Plunged into confusion. Can we fix British politics?

Ever since suggesting and then voting for a referendum on membership of the EU, politicians on all sides have caused a great amount of uncertainty in Britain and across the world. This is proven, no doubt, by the incredible results in June 2016’s Referendum and June 2017’s General Election, and it affects each and every one of us. This uncertainty has revealed deep divisions and problems in our society. So, what do we do now?

Continue reading “Plunged into confusion. Can we fix British politics?”

Our Democracy Needs Improving

When choosing who to vote for in the UK’s 2017 general election, you may be thinking things like “I support [candidate/party], but they won’t win here“, and then you may begin to ask yourself questions like,”How do I make my vote count?”, “What do I care about most and which of the largest parties in my area supports those things?“, or, “How do I stop [party leader] from entering Number 10?“. If you are thinking these things, you’re a victim of our not-so-great democratic process.

Continue reading “Our Democracy Needs Improving”

Surrey, I think it’s time to disaffiliate with the NUS

With only a few weeks between deciding to have the referendum and actually holding it, the turnout will probably be tiny, however, I’m worried that those who do vote will be scared to side with this campaign if it follows a similar rhetoric to that of the Leave.EU campaign. Obviously, very different organisations, but no doubt “We spend £43,000 on NUS, let’s spend that on Rubix nightclub instead” sounds similar to something we’ve read before on the side of a bus.
 
Personally, I think we should disaffiliate because, as we do not directly elect the NUS leader, the organisation does not represent ALL students. I think in many ways the NUS fails to be transparent and engage students, hence the fact that most Surrey students really don’t care and probably don’t even know they’re members of the NUS. Surrey students probably also don’t realise the amount of time/money the NUS has put into campaigns which don’t directly benefit us as members, like calling for the monarchy to be abolished. 👀
 
I’m guessing that most students know of the NUS only via NUS Extra discount cards, but UNiDAYS & StudentBeans have already outdone this; with more discounts, better technology and no upfront fee. Besides that, in most cases, a University of Surrey ID card can get you the same discounts in shops/restaurants.
 
Even if there is a dramatic change that the NUS makes to student life, we would still benefit from outside, but also there are already intentions for universities in the South East to form a network of their own to discuss problems which directly affect us – such as extending the London weighting maintenance fees to expensive areas outside of the M25 like Guildford & Brighton. And, if you saw the work that our directly-elected sabbatical officers have been doing (such getting more student accommodation in Guildford’s town plan) I think you’d agree that it’s fair to say they’re dealing with Student issues in Surrey a lot better than the NUS ever will. Not to mention, an extra £43,000 a year for the USSU could go a long way. Therefore, Surrey, I think it’s time to disaffiliate with the NUS.

My Student Rent Nightmare

I am a student at the University of Surrey, in my second year. As I am no longer a fresher and I’m not an international student, it was almost inevitable that I would not receive a place in Univeristy of Surrey halls had I applied, so I didn’t bother. The University of Surrey takes in far too many students than it can actually accommodate -but that’s another issue!

Finding Somewhere to Live

I chose, along with 3 friends from the university, to rent a house in Guildford. After the struggle of finding properties online and offline, going to many viewings only to hear that property had already gone and viewing others which were so vile even the agency staff recommended not living in them – we finally found somewhere that looked decent (not great, but decent).

We found this property through a lettings agency in Guildford called SimplyLet.Net. We all paid £125 as an agency fee to get the house off the market (that’s £500 between us). We then paid £70 each (£280 altogether) for an inventory fee. This should cover a check of the property by SimplyLet.Net which marks any problems with the property before we move in so that we do not get charged for them when the tenancy ends. We also split the hefty £2790.00 deposit 4 ways (£697.5 each). Of course, we also have monthly rent at the price of £465, per tenant.

Our tenancy runs from the 1st of July 2016 until 30th June 2017. However, we couldn’t move in until about a week later as they were fixing problems in the property (apparently). When I moved into the property initially on the 9th of July, they still had jobs left to do, however, this work was carried out within a few weeks.

Faults, Problems, Mould

The problems appeared when we went to check over and submit the inventory form. Upon inspection, we realised they had missed at least 30 issues within the property – from mould and leaky taps, to broken windows and faulty hobs. Bare in mind, we paid them £280 to fill in this form for us, and they failed to do that.

We emailed a few times over the summer that we needed these issues fixed. When nothing was done, we visited their offices to give them a nudge and sent them further emails. Yet nothing was done until late September, once we emailed them again. They fixed a few things, probably to get us to back down, but left most of the problems unaddressed. We gave them a 2 week deadline to fix those, in a further email, however they failed to meet this too.

We were told that for some problems (such as the broken hob and the broken fridge/freezer shelves – which are incredibly sharp and dangerous), would need permission from the landlord and that they would contact him or her. I don’t know which; we have not got the details of the landlord, and are unable to contact them ourselves, to my knowledge. However, I have requested these details multiple times.

Nothing further happened until we emailed them, yet again, but this time we were a lot firmer. We said if these problems were not addressed quickly (especially the ones which pose a health and safety hazard) – we would have to take further action. Luckily, they responded quickly to that and we’ve had a handyman visit today to carry out some repairs. We’re still waiting for many of the problems to be addressed and the landlord to be contacted, but we’ve made some progress.

We Cannot Continue Like This

It should not take 3 months (a quarter of the tenancy) to fix basic problems. We are lucky that there were no major problems to do with anything like the sewerage. That said “lucky” probably isn’t the right word.

It shouldn’t be like this, but there is not enough houses to accommodate the amount of people, particularly in Guildford. The landlords and lettings agencies don’t need to compete fiercely, as every house will sell regardless of how expensive and poor quality it is. It’s sad that UK and local government has let it reach this point. It can’t go on like this.

We could solve problems like this with a few measures, such as:

  • Ban letting fees for renters (as Scotland has done)
  • Giving renters access to an open database of rogue landlords and also giving the ability to submit extra comments about landlords to the database
  • Giving renters access to an open database of rented houses, including their landlords name and contact details, and a system which verified tenants can submit property reviews to
  • A helpline or website which renters can easily report problems to
  • Bringing in compulsory safety checks for rented homes
  • Preventing rogue landlords from obtaining an HMO licence
  • Teaching students about their rights when renting property in mandatory “General Education” lessons

 

Some of the details within this post would usually be kept private, however, I am happy to be public about these so that people can see the extent of the problem. I am also happy to pass these details over to our Student Union president, who will be meeting with Guildford MP Anne Milton next week.

Progressing…

My UCAS Hell | James’ Journal

UCAS; the acronym of an organisation that pre-university students tend to loathe due to it’s infuriating processes and through fear of the fact that university is coming up very, very shortly. I’ve been hesitant to talk about my experiences while it was all up in the air, as I’d applied for a Digital Media course and universities may have checked my social media & blog, but now it’s all settled – so here’s my story…

Continue reading “My UCAS Hell | James’ Journal”