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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.

snowmash Sat 04-Dec-10 22:33:07

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimate that there is a shortfall of 300 000 wheelchair accessible homes in the UK (social housing or not).

I know of many wheelchair users who have been 'rehomed' into nursing homes or residential homes, due to lack of social housing (and otherwise accessible housing).

Do you feel this is appropriate in this day and age, and if not what does your government plan to do about it?

10poundstogo Sun 05-Dec-10 00:56:26

Time limited tenancies for social housing will not work. You underestimate entirely people's desire for safe, secure accomodation. Many tenants would give up work for fear of being judged as "no longer in need" of thier social tenancy when it comes to thier review. Hardly sits well with your policies on worklessness and making work pay. Where I am based you would need a £17,000 deposit to get an entry level 2 bed house, and most private landlords won't take anyone getting even partial housing benefit. So I'd like you to explain EXACTLY how you see this working out.

nomoremagnolia Sun 05-Dec-10 06:19:16

I'm afraid this is nothing to do with housing and isn't even a question!

I just wanted to say thank you for your research looking into the postcode lottery of IVF funding. Thanks to you (and to the MNer who sent me a link to your article) my husband and I got a second funded IVF cycle after discovering that our PCT had changed their criteria. I would not have been aware of this if it hadn't been for your report as we had already been seen under the old criteria and the one cycle we'd had funded then did not work out.

Our second cycle earlier this year was succesful and we now have a wonderful 7 week old son

CammieP Sun 05-Dec-10 14:13:07

I was also wondering about how it has become impossible for young (ish) couples like us to buy a house. We actually live in your constituency in Hatfield and the house prices and rents around here are extortionate.

We are desperately trying to save up so that I can take a full year of maternity leave. In order to buy a house we would need a deposit of at least £20,000, probably more, which is half our annual salary before tax - it would take years to save up that amount, and that's before things like having children gets in the way.

Do you plan to do anything to make housing more affordable for people like us? I spent several years at university/training and feel a little bit cheated that from a financial point of view I'd probably have been better off not bothering (although I love my job).


mellicauli Sun 05-Dec-10 20:00:55

No one seems to be interested in councillors I note.

Given that, why do you think giving them more power is a good idea? What powers are being so wrongly exercised at the moment that need to be devolved? And what mandate do you have for doing it?

Or would you just like to foist off a lot of unpopular decisions on a load of mug Mums so you don't have to take the flack for it anymore?

I can tell you why Mums aren't interested in being councillors. This is because it is a poorly paid job with unsociable hours for little or no thanks. Most Mums already have a job that meets just this description.

bigkidsmademe Mon 06-Dec-10 11:03:50

I am very interested in whether the government have a policy on second / multiple home owners. My husband and I have very good professional jobs but no hope of buying a small house where we live, as almost all the properties are owned by landlords. They range from people with more than ten to people like my friend, who has just bought an 'investment property' with the help of her parents' retirement payout.

I, personally, believe owning second homes to be immoral when there is such a shortage of housing. I do not expect a Conservative to agree with this (!) and I know that the situation we are in now is the result of Labour's policies. However, I was wondering if you have any plans to rectify this situation - increased council tax or capital gains on second properties, for example.


Jaybird37 Mon 06-Dec-10 11:05:59

Hi Grant

Is this the kind of behaviour which you would make criminal?

link here

If not, given that the current government are abolishing standards boards, and the Conservative party believe that control over local representatives should be through local parties, what are local people supposed to do?

Cheddacheese Mon 06-Dec-10 11:11:48

Hello Mr Shapps

I would like to ask about the current social housing allocation system in my area call Herts Choice Homes. I am on this waiting list and have been since 2004.

My circumstances changed last year which means my priority date changed to November 2009 even though my circumstances became more urgent. I also feel that we have not been placed in the correct band. My Aunty wrote to you in detail on the 14th October and your office confirmed receiving it on the 15th October. We still have not received a reply.

Will your rethink include how people are prioritised on these lists?

Thank you

policywonk Mon 06-Dec-10 11:40:30

I've thought idly about becoming a local councillor (although being a fully paid-up Guardianista I'd never get elected in my True Blue backwater), but surely the next four-and-a-half years are going to be absolutely murderous for local councils. Funding cut, powers devolved, revenue-raising powers taken away - responsibility without power is going to be the motto for councils up and down the land. Services for the most vulnerable (families fleeing domestic violence, asylum seekers, people with chronic health problems) are going to go down the tube all over the country. Now is not the time to get involved in town hall politics, I'd have thought.

Question: the principle of 'localism' is great in theory - motherhood and apple pie. Everyone wants to see people getting more involved in local politics, and local councils being more responsive to their electorates. But given that the Coalition is busily removing all ringfences and cutting local authority funds (except those to the richest councils, which are being increased), aren't you just - to quote Polly Toynbee - devolving the axe? If you really believed in localism, wouldn't you allow local councils more revenue-raising powers?

LornMowa Mon 06-Dec-10 11:54:17

I am worried that although, people are currently meeting their repayments on their mortgages, they are not actually repaying the capital. Surely this means that they have to continue working forever, or that they will become a burden on the public purse as their housing costs will have to be paid by the taxpayer?

Perhaps another way to increase the supply of houses (in addition to building) would be if the government could find a way to "nudge" the current older generation out of their large houses and let those who are currently bringing up children buy their own houses. I suggest some form of under-occupation tax.

Any suggestion that I am jealous of my parents and PILs who between them have 9 spare bedrooms is quite justified!

Ewe Mon 06-Dec-10 12:31:32

Becoming a local councillor doesn't appeal to me at all, around here it is party politics and ego at play, not people being concerned about actually getting stuff done.

Plus the only way to get yourself elected is by being a councillor plus a million other things such as scout group leader, run church/toddler group, volunteer at charity, run performing arts group etc. If anyone thinks a parent with young children has the time they're living on another planet.

I think there needs to be reform of the entire renting market, both social housing and private lets. My landlord has just put my rent up by 25%, forcing me to move, yet again. My daughter is 2 and a half and has lived in three homes because landlords in my experience, force the rent up at first renewal as they know you're settled and it's expensive to move. I wouldn't even mind a small increase reflecting inflation but 25%!?

Surely there needs to be an option for people like me who are good tenants and want to do a long term let but can't afford to be shafted at every annual contract renewal?

GeraldineMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 06-Dec-10 12:53:35

Hi there, ahead of tomorrow's webchat, Grant Shapps has asked us to post this message to Mumsnetters:

With the pressing need to get the nation's finances back on track every community will face tough choices in the months ahead.

When there is less money every decision is key – we need talented people who are part of their communities to make these decisions.

That's why this week I will be launching a new type of talent show. It's called 'Your Community Needs You!' and I am looking forward to discussing it with you tomorrow.

There are tens of thousands of people across the country already playing their part getting things done in their local area – school Mums and Dads are a prime example.

Looking at Mumsnet it is clear that you have a proven track record of achievement. I am impressed by the passion expressed in your forums, your mutual support and breadth of knowledge displayed through your posts. Whether fundraising, volunteering as Governors, running football clubs or sharing the school run you skilfully juggle competing priorities and work together to solve complex logistical problems. You have energy, you have passion, you know what needs doing and go out and do it. And you are networked like never before.

That's why I would like some of you to think about becoming a councillor. We need talented community champions to have their names on the ballot papers for next year's local elections.

You are exactly the sort of people the country needs to become councillors. But I suspect that being a councillor is the last thing on your mind. I don't blame you for that. You might want to change things in your community but becoming a politician?

Politics has become a turn-off in recent years. That's no surprise when you realise the people you elect to help have been tied down in red tape – held back by Whitehall bureaucracy with little freedom to do what needs doing. It has become a pretty thankless task that sapped the energy and enthusiasm of some really committed people.

But times are changing. In the last six months a quiet revolution has been going on in town and city halls across the country. The Government is giving power away – pushing power from Whitehall to your town hall and from Downing Street to your street.

The Localism Bill to be published this week will put councillors at the heart of their communities. Councillors will have more clout than ever before to get things done.

So now becoming a councillor is more important than ever.

Whether it is that playground at the end of the street that needs new equipment, that bus service that should run or bin collections that get your blood boiling, as a councillor you will have the power to get it sorted.

Or if you think you need more housing, better shops or a new leisure centre, you will help make the decisions. We are putting councillors in charge of what is happening in their communities.

This talent show might not be as glamorous as the X Factor but if you win you will perform a crucial role in your community and will be able to bring change to real lives in your community. I understand that you may struggle to see how you could fit this into your busy lives. But is lack of time the only reason why the average age of a councillor is nearly 60? Or is there something else – a distrust of the system or a lack of understanding of the role? Why don't you tell me tomorrow?

ZephirineDrouhin Mon 06-Dec-10 13:05:53

Good God. That made me cringe so much I think some of my internal organs have just inverted.

ZephirineDrouhin Mon 06-Dec-10 13:14:03

But putting aside the unfortunately patronising tone of this missive, I would very much like to see policywonk's question answered. What will councillors actually be able to do to address, for example, the acute shortage of affordable housing?

Eleison Mon 06-Dec-10 13:17:50

"But is lack of time the only reason why the average age of a councillor is nearly 60? Or is there something else – a distrust of the system or a lack of understanding of the role? Why don't you tell me tomorrow?"

I think policywonk put the reasons for staying clear of the role of coucillor very well in her question:

"Funding cuts, powers devolved, revenue-raising powers taken away - responsibility without power is going to be the motto for councils up and down the land. Services for the most vulnerable (families fleeing domestic violence, asylum seekers, people with chronic health problems) are going to go down the tube all over the country. Now is not the time to get involved in town hall politics, I'd have thought."

And after reading your contribution I would also add that the government's stunningly bold dishonesty about both localism and the Big Society is another reason for non-involvement.

Flattery about our community-building skills as parents, combined with patonising twaddle about a talent contest, all to disguise the fact that every push towards giving more 'power' to local communities and 'civil society' groups is a way of hemorrhaging functions from the state and finding local fallguys to take the flak for the disappearence of services. This disappearance of services is allegedly to control the deficit but actually done in the name of the most ideological redrawing of the state's functions since the days of Thatcher.

Eleison Mon 06-Dec-10 13:24:51

Yes, and what ZephirineDrouhin said about internal organs. That was one of the most ill-judged and offensively patronising contributions by a politician on Mumsnet that I have ever read. You are encouraging people the step up to the plate as partners in power and at the same time talking to them with contempt. So naturally people are distrustful of becoming politically engaged.

stretch Mon 06-Dec-10 13:26:29

I think I was just a little bit sick.

Don't think I'll be watching this thread, he is not going to answer any of our questions, just plug his little gameshow hmm

I wonder if he's come across the Friday Night Topic afetr the extensive enquiries he's made of MN?grin

ohmeohmy Mon 06-Dec-10 13:44:05

dear oh dear.

Whilst I would also like answers to the various housing questions, would like to tell you that no I never will want to join you for a fundraising fish and chip supper, am tempted to ask about your governments decisions to take money from the most vulnerable in society with you 'get the DLA scroungers' policy the question I will ask is:

Why is the government not immediately stopping the detention of minors in immigration centres?

QueenOfFlamingEverything Mon 06-Dec-10 13:48:08



Hundreds of thousands of people (including some MNers) across the country are facing homelessness due to the HB cuts, lack of truly affordable housing, and changes to social housing policy.

And one of the ministers responsible wants to come on here and discuss why we are not flocking in our droves to become local councillors, and plug some sort of crappy Big Society gameshow.

A gameshow FFS angry

When families face losing their homes.

He can Go Away.

me1984 Mon 06-Dec-10 14:09:39

hi there!
great to see an MP that takes an active approach. i have read about the housing sistuation. why dont the council wright in to the tents agreement that when there children move out of the family home, then the tenant has to down size? its very annoying that there are so meany people in council houses that do not use all the bedroom and loads of familys that are living in a cramped flat, seams like a fair thing of the council to ask, re-right the tenacy agreements! not that everyone would be happy about it, but it would definantly sort out a big issue!

LadyBlaBlah Mon 06-Dec-10 14:13:41

ROFL @ "Good God. That made me cringe so much I think some of my internal organs have just inverted."

This bit was my favourite:

"I am impressed by the passion expressed in your forums, your mutual support and breadth of knowledge displayed through your posts. Whether fundraising, volunteering as Governors, running football clubs or sharing the school run you skilfully juggle competing priorities and work together to solve complex logistical problems."

Yeah, it's well complex getting the kids to school in the morning. Hurts my pretty little head

granted Mon 06-Dec-10 14:18:09

Grant - that was stunningly patronising guff-speak.

Believe it or not, you are talking to people about your own age and I suspect rather more highly educated on average, with more real life experience.

According to Wikipedia, your CV includes a night experiencing being homeless as some sort of PR stunt.

Apparently this has made you all carey-sharey about homeless people.

So why do so many of your policies lead directly to homelessness for so many people?

Please stop patronising us - we're not teenage Sun readers, we're grown-ups with jobs and a lot of anger about your government's poicies.

madamimadam Mon 06-Dec-10 14:20:16

I've just read Mr Shapps's little missive. Apart from the fact that he conveniently chooses to ignore what has got a lot of people's 'blood boiling' (changes to welfare policy and social housing, not the bloody bins, ffs), what hope would potential councillors honestly have if this is the tone of government?

Policywonk and the others here have been far more eloquent than me, Mr Shapps but I'd like to tell you that I don't find politics 'off-putting'. I find it depressing and frustrating.

Partly because of most of our elected representatives have conducted themselves in a way that would see benefit claimants behaving the same way jailed. Partly because political parties can apparently drop core policies like used hankies when it suits them and partly because I am absolutely appalled at your party's welfare 'reforms', which are going to crucify the most vulnerable in society despite the fact that your party did not receive a mandate for these reforms at the last election.

And if you do not want a virtual shoe flung at you tomorrow, you'll avoid such patronising and offensive references as the X Factor one above and answer the housing questions people have already posted. Or did you just plan to show us pictures of kittens and bunny rabbits on Tuesday rather than actually engage us in a proper debate? hmm

Mr Shapps, your proxy post has made me so cross, I may have to go and kick something.

Like my Tory MP.

madamimadam Mon 06-Dec-10 14:30:04

Oh, and another one ROFL @ Zephirine

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