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The General Election: a range of contributions

24 April 2015


From Mr Richard Darlington

Sir, - I thoroughly agree with the Bishop of Manchester's comment on the Conservatives' right-to-buy policy (News, 17 April). This policy has been a disaster for low-cost housing provision.

I was a local-government housing architect. In the early 1970s, the council-housing waiting lists were getting met. In Derby, we had to stop plans for new estates. The same in Coventry. Then, after the right to buy came along, the waiting lists started to grow again, especially once tenants were able to sell their properties.

The enormous discounts mean that some ten or 11 houses have to be sold to have sufficient money for councils or housing associations to buy land and build one new one. If the politicians want the right to buy to continue, then they should at least sell at market value. Even then, a new one may cost more than the income from one sold.

And there should be a clause that stops children and prospective landlords paying for the house and then turfing the tenants out, once the purchase has gone through. I knew of two cases where this happened.

Richard Darlington

1 The Woods, Grotton, Oldham OL4 4LP


From the Revd Paul Nicolson

Sir, - I was the Vicar of Turville, in Buckinghamshire, from 1982 until 1999. I was there when they were filming The Vicar of Dibley. There are 35 houses in this ancient settlement in the beautiful Chiltern Hills, nestling in the under the windmill in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. The Church of St Mary the Virgin dates back to Benedictine origins when it was owned by St Albans Abbey.

When I arrived, there were six households renting two-bedroomed semi-detached council bungalows. The Housing Act 1980 had introduced the right to buy. One of those bungalows was sold to the tenant for £25,000; when the time came, they sold on for £250,000 and moved to Australia. Another was bought by a local peer for his servants. Now the bungalows are selling on for £500,000 or more. Location, location, location.

The consequence is that families who rented for generations in the Chiltern Hills have been pushed into the surrounding towns. Vicars, farmers' workers, and the servants of the wealthy living in tied houses will soon be the only poor-to-low-middle-income workers left who can still enjoy living in the Chiltern Hills.

I now live in Tottenham, where the renters are in a majority of 58 per cent householders over the owners at 42 per cent, according to the 2011 census. Renters are 33 per cent of households nationally, and 47 per cent in London.

National policy from all the main parties panders to the majority as owners with rising equity in their homes - either by leaving renters to the whims of landlords and speculators in the UK free market in land and housing, or tempting renters into owning with offers to buy at below-market prices from which they can make a handsome profit.

As a result, there is no coherent policy for secure tenancies in which families can bring up their children with a strong sense of community and solidarity with their grandparents near by; and there is a desperately short supply of truly affordable homes.

Tenants in Tottenham can look forward to insecurity of tenure, eviction, demolition of council estates, or dispersal to who-knows-where. Home-owners will enjoy increasing value in their homes until there is a collapse in the market as a result of governmental failure to provide a just housing policy in the UK.


Taxpayers Against Poverty

93 Campbell Road, London N17 0BF


From the Revd Jonathan Page

Sir, - "Nearly half the Anglicans in the UK are planning to vote Conservative in next month's election. . ." (News, 10 April).

In the light of the House of Bishops' recent Pastoral Letter (News, 20 February), does this mean that bishops are out of touch with their flocks, or are churchgoers out of touch with their bishops?

Jonathan Page

Christ Church Vicarage, Bridge Street, Belper, Derbyshire DE56 1BA


From the Revd Dr Marcus Braybrooke

Sir, - Like Canon Angela Tilby (Comment, 17 April), I have voted Green in the past. Unlike her, I intend do so this year. The Green Party recognises the real urgency of protecting the planet; it opposes Trident; it insists that the Minimum Wage should be a Living Wage; and its tax proposals will ensure some redistribution of wealth.

To the defeatism of R. A. Butler, I prefer the optimism of the Nobel Prizewinner Mairead Maguire, who wrote: "Dream the impossible, then so live that the dream is fulfilled."

Marcus Braybrooke

17 Courtiers Green, Clifton Hampden, Abingdon OX14 3EN

From the Revd Michael Camp

Sir, - Your report by Gavin Drake of words of encouragement about supporting the Green party will no doubt have struck chords with many Christians. It doesn't, however, mention the Greens' policy on church schools: "ED176 No publicly-funded school shall be run by a religious organisation."

Given that church schools are at the centre of the Church's mission, that's a bit of a deal-breaker, isn't it?

Michael Camp

St Peter's Rectory

19 Springfield Road, Poole, Dorset BH14 0LG

From Dr Jonathan Chaplin

Sir, - I am grateful to the Church Times for mentioning the Ethics in Brief article on the Green Party recently published by KLICE (News, 17 April). Your readers may wish to know that it is one of a series of 13 articles appearing since December 2014, offering theological reflections on all the main British political parties, on the party system, and on other aspects of the election.

These and other election resources are all available on our Election 2015 page: http://klice.co.uk/index.php/election2015 .

Jonathan Chaplin

Director, Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics

Tyndale House

36 Selwyn Gardens,Cambridge CB3 9BA

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