People need homes. You might think from the 10,000 new houses coming to West Oxfordshire by 2031, that's more than enough. I fully agree and we need to look at the number of homes being planned. But we also need to look at the type of homes that are built. Currently, almost all of them will be unaffordable to those on low incomes. Last year, across the whole of the country, we only managed to build 3,732 social homes, those with deeply discounted rent. Our housebuilding is currently driven by large property developers who not incidentally have close links to the Conservative party. Not surprisingly, they don't much like building affordable homes, let alone social housing.
This is tough on people, both young and old, who can't find somewhere to live. It also leads to a steep bill for the government. Of the £23.4bn paid in housing benefits, more than £9bn went to private landlords. We need to invest in social housing to make sure people have somewhere to live, but also to stop wasting money.
To that end, I've been checking out what sites are owned by West Oxfordshire District Council, where I'm a councillor, which we can build social housing on. There are sites which make sense. We need to go full speed ahead on progressing them now. Watch this space.
Who should I vote for in Witney constitutency?
I was very excited to see the poll published yesterday by Stonehaven and the Times. Only 1,117 votes in it! I'm really hoping Labour and Green voters will support me to beat the Tories. There's a ton of work to do so if you'd like to get involved in the campaign please email me.
Lib Dem Conference
I spent Saturday to Tuesday in Bournemouth at the Lib Dem conference. I really enjoyed it. Lots of excellent training sessions on how to build a campaign to beat the Tories, lots of fascinating policy discussions (yes, really) on all sorts of topics, and lots of chat with friends, old and new. Plus three wonderful swims in the sea.
Health and the NHS?
"The number of deaths that could have been avoided with timely healthcare or public health interventions is much higher in the UK than in all other comparable European nations"—IPPR report
To give you a flavour of what happens at conference, I attended a public health session with various speakers, including The Health Foundation and Daisy Cooper MP, our excellent Lib Dem health spokesperson. It was a helpful reminder that it's about investing in the health of the country, not just in the NHS per se. As Layla McCay of the NHS Confederation pointed out, "80% of health has nothing to do with the NHS." Prevention is better than cure.
On that theme there was talk on how our health is improved by broader inputs such as low crime (so people feel safe to get out and about); green spaces so there are places to enjoy and feel calm in; secure jobs and affordable housing so we're not anxious about the future; how community helps our health, both with us helping others and others helping us; how we can nudge ourselves to eat better; why having things for kids to do matters and a recognition that being active can also be costly (going swimming at the local pool costs money).
With an NHS waiting list of 7.5m and lots of delays in even seeing a GP there is much to be done, but it's encouraging to be reminded that we can all do our bit. On which note, here is Oxfordshire County Council's list of "Walks in West Oxfordshire."
All hail to Chris Skidmore MP and Simon McWhirter for their excellent, practical report on retrofitting, published this week. We cannot achieve net zero by 2050 without decarbonising our buildings. As they state: "the UK’s 30 million buildings are responsible for 30% of our greenhouse gas emissions. It is estimated that around 43% of UK emissions are from the built environment". This report follows on from Skidmore's "Mission Zero: Independent Review of Net Zero", which looks at what we need to do as a country to get to Net Zero. Skidmore is stepping down from being a Conservative MP at the next general election and is now building a #MissionZeroCoalition across political parties. Skidmore's response to Sunak's recent U-turns on climate was: "it's never too late to do the right thing". We all wish the government was listening.