New Town – New Future
Written By : Andy MacMillan – East Kilbride Labour Party – 12th September 2013
East Kilbride is no exception to almost every other town and city in the UK as there is a chronic lack of affordable and social housing. However, this apparent problem can be turned into a golden opportunity .
Long before the financial crisis of 2007 the availability of affordable housing has been has been an ongoing problem. This is due to several factors;
(1) The large scale sale of council housing from 1980’s onwards.
(2) The relative recent historical increase in the cost of private housing in relation to income
(3) The growth of the private rented sector.
We could of course build a new estate of social housing and fill it with tenants who have little or no work and this would still be a social good, far better than the insecure tenancy or the slum landlord. Nevertheless, it is my profound belief that we have the opportunity to do so much better.
When we build our new social housing estate we should look back to the proud history of this town and ask ourselves why did people come to and settle in East Kilbride? Why were they proud to call East Kilbride there home and happy to raise their families here?
The availability of excellent housing and employment were a major attraction as was the environment of the town, it’s educational , medical and social facilities were also crucial factors.
The New Social Housing Deal
Peoples expectations of housing have risen in the past 30 years, not so much in the facilities on offer, but in the desire to own a property, unfortunately the barriers to this for many people are at present onerous and include;
(1) A banking industry unwilling to lend to house buyers (for a variety of well documented reasons including insufficient savings, low wages, insecure / self employment).
(2) The end of the right to buy scheme in some parts of the UK. Indeed, where the scheme is still operational the remaining housing stock in some areas is so undesirable that no one wants to purchase it.
These problems should be viewed as an opportunity for a visionary town such as East Kilbride. We must offer our people a new deal and a brighter future and this is how we are going to do it.
With our new deal, new social housing tenants will be offered shared cooperative ownership terms in the property, in short, every tenant that is in employment and pays rent will have a rent credit put aside in a fund that they will receive when they vacate the property, this is an incentive to both work and pay rent. The new deal will provide a calculated lump sum when the tenant vacates the property, this sum could be used, if so wished, to put a deposit down on a private property.
This is in the belief that many people do have higher aspirations than in the past and that we should help to fulfil these aspirations, other than leaving people with no option than the long term rental of private or social housing . Other benefits of the new deal are that the housing stock would remain in public ownership, providing more tenancies, with a higher turnover in tenants as longer term tenants will have a far better opportunity to move on.
So at the very least we will build houses and offer people the opportunity to live in high quality social housing with a secure tenancy. However, with shared cooperative ownership we create a whole new dimension, that will help to deliver the aspirations of many people in a fair and socially democratic modern society.
East Kilbride like almost every town or city in the UK urgently needs to attract new employers. This is of course easier said than done, especially in a town like ours where the main mechanism for inward investment; the Development Corporation has been disbanded for over a decade.
Although inward investment is not easy I really do believe it is possible. We have a lot going for us and if we prepare the right incentives and have a coherent plan there is no good reason why East Kilbride will not flourish again.
I believe that the East Kilbride of the future should be a hub of high end mechanical engineering manufacture. We currently have 3 large sites that would suit this purpose.
(1) Langland’s – This is the site Rolls Royce were planning to move to. However, at the advent of the world financial crisis of 2007 they took cold feet and delayed their plans indefinitely. Somewhat understandably in 2012 Rolls Royce announced that they were shutting their decrepit Nerston site in 2015. However, the decision to move their entire workforce 16 miles to Inchinin makes no sense at all.
Every effort should be made to entice Rolls Royce back to the negotiating table and locate to the Langland’s site, their business is growing and I’m sure that today in 2013, with the right deal on the table they would jump at the chance of re-locating to Langland’s.
(2) Nerston is a massive site and I think it would be an excellent choice as a hub of component manufacturing for the vehicle and aerospace industries.
The UK Engineering industry is beginning to boom and I believe that more and more components currently being manufactured overseas are in the future going to made in the UK.
In the lead up to the vote on Scottish independence we will have the opportunity to put the squeeze on the UK government to put business our way, let’s press them to give us some real concrete evidence as to why “we are all better together” we should be prepared to take advantage of being under the media spotlight, to demonstrate our ability, ambition and determination to succeed.
While other towns and cities are fretting about their high streets, trams, tourism and rubbish collections we should take the lead, be the first knocking at the door and get ourselves a big chunk of the great UK manufacturing revival.
(3) As Nerston populates with component manufactures we will be in a strong position to market the former Motorola Kelvin site, with the intention of soon landing another major manufacturing company, or a tier one supplier.
Why Will These Companies Locate To East Kilbride?
We will be able to provide key employees with both new deal social housing and relatively cheap private housing
We have spent hundreds of millions of pounds rebuilding our entire stock of schools and offer an educational environment that is second to none in the entire UK. Throughout the financial crises we continued to invest in our schools, this is how much we believe in the future of East Kilbride.
Glasgow has some of the best Engineering Universities and Colleges anywhere. East Kilbride is home to the National Engineering Laboratories.
East Kilbride boasts a new state of the art hospital, excellent medical and dental facilities, first class national health treatment is always available.
East Kilbride has direct motorway and rail links and is close to Glasgow International, Glasgow Prestwick and Edinburgh International Airports.