Regenda couple reveal water-saving secret

Regenda residents Sue and Wayne Hubbard have revealed the naked truth about how saving water can be good clean fun.

The cheeky couple have dramatically reduced the amount of water they use, partly by showering together!

The Hubbards, who are taking part in an energy-saving project run by the Regenda Group housing association, have exposed how they cut their water bill by a staggering 82 per cent.

“When we undertook the challenge to reduce our fuel bills we thought about every possible way we could save water, gas and electricity. Showering together is one of the more entertaining ways of saving water. We’ve been together for 20 years and this has brought me and Wayne closer together in more ways than one,” said 54 year-old Sue.

The couple, who live on the Limehurst estate in Oldham, are now bathing in energy-saving glory after reducing their monthly water bill from £46.60 to a mere £8.20.

They began by having a water meter installed and investing in two garden water butts to collect rainwater. A clever little device was then fitted to their toilet to reduce the amount of water used in a flush.

Now, every time they turn on a tap, Sue and Wayne make sure not a single drop of water goes to waste.

Regenda hopes the Hubbard’s squeaky clean image will now encourage other residents to take up the challenge of saving water, gas, and electricity to avoid fuel poverty.

“People might poke fun at me and Sue having a shower together but there is a serious side to all this. We quickly discovered that as soon as you start monitoring your water and energy use you immediately start to save it. It’s just a question of changing old habits and doing things differently.” – Wayne Hubbard

The Hubbards have also cut their monthly gas bill by half, from £60 down to £30, and reduced their electricity bill from £56 to £30 a month.

Sue, who has written a blog listing the ways they have saved water and energy, is confident they can do even better.

“So far we have saved a grand total of £1,132 on our water, gas and electricity bills and we reckon we can beat that over the next year. Saving that amount of money means we can now afford to shower our three children and five grandchildren with presents this Christmas,” said Sue.

Regenda challenged its residents to start monitoring their usage as part of the National Energy Study. The housing association also offers a free home energy survey to residents who are struggling with their fuel bills.

Revamp for children’s play areas

Half a million pounds is being invested into 11 children’s play areas across Northumberland.

In the first phase, housing association Isos will install new equipment and redesign sites in Newbrough and Wylam in the New Year. The first phase of the project is expected to be complete by March 2015 and then work on play areas in Acomb, Allendale, Bellingham, Halton Lea Gate, Haydon Bridge, Morpeth (2) and Prudhoe (2) will be phased from 2015/16.

The play areas are located on a number of Isos housing developments across Northumberland and all are currently in need of a makeover.

The plans come on top of recent work to deliver a brand new £28,000 play space at The Riggs housing development in Corbridge, Northumberland. As part of the improvements, Corbridge Parish Council has signed a 30-year lease to manage and maintain the development.

Isos appointed specialist play company Playdale to develop a four-to-five year plan to improve the play areas. The work is expected to be completed on the first two sites before the end of March next year.

Lewis Rimington, Localism Officer at Isos Housing said:

“These play areas are a central feature of the local community – a place where people can come together and children can get some much-needed playtime and exercise. But in recent years they have begun to show their age.

“So this year we took the decision to invest in improving them while coming up with a viable plan to secure their long term maintenance and upkeep. Involving local parish and town councils seems the logical next step to ensuring these play areas continue to play a vital role in community life.”

Isos held public consultation events at Newbrough and Wylam before starting work, and intends to do the same for the remaining nine locations.

Where feasible, local parish and town councils will be approached to discuss the future management and maintenance of the play areas.

Isos recognises the importance of providing play spaces within communities. The renovation work is intended to improve the quality of life for residents.

Updates on the renovation work and detailed plans for the remaining nine play areas will be announced in the coming months.

The 11 play areas benefiting from investment are:

  • Millersfield, Acomb
  • Allenfields, Allendale
  • Hillside, Bellingham
  • Leaside, Halton Lea Gate
  • Langley Gardens, Haydon Bridge
  • Sidgate, Newbrough, Hexham
  • The Gill, Prudhoe
  • Castle Lea, Prudhoe
  • Hedley Road, Wylam
  • Church Walk, Morpeth
  • Stobhillgate, Morpeth

New research finding published – Emergency Use Only: Understanding and Reducing the use of Food Banks in the UK

New research jointly conducted by Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), the Church of England and The Trussell Trust published this month examines:

  • Why people are turning to food banks
  • How food bank use fits with their wider coping strategies
  • What might be done to reduce the need that leads to food bank use

The research report, titled Emergency Use Only: Understanding and Reducing the use of Food Banks in the UK reveals issues with the benefits system, such as delays and gaps, and lack of awareness about the financial support available in a crisis are key causes of people using food banks.

The study is based on 40 in-depth interviews with Trussell Trust food bank users, supported by information collected from more than 900 recipients to give a moving insight into the reality of poverty and why food banks are needed.

Some of the key findings include:

  • Food banks were predominantly a last-resort, short-term measure, prompted by an ‘acute income crisis’ – something which had happened to completely stop or dramatically reduce their income
  • Income crisis could be caused by sudden loss of earnings, change in family circumstances or housing problems. However, for many people the immediate trigger for food bank use was linked to problems with benefits (including waiting for benefits to be paid, sanctions, problems with Employment and Support Allowance (ESA)) or missing tax credits
  • Many food bank users were also not made aware of the various crisis payments available in different circumstances, and even fewer were receiving them
  • 19-28% of users for whom additional data was collected had recently had household benefits stopped or reduced because of a sanction and 28-34% were waiting for a benefit claim which had not been decided
  • Many food bank users faced multiple challenges, including ill-health, relationship breakdown, mental health problems or substantial caring responsibilities. Many were unable to work or had recently lost their job. The frequency of bereavement among food bank users was also a striking feature

This report points to practical, measured changes in policy and practice that will help to reduce the need for food banks, and ensure vital support for people in times of crisis.

The full report can be found here.

NHC’s parliamentary weekly briefings

The Northern Housing Consortium’s Parliamentary Briefing is a handy go-to guide for events and debates in Parliament.

Covering work within and outside of Parliament, it highlights key events, debates and legislation relevant to the work of registered providers and the Northern Housing Consortium’s work streams. It also provides a rundown of relevant news stories; reports released by think tanks, charities and third-sector organisations as well as summaries of debates and questions to Ministers we believe would be of interest to our members.

You can sign up to receive these briefings directly by clicking here and selecting ‘Policy and Public Affairs’.

More to do on growth and regeneration in the North, poll reveals

More must be done to secure economic growth and regeneration in the North of England, according to a poll commissioned by the Northern Housing Consortium to mark their annual Northern Housing Summit.

The Consortium commissioned professional pollsters ComRes to ask the public. The survey showed that British adults are twice as likely to disagree (45%) as agree (22%) that enough is being done to encourage economic growth and regeneration in the North of England. The results showed that 65% of Northerners believe that not enough is being done, with just under half of all respondents across the country (45%) disagreeing that enough is being done.

Jo Boaden, Chief Executive of the Northern Housing Consortium, said:

“It’s clear from these results that the public agrees with us that not enough is being done to encourage economic growth and regeneration in the North. There’s a huge opportunity here, and we are beginning to see positive signs such as the Northern Powerhouse and Northern Futures initiatives. However there’s still more to do.

“We deliberately didn’t ask the public whether they thought the government was doing enough, or private businesses, or even housing associations. We were asking them to take everything into account. The results are a challenge to all of us who believe in the North: we need to lead, not plead, for our future.”

ComRes interviewed 4,054 GB adults online between the 29th October and 2nd November 2014. Data were weighted to be representative of all GB adults aged 18+. ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Data tables are available on the ComRes website, www.comres.co.uk.

Some reflections on Northern Futures

The Northern Housing Summit wasn’t the only high-profile conference in Leeds last Thursday: 250 of the North’s movers and shakers (and me) were meeting on the other side of the city for the Deputy Prime Minister’s Northern Futures Summit.

Northern Futures was launched back in July as an example of open policy making, with the Deputy PM inviting anyone and everyone to answer the question: “How do we build on the strengths in the North to create an economic core in the heart of the region that can compete with the biggest cities in the world?”

We’ll come back to the question, but Thursday’s event saw a number of potential answers announced and debated.

We got – of course – the key notes from the Deputy Prime Minister, Jim O’Neill of the City Growth Commission, and Harvard’s Ed Glaeser. Of these, the most significant announcement was probably Clegg’s pledge that he wants to conclude versions of the Greater Manchester agreement for Leeds and Sheffield by the time of the Autumn Statement, and that these deals won’t be conditional on a directly-elected Metro Mayor (unless, of course, that’s how those areas want to proceed).

Expertly chaired by Andrew Carter of Centre for Cities, the audience heard experts ‘pitch’ their proposals, and we got to vote for the propositions we liked. Nothing directly addressing housing – though plenty of references to it, particularly in relation to the North’s ‘offer’ to skilled individuals. It was pleasing, though, to see Elaine Cresswell’s physical regeneration pitch win the round on ‘Changing the Rules of the Game’. Elaine proposed a large-scale programme of ‘meanwhile’ use for brownfield land and buildings, arguing that low cost accommodation could enliven neighbourhoods and get enterprises off to a flying start. I think that might be the first time ‘regeneration’ has featured in a DPM conference since the days of Prescott, but it was all the better for that.

Elaine’s idea was great, and in many ways there’s nothing to stop the North getting on and doing it. But many of the other ideas discussed – on transport, skills and entrepreneurship, for example – need some support from the Centre, even if it’s just the formal cutting of some apron strings. And that’s where Northern Futures fell down slightly for me – I wasn-t left with the impression that these ideas are going somewhere. I hope I’m proved wrong, and we see announcements in coming months on many of these things, but the fact the delegate bags contained a nine-page ‘Draft Communiqué’ (including ideas on housing and planning) which didn’t seem to be referred to at all during the day, left me slightly confused about how things are to be taken forward.

Which brings me back to the question that was being asked in the first place: “How do we build on the strengths in the North to create an economic core in the heart of the region that can compete with the biggest cities in the world?”. ‘Build on the strengths’, ‘economic core’, ‘heart of the region’, ‘biggest cities in the world’. Yes, it’s all in line with the rush to agglomerate (which we’ve outlined for members before), but what does it mean if you’re in an area that – fundamentally – needs its weaknesses addressing in order to build on its strengths? What does it mean if you’re on the periphery, not the heart, of the North? What does it mean if you’re in a rural community that gets overlooked compared to the local market town, never mind New York or Shanghai?

It’s great we’re having conversations about strengthening our cities. Some grumble that the “ManSheffLeedsPool” focus that Jim O’Neill brings bodes ill for the North East. I’m not too concerned about that, after all, the focus on the central belt of Scotland hasn’t held Aberdeen back. I’m more concerned about what this means for the rest of the North – the places that will need investment from outside to either address their weaknesses or connect them to areas of strength.

Perhaps I’m being unfair. It’s great to see a focus on the North; it was good to see the DPM’s personal commitment (he stayed at the conference all day – how often do you see a Cabinet Minister do that?), and the principle of opening up policy making is a good one. But for me, cities are just one part – though a very important one – of the North’s future, and Northern Futures didn’t expand beyond its tight original brief. Still more for us to do!

Northern Silver Screen winners announced

The winners of the Northern Housing Consortium’s Northern Silver Screen Awards have been crowned at a prestigious ceremony in Leeds.

Now in their seventh year, the awards celebrate some of the most outstanding and innovative work carried out by housing organisations and local authorities in the North of England.

The competition is open to Northern Housing Consortium members, who together represent more than 3.5 million people, and invites them to submit the projects they feel have made the most difference to residents in their areas.

Hosted by BBC North West presenter Roger Johnson, the awards evening followed the Northern Housing Consortium’s annual Northern Housing Summit and took place at Leeds Royal Armouries Museum.

This year the categories were Tenant Enterprise, Regeneration and Building Community Capacity. Each of the 11 shortlisted organisations presented a short film on their project before the winner was announced.

The Regeneration Award was won by Coast & Country Housing’s ‘Empty Homes Project’, which aims to bring empty homes and commercial properties that have been left unoccupied for six months or more back into use.

The Building Community Capacity Award was won by Carlisle City Council’s ‘Community Meals Direct’, a not-for-profit social enterprise engaged in growing, sourcing, preparing and delivering local freshly cooked food to elderly and housebound people.

The Tenant Enterprise Award was won by Symphony Housing Group’s ‘Bright Idea’ project, which is run in collaboration with Management Consultants, Blue Orchid, and provides specialist events, hosted groups and business support sessions aimed at helping tenants across Greater Manchester to set up their own businesses.

Northern Housing Consortium Chief Executive, Jo Boaden, said: “This year the award entries were outstanding. Not only was it difficult to pick a shortlist, but picking the winners was an incredibly tough task for our panel of judges as the standards were so high. It is so important to recognise the innovative projects being carried out by our members across the North of England and using film really brings them to life.”

The Northern Housing Consortium is this year celebrating 40 years as one of the country’s leading housing membership organisations. With the face of social housing having changed so dramatically in the past four decades, the NHC has played an important role in making sure the voice of those living and working in the North is heard nationally.

To view images from the awards please visit our Flickr page.

Big increase in young Northerners living with parents

In January, the Office of National Statistics (ONS) released data showing a large increase in young adults (aged 20-34) living at home with their parents. Using three year averages, the data shows that across the North there was a 19.8% increase in this cohort between 1996-98 and 2011-13.

This equates to 777,000 – an average of 24.7% of people in this age group living at home with their parents in the North. As Table 1 shows, the North West (27%) has one of the highest proportions amongst the English regions of this cohort, whilst Yorkshire and Humberside (22%) has the lowest – equal with London.

Nationally, males (32%) aged 20-34 are far more likely than their female counterparts (19%) to live at home with parents.

Table 1: Percentage of young adults aged 20-34 living with their parents by country & region 2011-13
UK country/English region2011-2013
Yorkshire and the Humber22%
London22%
East Midlands23%
South West23%
North East25%
East25%
South East25%
Scotland25%
North West27%
Wales27%
West Midlands29%
Northern Ireland36%
Total25%

This data release prompted Shelter to commission further analysis and a survey to gain an understanding of the reasons that lie behind families living in this way. This study found that the main reason for young adults to live with parents was the lack of affordable accommodation (48%).

Although DCLG data on the ratio of median house price to median earnings (using ASHE earnings data and Land Registry house price data) shows that the ratio has fallen in England generally and in most Northern local authority areas, there are 19 local authorities in which owning a home has become less affordable between 2012 and 2013, most notably Ribble Valley and Trafford.

Furthermore, and despite the general trend towards affordability, as Map 1 below shows there remain large areas of North Yorkshire and parts of Cumbria in particular where owning a home is beyond some people. Local authority areas such as Harrogate, Hambleton, Richmondshire and South Lakeland have affordability ratios of over 8.0.

Aff Ratio

Figure 1: Affordability Ratios by Local Authority

If you would like to discuss this data further or would like to discuss how Northern Housing Consortium can help with your data analysis/research needs, contact Barry Turnbull at barry.turnbull@northern-consortium.org.uk.