In a Westminster Hall debate, Sharon raised the concerns of constituents who have got in touch with her recently about leaseholds. Sharon has recently written to constituents to ask them to get in touch if they have been affected by leaseholds.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West):
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Ms Ryan. I congratulate my hon. Friend the Member for Stretford and Urmston (Kate Green) on securing this important debate. I would like to follow my hon. Friend the Member for Poplar and Limehouse (Jim Fitzpatrick) in speaking about leasehold issues that relate to the protection of homebuyers.
An estimated 12.4% of homes sold in Washington and Sunderland West were sold as leasehold in 2016. I realise that my constituency does not have the largest number of leasehold homes—certainly not as many as the constituencies of some of my hon. Friends—but the issue is still important to my constituents. That is why I recently began a consultation on leasehold homes in which I asked constituents to get in touch with me about their experiences. I only launched the campaign three weeks ago, but 30 constituents have already written to me with their concerns, in some cases in detail. I do not have time to go into the details of each, but I would like to share the themes that have become apparent from their emails.
Most homebuyers were not aware what a leasehold was when they purchased their home. There is a serious lack of knowledge about what leasehold and freehold are; I feel that developers have a duty to inform prospective buyers about the difference between the two and what it means for them. As we have heard, solicitors also have a part to play. It makes a person wonder who they act on behalf of—the buyer or the developer—especially when the developer includes free conveyancing as part of the sale. Solicitors should always act in the best interest of their client, who in this case should be the buyer, not the developer. I have to agree with my hon. Friend the Member for Bishop Auckland (Helen Goodman), who is not in her place at the moment, that this abuse should be referred to the Law Society. I hope that the Minister will make that recommendation; I am sure it is in her power to refer dodgy solicitors to the Law Society.
Does the Minister agree that if we are to protect homebuyers, we should educate them to know the difference between leasehold and freehold so that they can make the best decision for themselves and their families? That should certainly be the case for first-time buyers, and financial education lessons in schools have an important part to play in achieving that.
Notwithstanding the issue of educating the population as a whole, there should be complete transparency from very early on in the sale about whether the property is leasehold and what that means. Two of my constituents have told me that they were not informed that their property was leasehold until the very day of signing the contract. Another has told me that they were not aware that their property was leasehold until nearly 15 years after the original purchase—probably when they tried to make alterations or build an extension. Because of the lack of knowledge about leaseholds and the lack of information available to homebuyers, there is a lot of confusion and variation when it comes to buying the freehold.
Many leaseholders were told that they could purchase the freehold at a later date, perhaps when they had saved enough money. However, when some constituents inquired about purchasing the freehold, they found that the goalposts had moved and the price was much further out of reach than they had expected. Some have even been informed that the freehold is now not for sale—in some cases because it has been sold to a third-party company without the leaseholder’s knowledge.
Not only is the cost of buying the freehold out of reach for some of my constituents; so is the cost of ground rent, which can increase year on year. Then there are the admin fees that homeowners have to pay when asking the freeholder’s permission to make changes to their own property. One of my constituents was charged £400 by the freeholder to build a conservatory on their own property. Another constituent expressed great frustration that they are charged £100 for a yes or no decision on basic things, such as replacing a kitchen, bathroom or even a window. It can sometimes take more than eight weeks to hear back on whether that is a yes or a no.
I know that some leaseholders out there listening will now be horrified and will be deterred from making queries to the freeholder, for fear of being charged some of these exorbitant fees. Too many leaseholders are locked into a state of being regularly over charged by freeholders, being unable to afford their ever-increasing ground rent, or never being able to afford to buy their freehold due it to being linked to some sort of escalator that was hidden in the small print of the contract, which their solicitor never pointed out to them. I share the concerns of my constituents who feel like they have been ripped off by leasehold contracts and I call on the Government to launch an inquiry into the scandal as soon as possible.
In a Westminster Hall debate, Sharon raised the concerns of constituents who have got in touch with her recently about leaseholds. Sharon has recently written to constituents to ask them...
Sharon has written to Sunderland Council for an update on the proposed gasification plant application in Washington.
Click on image below to download the letter.
Sharon has written to Sunderland Council for an update on the proposed gasification plant application in Washington. Click on image below to download the letter.
Sharon Hodgson MP's report Nov-Dec 2018 number 110
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Nov-Dec 2018 number 110
Sharon Hodgson MP's report Nov-Dec 2018 number 110 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Nov-Dec 2018 number 110 Read more
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, and Shadow Minister for Public Health releases results of her Brexit Survey, and vows to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit Deal in the Meaningful Vote in Parliament.
Between August and November 2018, Sharon Hodgson ran a Survey for her constituents on Brexit. The questions focussed on people’s reasons for their vote in 2016, and the potential future scenarios. Sharon is now releasing the results ahead of the planned historic Meaningful Vote in Parliament on the 11th of December.
The full results can be found here, along with some explanatory information about the Survey. Please see below, some of the key results from the Survey:
- The top three ‘Very Important’ factors for people voting to Leave in 2016 were:
85.77% - The principle that ‘decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK’ (particularly in relation to Law making)
67.53% - Concerns that remaining would mean little or no choice about how the EU expanded its membership or powers
61.54% - The incentive of trade opportunities outside of the EU
- The top three ‘Very Important’ factors for people voting to Remain in 2016 were:
82.72% - Concern that leaving the EU would be a risk to the UK economy, jobs and prices
64.12% - Retention of tariff free access to EU Markets
62.70% - Preserving the security and police cooperation between the EU and the UK
- 58.11% answered ‘Yes’ to the following question: For any exit deal to be ratified, Parliament must first vote in favour of it. Do you believe that the electorate should also have to approve a deal before it can be ratified?
- If Parliament rejects any deal with the EU, 25.04% of people think Brexit should be cancelled, 6.58% think the Government should ask for Article 50 to be extended, 16.05% think there should be another two-choice referendum on whether to Remain or Leave without a deal, 14.13% think there should be another three-choice referendum on whether to Remain, Accept the Government’s Deal to Leave, or Leave without a deal, 35.47% believe the UK should leave the EU without a deal, and 2.73% don’t know.
- In a ‘People’s Vote’ scenario, 58.59% of people would choose to Remain in the EU, 6.26% would choose to Leave the EU on the terms agreed to by the Government, 31.78% would choose to Leave without a deal, and 3.37% would not vote.
- When asked about various options for the EU Customs Union post Brexit, 50.4% of people want to Remain in the Existing Customs Union, and 26% want to negotiate a New Customs Partnership.
- When asked about various options for the EU Single Market post-Brexit, 38.36% of people would prefer to Remain in the Single Market (including accepting all conditions associated), 19.10% would prefer to negotiate a new arrangement with the Single Market, 15.25% would prefer to apply for Membership of EFTA, 23.72% of people want to Leave the Single Market, and 4.01% don’t know.
- When asked about immigration post-Brexit 41.73% of people would prefer to retain Freedom of Movement as it stands, and 33.39% of people would prefer a stricter visa system applying to people travelling from both inside and outside the EU.
‘The results of this Survey show that there continues to be a strong variety of opinion in my constituency when it comes to Brexit, and how the process has unfolded thus far.
It is clear however, that very few people are happy with the way in which the Government has handled the negotiations, and that there is little appetite for a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit scenario which would be disastrous for our region.
Of all those who took part in my survey, just under 60% believe that for any exit deal with the EU to be ratified, voters, as well as Parliament, should approve it.
Many people are also supportive of remaining in the Customs Union, and either remaining in the Single Market or negotiating a new arrangement with it.
After almost two years of negotiations, I believe that the Brexit deal the Prime Minister has agreed with the EU represents a complete failure of her approach, and the strong public feeling on this is reflected in the huge number of emails and letters I have received in recent days ahead of the Meaningful Vote.
I do not believe that this deal is in the national interest, and therefore intend to vote against the Prime Minister's deal in Parliament on 11 December, and support an Opposition amendment calling on Parliament to use all options to ensure we do not crash out without a deal.
If the Prime Minister’s deal is voted down next week, all options must be kept on the table.’
Sharon Hodgson, Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West, and Shadow Minister for Public Health releases results of her Brexit Survey, and vows to vote against Theresa May’s Brexit... Read more
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo.
Amidst the latest Brexit chaos were several resignations of senior cabinet ministers.
One particular resignation of interest was Esther McVey, who has overseen the botched roll-out of Universal Credit (UC) and has failed to acknowledge the criticisms and real-life experiences of families up and down the country who have struggled to make ends meet because of UC.
Following the conclusion of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights report in the UK, it was expected that McVey’s successor, Amber Rudd, would finally recognise the failures of UC and make urgent changes to the system.
Instead, she said that the report was “disappointing”, not because of the shocking evidence it unearthed of 21st century Britain, but because of “the extraordinary political nature of his language”.
The UN rapporteur, Philip Alston, said that “British compassion for those who are suffering has been replaced by a punitive, mean-spirited, and often callous approach.”
He called Universal Credit “Orwellian”, and was struck by the mobilisation of food banks saying that they “resembled the sort of activity you might expect for a natural disaster or health epidemic”.
The UK is not suffering from a natural disaster or a health epidemic.
It is suffering from a Conservative Government that is so wrapped up in its own internal battles and negotiating a bad Brexit deal, that it is forgetting the people at home.
Fourteen million people, a fifth of the population in the UK, now live in poverty.
The use of food banks increased by 13% when comparing figures from April to September 2017, to the same period this year.
In the 2017-18 financial year, more than 1.3 million three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis by Trussell Trust food banks.
That is almost a million more packages given compared to in 2012-13, when 346,992 three-day emergency food supplies were provided.
The number of people sleeping rough in England has risen each year since 2010, with 4,751 people sleeping rough in 2017, and just last week it was reported that there are now 320,000 homeless people in Britain.
Life expectancy for both men and women has stagnated for the first time in over a century, and in some areas has even begun to decrease.
All of this would not be out of place in a Charles Dickens novel, but unfortunately it is the reality of 21st century Britain.
The UN rapporteur’s report should have been a wake-up call for the Government, but instead they are plunging our communities into a living nightmare.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo. Amidst the latest Brexit chaos were several resignations of senior cabinet ministers. One particular resignation of...
In a Westminster Hall Debate on Proposed new integrated risk management plan for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Sharon spoke about the funding challenges that the Service faces, and raised constituent concerns about this issue.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Hosie. I thank my hon. Friend the Member for North Tyneside (Mary Glindon) for securing this important debate and for her excellent speech outlining the issues.
Many people in the constituencies served by the Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Services, whom we all represent apart from the Minister and the shadow Minister, are following this debate closely. A significant number of constituents have written to me in recent weeks to raise their concerns about the proposed new integrated risk management plan for Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service, and the ongoing cuts to fire and rescue services more widely. People will be particularly concerned about this issue in the light of troubling events in recent weeks in which firefighters have been verbally and physically attacked—I will come back to that.
It has been noted in this debate that fire services across the country have felt the significant impact of funding cuts since 2010. As a result, almost 12,000 frontline firefighter jobs have been lost, including 285 in Tyne and Wear. Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service faces a number of unique funding challenges—we have heard about them in detail—and I want to bring some particular ones to the Minister’s attention. By 2019-20, the revenue support grant will reduce by £10.8 million, to £45.8 million. Based on all current information, the authority is on course to face a cumulative funding shortfall of £3.96 million by the end of 2021-22. Doing nothing is not an option. I am sure that colleagues will agree that is a huge shortfall, especially when pressure on all our public services is increasing.
The Minister may say that there are fire and rescue services across the country whose finances are growing—we heard that from my right hon. Friend the Member for Tynemouth (Mr Campbell)—due to their ability to raise funds from business rates and the council tax precept. Unfortunately, that is another way in which Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service, along with other metropolitan services, experiences serious shortfalls in funding, and shows why a one-size-fits-all approach does not work. Although we have the highest council-tax band-D precept of all metropolitan authorities, at £79.94, the vast majority of households are in bands A, B and C. As a result, the council tax income generated by the authority is the lowest of all metropolitan fire and rescue services. That is extremely concerning.
Our communities in the north-east have suffered hugely as a result of austerity and its associated problems. It should therefore not be the case that the very deprivation that this Government have caused has the knock-on effect of preventing some of our public services from having access to the funding that they need to keep us all safe. Even worse, in areas with high levels of deprivation there is a higher risk of fire and fire-related deaths. Will the Minister take a nuanced approached when developing a fair funding model for fire and rescue services, based on risks related to deprivation and local needs? It is absolutely clear that the Government should trust local services to outline their own specific needs. Those who work for and in communities on a daily basis are best placed to know where resources are best deployed and how much they cost. Budgets allocated on the basis of scarcity alone will not provide sufficient funding.
Like many of my colleagues here today, I recently met the chief fire officer of Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service, Chris Lowther, to discuss proposals for the new integrated risk management plan, and wider concerns about the funding available to him. He is doing everything within his power to manage the resources currently available, in a way that guarantees the safety of my constituents, and everyone across Tyne and Wear. In response to the consultation that the service is currently running, there has been some pushback from members of the public, who are understandably concerned.
Let me make it clear that I hold this Government solely responsible for their failure to provide sufficient and sustainable funding for our fire and rescue service, and I do not blame Chris Lowther, or the Tyne and Wear fire and rescue service, for trying to make the best of a very bad deal. It is particularly frustrating that services such as ours are being put in such a terrible position. They are doing everything they can to deliver their services while coming under ever increasing financial pressure, and as we know, these are not the first round of such cuts in Tyne and Wear.
I also discussed with the chief fire officer the spate of recent attacks on firefighters, which I mentioned earlier. Last year, there were 148 attacks on firefighters in the north-east, and only a few weeks ago in Southwick in Sunderland Central—the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Sunderland Central (Julie Elliott)—an incident took place that has been described as the worst attack of its kind in a decade. Firefighters were called to an incident in which a car was driven on to a bonfire, and they were pelted with bricks, bottles, and fireworks. The firefighters were ambushed and cordoned in by criminal “pool” cars. It is difficult to comprehend the mindset of someone who actively sets out physically to harm those on whom we rely to keep us safe, and I was pleased to see Sunderland Council back a motion just last week to call for a zero tolerance approach to attacks on emergency service workers.
The recent Assaults on Emergency Workers (Offences) Act 2018 will hopefully begin to have an impact, as the maximum sentence for such attacks has now been increased from six to 12 months. However, we must acknowledge that such things do not just happen or appear out of nowhere, and those attacks are a symptom of the underlying damage to the fabric of a community that has suffered almost 10 years of punishing austerity that has imposed cuts on all our public services. We know that when services engage with communities through education and outreach programmes, the long-term relationships that are forged can prevent such incidents from happening in future.
The successful preventive work undertaken by Tyne and Wear fire and rescue Service’s and its fast response times have, over the past nine years, reduced the number of injuries from accidental dwelling fires, and in two of the past six years it has been the only metropolitan authority to report zero accidental fire deaths. Its preventive work includes work in our communities on home safety, education and youth inclusion, and collaborative partnerships with other public services such as Sunderland clinical commissioning group and the Northumbria police and crime commissioner. I urge the Minister to ensure that all fire and rescue services are given the funding necessary not only to fulfil their statutory duties, but to continue engaging meaningfully with the communities they serve.
In conclusion, I wish to reiterate how important it is that the Minister listens to the concerns raised today by Tyne and Wear MPs, and to express my deep gratitude to Chris Lowther and the firefighters—some of whom are in the Gallery today—and everyone in Tyne and Wear fire service who works tirelessly day in, day out, serving our community and keeping us safe.
Westminster Hall Debate - Proposed new integrated risk management plan for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service
In a Westminster Hall Debate on Proposed new integrated risk management plan for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, Sharon spoke about the funding challenges that the Service faces,...
In a Westminster Hall debate on the equalisation of the State Pension age, Sharon raised the experiences of some of her constituents.
You can read Sharon's speech below:
Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West)
It is a pleasure to follow my hon. Friend, who even got a naughty bit of applause from the Public Gallery.
I congratulate the hon. Member for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson) on securing this debate and on her passionate opening speech. It is important that we keep this issue on the parliamentary agenda, and that we continue to speak up for the women who have been so adversely affected by the changes.
Like other hon. Members, I have received a significant number of letters and emails from women who have been badly affected by the impact of the equalisation of the state pension age. I will use my time to share just a few of the experiences of the 6,100 women in my constituency who have been affected by all the various changes since 1995.
Janice wrote to me:
“I was born in 1956 and expected my pension when I was 60. The government has moved the goalposts twice and I now have to wait until I am 66…I am 63 and have left work to spend quality time with my 79-year-old husband. This has not been an easy decision as I am living without my pension.”
Then there is Carol, who wrote:
“I only received a letter from the DWP four years before I was 60, so had very little notice at all.”
Carol has a private pension, but will not receive her state pension until she is 66. She is caring for her 89-year-old mother, and two of her granddaughters.
Susie Donkin, who was born in 1957, received notice only two years before she turned 60 that she would not receive her pension until she was 66.
Another of my constituents, Sue, put it all succinctly when she wrote to me that:
“Women have so much against them. In the past they have had the burden of looking after the children and unable to build careers as men did…wages were not equal and opportunities for married women were not the same either.”
The WASPI women need action now. They have already waited long enough, and many are suffering real hardship and are basically destitute, as we have heard. It is totally unacceptable that the Government are simply ignoring the calls of those women. I ask the Minister to please listen to their calls now.
In a Westminster Hall debate on the equalisation of the State Pension age, Sharon raised the experiences of some of her constituents. You can read the debate here You...
Grace Bowman, aged 10, of Hylton Castle Primary School has scooped the top prize in Washington and Sunderland West MP, Sharon Hodgson’s annual Christmas Card Competition.
The Hylton Castle Primary School pupil’s design emerged as the overall winner from dozens of competition entries from local primary school children during an awards ceremony today at the Washington Arts Centre.
The panel of judges, which as well as Sharon Hodgson MP, comprised: Deputy Mayor, Cllr David Snowdon; Cllr Dianne Snowdon and Posy Jowett, Participation Co-Ordinator at Washington Arts Centre.
The children also received a special visit from Pudsey Bear, on Children in Need day.
Grace’s design will now be printed on the front of Mrs Hodgson’s Christmas card and will be sent to top politicians and public figures across the country, as well as local groups, organisations and community leaders.
The two other age-category winners were Lilly Purvis of Albany Village Primary School in the Nursery and Reception year group category, and Erin Carnall of Wessington Primary School in the 1,2,3 Year Group category, who will both have their designs featured on the inside of the Christmas Card.
Lexie Millaburn of South Hylton Primary School received the award for Most Promising Young Artist, and her design will also feature inside the Christmas Card.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, Mrs Hodgson, said:
“The Christmas card competition is always one of my favourite events of the year, and it is an absolute delight to begin the festive period with so many creative school children from across the constituency.
“The talent and imagination of the children never fails to amaze me, but it makes it very difficult to pick a winner. It was Grace’s entry that impressed the judges the most, and I can’t wait to see it printed on my Christmas card this year.
“As always, I would like to thank the teachers, school staff and the parents for their support. I would also like to thank the children for their wonderful entries, and for making the day so enjoyable. A special mention must go to the Arts Centre and local businesses who help make the day such a success.”
Grace Bowman, aged 10, of Hylton Castle Primary School has scooped the top prize in Washington and Sunderland West MP, Sharon Hodgson’s annual Christmas Card Competition. The Hylton Castle Primary...
Sharon Hodgson MP's report Oct-Nov 2018 number 109
Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Oct-Nov 2018 number 109
Sharon Hodgson MP's report Oct-Nov 2018 number 109 Click on the picture above to read Sharon Hodgson MP's report - News from Westminster - Oct-Nov 2018 number 109 Read more
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo.
During her Party Conference speech earlier this month, Theresa May declared austerity over and promised better days ahead.
Despite this rhetoric, the reality remains that there will be millions of households up and down the country who will feel the pinch for a long time to come.
Amongst the chaos of Brexit negotiations, it would be easy for the Prime Minister to forget families living in poverty.
But colleagues and I are keen to ensure that the Government doesn’t forget those in need.
Under this Government’s watch, Trussell Trust foodbanks have increased from 60 to 2,009 in just eight years.
Jacob Rees-Mogg MP may think that the rise in foodbanks shows what a “good, compassionate country we are”, but in reality, the rise is attributed to years of austerity, with families around the country struggling to make ends meet.
Parents are skipping meals so that they can provide for their children, and in one particularly worrying case I have heard recently, they giving their children sugar and water to keep them hydrated and their stamina up.
You wouldn’t be wrong in thinking that stories such as these should have been banished to a Dickensian era.
It should shame this Conservative Government that this is a reality of 21st century Britain.
According to the Food Foundation, almost four million children in the UK are estimated to live in households that would struggle to afford to buy enough fruit, vegetables and other healthy foods to meet official nutritional guidelines.
That means that the poorest 20% of households would need to spend 42% of their disposable income to afford the Government’s diet guidelines.
Children and families shouldn’t be priced out of having a healthy diet and lifestyle.
That is why I campaign for Universal Free School Meals, so that children can receive a hot and healthy meal during the school day, and also support initiatives to ensure that children are fed and kept active during the school holidays.
I am also chairing an inquiry into children’s food security, because time and time again I hear from children who don’t have access to anything to eat when they’re at home, and I fundamentally believe that the Government must take action to right this wrong.
Whilst the Government’s attention is drawn to in-fighting over Brexit, they become further and further removed from the daily reality of the millions of households up and down the country who are still waiting for those better days ahead.
Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo. During her Party Conference speech earlier this month, Theresa May declared austerity over and promised better...