To the Chartered Institute of Housing’s conference yesterday. Nice bunch, not very keen on my fellow Keighley man Eric Pickles I sensed, and feeling a bit battered after the spending review.
But I felt they were adopting the right tone in seeking to engage with government, rather than just becoming a shrill voice of protest.
They have set up a joint commission with the National Housing Federation and Shelter, to track the impact of the changes, which I think will make an important contribution to this debate as the government cuts and reforms go through.
I was there essentially to give my view on how best to engage with government, how to get your voice heard and how to deal with a constant surrounding chorus of negativity.
I expressed the surprise I have often felt that housing, despite its centrality to our lives, is not right up there with health, education and crime as a big dominant domestic policy issue.
A member of the audience from the National Housing Federation gave a possible answer. She said that people see their housing as a very personal thing, and if it is inadequate they tend to see it as their failure rather than the failure of a bigger system. With health and education, she said, people are more likely to see and understand common factors.
I thought that was an interesting insight. Part of the challenge for housing organisations is certainly to get their issue higher up the political and profile ladder. And one way might be to build on that insight, and try to build the case more widely that whilst our home may be our castle, it does not stand in isolation and the housing of others is an issue that affects us all…
Then in the evening a more after dinner affair, to the Association of Corporate Treasurers, 1300 people at the Grosvenor House – where they still can’t get a mobile signal in the ballroom so there were a lot of frustrated football fans.
Former Labour minister Lord Myners was there to collect an award, and I got one of the best laughs of the night by telling the bankers in the audience – around 600 of them – that they owed him a huge debt … he was the man who signed off Fred Goodwin’s pension, ensuring they copped it a lot less than they might have done.
I was there to sing for my supper and keep the wolf from the door, but both events had a charity element and my contribitution was a book sale and signing at the end of my speech, with all the profits going to the ACT’s chosen charity, Wellchild, the charity that provides nurses to care for seriously ill children. Demand was high and I was there till gone midnight. The Blair Years paperback, though out now three years, was still vying with Prelude to Power hardback as the best seller, and All In The Mind was easily beating Maya, which pleased the mental health campaigner in me.
Anyway two good events in a day, and at the second I met an interesting group of bankers who specialise in getting in money for social housing. Their views were not that far apart from the people at the earlier one.