Watching out for Croydon’s interests in parliamentary legislation


By - Monday 17th August, 2015

Westminster’s not so remote – its decisions matter very close to home, says Sean Creighton


Acts of parliament.
Photo by JVL, used under Creative Commons licence.

Reform to the riot damages legislation is one of several bills in the current parliamentary session with particular relevance to us Croydonians. Therefore we and our organisations may wish to take a view and lobby our MPs, the bill committees and members of the House of Lords.

Bills of interest concern protection of open spaces and school playing fields, airport infrastructure, assessment of policies on families, council tax revaluations on properties sold since April 2000, a requirement that rented property to be fit for human habitation, and controlling the cost of gaming machines in betting shops. Several of them are MPs’ Private Members Bills (PMBs) or are being introduced by members of the Lords.

Riot compensation

This PMB will repeal the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 and set up a new compensation scheme for those whose property is damaged, destroyed or stolen in the course of riots. The difficult experiences of claimants under the 1886 Act by victims of the 2011 riots have been the subject of campaigning by the late Croydon North MP Malcolm Wickes, and his successor Steve Reed. The bill will have its second reading on 4th December.

Airport infrastructure 

This government bill will enable the Secretary of State to give airport operators a steer ‘in the interests of ensuring sufficient national air infrastructure between hub and regional airports.’ A hub airport is ‘an airport used as a transfer point for passengers from one flight to another in order to complete a route.’ What could this mean for Gatwick, especially in relation to increased flights?

Impact of policies on families

Given fears about the impact on families of the massive cuts to collective support from the benefits system, the Assessment of Government Policies (Impact on Families) Bill (PMB) seeks to require ministers to carry out an assessment of the impact of central and local government policies via a family test, and to make an annual report on indicators of and targets for the government’s performance in promoting family stability.

Council tax valuation bands

If this PMB is adopted, it will require the Secretary of State to establish a new set of council tax valuation bands to apply to all dwellings bought or sold after 1st April 2000. Dwellings not bought or sold since 1st April 2000 will remain in their current council tax banding category. The new bands will be: below £250,000; £250,001-£500,000; £500,001-£1.m; £1,000,001-2m; £2,000,001-£5m; £5,000,001-£10m; £10,000,001-£20m and over £20,000,001.

This would mean that the high value apartments being built in central Croydon will be charged higher council tax than under the current banding system. Hopefully the bill can amended to ensure that there is a special additional percentage for those properties which are owned overseas. The second reading will be on 11th September.

Increased neighbourhood rights in planning

The Direct Planning (Pilot) Bill (PMB) seeks to require the Secretary of State to provide for pilot schemes enabling neighbourhood forums and community organisations within a designated area to participate more directly in developing planning policy within that area.

Toughening up the law on private rented accommodation

With growing concern about the increase in unfit homes in the private rented sector in Croydon, the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Bill (PMB) seeks to require residential rented accommodation to be fit for human habitation. The second reading will be on 16th October.

Local authorities’ ability to collect information about private tenure and the details of landlords will be strengthened if the Local Government Finance (Tenure Information) Bill (PMB) is approved. Its second reading will be on 30th October.

Protecting open spaces and playing fields

Two PMBs seek to protect open spaces and playing fields. The Local Area Referendum (Disposal of School Playing Fields) Bill seeks to require a local area referendum to approve a proposed sale of school playing fields by a local education authority or by a state-funded school. Its second reading is set for 22nd January.

The Parks and Playing Fields in Public Ownership (Protection from Sale) Bill seeks to require public consultation and referendums to be carried out in local areas where the sale of park or playing field land owned by a public body is proposed. Its second reading is set for 23rd October.

Limiting money in gaming machines in betting shops

For those who have been objecting to the number of betting shops in areas such as Norbury and Thornton Heath, the Gambling (Categorisation and Use of B2 Gaming Machines) Bill seeks to reduce the maximum payment in gaming machines to £2 from the current £100.

Property boundary disputes

The Property Boundaries (Resolution of Disputes) Bill seeks to provide for the resolution of disputes concerning the location or placement of the boundaries and private rights of way relating to the title of an estate in land. Its second reading will be 11th September.

Charities

Finally, there is the Charities (Protection and Social Investment) Bill. It may be worth considering whether there is scope for an amendment to introduce public accountability for charities such as the Whitgift Foundation when they enter commercial deals such as the sale of the Whitgift Centre for development. There could be requirements to publicly consult before reaching agreements, and where applicable to give evidence at any public inquiry into the scheme. Having had its report stage on 20th July, this bill will soon be on its way to the Commons.

Difficulties faced by PMBs

Private Members’ Bills are very difficult to get through parliament. They can be ‘talked out’ by those who oppose them (meaning that opponents simply speak until time allowed for the bill’s consideration has elapsed) as well as being voted against, and there can also be lack of parliamentary time. Those that are worth getting into legislation need campaigning support.

If you want to know more about all these bills and their progress, click here.

Sean Creighton

Sean Creighton

A former employee of and freelance project worker with community and voluntary organisations, Sean is active with Croydon Assembly and with the Planning and Transport Committee of the Love Norbury group of residents associations. He is Chair of the Norbury Community Land Trust. He is a historian of Croydon and South-West London, British black society, social action and the labour movement. He coordinates the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History networks. He runs blog sites covering Croydon, Norbury and history events, issues and news. He runs a small scale publishing imprint called History & Social Action Publications. He gives talks on a range of history topics and leads history walks.

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  • moguloilman

    Good article Sean. Thanks.

    Whilst not Croydon specific, I would also add the Assisted Dying Bill is coming up. Gavin Barwell will be holding a public meeting on this soon. http://www.gavinbarwell.com/blog.asp?BlogID=1080

    • Anne Giles

      We wanted to attend, but unfortunately we shall be in Spain. I am very much against that bill, given what almost happened to my mother years’ ago.