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

Suspend Right to Buy Sales

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Media Release

March 6th 2017

Suspend Right to Buy Sales

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group is calling on Swindon’s MP to press the Housing Minister to suspend Right To Buy sales of council properties. Housing Minister Gavin Barwell recently stated that RTB sales are only “politically justified” if homes sold are replaced. Since they are not being replaced then STCG believes that sales should at least be suspended. In the last four years 40,755 council homes in England have been sold under RTB and only 5,520 have been replaced. In the case of Swindon since 2011/12 to December 2016 285 homes have been lost to RTB, and council stock overall has fallen by 250: from 10,515 to 10,265 in December 2016.

A fall in stock numbers impacts on the homelessness situation because Swindon council has insufficient homes available. Over the last two and a half years the number of households in temporary accommodation has risen from 201 to 359. The number of households placed in private rented accommodation by SBC and local housing associations has risen from 110 to 230 in the last two years. Spending on homelessness in this financial year is expected to be more than £300,000 over budget, virtually double the original budget. This deteriorating situation will only be halted if we stop the decline of available council housing stock and start increasing it. More

Housing Minister retreats on RTB sales?

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The magazine Inside Housing reports that Housing Minister Gavin Barwell has said that the Right to Buy policy ‘is only politically justifiable’ if the government is delivering replacement homes. At the Communities and Local Government Select Committee Barwell said he would reassess the rules on receipts because future government projections suggest that they will not be able to replace the homes sold.

I do want to look at the rules in relation to RTB receipts…because my own view is that RTB is a good thing but it’s only politically justifiable if I deliver a replacement.”

Barwell’s statement begs the question if housing stock sold is not being replaced then shouldn’t RTB sales be halted? This writer is in favour of RTB being ended. However, supporters of council housing should pick up on Barwell’s words and press their councils and their MPs to demand that if the Minister thinks RTB is unjustified unless sold homes are replaced, then councils should have the right to suspend sales if they cannot replace them. More

Underfunding of council housing – the impact on Bristol

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Underfunding of council housing – the impact on Bristol

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group has shown how the coalition and Tory governments have under-funded council housing. We have explained the impact on Swindon’s Housing Revenue Account (HRA). All local authorities that own council housing are being starved of funds as a result of ‘self-financing’, the new council housing finance system introduced in 2012 and policies implemented since then. More than £13 billion of extra ‘debt’ was loaded onto 136 councils in what was described as a ‘debt settlement’. What was said to be the national council housing debt, though largely fictitious, was redistributed amongst stock owning councils. The amount of debt each authority was given was based on an assessment of how much rent income they would collect over 30 years, the cost of managing the stock, and the number of homes expected to be sold under RTB (each one being rent income lost). To enable them to pay off this ‘debt’ each one was given a loan from the Public Works Loans Board (PWLB). To service this debt they are obliged to pay an annual interest charge to the PWLB. They have discretion on how they deal with the ‘loan’ itself, how much they pay each year towards paying it off. They were told that the settlement would ensure that all councils would have sufficient money to maintain their housing stock over 30 years. However, the 30 year business plans which councils had to draw up have been blown out of the water by changes which the coalition and Tory governments introduced. Here we look at the situation facing Bristol council’s HRA. (Read on below or download a PDF here bristolhra )
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No solution to the housing crisis without council house building

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Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Media Release February 13th 2017

No solution to the housing crisis without council house building

The government’s Housing White Paper, “Fixing our broken housing market”, is an implicit recognition of the failure of 6 years of coalition and Tory government housing policy. Talk of a “home owning democracy” has been abandoned. However, the problem will not be resolved by attempting to make ‘the market work for everyone’. As the Financial Times recently recognised in an Editorial, it is against the interests of the big builders to build ‘affordable homes’ for rent.

The fact is that private developers, left to their own devices, will not build enough to meet demand, especially when the greatest need is for affordable rented housing in urban areas. It is not in their interest to do so, since the result would be lower house prices and land values, eroding their profitability”. More

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group Newsletter February 2017

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Our February 2017 Newsletter dealing with the proposal to rob the Housing Revenue Account of Funds to bolster Swindon Council’s troubled General Fund, by transfering garages and some shops into the General Fund, resulting in the loss of £1.3 million income. Also included, our Pamphlet, The case for cancelling council housing debt, Right to Buy sales, and “Treat claimants with respect”.

Download a copy here: campaign-group-news-feb-2017

 

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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