrast, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat record on housing is seven years of failure, from falling home-ownership – there are 200,000 fewer home-owning households since 2010 – to homelessness. Since 2010, the trend of falling homelessness has gone into reverse. The number of statutory homeless households has increased by 45% and the number of rough sleepers has doubled, up 30% in the last year alone. Five families are being made homeless in England every hour of the day.

Right now, we need to build more homes in this country, particularly more affordable homes, and we need to build more affordable homes to rent. We also need to have longer secure tenancies, rent certainty and better minimum standards of management and repair.

We also must recognise that housing needs vary in different parts of the country. Different housing markets need different responses and initiatives, particularly in terms of tenure mix.

If the government’s long-promised housing white paper doesn’t address these challenges, then we should expect housing policy to be a key political battleground for the foreseeable future.

However, as a result of
  • some all-party investigation then cooperation and determination;
  • a Conservative MP willing to use his opportunity to promote a Bill;
  • a huge amount of behind-the-scenes hard work, debate and discussion involving Ministers, MPs, civil servants, and a range of professional and voluntary organisations;
  • creative use of a Select Committee to do pre-legislative scrutiny;
  • a Housing Minister, sensing which way the wind was blowing, being prepared to engage constructively and to back that with money; and
  • MPs, having made known their personal views about missed opportunities, being prepared to back the limited proposals;
the Homelessness Reduction Bill passed its third reading last week on the way to the statute book.

It should ensure that more, earlier and better support is given to those threatened by homelessness, and especially to those families with young children for whom the experience can do lifelong harm.