COLUMN: Politically speaking with Mary Creagh MP ‘Home ownership dream can be a nightmare’

Wakefield MP Mary Creagh.
Wakefield MP Mary Creagh.

People dream of owning their home, but for some people in Wakefield that dream has become a nightmare, writes Mary Creagh MP.

I have been working with unsuspecting home buyers who have bought new-build houses only to discover they are trapped in unfair leasehold contracts with ground rents which in some cases double every few years. People have had problems selling or getting a new mortgage, and been forced to pay high fees for permission to make alterations to their house.

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A report last month by the House of Commons housing committee, found the law is weighted against leaseholders, and called for urgent reform of the system along with an investigation by the Competition and Markets Authority into mis-selling.

Because these contracts are used on new-build properties and retirement homes they disproportionately affect 25 to 35 year-olds who bought their home through Help to Buy, and vulnerable older people who have bought retirement flats.

Another report found the Government’s Help to Buy scheme was pushing up new-build house prices, which have risen by more than 50% since 2013. The policy has meant massive profits for house builders like Persimmon, who paid their former Chief Executive an eye-popping £85 million last year.

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At the end of March the Government announced a voluntary industry pledge to curb these leasehold contracts, which is good news, but I am worried about how the Government will make companies keep their word. I am pleased, however, that proposed new rules mean that if people want to take developers to court they will no longer pay for the developer’s legal fees if they lose.

I hope Wakefield Council ensures that only developers who have signed this pledge can build homes in Wakefield.

At the start of this month, new national NHS guidelines came into force making life-changing Flash Glucose Monitoring (Flash GM) devices available for people with type 1 diabetes.

A Flash GM device is a small sensor that you wear on your skin which provides measurements of blood sugar levels continuously, and allows you to access the records by scanning the sensor with a handheld device. It is an alternative to the traditional way of measuring blood sugar levels - pricking the finger with a needle.

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The device, a FreeStyle Libre, is used by the Prime Minister but until now, Wakefield CCG only funded the device on a trial basis. I have been fighting to make Flash GM more widely available in Wakefield, and you can sign the petition calling for this on my website.

Last July, twenty-six-year-old Michael Chadwick Johnson died as a result of a diabetic hypoglycemia. He had been on the Flash GM trial, which was successful in managing his diabetes, but once it ended he had to pay £118 per month for the kit - something

which, being a carer on a low income, he had to budget with his other expenses. Michael died at the end of last summer’s heatwave where temperatures were regularly over 30°C. I met with Michael’s brother Richard, who believes that the device could have saved his life.

Everyone should get the medicines they need. The new national guidelines are a step in the right direction but they only apply to one in five of the 2,000 people with diabetes in Wakefield. I will continue to campaign to make sure that everyone who needs this technology, gets it.

You can sign my petition here

Michael’s tragic and unnecessary death shows why we must ensure that access to these kits must be sped up locally.