Update, 8 September: This piece has updated to include a response from the Medway UKIP group.
During the full council meeting of Medway Council, Leader of the Council Councilor Jarrett said, in relation to a statement by Cllr Andy Stamp regarding housing targets.
“… one of the root causes of that, of course, is Labour’s open door immigration policy flooding the country with people and we are still reaping the reward of that and still trying to grapple with the problem… that’s one of the key problems”*
An audio file can be found at http://democracy.medway.gov.uk/mgconvert2pdf.aspx?id=28081
Go to 1 hr 19 minutes
We asked various Medway political types the following:
a) What is your stance on the idea that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages in Medway?
b) How do you feel about Councillor Jarrett’s description that the country has been flooded with immigrants?
Cllr Jarrett responded with the following:
“Whilst, I appreciate that answers will be presented unedited online I must insist that the statement originally made be given in its entirety as well. For your convenience, I record it below from the Council transcripts.”
Cllr Jarrett: “Cllr Stamp talked about the drive for new homes and very high housing targets which we have and all object to. But one of the root causes for that is Labour’s open door immigration policy flooding the country with people and we are still reaping the reward of that, and still trying to grapple with the problem so I think that’s one of key problems.”
What is your stance on the idea that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages in Medway?
“I have repeatedly said that the main reason for the crisis in housing both here in Medway and across the UK is fundamentally the lack of house building over the past 30 to 35 years. In it’s time in government between 1997 – 2010 Labour focused on the decent homes standard, making sure social housing was at a quality which was acceptable – it was a job which needed doing but did mean that not enough new housing stock was put into the mix. I don’t accept that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages, in fact to join the housing waiting list now you need to have been a resident in Medway for a period of time.”
Cllr Vince Maple
Leader of Medway Labour
Immigration has not caused the housing shortage in Medway. Our view is that the housing shortage is caused by:-
– Selling off social housing under the right to buy
– Not building sufficient low cost affordable housing. The Greens would welcome a large scale building programme for social housing by Government. We would oppose building on Greenfield sites, but feel there are sufficient brownfield sites which could be used in Medway
– There is insufficient activity by the council to bring empty properties back into use
– Where housing is built by private developers this often focuses on luxuary developments which may be unaffordable to local people
– Overall there is a real lack of affordable housing both to buy or rent
Medway Green Party
“Immigration is not one of the key problems regarding the housing shortage in MedwayThe Government’s target of 200,000 homes per year by 2020 falls far short of the 250,000 that Shelter estimates is necessary to meet demand but this has nothing to do with immigration. The housing crisis is caused by the failure of the market that delivers low pay and sky high rents with around 60% of new builds in London and the South East being bought by investors rather than as affordable properties to actually live in. Councils in England are sitting on 23,000 hectares, enough brownfield land to build one million decent council homes and the ‘big four’ property developers have enough land to build further 1.4 million. There is plenty of capacity to build high quality and environmentally sustainable homes but only when we are able to control what is built and where. This will require the nationalisation of the banks and the large construction companies whose profits have soared by over 550% since 2010 while the number of affordable homes has shriveled.”
Medway Council has a billowing housing crisis with no action plan since 6 million extra people have been welcomed but literally squashed into Britain’s little communities.No explanation has been made to the people of Kent how or why this mass immigration from Europe and other countries is advantageous to Medway communities instead we are left to suffer the consequences. Substantial billions of additional tax is being collected but not one extra house, flat, school or GP surgery has been built to accommodate these people mainly from the failed EU experiment but also foreign lands who come here desperate to improve their family lives.Medway Council has no real policies and shown no interest in the lack of affordable properties available for renting in order to fairly accommodate the many thousands of people in need . For the many desperate families living in overcrowded, damp and dilapidated private tenanted properties they can no longer complain as they are silently fearful of eviction and their children no longer allowed to attend their local schools.Medway Council knows how tightly packed families are in the region who are paying ever increasing unreasonable rents because landlords are exploting shortages but does nothing, sighting Governments policy. We need bold and brave Councillors to debate the housing crisis seriously,sensibly and honestly telling the Government how residents are being unfairly housed. We need Medway to stop supporting the purchase of more and more buy to let properties where the mortgages for these wealthy landlords are being paid by the tax payer through housing benefits. We need Medway to plan and build thousands of new properties for renting not just 100.Cllr Roy FreshwaterLeader of Medway UKIP group
Housing building in the UK has not been at sustainable levels to demand since the 1970’s which has resulted in not enough houses being built.
We need to bring into the equation, the EU, due to freedom of movement. Upto 2004, the EU had 15 countries, which were generally the richer countries of Europe, not fuelling mass migration to get a better life. Since then 12 Eastern European countries have joined (generally poorer countries of Europe). This has caused mass migration across Europe. Add to this migration from other countries and lack of infrastructure planning by Conservative and Labour Governments since the end of the 1970’s has led for the current quotas for house building. However the targets are not achievable as not enough houses are being built by the private sector. To ever meet the target the government needs to start building houses and providing the boom in house building that was achieved in the 1960’s. This would not increase the deficit as houses generally sell for twice the cost of building them.Cllr Mark JoyIndependent
How do you feel about Councillor Jarrett’s description that the country has been flooded with immigrants?
“I would expect the leader of a top tier local authority to be more mindful of the language that he uses, particularly at the time where the issue of refugees coming into Europe from areas of conflict is so high on the agenda. It is on the same level as David Cameron talking of Swarms or David Blunkett talking of being swamped both of whom I criticised when they made their comments.
I’m not sure which immigrants Cllr Jarrett is talking about when he mentions flooding, are they the immigrants who are working hard in our hospital as Doctors, Nurses, Technicians and Porters? Are they the entrepreneurs who are setting up small businesses? Are they the students studying at our Medway Universities?
The immigration policy Alan Jarrett talks about, if he is talking about EU freedom of movement, is not a Labour policy but actually a fundamental element of membership of the European Union – one can only assume if he doesn’t agree with that he will be campaigning against Cameron but with Mark Reckless, Chris Irvine and Nigel Farage for a no vote in the forthcoming referendum. “
Cllr Vince Maple
Leader of Medway Labour
“We would challenge the view that the country has been “flooded” by immigrants on the basis that this is inaccurate and also that the language is inflamatory and unhelpful. – There are two issues here:-
(i) people who come to the UK to work or study and
(ii) those who seek asylum.
As Greens we acknowledge the huge contribution made by workers from overseas, in particular in areas such as the health service or social care. We also recognise the financial contribution made by overseas students which helps to fund our universities. Numerous studies have shown the benefits of immigration to Britain. We support the flexibility provided by our EU membership which allows people to move freely between the EU states. We would extend the same welcome to other EU workers, as we would expect for British people who may choose work or study in other EU nations. As Greens we would expect the government to comply with our obligations under international law and provide asylum to those in genuine danger or fleeing persecution. We would see the current situation with the migrants in Calais as a humanitarian crisis which should be responded to with compassion. We condemn the alarmist tone taken by much of the media to this issue. We would acknowledge that countries such as Greece, Turkey, Italy and Lebanon are currently shouldering the bulk of the burden and call for the government to take our fair share of refugees (including those at Calais).”
Medway Green Party
“To describe the country as being ‘flooded with immigrants’ is offensive and revolting. By all accounts net migration to the UK has increased and in Kent this is fairly visible but migrants have brought net gains that would benefit the economy if it were being run in the interests of the majority rather than by exploitative bosses and landlords who have tended to use migrants as a cheap source of labour. When Councillor Jarrett uses emotive terms like “flood” he is trying to dodge responsibility for the poverty inflicted by his party in Government by directing the fears and insecurity felt by millions towards a scapegoat. This sort of language is disgraceful. “
Sadly flooded is a dehumanising word for desporate families fleeing wars. It is true that British people and Medway residents are fearful of uncontrolled influx of foreign nationals, with many families desporate and deserving out help. But they will include terrorist gangs, drug smugglers, people smugglers, killers, thieves or political activists. The Government is sleepwalking into a slow destruction of our communities. No police checks are made on the majority of people bribing there way into Britain who have terrorist or criminal records and are quietly joining our communities. Quite conceivably in such numbers soon that they could launch a war inside Britain on our once wonderful but now broken communities. At that stage apologies from Government will not be good enough when our streets are turned into yet another war zone.
Cllr Roy Freshwater
Leader of Medway UKIP group
In context the word flood is to do with a deluge (normally water) onto land. Due to excess demand on housing and also on infrastructure by current net migration levels, to make a comment of flooded may be justified. However it should be pointed out that the majority of immigration is due to freedom of movement throughout the EU and not through illegal immigration.Cllr Mark JoyIndependent
“In answer to your questions
Whilst I absolutely stand by my assertion that immigration is one of the key problems regarding housing shortages, my answer was directed towards a national perspective and not a Medway one.
This is pertinent because during the Labour Government’s time in office, they exercised an open door immigration policy. During that time we saw considerable numbers of immigrants come into the UK as a whole. Not only did many immigrants settle in Medway during that period, we are now seeing not only the immigrants coming through Calais but migrants who settled historically in London who are now it appears being encouraged to re-locate to Medway.
This makes it increasingly difficult to track, plan and budget for housing requirements and also means that residents are quite rightly taking a strong interest into the future of Medway when it comes to building new housing.”
Cllr Alan Jarrett
Leader of Medway Council
Medway Liberal Democrats were invited to answer but we did not receive any response.