What is Labour’s council housing policy?

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One of the expectations of Labour supporters is that a Labour government with Jeremy Corbyn as leader would build council housing on a large scale once again. From the start of his first leadership election campaign up to just before the General Election Jeremy spoke of building 100,000 council homes a year. In April the Guardian reported that his “top priority” was to build more council housing and introduce tougher regulation in the private rented sector. However, Labour’s policy as expressed in its Manifesto was far different from Jeremy’s statements.

The draft version of the Manifesto which was leaked to the media spoke of a commitment to building 100,000 council and housing association homes, with no indication of the proportion for each. Yet even this figure, which diluted the council housing component, did not survive in the published document. It was transformed into 100,000 “affordable homes” for “rent and sale” by the end of the Parliament; i.e. by year five. There was no indication of how this would break down. Would it, for instance, be 50,000 of each? The Manifesto does say that Labour will “begin the biggest council housing programme for at least 30 years”. However, we checked how many were built then. In England it was only 16,000.  Read on below or download a PDF here labourschcommitment More

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How many council homes is Labour committed to building?

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Jeremy Corbyn has previously said that Labour would build 100,000 council homes a year. In the draft of the Manifesto which was leaked to the media the 100,000 was described as council and housing association homes. This figure did not survive in the published document. It was transformed into 100,000 “affordable homes” for “rent and sale”. What Labour would do was counter-posed to what the 1945 Labour government did.

The post-war Labour government built long-term affordable homes to rent, the next Labour government will build affordable homes to rent and buy. ”

In what proportions would the rent and sale be? 50,000 of each? Neither the Manifesto nor the Mini-Housing Manifesto which supplemented it indicated how the 100,000 would be broken down. In order to clarify what Labour’s position is we emailed John Healey and asked him “How many council homes are you committed to build. The 100,000 by the end of the Parliament is for ‘rent and sale’. In what proportions?” More

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

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