KEY ISSUE: Housing and Jobs

Addressing housing needs

Since being elected as MP for Gloucester in 2010 I identified the key issue was that Gloucester’s housing debt was so large the City Council could not borrow any more, i.e. it had no way of doing anything, since it owned Gloucester City Homes (GCH). So I persuaded the City Council to let GCH be independent and the Treasury to write off £50m of housing debt, so GCH would start debt free, on condition it borrowed to build 100 new homes immediately, and more later. Which they have done and are doing.

More recently I made sure GCH were awarded funds under the Estate Regeneration Plan to develop new and better housing in Podsmead and Matson. So new social housing is already on the move and more to come.

Separately, on more housing in general, I helped progress the big development on Bristol Road (Podsmead), and worked with City Council led projects on Worcester Street and Bakers Quay. We have ambitious housing targets in the Local Joint Core Strategy, as well as nationally, and I am confident we will deliver in Gloucester.

Creating and supporting jobs

This is vital. I have focused on supporting industries of the future: nuclear energy (EDF Energy and Horizon, both based here), tidal lagoons (TLP plc in the Docks), and cyber (Raytheon and BAe Cyber hubs in Gloucester). Insurance (Pro Global) and retail are also expanding, as a result of the popularity of the Docks, and tourism is improving because of our festivals, while all of our manufacturing companies have more or less doubled their workforce since 2010.
 
I support all of these in different ways – not least as the Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy, promoting exports (e.g. Airbus) in South East Asia.

The Manifesto: The Elderly and Social Care

The State Pension

The ‘triple lock’, which Conservatives introduced, protects pensioners by increasing your pension every year by the highest of earnings, inflation or a cash amount of 2.5%.

As a result pensions have gone up by £1,250 a year since 2010.

The triple lock will continue to 2020, as we promised at the last election, but we will then drop the cash element and pensions will go up by the highest of earnings or inflation.

That protects pensioners from the big real risk (inflation) and gives them the same increase as workers, if wages go up by more. And it prevents workers from paying too much for their parents’ pensions if there are zero or very low wage increases and very low inflation.

This policy was also the recommendation of our Parliamentary Work and Pensions Select Committee, chaired by Labour MP Frank Field, and including 4 other Labour MPs and an SNP MP, as well as myself and other Conservative MPs.

It is the right thing to do for fairness to pensioners and all generations – and far better than the state pension annual increases under Labour before 2010.

Winter Fuel Allowance

Currently every pensioner, including all higher rate tax payers, gets the £200 winter fuel allowance. It is absurd to hear Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell (on almost £100,000 a year) say that this should be a benefit for everyone.

So our plan to give the Allowance only to pensioners who really need it is the right one. The question is therefore what’s the cut off point, and this will be consulted on later, but I am clear that the vast majority of not well off pensioners in Gloucester should still get the allowance – but not higher rate taxpayers.

Social Care

No government has yet been able to solve the problem of social care because it’s very hard (and very expensive) to insure against.

Currently, if you need residential care, and don’t qualify for government provided help, all of your assets down to £23,250 must be used up before the state will help.

This is not fair, but there is a balance to be struck between what the state (i.e. all taxpayers) contribute and what families should contribute. Part of saving should be to look after ourselves, if needed, in later life.

So our plan means you can hand on assets worth £100,000 and no-one, or their spouse or partner, would have to leave their home during their lifetime.

That is over 4 times as much as now that can be passed on. It does mean that a very rich person in a very big house may have to pay a lot if their care requires it, but that is fairer than lots of other less well off people having to pay for them through taxation.

And it means the average family in Gloucester would probably (on an average house price of £280,000) pass on more than a third of the value of their house. In the worst case scenario (of needing decades of care) that still means the taxpayer would pay for the bulk of the cost, and we’re still going to consult on a cap too.

That seems to me reasonable, and a fairer arrangement than at present.

The alternative to our approach is continuing to give very rich pensioners winter fuel, or only being able to hand on £23,250 if you need expensive care, with some local authorities obliging you to sell your home while getting care. I don’t think either is fair.

PRESS RELEASE: Conservative Candidate for Gloucester welcomes £4 billion pledge for schools

Richard Graham, the Conservative Candidate for Gloucester, has welcomed the Conservative Manifesto pledge to ‘increase the overall schools budget by £4 billion by 2022’, and that ‘no school [will have] its budget cut as a result of the new formula’.
Richard said, “the proposed new school funding formula has rightly been an important issue for teachers and parents. We’ve got to change the inequalities in funding, where funding per pupil in London can be 50% more that in Gloucester for the same education. But the problem with the original proposal was that some schools here would lose out.
So I welcome the Conservative pledge that we will right this inequality, and that no school in our city loses out, providing £4 billion more for schools by 2022. I spoke to the Education Secretary after I met with staff and parents at Beech Green Primary, and I hope they and others welcome this guarantee.”

KEY ISSUE: What action has Richard taken on Homelessness?

Over the last year alone I have focused on the following five areas of work on the Homeless:

1. Homelessness Reduction Bill: This is a Conservative-led Act that will provide more money to local councils to tackle homelessness. I supported this from the beginning and the government later did too; and all the Homeless charities support it too.

2. George Whitfield Centre: this centre is occupied by various local partners working to help the Homeless, including NHS Glos Care Services, Gloucester City Mission, Green Square and the Food Bank. I helped the centre resolve their lease and opened it with all the partners.

Some time earlier I also helped to arrange for continued government funding for a scheme that helps rough sleepers find housing after treatment at the Hospital.

3. Seeing Gloucester’s response first hand: I’ve gone out all night with the police to talk to those on the streets, visited our Supported Housing providers and had discussions with their residents: met with charities and Faith Missions: raised funds for Alabaré, the Housing for Veterans charity, slept in the Cathedral for a night: and been a member of Gloucester Rotary which has raised £20,000 for the Homeless.

4. National Reports on the Select Committee: Through the Work and Pensions Select Committee, I’ve looked into issues around homelessness: and Co-Chaired a Joint Select Committee report on Supported Housing.

5. Hosted round table to discuss local issues with experts: I organised and chaired a round table session of around 20 organisations to discuss whether we need a new charity to direct generosity to the Homeless, but avoid giving cash to those begging which is often spent on addictions. I should be clear that those begging are not always homeless, as I have been told by those on the street themselves, and by charities and the police who help the people on our streets every day. This is an extremely delicate issue but I am working on this with the feedback of Gloucester’s experts.

So if re-elected as your MP I will continue to show leadership locally and, if involved with the same Select Committee again, nationally as well.

Meanwhile the government is already committed to contributing more to tackling the Homeless issue, and part of that is through building much more new housing.

In 2015 I helped to secure the £50 million Gloucester housing debt write off that enabled GCH to become an independent company and then win a £1.25m new contract for Estate Regeneration in Matson and Podsmead. We have already built more social housing and there is much more to come. That should all help, directly or indirectly.

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