Labour fails to support proposal for affordable housing for the homeless.

We purposely did not contest the commissioner budget or your last budget, thus giving you the opportunity to set and manage a sound budget effectively. Having been party to the scrutiny of the revenue element of the current budget, the implementation has been reasonably effective. However, there are the overspend issues in the areas of Children’s services and adult social care and, although there is national problem across social care, I do believe that the management of demand could have been tighter and better forecast.

Perhaps the most worrying concern with regard to your stewardship is the failure to recognise the strong message emanating from this government regarding the future direction of funding. It is clear that cuts will continue and, self-reliance will become increasingly necessary. Even if we have a change of government and more funding becomes available, for how long will this last? No one can predict, and therefore, the need to develop our own revenue streams will become increasingly necessary. I have in the past raised the need to look at what the best LA’s are doing with partnerships and investments. And I believe that reserves should have been for investments rather that than used to top up unsound budgets and invest in highly speculative IT infrastructure projects. This is after all where pension providers invest their funds. It is simply not good enough to repeatedly cry in your beer about government cuts, it is time to prepare for budgets based upon zero funding from central government while there is still some time to so, thus any central funding would then become a bonus.

About a year after becoming a councillor I had a long conversation with Ian Thomas after reading, what for me was a very disturbing article, that the long term future for the majority of children is predictable by the age of 7. For the majority of children this outcome will not alter, many of you may have been aware of this, but for me it was a total shock. You may take the view that I am/was naïve; I had simply failed to recognise what was happening around me. This is surely a national scandal. Social mobility must be one of the most important challenges for us to address and the focus of this article has remained at the forefront of my mind ever since. The simple fact is that many people find themselves in a difficult predicament through no fault of their own.

That said, we UKIP, have participated fully in the scrutiny of the revenue budget and there is little room for manoeuvre. Where I disagree with the recommendations of the budget I have made my views known and, voted against specific items, for example the CTS proposals and the approach to waste collection. Therefore I began to think about the use of the capital budget.

Following the general election in June 2017, a survey in the North of England into homelessness in its widest context among people under the age of 35 both single and young families revealed that 74% of respondents stated that the so called bed room tax was, along with the shortage of suitable available accommodation, was a significant contributory factor to their plight.

Over the summer I began to wonder if anything could be done about this and, if so, any proposed solution would have to meet two specific criteria:

  • Affordability
  • Speed of deployment

I concluded that any such housing development would have to be provided at the lowest cost and utilise the fastest method of deployment. So I focused my thoughts around a modular housing solution and, I began to investigate whether or not this would be possible. At this point, towards the end of the summer I began to discuss my ideas with relevant council officers who have provided excellent support.

Since these early discussions and the initial idea, I have verified that a tight financial target is feasible, and that a low cost solution is possible and if such a project is given the go ahead it could deliver a solution in a 9 month time scale. To include a short build period determined by the number of units that could be delivered by the budget and, required to meet the demand in the borough.

I then began to think about the other financial challenges that people face and how these might be resolved. Initially heating and, I am aware for example of the district heating project. I am also aware that other technology is available and used in other projects. Therefore I would propose that a solution based on ground pumps would be implemented and although power is needed to drive the pumps, this could be on a reduced demand control basis as is used in Manchester. This is where the pumps are turned off each day during periods of high demand on the grid. The feedback from such a scheme is that people do not notice when the heating is turned off because these modern buildings are thermally efficient.

What I have said so far would cover the base needs and forms the basis of the proposal.

Moving onto lighting and cooking it should be possible to meet these requirements using solar power and solar spray. I am especially interested in these technologies because we have the ability to showcase locally developed technology. Currently the storage of solar energy is through the use of lithium ion batteries based on lithium carbonate; however, more recently batteries using graphene storage technology are being developed. Graphene is a carbon based material developed by Manchester University and, solar spray is being developed by Sheffield University.

It is important to recognise that we have little experience of these technologies and, that they would be fulfilling a critical function, as such they would need to be accessible for replacement purposes. We would need to consider whether they could be housed in the roof space or even in wall panels. We could add to this capability with solar spray, a material sprayed onto glass surfaces that is rapidly reaching maturity and is being developed by Sheffield University. We would have a project to showcase that Rotherham, and that northern universities are among the best in the world. Thus my intention is that these dwellings would eventually have no need to be connected to the national grid. But this will need to be tested and proven to be reliable. Therefore it maybe a little ambitious to say now that it would not be unnecessary to connect to the grid, demand in the evening with all the lights on, the TV, cooking and making tea might be a struggle, nevertheless it should be the aim as technology improves. However, this technology should put a dent in energy bills. The fact is we need to learn about these and future new technology, how to manage the technology and we need to be able to market test the capability on a small number of the units.

I would hope that with experience we might have a capability that could be utilised on other social housing and offered to the wider public. Perhaps even open an energy shop in Rotherham, there are plenty that are empty.

These dwellings would need to be deployed on LA land and I would suggest that they should be close to the town centre, but if the demand shifts to a surrounding ward we should try to ensure that they remain transportable to Wath or Dinnington if demand dictates. Again this may be ambitious, but should remain as an option at this stage.

The outcome should be: Available housing for those defined as homeless that we can also use to show/demonstrate that Rotherham is good place to work and live and, that it cares for residents. A project that as technology improves we could have a housing development that would allow us to test and learn about new technologies.

During my discussions with officers it was clear they had been having some similar thoughts, however, so far as I am aware they have been considering converted containers. Whilst I think these units might be applicable as short term accommodation, or in a refugee situation, I do not see them as a long term housing solution for our residents.

Thus I am asking you to make up to £4m of unallocated capital from the HRA available to support this project.

Allen Cowles

Watch it yourself:

https://rotherham.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/338794

17 thoughts on “Labour fails to support proposal for affordable housing for the homeless.

  1. Well said Cllr Cowles if we remember proposals.were put forward 4 years ago to Look at using Capitol to invest in affordable house building and use profits to sustain services
    Cllr Cowles proposals go fare further today and is proposing taking Rotherham to the forefront and beyond the 21st Century
    But I fear Cllr Cowles your proposals will have gone straight over the Labour Councillor’s heads
    Remember they can’t run a simple business such as the crematorium
    And they will I am sure just keep putting their heads in the sand and keep waiting for Labour to win the election and throw millions at them they havn’t got
    At least we have a few Councillor’s who can think outside the box
    Well done Cllr Cowles I hope you put this proposal in an alternative opposition budget

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  2. Same this side of the double-decker. Short-term political advantage where the horizon is never further away than than the next election. Money is used to prop up failed and failing schemes that provide nothing more than political hubris and kudos. The hundreds of millions squandered and the consequent misery caused means nothing as long as the most senior local public servants, and their political poltroons, remain powerfully cosy. It has been like this over here since 1997, and has become worse since. In this region, local democracy is dysfunctional and not fit for purpose.
    ( There is a start-up in this relic of a city that specialises in converting containers into homes )

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  3. Same this side of the double-decker. Short-term political advantage where the horizon is never further away than the next election. Money is used to prop up failed and failing schemes that provide nothing more than political hubris and kudos. The hundreds of millions squandered and the consequent misery caused means nothing as long as the most senior local public servants, and their political poltroons, remain powerfully cosy. It has been like this over here since 1997, and has become worse since. In this region, local democracy is dysfunctional and not fit for purpose.
    ( There is a start-up in this relic of a city that specialises in converting containers into homes )

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  4. Using modern modular building techniques a 3 bedroom house can be built for £65k/£70k and erected in 7-8 days and the thermal efficiency of modular buildings is approximately 3x higher than current standards. The house price excludes the land costs.

    Much of what Cllr.Cowles has written has been in the public domain for several years but we are lumbered with a council stuffed with people who do not know nor understand the words ‘modern’ or
    ‘modular’ or ‘efficiency’.
    At the present time RMBC Labour councillors are too busy covering their backsides and planning who stab next.

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  5. I watched this and noticed that LibDem twit also voted against. Some body needs to tell him to ask his mam next time she takes him shopping he needs the Men’s Dept, large sizes. Can he tell us does he still have the short trousers to go with the jacket or was that his old school blazer he was wearing? He looks like Rupert bear gone wrong.
    And those daft questions he asks, even the dummies make him look daft !! the LibDems are a failed lot.

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  6. It should also be noted that the Labour council voted en masse against the amendment –
    not because it was a bad idea, it just wasn’t their idea. Labour don’t have any ideas, they just nod their heads at council officers ideas – that’s not why they are in power…
    but Im not the first person to note that they are not fit for purpose.

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  7. Problem is Cllr Cowles has a full year to put this in the mix and enable it to be part of this years budget. Instead he held it back for political point scoring and stick it in as an amendment, giving no time at all for the council to consider the £4m project. Whether it’s a good idea or not it was a crazy way to propose it

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      • They did discuss the amendment. My point was that a £4m project required more than a cursory discussion and knee jerk decision. I believe this project would have been realised had it been taken through the mechanisms in the budget process, including the cross party budget working group. If the proposer was so passionate about the subject he should have realised with the balance of the council and consistent voting patterns, his chances of forcing it through in his chosen form were non existent. As I say it was crazy

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        • Peace, if Cllr Cowles had time to think this through so did the labour group, but as M so rightly points out, when did the labour group last or ever have an idea. I don’t see how you can attempt to traduce Cllr Cowles ,he is doing exactly as he should that is to respond to the budget with own ideas. If not he is pilloried for having nothing to say of worth like the LibDem fool.

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  8. Pingback: The Week That Was – Last Weeks Top Ten 3rd March 2018 | Rotherham Politics

  9. Hello Kryptos, I’m sorry but Cllr Cowles or anyone else had 12 months to submit a proposal into the budget process. At any stage in the process the proposal could have received consideration by the budget working group, OSMB, political groups individually, it could have even been highlighted through the press, social media etc. But it wasn’t. The first sight the majority of the council had of the proposal was on an A4 sheet left at their allocated seat at 14:00 on Wednesday. It was debated at 15:00 in my opinion not enough time to think a £4m project through. I criticise the Cllr because he foolishly played a political game and in doing so we all lost out on what could have been a really important and groundbreaking project. His fall back position of blaming others is predictable but in all honesty he only has himself to blame.

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  10. Peace
    Choose when the opposition puts forward anything which makes sense and shows foresight and initiative the labour councillor’s will always either ridicule it or vote it down
    That is the mind set of RMBC Labour Councillor’s
    Also this proposal of Cllr Cowles would have over the heads of the not fit for purpose lack of any business accrument Labour Councillor’s
    Just look at their track record
    Magna, China project, selling of assets at the advanced manufacturing park, plus many many more failed money wasting projects

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    • Caven; this dynamic/game plays out in every single political arena including the HoP irrespective of political persuasion. Cllr Cowles knows this and he chanced his arm.
      The long shot being everybody says brilliant idea Alan and votes it in. The likelihood is they either amend the amendment and take ownership of it, if they’ve had time to think about it beforehand, but they hadn’t ! or they reject it because they haven’t had enough information or time to consider it.
      Admitted some of em won’t have a clue about the technicalities, in which case it’s the responsibility of the proposer to take the time to explain, if he was genuinely passionate about the project he could have done that at any point in the previous year. I suspect though he didn’t want to be accused of not putting something forward so hurriedly rushed this proposal and if if failed say it wasn’t his fault. It was though and that is the frustration for me.

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  11. Peace
    Sorry I don’t think you understand I know I’ve been their Labour Councillor’s if you gave them 12 months to look at it they would say hay what a great idea let’s look at this I don’t think so
    if it’s not their idea and its from the opposition then they will vote it down no question at all about that
    That is what they are programed to do
    They really are puppits dick follow the Leader
    They are not allowed to think outside the box if they do they are deselected
    They really are set in the Stone Age seventies and worship the likes of Red Robbo
    They really must understand we have not got a British Empire any more to bail us out we have to stand on our own two feet and look at ways of moving forward
    Unfortunatly Reed and his group have just not got the nownce to see this
    They have the business acrument of a pickled union that’s why Rotherham is in the state it’s in

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    • Caven, I do understand and can feel your anger, I’m also rational enough to realise if the roles were reversed the same comments would be directed the other way and at you if you were still leader. That’s my point really Cllr Cowles got sucked into this charade, he tried to be clever then discredit when it failed. It’s a tiring predictable process. I maintain he had a good idea and the reason it didn’t get progressed was because of his foolish approach. Perhaps he’ll follow it through during the next process and we’ll see a real benefit for Rotherham.

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