MP for Portsmouth South, Stephen Morgan, has written to the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, Sajid Javid, to raise concerns and lobby the Government about a growing practice of housing developers avoiding their obligations to build affordable homes.
The Secretary of State formally had housing added to his brief in the Prime Minister’s reshuffle of her top team earlier this week. Mr Morgan has asked the Secretary of State to use the upcoming review of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) to close what is known as the ‘viability loophole’.
Stephen Morgan MP told Mr Javid:
“Currently, in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), developers are guaranteed “competitive returns” on their development. With no official definition, this has come to be interpreted as an average of around 20% profit.
This viability loophole provides a safety net for developers, enabling them to overpay for land to guarantee they win sites, safe in the knowledge they will be able to argue down affordable housing and other contributions to make their money back later”.
The Housing Charity, Shelter, has revealed that in just one year, more than 2,500 affordable homes have been lost due to the viability loophole, whilst land prices have shot up.
This research also suggests viability assessments occur far too frequently: almost half of planning applications submitted in 2016/17 included a viability assessment.
Data collected in the British Social Attitudes Survey shows that 73% of people support development that is “affordable to people on average incomes”
In his letter to the Secretary of State, Mr Morgan added:
“Nationally, and locally in my constituency of Portsmouth South, we are experiencing a housing crisis.
With the rise in house prices far outstripping that of wages over the past 20 years, falling rates of home ownership and almost 1.2m on council housing waiting lists, it’s clear we need investment to stimulate house-building”.
City MP Stephen Morgan has today used a public hearing of the Public Accounts Committee to quiz the Ministry of Defence’s top officials on a range of issues affecting the Royal Navy.
The Portsmouth South Member of Parliament is a new member of the oldest select committee in Parliament and raised questions of concern to the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and his team at the hearing in the House of Commons.
When Royal Navy vessels require parts, the MOD can authorise that those parts are taken from elsewhere – a process known as ‘cannibalisation’ – but little was known about this process until a recent National Audit Office report into the matter.
Stephen Morgan MP said:
“Last year the Public Accounts Committee considered the introduction of the nation’s new aircraft carriers, which will be base-ported in Portsmouth.
Today I wanted to press government officials on these investments and other complex vessels on what will be required to keep them in-service, and ensure the maintenance and support they’d need. The Navy has increasingly had to make difficult decisions to balance its investment and support against cuts to its budgets.
With an increasing trend in cannibalisation across all ships and submarines, it is hugely important we understand why cannibalisation is rising and the threshold beyond which it is unacceptable.
I want to ensure the Navy and other forces have the support to properly plan for any long-term effects and will continue to raise these matters with Government”.
The National Audit Office has said it is difficult to determine whether cannibalisation is at acceptable levels for the Ministry of Defence to make decisions on the trade-offs between investing in spares and making use of the process.
A report with recommendations from Government will follow today’s hearing of the committee.
The Ministry of Defence, the Treasury and other key departments have been undertaking a review of national security capabilities. The defence review was expected to report towards the end of last year, but is yet to do so.
The work included looking into the ongoing implementation of the 2015 national security strategy and the Strategic Defence and Security Review, led by the Cabinet Office.
City MP Stephen Morgan has today spoken of his concerns that the long awaited review remains unpublished, and has vowed to press the Government to publish the review, to end the uncertainty, when Parliament returns next week.
Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South said:
“At a time when there is such uncertainty around the world and we see the changing nature of the threats posed to the UK, the delay of this long overdue review is hugely concerning.
We know already that the Ministry of Defence is bracing itself for cuts, and yet more instability will cast a shadow of doubt over the strength of the UK’s defence capability.
It’s very disappointing that once again our armed forces are having to bear the burden of the Tories’ mismanagement of defence and its budget”.
November’s budget contained no new money for defence, and at a hearing of the Defence Select Committee, the MoD’s Permanent Secretary said he knew of no representations from his department or by Ministers for much needed additional funding to the armed forces to the Treasury.
The Tories are doing the bare minimum on NATO spending, and questions have been raised by the Institute for International Strategic Studies about whether the commitment is being met. They have said that the UK is only spending only 1.98% based on the IMF calculation of GDP, and the Treasury figures showed the Government was only spending 1.9% of GDP in 2015/16.
“As the home of the Royal Navy, our armed forces are not only part of Portsmouth’s DNA, but are vital to our great city’s economy.
The review must ensure we keep sovereign capability as a nation and a more comprehensive defence industrial strategy.
In Parliament I will continue to ask difficult questions to make sure we get the best possible outcome for Portsmouth from this latest review.
I will always stand up for our city and our armed forces, as the continued hollowing out of our Royal Navy could have a catastrophic effect and leave our armed forces personnel without the equipment they need”.
The new year marks the biggest increase in rail fares in five years, whilst current trains are the oldest since records began.
Fares will rise by an average of 3.4% this month with season tickets going up by 3.6% – increases that outstrip average pay rises last year by 50%, unions have said.
Commuters on average earnings would spend between 10% and 20% of their take-home pay on train travel, the RMT has found.
Further, fares have increased by 24.5% since the public sector pay freeze started in 2011, a period in which the pay of 5 million workers including NHS staff and teachers has gone up by just over 5%.
At the same time, figures from the Office of Rail and Road show that Britain’s current trains are the oldest since records began, according to Press Association analysis, with passengers typically travelling in carriages built in the mid-1990s.
The Campaign for Better Transport said it showed “just how far the railways have to go to modernise”. Trains in London and south-east England are typically 18 years old, while those on regional services are 24 years old.
Stephen Morgan, Member of Parliament for Portsmouth South, joined campaigners across the city’s train stations to listen to commuter concerns over the hike in rail fares and reliability of local services.
“This year’s fare rise is the highest for five years. At a time when wages aren’t increasing, and there’s real frustration from Portsmouth commuters about this.
In the past 8 years we’ve seen the cost of a season ticket from Portsmouth to Southampton has gone up £504.00, that’s a staggering 28%.
Our nation’s rail system is too fragmented and complex and run for the profit of private enterprises, not in the public’s interest.
That’s why we need a better deal for our rail. I’m actively campaigning on this important issue for so many local families and nationally pushing the Government to finally act”.