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Deregulation is posing problems in many sectors. Recently it was announced that the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee is to examine Thomas Cook’s ongoing corporate governance, accounting, auditing and regulatory failures, ‘while the gravy train for directors continued’ (Prem Sikka, September).
Advocates of deregulation – the reduction or elimination of government power (state rules) – say that it removes unnecessary bureaucracy and barriers to competition.
Prem Sikka (Professor of Accounting at University of Sheffield) now turns to the effect of deregulation on social housing. He focusses on the controversial ‘permitted development’ (PDR) system for the delivery of new homes which Labour has pledged to end – a decision commended by the Town and Country Planning Association. Reports last year highlighted the poor quality homes coming through the permitted development system and a get-out clause that exempts schemes from providing vital social and affordable housing.
The permitted development system has led to the delivery of homes as small as 13 square metres – smaller than the average living room. A BBC report about an office-to-residential permitted development conversion carried out by Caridon Property is quoted by Shelter. It has been used as temporary accommodation since 2018 and the homeless families with children crammed into tiny ‘studio flats’ have to ‘eat, drink and sleep in their beds’.
A London Assembly study also noted that many PD homes are smaller than the minimum space standards and exacerbate the already huge issue of overcrowding – and by avoiding the planning system, developers are no longer obliged to contribute to the provision of affordable housing.
Newbury House in Ilford offers flats that apparently measure as little as 3.6 metres by 3.6 metres (12ft x 12ft), with residents packed in “like sardines”, a busy six-lane highway just yards away, broken glass and rubbish strewn all around outside.
The Developer, which informs and connects professionals working in urban development and design, adds more detail and is campaigning for these potentially dangerous conversions to be stopped.
A study by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors which examined the quality of PD in parts of Camden, Croydon, Leeds, Leicester and Reading, concluded that PD has allowed extremely poor-quality housing to be developed and PD residential quality was significantly worse than schemes which required planning permission – particularly in office-to-residential conversions. Of 568 buildings studied, another report found an inconsistency in the quality of developments, with only 30% of units delivered through permitted development meeting national space standards.
In 2013 – following pressure from ‘profit hungry’ property developers – the Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government deregulated and disempowered local councils, passing legislation enabling developers to convert office blocks, agricultural buildings and warehouses into residential properties without full planning permission.
Richer councils are sending people to poorer areas already facing acute economic problems as part of a social cleansing process. Families with children, senior citizens, low-paid, the unemployed, people with special needs and others, faced with the choice of long waiting lists for housing, temporary accommodation, dilapidated housing and high rents by private landlords, have been persuaded to relocate to another area.
As part of a recent research project, Sikka met council leaders from many of these poorer areas, struggling to cope with the problems caused by deregulation and the loss of central government funding to local councils since 2010 cut by 26% in real terms. He writes:
“The class nature of permitted developments (PD) is evident as there are more PDs in Harrow and Hounslow compared to wealthy Kensington and Chelsea. They have been a boon for housing developers. The chief executives of this country’s ten biggest developers received a combined £63.6m last year for building slums, called by some, ‘human warehousing’ “.
Poorer areas already struggling to cope with acute economic problems have to find new jobs, schools, transport, family doctors and hospitals, without prior planning or resources, while richer areas with lower numbers of people on benefits, lower unemployment rates and less pressure on local schools, hospitals and social infrastructure, embark on the process of gentrification.
Professor Sikka’s article may be read here.
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MP Robert Halfon set up an e-petition which closed on August 5th. It opened:
High petrol and diesel prices are crippling our economy. Many motorists now pay a tenth of their income just to fill up the family car, and millions of families are suffering.
As it reached more than 100,000 signatures, the Government notified the Backbench Business Committee in the House of Commons, which has scheduled a debate on the matter on 15 November.
The approach of Raymond J. Learsy, author of “Oil and Finance: The Epic Corruption Continues-2011/2012” focusses on the theme of the Political Cleanup site site – the corporate-political nexus – referring to “the good souls of FairFuelUK dreamers” who are bravely taking on:
- the entrenched might of the oiligarchs [sic],
- their vested government cohorts,
- the financial world’s speculation driven excess,
- the lame oversight agencies
- and just the rote power of all that oil money pushing to keep the status quo intact.
He describes “the Herculean task of taking on the oil gang and all their vested hangers-on” noting that even a broadside from heads of state, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French president Nicolas Sarkozy in the Wall Street Journal, 2009, failed to “change the mores or deter the entrenched interests to push for ever higher oil prices”.
Learsy recorded in February:
“Only a month ago the price of oil jumped some 9.36 percent on the most specious of reasons in one days trading on the world Commodities Exchanges or a move of some $7.27 for WTI (West Texas Intermediate). At $7.00 per barrel, times the world’s daily consumption of some 85 million barrels, you do the sums on the massive transfer of the world’s wealth to the pockets of oil interests on this one day’s price movement alone (also please see “Oil Price Skyrockets 9.36 Percent in Friday’s Trading. Supply and Demand, Eh??” 07.02.12)”
“Clearly the oil market is manipulated. In 2005 and with an updated version in 2007, I published “Over a Barrel: Breaking Oil’s Grip On Our Future” which detailed at length the impact of the OPEC cartel on the oil market and its quiescent allies in the halls of government in the U.S. and abroad happily cheered along by the non OPEC oil producers (high prices for OPEC mean high prices for Shell, Exxon, et al.). It is a horror tale of money buying government policy.”
Despite the testimony of Rex Tillerson, Chairman and CEO of Exxon Mobil who informed the Senate Finance Committee in Washington last year that the price of oil then near $100/bbl, should be no more than $60-$70/bbl, no attention was paid by the media, government agencies or even the Oil and Gas Pricing Fraud Panel organized by the U.S. Justice Department.
Learsy’s advice applies to all sectors of the economy, including health, education, local government, utilities, defence, pharmaceuticals, transport, unethical science and retail:
PCU agrees with him that “the only way the cards, as they are currently being dealt are going to change is if enough people understand how they are being taken to the cleaners by the moneyed players. That they must stand up as one voice to demand government action.”
Raymond J. Learsy is author of “Oil and Finance: The Epic Corruption Continues-2011/2012” “Oil and Finance: The Epic Corruption-2006/2010”
With thanks to the person who sent news of the work of FairFuelUK and this article on their website.