Denise Robertson: Clegg's three garden cities will do nothing to solve housing crisis

Nick Clegg's idea to combat the chronic housing shortage will do nothing to help the North East believes Denise Robertson

Danny Lawson/PA Wire Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg

Nick Clegg has promised to build three garden cities, each with 15,000 high-quality homes in thriving new communities to help deal with a “chronic” housing shortage.

George Osborne announced funding to create the proposed Ebbsfleet Garden City in Kent.

But will such moves solve our housing problem? In 2013, 109,370 new homes were completed in England – the lowest figure for four years – yet the number of households is expected to grow by 221,000 every year this decade.

Labour say the suggestion is “far too little, too late” but their own meagre housebuilding record does them no credit. Mr Clegg speaks of ‘a vision of communities where future generations will live, work, have children, grow up and grow old’.

He doesn’t mention where the people flocking to these dream ‘newtowns’ will work or whether those in need of housing will be willing to leave their roots to flock to his Utopiae. Mr Osborne’s plan won’t do a thing for the north.

What we need is for local authorities up and down the land to be funded to build pockets of good social housing so that we can get families out of bed and breakfast or pricey rented private accommodation.

Such a move doesn’t have the charisma of Mr Clegg’s idyllic vision but it would alleviate a lot more misery.

My first career was in a busy Accident Hospital. My boss, a consultant surgeon, would send me to hammer on the bedroom door of his houseman, the junior doctor on his team, to demand he attend the clinic, even though he’d been up all night dealing with trauma.

The replies I received have left me with a huge grasp of the richness of the English language. In the end, though, the poor junior would have to drag him or herself out of bed and turn up for duty.

It was not uncommon for them to work 90 hours a week. That system had its flaws but the European Working Directive on how many hours junior doctors can work is reportedly having disastrous consequences for both staff and patients.

It ensures that any doctor in training below the grade of consultant does not work more than 48 hours a week over a 26-week period. They may not work continuously for more than 13 hours and must have a break every six hours.

Junior doctors are reportedly no longer attached to a particular consultant; that means they ‘float’ between teams, supposedly providing cover where it’s most needed. According to a report into the state of hospital care and junior doctor training published by the Royal College of Surgeons, European rules applied to doctors with the intention of improving safety and patient care are actually putting patients at risk.

The report found that junior doctors now have 128 fewer days of experience when they qualify as specialists. Rigid rules means doctors must down tools the minute they have worked their allotted hours.

You can imagine the problems that throws up and, if hospitals disobey, severe financial penalties will be incurred. The report found many trusts have cancelled clinics as no doctors were available to run them and junior doctors are no longer an integral part of the team that once polished their expertise. Nor is there the same degree of continuity. It is common for patients never to see the same doctor more than once and, according to one expert, things can slip through the net.

Last week an inquest was told of a woman dying in agony while a doctor played a computer game. He wouldn’t come to her aid because he was “off-duty”. One more European rule which looks good on the outside and turns out to be a turkey underneath.

Last week I did battle on TV with Andrew G Marshall, the relationship counsellor who thinks a woman should say sorry to her husband if HE has an affair.

He’s confident his new book – My Husband Doesn’t Love Me... And He’s Texting Someone Else – is the answer to relationship problems.

It says ‘Have you made a full apology? One that acknowledges your unhelpful behaviour (eg taking him for granted), accepts your responsibility (you’ve been so wrapped up in the children, you’ve forgotten to be wife as well as mother), expresses sorrow and determination to change, and is sincere.’

I battled to convince him his theories were not only barmy but abhorrent and then came a tweet from a viewer.

She WOULD say sorry to her husband if she caught him cheating, she said. She’d say sorry that he had to go back to live with his mother. And doubly sorry that he had no clothes to go to work in because she’d cut them all up. I couldn’t have put it better myself!

I believe passionately in the right to self-determination. Forget territory. Argentina could have the rock tomorrow but the right of Falklanders to stay British is sacrosanct.

Same with Gibraltar. That’s why I’ve been hoping to hear that those who wanted to be Russian were moving right and those who wanted to stay Ukranian were moving left, whereafter the two groups would live amicably, a border between them.

I started to get uneasy as I watched armed groups seemingly determined to impose their will on everyone else. Now, the group who have taken control in Donetsk have reportedly issued a chilling document.

It calls upon all Jews to register. It mentions confiscation of their property and enforced deportation.

All of a sudden my rosy dream of everyone living in harmony seems unforgivably childish.

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