I was seven years old. I was a sicky child. In the proudest moment of my life up to that point, an ambulance drew up outside our council house. Instead of being the undoubted weakling on the street, kids rushed to wonder at my sudden importance. I was taken to somewhere that seemed so far away. There I made my first black friend, a friendship that endured for years and widened my perspectives. Joe came on a boat from Jamaica. The Windrush Generation.
Every day we hear about the housing crisis. Politicians tell us we must build more housing urgently. Yet they say next to nothing about empty homes. There are more than 600,000 empty homes in England, enough to cut the housing waiting list by half.
Here in Shropshire, there are 4,375 empty homes. That’s more than 3% of the county’s housing stock. If they were brought back into use, they could provide homes for four in five of the households on the waiting list.
More than a third of the empty homes in Shropshire have been vacant for six months or more. It’s shocking that nearly 200 council and social homes are empty.
The night before last, Busybodies Childcare Centre next to the police station in Lower Galdeford was broken into. Fortunately, nothing was stolen though a door was badly damaged. The police response, when the crime was reported this morning, was swift. An officer came from Kidderminster and scene of crime officers were also dispatched to the site.
It is always bad when a crime occurs. People feel violated and less confident. Along with businesses, they are also hit in the pocket. It is a shame then, that Ludlow has a higher rate of crime per head than the rest of Shropshire.
The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust today announced that the rural maternity units at Ludlow, Oswestry and Bridgnorth are to remain closed for births indefinitely. This decision has been made ahead of a public consultation on the future of the MLUs. It is obvious that SaTH intends to close the three MLUs permanently. It claims that 98% of women are “choosing” to give birth elsewhere. Of course this is so. The rural MLUs are rarely open for births.
This has been a cynical exercise to shut the MLUs by stealth.
At the end of last week, domestic furniture and junk appeared outside a house in Lower Galdeford. Around the sound time, household goods were dumped on the Eco Park. There is good reason to believe that these two incidents are linked.
I have asked Shropshire Council to investigate with a view to prosecution. I would be grateful if any with knowledge of these incidents could share it with me or the council in confidence.
The waiting list for affordable housing in Shropshire stood at 5,370 households last year. The council says that the housing waiting list does not include all those that need housing. It acknowledges there are households that haven’t identified their need because they are reluctant to give the information.
To address this, the council has launched the Right Home, Right Place website – https://www.righthomerightplace.co.uk/. The aim is to make it easier for people to give the council information on what housing they need and where they need it. The survey covers all types of housing, social, market and private rental.
I would urge everyone who needs housing or might soon need it to complete the online housing needs survey. This is particularly important for people in rural in the south of the county. If we don’t make our voice heard we won’t get the housing we need.