Ian Austin MP

Labour MP for Dudley North

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MP says action needed to help families & young people buy or rent a home

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Ian Austin is calling on the new West Midlands Mayor to come up with new ideas to tackle the region’s housing crisis and enable more families to buy or rent a home of their own.

Speaking at the AGM of Accord Housing, the Dudley North MP and former Housing Minister highlighted research which showed that the number of homes in the region has barely increased over recent years, home ownership has fallen, private renting has doubled, the costs of buying or renting a home in the private sector have soared and the number of social rented homes available to confront the housing crisis is lower than in previous decades.

Austin called on the Mayor to campaign for the government to hand over responsibility for the region's £1.2 billion housing benefit bill to encourage councils and housing associations to cut the ballooning housing bill and make savings which could then be reinvested in housing. 

He said the Combined Authority should also be calling for control of the Homes and Communities Agency’s budget for the Combined Authority area which is worth around £100 million over five years and proposed a number of other measures to speed up house building and reduce the costs of buying or renting a home. 

Research by the Human Cities Institute shows that in the West Midlands: 

  • Home ownership in the region is down to 57% from 63% ten years ago. 
  • Twenty years ago the average house in the West Midlands cost £48,000, which was about three times the average income. Today the same house would cost getting on for £164,000 – around five and a half times the average income.
     
  • The private rented sector has surged over the last ten years from 9% to 19%. 
  • Private sector rents have risen much faster than inflation and are now on average over £700 per month, the highest outside London, the South-East and South-West. 
  • 53,000 households - more than 130,000 people - are stuck on waiting lists in the combined authority area, higher than two decades ago.
      
  • 6,800 households are accepted as homeless across the combined authority and rough-sleeping is on the increase
  • Estimates of the number of homes needed in the region range from 10,000 to 15,000 a year and the region hasn't been building enough homes for decades.

Austin said work is needed to examine how the £11bn West Midlands local government pension fund could boost housing investment.

He said the Combined Authority could use its resources to speed up the planning system and accelerate development, work with local authorities and the Government to make scarce resources go further, introduce better procurement policies and use compulsory purchase powers to bring more of the region’s 28,000 empty homes into use and called for the establishment of new “Community Land Trusts” which are reducing the cost of buying a home in London by two-thirds.

Ian Austin said:

“We all know families stuck in unsuitable rented accommodation desperate to buy a home of their own or get a secure home they can afford to rent, but the number of homes has barely increased for years, home ownership has fallen, private renting has doubled and the costs of buying or renting a home in the private sector have rocketed.

“I think we need a Mayor who will come up with new ideas to raise funding for the homes local people need and campaign for the devolution of funding from the government so that decisions are made here in the West Midlands and those funds can be combined with other sources of funding available to get the region building.”

Austin says new ideas are needed to tackle housing crisis.

MP says action needed to help families & young people buy or rent a home

Dudley North MP Ian Austin is calling on Teresa May to impose a total ban on the ivory trade in the UK after a pledge to do so was dropped from the Tories 2017 manifesto.

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The number of elephants has crashed worldwide, with up to 50,000 elephants killed at the hands of poachers every year in Africa and Asia, the equivalent of one every fifteen minutes.

The market for ivory is fuelled by a demand for legal and illegal in China, yet if the rate of killing continues as it is, elephants could be extinct in many parts of the wild within 15 years. 

The UK currently allows antique ivory products made before 1947 to be traded, but campaigners say the fact you do not need a certificate creates a loophole which allows ivory from after this date to enter the market.

A campaign led by Action for Elephants and supported by Austin is calling for a total ban on the ivory trade in the UK to help stop the drop in elephant numbers across the world.

Ian Austin said:

“Clearly something needs to be done to stop the killing of tens and thousands of elephants at the hands of poachers each year.

“It’s wrong that the Tories dropped their pledge for a total ban in the UK so I’m backing the campaign by Action for Elephants to put it back on the agenda.

“I have called on China to end the illegal ivory trade there but much can be done here to help put a stop to it in the UK.”

Austin calls for total ban on UK ivory trade

Dudley North MP Ian Austin is calling on Teresa May to impose a total ban on the ivory trade in the UK after a pledge to do so was dropped...

Proposals being presented by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to ensure Combined Authority contracts benefit the wider community have been dismissed as a “massive missed opportunity” by Dudley North MP Ian Austin.

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Mr Street is presenting his “Social Value Policy” proposals to the Combined Authority Board this Friday (8th September). The plans have been drawn up by him and his “Portfolio Lead for Finance and Investments”, the Conservative leader of Warwickshire Council, Councillor Izzi Secombe. 

Since 2013, every local authority has a legal duty to consider the “social value” or wider social, economic or environmental benefits that can be delivered by the procurement of public services.

This could mean awarding contracts in ways that support local businesses, increase local jobs, boost skills in the community, improve the environment, housing or health, for example.

But Austin says the Mayor's proposals:

  • Fail to guarantee jobs will be paid at the Living Wage
  • Contain no guarantee on the number of apprentices large contracts will have to deliver
  • Won’t ensure that West Midlands firms will be prioritised for contracts
  • Only apply to larger contracts and even then the benefit will be determined “at the discretion of the Procurement Lead Officer“
  • Won’t give small local firms or charities a better shot at getting contracts

 Ian Austin said:

“These proposals are far too weak and are another missed opportunity by the Mayor to boost jobs, wages, skills and housing in the West Midlands.

“The Combined Authority has been given an £8 billion budget. Imagine what that could do to support local businesses, create local jobs, boost skills and improve wages if it was exploited properly.

“This report sticks to the existing EU procurement targets and the national rules and the precise value is being left to the discretion of the contract manager. What’s the point of having a Mayor if he’s got no new ideas or the drive and determination to shake things up?

“I think he should be guaranteeing every building contract employs apprentices and he should ensure contracts pay the Living Wage.

"And I think it is a mistake not to have clearer procedures for smaller contracts because small companies, local charities and community groups who support local employment and provide local jobs would have a better shot at getting them.

"I think we need a mayor who will stand up for local people, fight for local companies and local jobs."

Andy Street's social value policy is a huge missed opportunity

Proposals being presented by West Midlands Mayor Andy Street to ensure Combined Authority contracts benefit the wider community have been dismissed as a “massive missed opportunity” by Dudley North MP...


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