We've got to get banks lending
The state of the economy is the number one concern for many of my constituents and it remains my top priority, too. Our shrinking construction industry has been a major factor in what is now the longest double-dip recession for 50 years.
Last month saw the fastest decline in new construction orders since April 2009, with the biggest decline in house building.
A lack of affordable housing is a huge problem in my constituency. The only option left to many people is the rapidly-growing private rented sector.
Yet I often meet constituents at my advice surgeries who are struggling with poor-quality accommodation, very little security and ever-increasing rents.
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So, we have an economic crisis and a housing crisis, too.
What's the solution?
We've got to get the banks lending again; to businesses so they can grow and create jobs and demand in the economy, but also to people who want affordable mortgages so they can move home or get their own home for the first time.
There are other things the Government could do to boost housing and construction.
Labour wants to see a repeat of our bankers' bonus tax so we can use the proceeds to build 25,000 affordable homes while also funding a real jobs guarantee for all young people who have been out of work for a year.
The Government should also think again about its plans to reduce funding for affordable homes, which it has cut by a staggering 60 per cent.
Instead, we heard this week that the Government thinks the best way to tackle the housing crisis is to relax the planning laws.
So far, the proposals are unclear – which could lead to legal challenges from developers and long, costly delays.
It is also essential that we get the right balance in the planning system, so that the views and voices of local people remain at the heart of decisions.
Take a recent case in my constituency.
A couple of weeks ago, the council's planning department recommended that the planning control committee pass an application to build 35 flats on the land behind Swithland Avenue, near Abbey Park.
Local people were extremely concerned about the intensity of the development, fearing it would block out sunlight, increase traffic and create a community within a community.
This neighbourhood already has severe problems with parking.
On one occasion, an ambulance could not get to an elderly constituent's houses due to the number of cars in the street.
So this was clearly the wrong development for the area and people were right to voice their concerns.
By pulling together and building our case, residents, councillors and I, as the MP, were able to convince the committee to reject the planning application.
I will continue to champion more affordable homes, but I will also fight to ensure people remain at the heart of decisions about where they should be built and what they should look like.