Think Tanks

Communities & Local Government

28 Mar 2012 16:05:21

Alex Morton: The National Planning Policy Framework changes nothing

Screen Shot 2012-03-28 at 16.06.41Alex Morton is Policy Exchange's Senior Research Fellow for Housing and Planning.

The current planning system has utterly failed. Even after recent falls, the current system has seen house prices triple since the mid 1990s, and rents have soared with them.

At the same time as prices have gone up, housing construction has fallen back, because market forces do not really operate in housing. Analysts like the McKinsey Institute and the London School of Economics say that our creaking planning system puts us at a huge competitive disadvantage compared to our international competitors. On top of this the planning system lowers our quality of life.
Planning affects everything else in the country.  The current system leads to so many bad consequences, that it’s difficult to know where to start.  But amongst other things it means:

  • A housing benefit bill heading to £25 billion.
  • Around half of all areas now ‘unaffordable’ for private renters.
  • A social housing waiting list of over 5 million people, almost 2 million households.
  • Falling home ownership for the first time since the first world war.
  • Ever smaller and unattractive housing.
  • A destabilising housing bubble (which areas outside the Euro with more liberal planning avoided).
  • The massive diversion of bank funds from small business investment into property speculation (75% of lending was for mortgages by 2007 and mortgage lending is rising while SME lending falls).
  • The practice of ‘land-banking’, a necessary part of risk management in our slow and unwieldy system. This makes developers unable to cope with land prices falling and creates a cyclical trend of fewer and fewer homes.
  • Destruction of green urban space, London lost greenery at 1.5% a year, while only 10% of England is developed. 67% of green belt is intensive farming or already used.
  • Six of the top 50 most expensive cities in the World for office space (there simply isn’t that much derelict brownfield to convert and our system is bad at doing it).
  • Destruction of manufacturing as no new sites can be built and old ones are converted (Brownfield first and the collapse of manufacturing as a share of GDP both begin in 1995).
  • Land with planning permission costs over £1 million a hectare across England, versus £20,000 a hectare for intensive farming, meaning nothing left for quality construction.
  • A quasi-cartel of housebuilders, creating high profit for large developers and less competition over time.

Continue reading "Alex Morton: The National Planning Policy Framework changes nothing" »

14 Dec 2011 07:11:09

New TaxPayers' Alliance report indicates council employees have spent 2,500 working years on paid suspension since 2009

By Matthew Barrett
Follow Matthew on Twitter.

TAXPAYERS ALLIANCEA report (pdf) from the TaxPayers' Alliance released today reveals that 1,328 Midlands council staff have been suspended for a total of 419 years since 2009, costing taxpayers £8.2 million.

If these figures were replicated nationally, in line with the spending power of Councils in the Midlands, the TPA estimates that since April 2009 7,852 staff would have been suspended for a total of 594,816 days, or almost 2,500 working years.

The suspended members of staff have been on full pay, and the average suspension lasts 76 days.

The worst-offending councils include:

  • Leicester City Council, who paid out the most in salaries to suspended staff at almost £1.5 million for 107 incidents.
  • Nottinghamshire Council had 167 cases of suspension since April 2009, the highest in the Midlands.
  • 78 employees across the Midlands were suspended on full pay for more than 12 months.
  • A manager on over £67,000 a year at Newark and Sherwood Council was suspended for 77 days before leaving the authority.
  • An employee of Leicester City Council on a salary of £48,642 was suspended for 872 days. The total wages paid during suspension was in excess of £176,000. This was the largest amount paid during suspension.
  • An employee at Lincolnshire Council on a salary of almost £65,000 a year received over £140,000 during a suspension of 523 days, before being dismissed.
  • An employee of Nottingham City Council was suspended for 950 days – almost four years.

Six councils refused to provide any information, twelve did not provide salary details, one did not respond to the TPA's request, and two did not record requested details of any suspended staff.

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25 Nov 2009 11:18:00

The cost of parking fines


"Parking Fines: The £328million Enforcement Industry" (PDF)

Author: Joint report between The TaxPayers' Alliance and The Drivers' Alliance

Publication date: 25 November 2009

This report argues that many people perceive parking enforcement as little more than a money making scheme for councils. It states that a total of £328million of parking fines were received in the year 2008-2009 which is a 16% decrease on the previous year. The decrease is attributed to drivers being more cautious during the recession however in the view of the authors the amount being received is still far too high and the only beneficiaries are the wardens and their bosses.

9 Nov 2009 14:20:00

A vision for making local government more productive


"The Bottom Line - A vision for local government" (PDF)

Authors: Localis and KPMG

Publication date: 9 November 2009

This joint report from Localis and KPMG contains several recommendations for reforming local government in response to expected budgetary constraints from the centre. The report forecasts that councils will need to reduce their expenditure by 20% on average by 2011. In addition, the report calls for local government to increase its productivity and according to the authors services like libraries and leisure centres should be transferred to private providers in order to make savings.

31 Oct 2009 18:36:00

"Civic companies" to run public services


"The Ownership State - Restoring excellence, innovation and ethos to the public services"(PDF)

Author: Philip Blond

Publication date: October 2009

The report acknowledges that public services in Britain are not performing as they should with a real terms funding increase of 55% over the last ten years but a fall in productivity of 3.4% over the same period. The report calls for radical action with social enterprises in the guise of "civic companies" being allowed to replace the State as providers of these services. The civic companies will be managed and owned by front-line workers and will provide an alternative to both the public sector and the conventional private sector.

7 Oct 2009 15:51:00

Delivering a localist agenda


"Can Localism Deliver? Lessons from Manchester" (PDF)

Authors: Susana Forjan, Tom Shakespeare and James Morris (Editor). Foreword by Lord Heseltine.

Publication date: 7 October 2009

This report which was published during the Conservative Party Conference contains several recommendations for advancing a localist agenda. These include the abolition of Regional Development Agencies with their power devolved to local government and re-localising business rates in order to give councils more financial autonomy.

31 Jul 2009 11:40:00

Reforming family law and promoting marriage


"Every Family Matters - an in-depth review of family law in Britain"(PDF)

Authors: The Centre for Social Justice Family Law Review chaired by David Hodson

Publication date: July 2009

This report seeks to address issues surrounding family break-up and the consequential damage to society. It calls for a reform of family law to encourage the institution of marriage and fairer access to children in the event of divorce. The report calls for Government to recognise marriage in the taxation system and stresses that two parent families represent the best environment for children to be brought up.