Parliament and MPs give significant attention to the situation of private renters and of social tenants; some have been and many will become homeowners. Most families have known leaseholders’ problems. Many become caught in the feudal system that followed the Norman invasion.
On Monday, Michael Gove, secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, successfully moved the Second reading of the Leasehold and Freehold Reform Bill. The aim is to “liberate leaseholders from many of the unfair practices to which they are still subject”. He thanked campaigners and colleagues who ensured the legislation was ready to be introduced.
He praised Martin Boyd and Sebastian O’Kelly, the energetic campaigners at the charity Leasehold Knowledge Partnership. They also work against exploitation of the elderly, ending faults by some providers of retirement housing.
With his tribute to the Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs who have worked collaboratively, he was generous about me. “I must thank the Father of the House, my hon. Friend the member for Worthing West (Sir Peter Bottomley), who has been the single most consistent voice in standing up for leaseholders.”
Since 1996, I have been a happy leaseholder in a small Worthing block. In time I might live in another leasehold flat. My campaigning, with the enduring vital assistance of Katherine O’Riordan in my caring team, has been for others in constituencies around England and Wales.
A group of elderly Worthing leaseholders needed advice to fix an error by their freeholder. In a block in Arun, the developer or builder used the wrong material for balconies. Otherwise, there have not been constituency rogue freeholders, no scandalous actions by in-house managing agents and no known examples of unnecessary applications for forfeiture of residential leases. That is not true throughout the country.
One part of the Bill may be helpful in dealing with freeholders’ problems in northwest Durrington. I am here to help the Residents Association led by Terry Woodjetts. I am meeting managing agents First Port; they can do better. Promised works are not completed. I am worried about the amalgamation of managing agents. As more groups of residents and leaseholders choose to appoint agents, they should have a good choice of effective firms.
This week I have also discussed aspects of fire safety, of concern before and after the Grenfell tragedy. Representatives of the charity Crisis told me of their continuing work to end homelessness. I pay tribute locally to Turning Tides and to Care for Veterans. They, with Worthing Homes and the Arun District Council housing teams, do good every week.
Myra Jasper, fundraising officer for Care for Veterans at Gifford House in Boundary road, asked me to their cosy Christmas celebration of carols. Councillor Noel Atkins introduced me to the joy of Santa’s Grotto, occupied by Robert Smytherman.
The Rolls Royce manufacturing plant near Goodwood is impressive. Each of thousands of staff is rightly proud of their skills. I was honoured to meet Johann ‘Hans’ Wolf before he retires as director of manufacturing. Our Education Secretary Gillian Keegan started work in an apprenticeship. She will know Hans was first a casting apprentice with BMW.
During the weekend I joined Arun Councillor Mark Turner with the Ferring Village hall team for the Arts & Crafts Fair. Informal gatherings often make it possible for a constituent to raise a private dilemma on which my dedicated team and I can offer advice or help.
In past weeks I have talked with groups of young people about what MPs do and what we try to achieve together. The arguments and the differences of views should not obscure the good that is done, nor the admirable intentions of most of us, most of the time. This was illustrated when the House of Commons concentrated on the housing hopes of constituents.