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Live webchat with Grant Shapps, local government and housing minister, Tues 7 Dec, 2.30pm - 3.30pm

(250 Posts)
GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 02-Dec-10 12:06:24

Grant ShappsWe're very pleased that our webchat guest on Tues 7 Dec is local government and housing minister Grant Shapps. He has recently been in the news over homeowners' rights and the government's social housing policy.

On Mon 6 Dec, he's setting out how the government intends to put more power into the hands of local councillors. Part of this is that the govt wants to encourage women, particularly mothers of school-age children, to consider becoming councillors. Grant would like to know what you think about becoming a local councillor? Are there any obstacles to you doing so? If you're already a councillor, what are your experiences, and what do you think are the opportunities for women in local government?

Grant is the MP for Welwyn Hatfield, he's married with three children - a boy aged nine and six-year-old twins.

Hope you can join him on Tues, 1.30pm-2.30pm. But if you can't and you have a question or comment, please post it here.

LadyBlaBlah Thu 02-Dec-10 14:50:40

Doesn't he want to talk about housing benefits then ?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 02-Dec-10 16:31:17

Hi LadyBlaBlah, he's housing minister, so I'm sure he's expecting to be asked about housing benefits. Please post!

Unprune Thu 02-Dec-10 16:32:12

You have put a photo in a post.
It's a slippery slope towards tickers shock

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Thu 02-Dec-10 16:37:42

biscuit

lankyalto Thu 02-Dec-10 18:26:44

I'm not a local councillor and have no wish to become one. My family has provided a number of councillors, mayors etc and I have seen first hand how much work is required. Much of this is in the evenings, at least in my experience. Tht won't suit everyone, but I don't think there is an ideal solution.

What kind of power are we talking about? Because local people can get a bit power crazy and hung up on issues. There are usually only a few people who might be given responsibility for things they don't really understand and aren't really qualified for.

I would like there to be a lot less emphasis on party politics and more on getting the best out of people, regardless of the party they support. Local government would be a good place to start, then hopefully we could work up to national level and get rid of all that pitifully childish baying that goes on in the House of Commons.

superv1xen Thu 02-Dec-10 18:28:31

oooh can't wait for this. and i am not in the least bit interested about women becoming councillors and all that shit

superv1xen Thu 02-Dec-10 18:30:25

whoops didnt mean to post! i meant i am more interested in his shit ideas about screwing over coucil and housing association tenants. as will lots of other angry interested people.

domesticslattern Thu 02-Dec-10 18:55:12

Thank you for coming on MN.

Can I ask a question which will sound a bit rude, but it is not really meant to.

The papers report that you are a millionaire with your own plane.
You report to a Cabinet in which 23 out of 29 members are reported to have assets and investments estimated to be worth more than £1million.

Genuinely, is it difficult for you and- not wanting to single you out in particular- others in your Party, to understand the realities of life for people at the other end of the income scale, in particular life in/ waiting for social housing?

And yes, I did watch you rough sleeping for a TV documentary. smile That was you wasn't it?

superv1xen Thu 02-Dec-10 19:20:36

ok. now i have calmed down a bit blush

first things first. -applauds domesticslattern for her fab question-

right. now for my questions.

can you PROMISE existing council/housing association tenants that the proposed changes to local authority tenants will NOT affect us?

and what can we expect the household income before familes are kicked out told to find a private rented property is going to be set at?

are you going to do anything to help mere mortals on or just above the minimum wage get on the property ladder so we do not have to spend our whole lives moving our families around insecure, substandard and overpriced rented accomodation.

and, speaking of landlords, is anything going to be put in place to stop them charging extortionate amounts to rent out their aforementioned "properties" ?
you know, just so half the country don't spend their whole lives on housing benefit.

Jcee Thu 02-Dec-10 19:57:48

I think encouraging people to get more involved in local government and having a say in where they live is great in principle, however in practice it throws up all sorts of issues.

I'm not a councillor but I am a voluntary trustee of a local charity and whilst it is certainly one of the best things I've ever got invovled in, it's hard work, it can be unrewarding and tends to involve a lot of evening meetings and that can be extremely hard to manage with family and work commitments.

How are you going to encourage people to take that step to get involved and overcome these barriers?

The changes to the planning system for instance will allow local residents to block developments, which might be great to stop another supermarket but what about the youth centre, affordable housing development or drug and alcohol treatment centre?

How will you ensure that those getting involved have the necessary experience to do the job and are not power mad meddling nimbyist nutters truely represent the communities they will be serving?

stretch Thu 02-Dec-10 20:55:04

I would like to become a councillor. Unfortunately, I have 4 children and childcare would be an issue. Also I live in a HA house, so not sure I'm the 'sort' of person they would like. hmm

I would like Superv1xen's question answered.

madamimadam Thu 02-Dec-10 21:07:39

Another one who would like superv1xen's question answered.

granted Thu 02-Dec-10 23:09:37

I would like to know how he intends to help those priced out of buying a house (as opposed to a teeny tiny studio flat) to house their families in, or alternatively when he intends to improve security of tenure and rights for tenants so that they are at a comparative level to other European countries. I would like to hear him agree that it is unreasonable for children to be brought up in homes where they can be moved on the whim of a landlord every 6 months and where they are not allowed to decorate their romms in any way or have pets.

I would like to make it crystal clear that first time buyers do NOT want easy access to ridiculous multiples of their salaries to enable them to buy a house, or shared ownership, or rules to enable us to borrow enough to see us in debt we can never conceivably repay. We just want CHEAPER houses, and preferably more of them.

What policies does he have for building, or encouraging the building of, thouands (or even millions) of new homes, including new socially rented homes, to replace all those lost under Right-toBuy?

Can he confirm how many properties he personally owns and whether he is a buy-to-let landlord?

Thanks.

dietcokesholidaysarecoming Thu 02-Dec-10 23:17:44

Supervixen just asked every thing I was going to.

More work needs to be done so that rentals are long term and less expensive.

superv1xen Fri 03-Dec-10 08:31:00

granted - absolutely brilliant questions (and fantastic point about buying a home) made there.

glad other posters liked my questions. i am sure they will be echoed many many times on here.

colditz Fri 03-Dec-10 10:50:34

We need more social housing, not less, not more 'schemes', not new rules. We simply need more social housing.

We could start by turning all the buildings that have been unused for more than 5 years into social housing. We could continue by stopping this "part rent part buy" crap - NOBODY wants it, do you KNOW how hard it is to sell one of those? They are usually in HORRIBLE areas, and are horrifically over priced. 'Half' of the price of the house is, realistically, about 3/4 of the price of the house in exchange for half the house. That's not fair, is it? A 2 bed house round here goes for £120 grand, but 'half' is still about £75 grand - way more than half it's value. And once it's entirely bought - it's gone, isn't it?

This country needs fewer home owners, not more.

Also, I cannot believe that you, as the minister for housing, have come here to try and point us towards being local councillors when you must know that this ISN'T what we would want to talk about with you.

We want to talk about the huge numbers of families in inadequate housing. We want to talk about the horrendous price of housing. We want to talk about the shameful amount of homeless children in this country. Why don't you want to talk about that?

earwicga Fri 03-Dec-10 11:41:17

Welcome to Mumsnet. Lovely to see you have twins, I do too. My twins are 8 now, and they will become homeless with me because of your government's housing and housing benefit policies.

My question is: How much do you laugh when you watch Cathy Come Home - is it a slight chuckle throughout, or a hearty belly laugh?

sincitylover Fri 03-Dec-10 13:26:56

another one here who can't see the point of devolving more power regarding housing to local councils. They need a backbone of a coherent national strategy - housing policy in this country isand has been a disgrace from selling of council housing, to making everybody think they should aspire to the property ladder which is fine if you are LUCKY and very uncomfortable if you are unlucky.

To the extortionate and insecure private rental market. Housing is simply too important to be left to the market.
(We didn't let our banking industry become fully exposed to the market)

Having been on and off the ladder (due to divorce) I would be more than happy and have peace of mind if I could a have secure affordable house to rent.

As it is I am in very expensive but modest property with no security of tenure. It's very important for children already destablised by divorce to have some sort of security. I get a small amount of housing benefit (thankfully) but earn a reasonable salary and work full time. I think that in itself shows how expensive rental prices have become.

sincitylover Fri 03-Dec-10 13:28:46

I would also like to become a councillor or become involved in civic life but again with a full time job and two school aged children it is very difficult to get out at night when these meetings are held.

granted Sat 04-Dec-10 00:04:52

I'd love to be a local councillor, but it's not even remotely feasible with small children - not enough hours in the day as it is.

Unless local councillors work part-time in family friendly hours, and earn a very good wage, I couldn't afford to be one in either time or money terms. And I suspect this is not the case.

You know what, Grant? You could kill two birds with one stone, so to speak - combine your two roles. Make housing much, much cheaper and then mothers won't need to work such long hours, and will actually have the time to devote to being things like councillors, David Cameron's fantasy Big Society etc.

How about it?

longfingernails Sat 04-Dec-10 04:47:07

Hi Grant,

My question is: can you please make squatting a criminal offence in England, coming with the possibility of a long prison sentence, and for foreign squatters, automatic deportation? Can you also make it straightforward to evict squatters, and until we have directly elected police commissioners, liaise with Theresa May and Eric Pickles to move squatter removal up the police priority list.

If I can be allowed a cheeky second question (sorry) - do you not feel in the medium term it would be sensible to get rid of housing benefit altogether for the non-disabled, and use the money to put up income tax thresholds at the bottom end instead? I guess something similar is part of the universal credit idea - but one slight problem with the otherwise excellent universal credit (which replicates an existing problem with housing benefit) is that employers will have financial incentives to keep wages at the bottom end artificially low, knowing that the State is ready and willing to pick up the slack.

Overall, well done on a fantastic set of policies on housing. The vast majority of the country is behind you - you can ignore the loudmouth provisional wing of the Guardian that seems to dominate MN!

ZephirineDrouhin Sat 04-Dec-10 11:55:15

<wonders whether longfingernails has in fact been planted by the opposition to make Coalition supporters look like loons>

The Coalition are not committed to local government or local accountability, after all funding to local councils has been cut by 25%. It is a fallacy that those savings will come from efficiencies like "shared services" etc. They simply DO NOT SAVE ENOUGH MONEY. Instead the vulnerable people suffer, for example in my area the Supporting People budget is being cut by almost 50%.

As for changing the elected member profile, the only people who can afford in terms of time or money to do it currently are people who are retired. That is why our council chambers look like adverts for Saga.

I'd like to ask why the Govt don't get rid of the second homes discount on Council Tax altogether, so the richer elements of society are not being funded by the poorer?

IntergalacticHussy Sat 04-Dec-10 15:43:47

Hi Grant,

I'd like to know what you'll do to help those who have been ripped off by Shared Ownership schemes and find themselves trapped in limbo; neither having the rights of home-owners or tenants, and yet being accorded either label when it suits the housing association in question from a legal perspective. This area has virtually no legislation to protect those involved, and needs urgent consideration from government.

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