“I am a man desperately in need of allies to help build the homes that we can agree are desperately needed in this country.”
Gavin Barwell, Housing Minister, 2 March 2017
I was in Taunton this week to see the housing minister’s white paper roadshow.
Gavin Barwell is at least the eighth housing minister I’ve seen in action since 2004. Five of those were on similar visits to the South West when I worked at the HCA.
To say that he’s inherited a tough gig is an understatement. The Housing White Paper has had a mixed response, which isn’t surprising for a sector with so many interested parties.
Continue reading “Three thoughts from the #housingwhitepaper roadshow”
Calls for ‘collaboration’ across the housing sector are hitting high levels. I have attended conferences recently at which panelists have insisted that collaboration is key to our future. At one event covering areas ranging from the performance of office buildings to the future of cities, speakers used the phrase six times in an hour.
Articles and blog posts stressing its importance are abundant. Google ‘collaboration and housing’ to see for yourself. And local and national government call for a collaborative approach from employees and partners. This can sometimes feel like a call for inspiration.
Meaning of collaboration
In an era of networks, for an industry that has thrived on partnership working, this makes sense. The challenges facing the sector are too big for any organisation to face alone. Those that work together stand a better chance of success.
It is difficult for anyone who works in the sector to argue against this sentiment. But defining good practice in this area – let along making it work – is more challenging. Statements like ‘collaboration is key’ are often used without any sign of how this could happen.
Collaboration between organisations frequently misses the input of the communities or people affected by what they are trying to achieve. And conflict seems built into the system, with some groups feeling their views are ignored. When this happens, positions become entrenched and delivery can grind to a halt.
If we are to benefit from a collaborative approach, there needs to be wide understanding of what good collaboration looks like. And organisations must prepare to change mindsets and structures to embrace it.
Continue reading “Collaboration: more than a buzzword”
With all that’s happened since June, it’s easy to forget that there’s a big decision ahead about how the West of England runs its affairs.
The devolution deal for ‘greater Bristol’ won’t set most people’s pulses racing. But ask those who live and work here what’s important to them and many will say housing, transport, education, jobs or a combination of the above. As it happens, the West of England’s deal is geared towards addressing all of these issues.
On the table is £1bn to invest over 30 years in housing, transport and skills. Post #EUref, when ‘taking back control’ swayed views about our country’s future, handing responsibility for these issues to local areas seems an obvious step.
It’s probably worth five minutes’ of everyone’s time in the scheme of things.
Continue reading “Talking about our devolution: what people told us about the deal”
When they finally arrived, Bristol’s election results signalled a big change for the city that made the national news.
Despite predictions that the mayoral contest was too close to call, voters gave an emphatic victory to Labour’s Marvin Rees. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn saw fit to travel to Bristol to congratulate his new mayor.
As I live outside Bristol, I didn’t vote in the mayoral elections. But I followed the contest with interest and was not surprised by Labour’s win after a drawn-out and sometimes tetchy contest.
On many measures, Rees inherits a city in better shape than in 2012 when independent George Ferguson became Bristol’s first elected mayor. It weathered the recession well and has the most productive economy outside London. Its Enterprise Zone in Bristol Temple Quarter is creating more jobs than any similar local scheme. And the arena project is becoming a reality, more than 20 years after it was first mooted.
These achievements should be recognised as a testament to Ferguson’s leadership, although many of his trenchant critics won’t see it that way.
But there are big challenges that Rees must address amongst the many pledges he made during the campaign.
Continue reading “Can Marvin crack Bristol’s housing crisis?”
“This [deal] puts us in the Premiership in terms of major city regions in the UK. It’s going to be good for the whole population in terms of jobs, housing and transport.
“It also addresses some of the issues such as poverty, fairness and equality.”
A conversation about how the West of England can take control of its destiny may be starting to happen. And not before time…
After years of discussions, a devolution deal with Government promises to give the area’s local authorities more power over important issues like housing, transport, planning and skills. If ratified, it would unlock £1bn for local growth projects and provide councils with clout to make a bigger difference in these areas.
But there’s a sticking point for some that could derail the deal before it gets going. The government wants to see a ‘metro mayor’, who would chair a combined authority to oversee a joined-up response to the way these major matters are managed. Given the level of concern about this, it’s not certain that all councils will sign off on the deal.
This presents a potentially embarrassing situation where the councils who have shaped the deal on the table may reject it in the final event.
Continue reading “Devolution deal or no deal?”
My blog on jargon in UK housing generated a great response and was my most popular post of last year.
I’ve not had time until recently to follow through on my promise to turn the feedback into an online resource. Today’s Twitter discussions about the importance of having a shared narrative and housing ‘owning our future’ (or #OOF) makes this a timely post.
Continue reading “Owning our future: why dropping jargon matters”