All posts from: July 2012
The government’s green deal policy hasn’t perhaps enjoyed the highest profile in the public consciousness to date.
Perhaps the explanation given to the energy and climate change committee last week by Ed Davey sheds a little light on the reason why.
‘This isn’t a Ritz policy,’ the energy secretary told MPs, ‘but I don’t want to call it a greasy spoon café, because it is much higher quality than that, but it is open to all’.
Real estate investment trusts - better known as REITs - have been mooted as a potentially exciting new way to channel new investment into the social housing sector.
Their excited disciples point out the wave of institutional cash that could flood into the sector as government development grant dwindles, while their detractors fear it will effectively privatise social housing. Whichever side of the fence you sit on (and yes, you should have a view), all those nervously awaiting the government’s response to its consultation on REITs may do well to check their expectations.
Closed Circuit has heard that despite being packed with interested landlords and relevant experts, there was only one big investor present at the Treasury’s meetings on the future of REITs. And apparently said investor wasn’t exactly optimistic about their viability either.
John Prescott is unlikely to feature high on housing minister Grant Shapps’ Christmas card list this year.
Last weekend, the pair got themselves in a scrap over an alleged dirty tricks campaign involving the former deputy prime minister’s credit card spending.
But most seriously for Twitter acolyte Mr Shapps was the accusation that he was using a ‘bot’ to artificially increase his follower numbers on the micro-blogging site. Prezza even got #shappsfollowedme to trend for a while, revealing in an instant the news values of a nation.
To be fair to the housing minister, he played along by retweeting some of the responses, including the most appropriate question: ‘what about those who aren’t sure if you have or haven’t - and don’t care either way?’ Quite.
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Far be it from Closed Circuit to suggest the wheels of the Communities and Local Government department move slowly.
Let’s leave such scurrilous accusations to its deputy director for homelessness and housing support Roger Wilshaw instead.
When Mr Wilshaw took the stage to deliver a speech at Homeless Link’s conference last week he said he could not read his notes because it was too dark. Within seconds, a helpful flunky switched on a small light at the lectern. ‘If only things happened that quickly in the office’ quipped Mr Wilshaw, prompting the question: how long does it take a CLG employee to find the light switch?
Fresh from unleashing his rap skills on an unsuspecting Guardian readership a few weeks ago, Grant Shapps has been demonstrating that he is a true Vaudevillian all-round entertainer of a housing minister.
Well, on Twitter anyway. Responding to a tweet asking if he had heard himself being praised as a ‘hard-working MP’ by one of his constituents on talk radio the previous evening, Mr Shapps replied that he hadn’t but that he ‘must ask my dad to stop calling in’. Closed Circuit salutes the minister’s quick wit. Spoiled, sadly, by that enemy of comedy: the smiley. Why, Mr Shapps? Why?
Last week’s star Inside Housing columnist David Levenson revealed a previously hidden creative streak at a recent reception.
Network Housing Group’s finance director has been toying with starting a blog in recent months, encouraged by the positive response he received from peers after dipping his toe into the water with this esteemed publication.
But Mr Levenson has been discouraged from forging ahead with a portfolio career by his own flesh and blood - a daughter who, like Closed Circuit, is shackled to a career of hackery on behalf of the Fourth Estate. Not only is his progeny’s advice robbing the world of valuable insights into the global economy, it also means we may never get to revel in one of the blogosphere’s truly great titles: ‘The Levenson Enquiry’. Publish and be damned, we say.
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You might have thought that, like being in space, when you are on Twitter no-one can hear you scream.
Housing minister Grant Shapps and his shadow Jack Dromey have certainly been having a good go at disproving this theory, however. Of late, if either of the honourable gentlemen learns a new piece of information they have capped up the word fact – or FACT! as they would have it – to give their utterances extra emphasis. Closed Circuit reckons this is the Twitter equivalent of shouting on a street.corner.
Mr Dromey had several FACT outbursts last week including the ‘FACT’ that ‘there were 2 million MORE homes by 2010 than when Labour came to power in 1997.’ Not to be outdone, Mr Shapps responded with a vocal FACT barrage of his own. Closed Circuit’s favourite was ‘FACT: there are currently 210,000 people aged 16-24 who are social housing tenants’, but there are many shouty classics for readers to choose from.
Fact: A more sedate form of delivery is just as effective and better for the blood pressure.
The media-savvy housing minister must be used to a few quips from the opposition about his frequent TV appearances, but you’d think he could expect some support from colleagues.
Not so, it would appear. The minister’s parliamentary private secretary Jake Berry told a meeting organised by housing group East 7 last week: ‘Grant Shapps would have loved to be here this morning, but he is doing some interviews as minister for Daybreak [ITV’s morning breakfast show].’
The final thought for the week goes to Jo Dean, external director at Nottingham’s Community and Voluntary Service and a volunteer at Framework Housing.
‘I flicked through an office supplies catalogue and found a body fluid disposal kit,’ she Tweets. ‘What sort of office???’ Ms Dean clearly hasn’t witnessed the frightful scenes at Closed Circuit towers if a spelling mistake creeps into the final printed copy.
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Communities and Local Government department officials were taking so much care over their guidance for local housing authorities on allocations that the document was published two days later than expected last week.
It was a shame they didn’t pay more attention to the foreword from housing minister Grant Shapps, though. In it he proudly stated the affordable homes programme has managed to ‘lever in £19.5 of new investment’. The missing billion has now been returned.
Proud Scot, Graham Isdale, executive director of corporate affairs at Glasgow Housing Association, often wears tartan at England-based industry events, however he dodged a bullet by leaving his kilt at home when visiting London last Wednesday for the UK Housing Awards.
Mr Isdale sat on a table next to the stage, which would have been too visible for presenter Jeremy Hardy. The BBC Radio 4 regular scanned the room looking for a tartan-clad victim and then joked he was happy not to see the obligatory kilt-wearer. Inside Housing editor Stuart Macdonald, could empathise; he was fortunate to have left his at the dry cleaners that night.
You may not have thought it was possible to find a conversation between two senior housing figures about foyers amusing, but you’d be wrong, especially when they are both talking about entirely different things.
Overheard at the UK Housing Awards was one executive explaining how proud he was of the work his organisation was doing to provide foyer services to 16 to 25-year-olds. The other enthusiastically replied he was interested in foyers as he had plans for the lighting and pot plants in the reception areas of high-rise blocks. Awkward.
The latter was grateful to Closed Circuit for quietly pointing out his misunderstanding when it turned out the chosen charity for the evening was the Foyer Federation.
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