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Opinion: Housing shortage, Rwanda plan, technology and litterbugs debated on KentOnline’s letters page

Our readers from across the county give their weekly take on the biggest issues impacting Kent and beyond.

Some letters refer to past correspondence which can be found by clicking here. Join the debate by emailing letters@thekmgroup.co.uk

‘Making ownership the only solution is a constraint on people’s ability to have a decent home’
‘Making ownership the only solution is a constraint on people’s ability to have a decent home’

Home ownership isn’t always the answer

Bob Britnell’s position on housing starts from a flawed assumption, which is that what we need is to increase home ownership rather than just provide more housing.

The two things are very different, and only the latter will solve the problem of homelessness.

Of course, starting your argument by calling the current government “left of centre” rather undermines one’s credibility, but let’s assume that Bob means well and wants to solve the shortage of homes.

It should be clear immediately that ownership of homes is a red herring. Making that the only solution is in fact a constraint on people’s ability to have a decent home to live in, since it involves a combination of initial capital accumulation (for a deposit), long-term certainty of income (to pay the mortgage) and a stability of residency which many, especially younger people, do not have or may not want.

In fact, for many people, a rented home is perfect, whether short or long-term - provided that is at their discretion.

What is imperfect, though, is the current rental market in which many properties for rent are substandard, extremely expensive, or on very short tenancies. That is the result of years in pursuit of an unfettered “free market” housing policy by this government, creating uncontrolled rents, uncontrolled landlords and a viciously anti-tenant approach which is the antithesis of what any sensible and caring government would seek to achieve.

Local authority homes would be one component of a properly thought-through housing solution. It may not be right for everyone and it shouldn’t be the only option.

But in terms of providing decent homes at a genuinely affordable rent, and setting standards of housing which a 21st century country might consider desirable, it is a very good place to start.

Dave Wilson

Out of touch over new developments

Watching BBC Question Time on April 25, on it was Baron Moore of Etchingham - population 864 - saying he had just read about a new town for Kent, the 2,700 housing and infrastructure development being proposed by the Duchy of Cornwall for Faversham.

Saying its beautiful and that this is the way we should be planning for the additional houses for the future really just demonstrates how out of touch these people are.

Maybe this is why Kent is being flooded with large housing developments that cannot be supported by the existing infrastructure like schools, hospitals, doctors and roads.

Brian Clark

More prefabs could help solve our housing crisis

I understand the public concern over housing directly, as my son has two adult children still living at home and he and my daughter-in-law will soon be retiring themselves.

The costs of purchasing a home are prohibitive, to say the least.

But is it right to allow private companies to make huge profits leasing thousands of homes for immigrants? Is it right also that London councils like Newham and Brent are buying up homes around the Home Counties to ease their own housing problems, with little or no regard to schools and health services? I’ve seen it myself where a homeless family in London were given a one-way railway ticket to Southend.

After the war and because of so many homes being destroyed by bombing, a quick and supposedly ‘short term’ answer was to build prefabricated buildings, which were cheaply made bungalows, with many still living in them 50 years later. This could eliminate a lot of the homelessness in Britain and once more permanent housing has caught up with demand then the land could be cleared and reverted back.

Mobile homes are cheap to build and today are fully insulated with all modern services. No, it’s not a permanent solution but it could certainly get people homed even if it’s only on a temporary basis.

Sid Anning

‘Does anyone really believe that the new deportation system will deter desperate people from crossing the English Channel in small boats? Picture: NCA
‘Does anyone really believe that the new deportation system will deter desperate people from crossing the English Channel in small boats? Picture: NCA

Rwanda plan will not stop crossings

When the Rwanda Bill was passed into law, in the process it undermined one of the foundations of our democracy, namely that Parliament cannot use law to change fact.

Last year five judges in the Supreme Court ruled that the government’s plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda was unlawful, given that it was not a safe country and the high risk that they could be subject to persecution and ill-treatment. Bear in mind that these judges are experts in distinguishing what is true from what is untrue.

By contrast Members of Parliament are motivated by a very different set of interests. While ostensibly passing laws for the good of the country, they are often acting on behalf of their political party and motivated by a desire to hold onto their jobs after a forthcoming election.

The Rwanda law is not the first time in parliamentary history that a government has declared an untruth to be true but it is a particularly brazen and dangerous example.

It sets a precedent for what might be done in the future if the government fell into hands of a political party and prime minister with the dictatorial intentions of a leader like President Trump.

In passing the Rwanda Bill, the government if effectively saying that a Rwanda is a safe place because we decree it to be a safe place.

In addition to undermining our democracy at home, the Rwanda law also damages our reputation abroad as a protector of human rights. It does this by infringing the right of asylum seekers to have their application examined through a fair procedure and not in a country like Rwanda which is devoid of an independent judiciary.

Add to this the fact that the cost for the first 300 deportees is calculated to be £1.8m per refugee, it is little wonder that the rest of the world are laughing at Britain. As the French paper La Monde said, the whole thing is ‘so absurd that it could have been dreamt up by George Orwell’.

Does anyone really believe that the new deportation system will deter desperate people from crossing the English Channel in small boats?

John Cooper

Loud opinions are drowning out facts

There appears to be a conspiracy of silence which aims to prevent all but the dominant view being heard.

This is pervasive throughout society.

All of the political parties seem to share the view that members have to follow whatever their leaders say and not to offer any indication that they have other ideas.

Prior to the Enlightenment, the dogmatic views of the Church were held to be sacrosanct. It was not until people like Galileo and Voltaire had the courage to challenge those ideas that objective facts took precedence over dogmatic pronouncements.

We are now entering a new dark age, with wars and rumours of wars. We seem blind to the real problems with which the world is faced.

Rather than examine the facts of the matter, we resort to those opinions that safeguard the status quo. Opinions are not facts: they may not even be based on facts.

We cannot always be right, we need to test our views not only against the facts but also against the views that others may derive from those facts.

Through discussion and dialogue, and by examining the facts impartially, we can find the way to resolve the conflicts that, if allowed to continue, will lead to the destruction of society as we now know it.

Ralph A Tebbutt

Could a £500 fine for drivers put an end to roadside littering?Library picture
Could a £500 fine for drivers put an end to roadside littering?Library picture

Litterbug drivers need heavy fines

Buckinghamshire council is to run a scheme from August, to deal with motorists who discard litter on the roadside, causing an eyesore to the environment and a hazard to other vehicles.

The council is to encourage members of the public to provide footage taken on phones and dashcams of those who violate the law.

The driver would be held responsible for any litter thrown out of their vehicles, even if it wasn't them who committed the offence.

Once they are caught, they are fined £500 which is doubled if they fail to pay the amount within 28 days.

National Highways in England has an online system where people can report litter on motorways and major A roads.

It would be useful if other councils were to follow Buckinghamshire's lead as it might cause drivers to think twice before chucking their rubbish out onto the road, as a public-spirited person might have captured the moment on their dashcam, landing them with a penalty.

Michael Smith

Too much tech leaves people behind

Am I alone in being fed up of doing everybody's job for them - and in the process putting people out of work, saving their bosses money and making big companies their fortunes?

As I don't have a smartphone, I miss out on any special offers with certain supermarkets and others insist I check my shopping out myself and by card not cash.

I wash my plastic, segregate my rubbish into the proper waste bins, cut down on my water usage and electrics for fear of over spending. I spend ages trying to make appointments with my doctor because I am not able to go online to do it myself.

All in all, most things nowadays are according to younger savvy IT knowledgeable people, not for the older person with limited knowledge and finance!

Does nobody nowadays take into account that there are still a lot of us that don't want the stress of computers and smartphones? It's no wonder so many people are out of work!

J. Lane

Too many Lords costing us a fortune

In his letter last week, Bob Readman asserts that Parliament would be more democratic if the Lords were abolished and replaced with an elected chamber.

To many that might seem like a highly desirable aim, but in fact it would almost certainly have the opposite effect to that intended, because parliamentary superiority would be transferred to the upper chamber, leading to not just continual blocking of bills but their eventual collapse because the upper house refused to pass them.

That is the situation that occurs regularly in the USA where the Senate comprising of 100 members continually votes down bills that have been debated and voted on in the House of Representatives comprising of 435 members and those bills collapse and never become law. Congress can also frustrate the will of the President, even on financial matters, just because he doesn’t command a majority.

That is quite different to the way it traditionally works in the UK. Parliamentary acts and historical tradition determine that the Commons holds supremacy over the Lords, which would be lost, to the detriment of our democracy, if the Lords were to become an elected chamber.

One of the problems we have with the Lords is that there are simply too many of them, nearly 800.

I suggest the way to reform the House of Lords and reduce their number is firstly to impose a maximum age by which they must relinquish their voting rights and stand down. Secondly, to stop the automatic ‘rite of passage’ of many retiring MPs, or those who have lost their seats. Far too many of them expect to be granted a peerage so they can carry on working in parliament even when they have failed to be elected as an MP! Thirdly, the number of people an outgoing Prime Minister can recommend for peerages should be seriously curtailed.

However they are chosen, we have to reduce the number of them, because the current wholly unnecessary number is costing the taxpayer an absolute fortune.

C. Aichgy

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