It is refreshing to hear our Prime Minister, Theresa May, say "it is time to remember the good that government can do". This is quite a departure from the committed Free-market ideologues whose deafening cry was leave it all to the market, governments only get in the way, to work its magic of delivering efficiency and quality to everything. We will all be better off, they say, as wealth "trickles down" from the very wealthy to the rest of us. Their other analogy is that "a rising tide lifts all boats."
This of course hasn't happened; instead wealth has been trickling upwards to the 1%, while the rest suffer declining real incomes with the very poor and vulnerable suffering the most. She has also talked about "building an economy that works for everybody". These two statements show that she is not driven by dogma, and willing to be flexible when evidence tells her otherwise.
Add to that another key phrase of hers, prioritizing help to the "just-managing families". These statements translated into policies that could be enacted would be just what Britain needs. Will she be able to deliver the actions necessary to make these fine words a reality?
Housing insecurity is the prime cause of the hardships suffered by millions. Those just-managing families are now spending up to half of their disposable incomes on shelter. They live with the constant worry of losing their home. They are without any savings to speak of. More than 16 million people have savings of less than £100.
Those in rented accommodation have no security of long term tenure and are subject to the whims of landlords who could put the rents up or decide to sell the property instead of letting it out. The anxiety of living on the precipice of falling into the pit of homelessness takes its toll on the mental health of adults and children alike.
Adequate shelter is a fundamental human right; without it all other human rights pale into insignificance. Why can't we build more affordable social housing? Councils across the UK know what is needed, let them borrow the money to build homes that could be rented long-term at affordable rents. It is an investment in the future that will prove to be cheaper to the taxpayer in the long term. It will bring happiness and peace of mind to millions of our citizens.
Jeremy Corbyn, Leader of the Labour Party, made the following promise:
"We will build a million new homes in five years, with at least half a million council homes, through our public investment strategy. We will end insecurity for private renters by introducing rent controls, secure tenancies and a charter of private tenants' rights, and increase access to affordable home ownership"
The Labour Party could go further by promising to make these homes energy efficient with smart meters, solar panels and good insulation helping those families with their energy bills and reducing our carbon footprint. It could do this through an architectural competition showcasing the talents of our engineers and architects to come up with innovative energy efficient designs at affordable cost.
This should not be a Party political issue; providing adequate housing is fundamental to what it is to be human. It is morally the right thing to do. Moreover it is good economics too. So Prime Minister, put dogma aside, pinch this policy from the Labour Party. Start doing now what Labour is promising to do and show us in deeds "the good that government can do".
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