Labour should demand the suspension of Right to Buy Sales

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This is a letter to John Healey, Shadow Housing Minister

Dear John

Labour should demand the suspension of Right to Buy Sales

As you know Teresa Pearce, when she was in your current post, made a commitment that Labour would suspend RTB. She said that the policy “could only make sense in a time of surplus, in a time of shortage it makes no sense at all”.

Housing Minister Gavin Barwell has recently said that RTB is only “politically justifiable” if homes sold are replaced by new homes built. Since those homes sold are not being replaced then should not sales be suspended? Over the last 4 years the number of council homes in England have declined by 82,000. Only 5,520 replacement homes have been built, less than the 13,000 council homes demolished (see table below). There are only 1.61 million council homes left in England.

We would suggest that in the light of Barwell’s statement Labour should demand that the government suspends RTB sales and makes this a campaigning issue. Even the Tory majority LGA has called for councils to be allowed to suspend RTB sales where they cannot replace them. More

Swindon Labour Group supports call for cancellation of council housing ‘debt’

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Swindon Council’s Labour Group has supported our campaign for Labour to press the government to reopen the 2012 ‘debt settlement’ and to commit to cancelling the bogus council housing ‘debt’ if elected to government. Below is Labour Group Leader Jim Grant’s letter to Jeremy Corbyn.

“Dear Jeremy,

I am writing to you on behalf of the labour Group of Swindon Borough Council to give our support to to the  growing campaign for an incoming Labour Government to commit to cancelling council housing debt . This campaign initiated by the Swindon Tenant Campaign Group  has two key elements

  • To re-open the 2012 debt settlement and write off council housing debt in line with the significant loss of rental income resulting from the governments’ policies since 2012
  • Commit to cancelling all council housing debt on election to government

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Leicester Labour Party supports call for cancellation of council housing ‘debt’

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Harry Stannard from Leicester sent us this report.

At its members’ meeting on January 10th, Westcotes branch of Leicester West CLP (Liz Kendall is the MP), passed the following resolution unanimously:

We welcome the Shadow Cabinet’s decision to call for the ‘Right To Buy’ in England to be suspended, and that rent control legislation should be introduced in the private sector.  Along with the Swindon Tenants Campaign Group we also recognise that council housing is facing a serious funding crisis as a result of the so-called ‘self-financing’ policy since 2010, which has led to a growing loss of rental income to local authorities.

We call on the Labour Party and in particular the Shadow Cabinet, National Policy Forum and Leicester City’s Labour group to:

1) Press the government to reopen the 2012 ‘debt settlement’ and demand that it reduces the debt given to local authorities in line with the loss of income resulting from government policies since then.

2) Make a commitment that in government they will cancel the so-called ‘council housing debt’ imposed in 2012, which is draining resources as rental income declines significantly. This should be part of our commitment to making a massive council house-building programme one of the corner-stones of a Labour government.

We resolve to contact the STCG to enquire more details of their campaign, and will send this resolution to our CMC and other branches in our CLP”

Westcotes is the second largest branch in the constituency, and the motion was seconded by one of its councillors, Andy Connelly, who is Leicester City Council’s Assistant Mayor for Housing. Andy explained how council house building in the City had almost dried up for lack of funds, whilst sales enforced on us by the so-called ‘Right to Buy’ are now running at over 300 per annum.

LRC calls for Labour to commit to cancelling council housing ‘debt’

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The National Executive of the Labour Representation Committee, chaired by FBU General Secretary Matt Wrack1, has passed a resolution supporting Swindon Tenants Campaign Group’s call (see our new pamphlet) for Labour to:

  • Press the government to reopen the 2012 ‘debt settlement’ and write off council housing debt in line with the significant loss of rental income resulting from government policies since 2012;

  • Commit to cancelling so-called council housing debt if elected to government.

The LRC agreed to write to the Labour leadership calling on them to support these proposals. It also agreed to circulate its affiliated organisations to ask them to do likewise. More

“Affordable Rent”: Slough Council “doing the Conservative government’s dirty work for them”?

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Slough Council, a Labour administration, is proposing to apply the Tory government’s “affordable rent” policy to new council homes it plans to build. So-called “affordable rent” is up to 80% of market rent. According to the Slough Observer the town’s Cabinet is proposing rent increases along the following lines.

Current council rent

Affordable Rent”

1 Bed

£394.90 pcm

£656.50

2 bed

£474.80

£840.32

3 Bed

£553.80

£1,061.19

4 Bed

£607.45

£1,280.00

Any local authorities that accepted money from the Homes & Communities Agency for new build had to sign an agreement that they would charge “affordable rent” on new properties. The scheme also included “conversions” of existing stock from social rent to affordable rent in order to make up for the low level of government grant. In the case of Swindon’s Conservative administration, for instance, a building programme of 104 homes, partly funded by HCA grant, also involved conversion of 142 social rent homes to “affordable rent”.

However, any council building new homes with their own resources are not obliged to charge “affordable rent”. So why is a Labour council proposing to introduce it? The Cabinet document says that it has had to review its position on charging council rents for these reasons: (read on below or download a PDF here sloughhousingarticle ) More

STCG welcomes Labour commitment to suspension of Right to Buy sales

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group welcomes Labour’s commitment to suspend Right to Buy, announced by Shadow Housing Minister Teresa Pearce. STCG has long argued for scrapping RTB as Scotland and Wales have now done. Whilst Labour’s commitment falls short of that we welcome Teresa Pearce’s statement. She is certainly right that given the housing shortage there is no justification for selling Council homes. So adopting a policy of suspending it is a step in the right direction. She told the conference that RTB “could only make sense in a time of surplus, in a time of shortage it makes no sense at all”.

Since the ‘enhanced RTB’ was introduced in 2012, with increased discounts, over 45,000 Council homes in England have been sold off. During that time local authorities have managed only 5,731 starts on site and acquisitions (i.e. replacements by building or buying). Under the coalition government the number of council homes in England declined by 143,000. Demolition of 16,570 Council homes was more than double the number of new ones built under the coalition.

In Swindon, in the four years since the introduction of the ‘enhanced RTB’, 216 Council homes have been sold. Swindon Council is not replacing these. It has a programme of building 104 homes but when you take account of the demolition of Sussex Square the number falls to 70 additional homes. Hence the stock is declining year on year. More

Dear Jeremy and John: Why Council housing ‘debt’ should be written off

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An open letter to Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell on the under-funding of Council housing and Labour’s housing policy

From Swindon Tenants Campaign Group

Dear Jeremy and John

Jeremy’s election as Labour leader reflected a desire on the part of existing Labour Party members, the new members, re-joiners and registered supporters, for a break with politics of New Labour. One of the critical aspects of such a break is in relation to housing. New Labour did not just ‘do too little’ in relation to the housing crisis. It set out to wipe out Council housing by means of transferring stock to housing associations. This policy was premised on making housing debt ‘off balance sheet’. Moreover, to encourage tenants to vote for transfer housing debt was written off just so long as they voted the ‘right way’. New Labour also maintained Thatcher’s disastrous ‘right to buy’ and worshipped home ownership. It was only after the global crisis and the UK housing market crash that they ended their ban on local authorities bidding for ‘social housing’ grant, and even that was on a puny scale.

In contrast you have raised the need for large scale Council house building which is essential to tackle the housing crisis. However, a question yet to be addressed is the problem of under-funding of Council housing resulting from the new Council housing finance system drawn up by New Labour and implemented by the coalition government. Subsequent changes in policy by the coalition and by this Tory government have now made the funding crisis for Council housing even worse. It is this crisis which we think Labour under your leadership needs to address, both in terms of your Party’s policy and in challenging this government on the impact of its policies on Council housing funding. It’s this issue that we address in this letter. (Read on below or download a PDF here dearjeremy ) More

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