All posts from: December 2011
Closed Circuit was disturbed to learn last week that Mr Men characters appear to be rebelling against the stereotypes imposed by their names.
The eviction of Ms Good from a Six Town Housing property could surely begin a trend resulting in Mr Brave becoming cowardly, Mr Strong becoming weak, and Mr Happy being diagnosed with depression.
On the plus side, Mr Bump is looking forward to an injury-free future.
Never let it be said that the stocky secretary of state for communities and local government does not go the extra mile to support the British economy.
With public sector strikes just a fortnight old and the Localism Bill recently gaining royal assent, Eric Pickles has pulled out all the stops to launch a ‘curry college’ which will teach Brits the fine art of Asian cooking.
With this innovative scheme fresh in his mind, Mr Pickles took time out of his personal schedule to attend the British Curry Awards as ‘chief guest’.
Closed Circuit is reliably informed that Mr Pickles ‘loved’ his chicken tikka masala and ate every single piece - in keeping with the government’s pledge to cut down on waste.
The year is not yet out but some in the social housing sector have already started crystal-ball gazing for 2012.
Steve Douglas, partner at consultancy Altair, predicts a bond issue by a council, cashflow problems for a large housing association and cash for economic regeneration.
These are very sensible and sober predictions, but unfortunately things soon went downhill from there.
‘Peace breaks out between the National Housing Federation and [housing minister Grant] Shapps. Sorry, you asked for wishes, not miracles,’ he joked.
‘Transparency agenda as part of freedom of information reform, but the sector can see through that…’ he then added - to groans from Closed Circuit.
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You could forgive prime minister David Cameron for hoping for a breather when parliament breaks up in 11 days time.
After all, if strikes, mounting public debt and the European economic crisis aren’t enough to send you head first into a family-sized tin of Quality Street in front of All Star Family Fortunes, then what is?
His pensions secretary has other ideas. So impressed is Iain Duncan Smith with Family Futures, the latest magnus opus from London School of Economics housing guru professor Anne Power, he thinks it could teach the PM a thing or two about tackling poverty.
‘It really is an excellent book,’ he told an audience at the LSE last week. ‘I’ll put it on the reading list for the prime minister over Christmas - and I’ll test him on it when he comes back.’
Family Futures, not Family Fortunes, it is then.
Could Whitehall austerity measures help reverse the fading fortunes of Marks & Spencer?
The high street giant recently reported an 8 per cent slump in profits, but Closed Circuit has learned that staff at the Communities and Local
Government department can’t get enough of their local store in London’s Victoria.
Cutbacks have seen all taxpayer-funded refreshments banned, except for marathon meetings lasting at least four hours and at which a visitor is present.
‘M&S is doing very well as a result,’ reports one worker. ‘The bite-size buckets are a particular favourite.’
As the festive season draws near, Closed Circuit thought it was timely to bring you a tale from Christmas past.
One afternoon, back in his salad days at Bradford Council, current communities secretary Eric Pickles apparently got wind of some of his staff knocking off early to sink a few sharpeners down the local.
Rightly concerned about this flagrant waste of taxpayers’ money, he promptly scheduled a meeting back at the office for 4pm.
A public servant to the end, the fact that it was Christmas Eve was, it seems, of little concern.
Places for People has never been short of ideas about how to get the housing market moving again.
But its chief executive David Cowans clearly had other bees in his bonnet when he spoke at the Northern Housing Consortium’s annual conference in York last week.
During a rather bleak state of the nation address, Mr Cowans chastised the purported 25 per cent of men aged 25 to 29 still living at home. ‘Maybe if they got out more,’ he mused before highlighting that only 13 per cent of women of the same age had failed to cut the chord. ‘What I want to know is where have the other 12 per cent gone?’ he wondered aloud.
Could this be the start of a PfP dating agency to help stay at home tenants fly the nest? Closed Circuit certainly hopes so…
Still at the Northern Housing Consortium shindig, chair John Craggs was also thinking of family affairs.
Having regaled the audience with alarming tales of his daughter’s adventures as a film student, the deputy chief executive of Gentoo got onto his son’s life in the army. An apparent thrillseeker, Craggs junior texted dad to tell him he was about to launch himself off the Eiger attached to a bungee chord. Just as dad was about to reply, another beep came through… ‘And I’m doing it naked,’ it said.
Closed Circuit hopes that housing minister Grant Shapps, famed as he is for his love of bungee, is not inspired to follow in the footsteps of Craggs junior.
Finally this week the prize for dedication above and beyond the call of duty goes to Affinity Sutton’s head of research Hilary Burkitt.
Ms Burkitt tweeted on Saturday that she was re-reading the housing strategy (published last Monday) and was ‘shocked that it states being a social tenant on a higher income is an “abuse” equivalent to tenancy fraud’.
Perhaps realising that her choice of light reading on a Saturday morning may surprise some Ms Burkitt quickly added: ‘I should stress that re-reading [the] housing strategy is not what I would ideally want to be doing for weekend fun.’
Closed Circuit can empathise with Ms Burkitt’s pain.
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