Lunchtime news Thursday 24 July 2015

Destitution among refused asylum seekers and refugees in the UK has more than doubled in 18 months, according to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, which describes the government’s policy on the issue as ‘unacceptable’. The number of children affected has quadrupled and rough sleepers have increased by a third, and the report puts the blame predominantly down to error or delay in receiving benefits.

As the Bank of England released its July agents’ summary of business conditions, pressure mounts on the government to ease the bottleneck in the credit market. The monthly BoE figures indicate that four out of ten housebuyers in some areas are pulling out of sales, often after losing their nerve or failing to get a mortgage. Adding to the uncertainty, the Bank’s monetary policy committee meeting disclosed that members had considered increasing interest rates to limit inflation.

A Communities and Local Government committee has said England’s economy is threatened with ‘paralysis’ unless the government sorts out chronic problems with the planning system. Failure to recruit more planners and give existing ones more training will hinder the delivery of the government’s three million new homes, and will affect half of all local authorities by 2012. The committee has recommended a national advertising campaign to attract graduates into planning.

Meanwhile housing minister Caroline Flint has set out the government’s latest, and toughest, proposals on establishing green standards in new housing, in a progress report on eco-towns. The towns are expected to achieve zero carbon status in all buildings, including commercial and public buildings as well as homes; providing a minimum of 30 per cent affordable housing; allocating 40 per cent of land within the town as green space, of which half has to be open to the public as parks; and creating more options for travelling and reducing the reliance on cars, including one job per house being reached by sustainable transport.

New national guidelines for private and social landlords, managing agents, tenants and enforcers aimed at cutting the 300,000 fires in residential properties annually, have been released. They apply to existing residential accommodation including single family houses, bedsits, shared houses and flats, but not to new housing. It is hoped that it will help councils and fire and rescue authorities who enforce fire safety legislation adopt a more consistent approach.