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John Murphy (Lords Branch Manager), Dr Rupa Huq MP (Labour, Ealing Central & Acton) and Shanker Patel (Lords Group Chief Executive)

With local elections in all London Boroughs in May, political parties should remember that housing is not built, nor are homes improved, without London’s builders, plumbers and timber merchants. That was the message from Lords Builders’ Merchant, West London’s number 1 independent merchant, to Rupa Huq MP when she visited the 33-year old business in Park Royal, Ealing.

Dr Huq was welcomed by Shanker Patel, Lords Chief Executive, to learn more on how merchants deliver for their communities - and to discuss issues affecting the supply chain and the wider London economy. The MP toured the business with Mr Patel and John Murphy (Branch Manager) who outlined the role, value and importance of merchants in creating local jobs and growth.

Dr Huq heard how merchants like Lords have evolved since the ‘Credit Crunch’ of nearly ten years’ ago - and how the building materials’ supply chain is responding to today’s housing challenges.

Several issues aimed at narrowing the gap between housing demand and supply were discussed in the context of the Mayor of London’s Housing Strategy and the new draft London Plan. If Londoners are to see the 66,000 new homes a year they need, one solution is a stronger emphasis on developing small sites that SME builders can undertake. According to Shanker Patel, better use has to be made of existing buildings and building upwards to add extra storeys must also be part of the package to deliver more homes in the capital.

After visiting the 2-acre site, Rupa Huq MP said:

“I was delighted to visit Lords here in the constituency and see for myself their contribution to Ealing and the wider London economy. I pay tribute to Branch Manager, John Murphy and his team in helping customers with their building projects”.

Housing is central to my Party’s thinking and we want to see better quality and more affordable housing in London if we are to improve the lives of constituents. This week, we saw another new Housing Minister appointed, meaning that there has been 7 Housing Ministers in the last 7 years, and 3 in the last 7 months. This is not helpful to firms like Lords that want certainty and stability in housing and planning policy to be able to invest confidently in people and products”.

Concluding the visit, Shanker Patel, Chief Executive of Lords Group, said:

“I was grateful to Rupa for taking time to come today and gain further insight into our supply chain. We wanted to show her that builders’ merchants like Lords offer good jobs and rewarding careers, to people of all ages, and serve local communities in helping to improve their homes”.

“Lords and the BMF are pleased that housing remains at the top of the political agenda and that MPs like Rupa Huq recognise the urgent need to build many more new homes. Merchants want to see unstinting efforts by both national government in Whitehall and local authorities in London to narrow the gap between housing demand and supply”

Mr Patel is also a Board Director of the Builders Merchants’ Federation that represents the interests of builders, plumbers & timber merchants and manufacturers. Dr Huq noted that the latest available BMF economic data shows that sales figures for October 2017 were up nearly 10% overall, compared to the same month in 2016. These robust sales’ figures demonstrate the adaptable nature of merchants like Lords - especially in the housing repair & maintenance market.

Rupa visits Ealing Builders' Merchant to discuss afforadable housing challenges

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(Photo: Samia Rida)

The Christmas season is now officially underway. I’ve come across Santa three times in the course of officiating at three Christmas fairs last weekend. The first was at St Stephens - round the corner from my old school Notting Hill and Ealing. This was followed by the Ealing 135 festivities at Kingsdown Methodist Church up the road from me and then on Sunday I went to the scene of my old playgroup St Barnabas in Pitshanger Lane where Father Justin stepped in to provide a venue for carols and mince pies when the usual “Light up the Lane” outdoor stage fell through this year. A very good time was had by all concerned.

Yet at each of these three events the charities that were being supported tell a story that is far from being all about Christmas cheer. St Stephens were raising funds for the Ealing Winter Night Churches Shelter (EWNCS) which works across the Ealing borough offering the homeless a bed for the night as the chill sets in throughout a network of churches. The 135 were batting for Ealing Homestart who support families in difficulty. At St Barnabas it was the Pitshanger Community Association (PCA) who were rattling tins for various local charities dealing with social welfare, recreation and leisure

This Tory government’s record on homelessness and rough sleeping is shameful. There are 13 times more hidden homeless people in London than those visibly sleeping rough – as many as 12,500 per night. Even though the government introduced a Homelessness Reduction Bill it doesn't come up with additional funding. Given Ealing’s immensely stretched resources (a central government grant 65% cut by 2019/20) and the housing waiting list of 12,000 we have to be very wary that the bill is not raising false hopes or forcing additional cuts elsewhere.

Figures for child poverty are the highest they’ve ever been since the data was first collected in 1963. Increasingly our children are now reliant on foodbanks – another growth industry under Tory Britain. When the changes to benefits hit and Universal Benefit takes effect in Ealing this Spring more and more will face being forced from their homes. The stories I hear from other MP colleagues from areas picked as pilot boroughs such as neighbouring Hounslow for this disastrous experiment are horrifying. This rolling of six benefits into one was meant to simplify things. Instead it’s made them worse with payments in arrears to add insult to injury, the money to pay for Christmas - one of the most expensive times of the year - will only come weeks after event.

The changes in the budget do nothing to address any of these ills. The stamp duty tinkering will not address the housing crisis that Ealing and London are in the grip of. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies it’ll just push up prices of homes. The recreation and leisure that the PCA support are always the first casualties of school cuts which have been swingeing in Ealing.

As the season of Black Friday and its American orgy of consumerism comes to an end it’s great to celebrate Christmas and all that is good; it’s just a shame that Theresa May’s chaotic government are acting like a bunch of Scrooges.

Tis the season

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Dr Rupa Huq , Ealing Central and Acton

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