Spend a couple of days in London speaking at two different housing conferences and meeting up with some colleagues.
My first stop was the Association of Retained Council Housing conference were I followed the DCLG and Audit Commission speakers. I gave an overview of where I believe the Housing market is at present. Firstly there is huge demand for affordable housing, fanned by the economic downturn and the failure of the wider sector to provide new affordable options since local authorities hands have been tied on the matter. When times are tough people always look to their local councils for help and I believe that local authorities should be part of the solution by being encouraged to build stock that gives security of tenancy, is of a quality standard, is affordable and is democratically accountable. Another issue that needs resolved in the current review of the National Housing Revenue Account is to finally ensure that local authorities who have retained their stock are treated no less favourably than those who have transferred to ALMO's or RSL's.
On returning to my hotel I bump into APSE's National Chair, Cllr Arwyn Woolcock who is on his way to meet with Peter Hain MP at the House of Commons, he tells me that Peter has also got him tickets for the public gallery for the Chancellors Pre Budget Report. Following a quick discussion and a few telephone calls I also gain tickets and get across to the commons in time to capture Alistair Darling's speech. £21b of investment in the economy is a lot of money in anyone's book and the £3b of public sector infrastructure investment brought forward is welcome. However I can't help but think how difficult it will be to pay back the additional £5b of efficiency savings now required by 2011 and to absorb the projected £37b less of public sector investment, following the next general election.
I end my trip by attending the Guardian Public Sector Awards in Old Billingsgate Market on the edge of the Thames and it cheers me up to see so many excellent initiatives and good news stories happening across the public sector sphere.