Poor housing is root of many of our problems
Since 2011 one of the council’s priorities has been to tackle Blackpool’s massive housing issue.
All of our major social problems, whether it be poverty, drug/alcohol abuse, poor exam results or health problems can be traced back to the fact many people in our town live in poor quality accommodation.
In the 50 years since Blackpool’s tourism first began to decline, a lot of former guest houses and B&B’s have slowly slipped into what is termed ‘houses in multiple occupation’ – bedsits and tiny one bedroomed flats, often a magnet for anti-social behaviour. There is no simple solution to this problem.
Successive councils have tackled it in their own way - but we’ve been much more radical, reducing our own stock of one bedroomed flats, through the demolition of Queens Park, reinventing the estate in the process, facilitating the building of quality family homes on the Tyldesley/Rigby Road site and converting houses, which had been split into flats, back to their original use.
But, it is not enough just to deal with our own stock - that is why we have focused most of our attention on the private rented sector.
The introduction of selective licensing schemes - which are currently running in two areas of the town, with a further third under consideration, allows us to tackle the issue of anti-social behaviour in a robust manner, and has shown considerable success so far.
We have also waged a war on rogue landlords. Unfortunately, a small minority of landlords have no regard for the appalling, dangerous housing they rent out to vulnerable tenants, and it has been our aim to eradicate this type of unacceptable ‘business’.
We have recently been successful in our bid from central government to continue this work.
Although, in all honesty, this task may have been easier if the Labour amendment to the Housing Bill, to ensure all private rented accommodation was ‘fit for human habitation’ had not been defeated by 93 votes.
Schools not good enough
Readers may have seen recently the story of the Blackpool head teacher that has banned cake from her school with the aim of keeping pupils that suffer allergies safe within the school environment.
Whilst I can understand the reasoning behind this decision personally, it calls into question why something as simple as this should become a national story.
Speaking as a parent of three, all of whom have been educated in Blackpool schools, should we not instead be discussing why our schools are still not furnishing our children with the academic results they need to go on to university or decent full-time jobs?
Blackpool schools are not good enough – despite the efforts of hard working head teachers, fabulous teachers, the support received by the school by parents, and of course the pupils themselves.
GCSE results need to improve, the council needs to adapt to working with independent academies and also needs to work hand-in-hand with local businesses to be able to offer school leavers a choice of good, quality, long term job prospects.
I know a lot of people are working incredibly hard every day to turn this situation round, but until standards in schools improve, our young people leave with qualifications that they are proud of, and with real choice in the next step they take in their lives, we shall have nothing to celebrate.
With, or without a cake.
Getting tough on litter louts
Work is currently underway with the organisation Keep Britain Tidy, with the aim to help make Blackpool the cleanest seaside resort by 2020.
This is a huge challenge, especially given the fact we have been drastically hit by some of the harshest budget cuts in the country.
That is why we will be appealing to all of Blackpool’s residents and businesses to help us achieve this outcome.
One of my pet hates is people who drop litter with no regard to others, or the cleanliness of our town, usually when they are about six feet from a bin!
I am sure others share my annoyance, or know others that ‘bend the rules’ in some form or another.
That is why we will be looking not only at how we tackle these issues, through education, campaigns and various mediums, but also through a possible new enforcement method.
More details of this will follow, once the consultation has finished.