No predictions, just 3 hopes for 2016

If you’ve read any posts, columns and opinions about 2015, it would be easy to think that last year was a bad one.

People of Columnia have a negative tendency, but it seems that there’s plenty to trouble us. Terrorism, austerity, economic under-performance, migration, Europe and runaway house prices all point to a bad year.

I’ve also had many conversations about ‘leadership failure’ over many of these issues. It seems that people have had enough of being soft-soaped. This was demonstrated in Jeremy Corbyn’s extraordinary victory over the ‘Westminster elite’ in the Labour leadership campaign. It was also expressed in nastier ways through trolling and threats dealt out on social media.

Opinion formers have an appetite for predictions at this time of year. After so many people called the big events wrong in 2015, it’s daft to attempt it for the coming year.

I want to be optimistic and set out some hopes for 2016. Some relate to national issues, others are more local and there’s a personal one too. All are important to me and, if they happen, it should be a good year.

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If where you live matters, join the #WEbuildourfuture conversation

WEbuildourfuture images
(Created by JBP)

A big conversation is happening around Bristol that could shape local housing and transport for decades to come.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been working with colleagues to get ready for a major consultation which could map where thousands of new homes are built across the West of England over the next 20 years.

The phrase ‘West of England Joint Spatial Plan and Transport Study‘ won’t set pulses racing. But the issues it covers should interest anyone who has views about where they live, how they get to work or school or whether they will be able to keep a roof over the heads in future.

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Why are house prices sky high? It’s the banks, stupid

I came across the campaign group Positive Money’s website this morning whilst reading  letters readers of The Observer had written in response to its coverage last week of the rise in private rented housing in Britain, aka Generation Rent.

The website puts across a stark argument about the role banks have played in fueling runaway house price inflation by pumping billions of pounds into the property sector during the decade before the economic crash.

The result, it says, is that property values doubled in this time and we are not poorer, not richer, as an ever-increasing share of our incomes is spent on keeping roofs over our heads.

Check out the website, which sets out what the public can do to support the campaign. The two-minute video below sets out the argument about the role banks have played in creating this issue.

Could scrapping stamp duty silence noisy neighbours?

Housing is one of the big stories of the year, in terms of the impact it has on the economy and our lives. But a glance at the daily headlines reveals very little about the issues the sector faces that is new in itself, and merely seems to confirm what we already know.

Inside Housing, for example reports findings from a poll by Safestore which looks at public views on home ownership. The storage and removal company used that old PR tactic – a survey – to highlight familiar concerns (that we can’t raise the money we need to buy) and package these as a ‘finding’ that half  the country won’t be able to buy a home in the future.

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Cheers to 2011. Here’s three aims for 2012

It doesn’t seems like six weeks since I blogged about my reflections on 2010, which contained some personally important landmarks in my life. I’d like to take a different approach this time and look forward to 2012 rather than spend a lot of time looking back on a year which – for all sorts of reasons – was tough, extraordinary even, yet not as enjoyable. One reason why I have not blogged recently is because I have been absorbed in other matters and struggled to find the time to devote to writing (I can feel a new year’s resolution coming on here).

This is not to say some important things didn’t happen in 2011. I kept my job (which is positive), my wife lost hers in November and then was told she had got it back with a different organisation just before Christmas (negative then positive) and my little girl started school in September (life changing). Despite these things (and others), I will be quite glad to see the back of 2011 and look forward to a new year with optimism and hope.

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House prices hit home for Cornish MP

Cornwall’s house price problem hit the headlines again today, with news that local MP Stephen Gilbert can’t afford to buy a house in his constituency.

Mr Gilbert, MP for St Austell and Newquay, put his PR skills to good use by using his own circumstances to highlight the problems faced by locals who have no hope of saving for a 20% deposit in high value areas like Cornwall.