Hold government to their promises
By Mark Blackmore
After reading the new Environment Strategy and the new Housing Strategy, both of which had interesting characters but could have done with stronger plots, four stars, I was left with at least five thoughts. That’s quite a few more thoughts than I can usually manage, so bear with me.
First, nobody wins a certificate for saying what they want to do. Or if they do, it’s a certificate that says ‘Participation Award’ and not even your mum will boast about it. The government should be judged on results, not promises. Nevertheless, the publication of these documents is clearly a good thing, and the aims are laudable.
Second, while each strategy is carefully worded, it looks as if Housing was not in fact gutted at the budget stage, which it seems to me was the fate that befell Environment.
Third, it was good to see that within the Housing Strategy there are planned benefits for Campers, who normally couldn’t be blamed for wondering if they were actually real people living in the Falklands, rather than mythical beings made of steel and requiring no government attention.
Fourth, I hope I’m wrong in detecting an element of magical thinking within the housing plans. The government says it will take the measures outlined in our front page story, and then private landlords will reduce their rents.
Will they, though? Have you ever met any landlords, FIG? The plans for new housing stock and incentives don’t go far enough to force that outcome. The only way to give tenants options is for supply to outstrip demand, forcing landlords to compete with each other to rent their properties. Right now the only thing they compete over is who can squeeze the most blood out of a stone.
Fifth, despite all this, I’m going to be cautiously optimistic. Go ahead and laugh at me if you like, and then stroke your chin and sigh “Oh that poor naive fool.” I’m still going to suggest that the identification of these problems, and the very early attempts to remedy them, can be welcomed as a good start.
The environment does need protecting. The housing crisis does need to be addressed. Previous governments and assemblies have not always been so responsive.
What remains for us is to make sure we hold government to their promises over accomplishing these goals. That, even more than trumpeting strategies and plans, is the way things get done.