by Nigel Bakhai on 19 October, 2010

Please find below the text of my speech to October 2010 meeting of Ealing Council on the subject of the Government’s Housing policy:-

Thank you Mr Mayor. While we support the aims of the first line of this motion that everyone is entitled to a safe, secure, affordable and decent home. The fact is that this motion is a smokescreen to hide the previous Labour Government’s failure to tackle the chronic shortage in social housing. Let’s look at the facts. Housing waiting lists doubled under Labour. Five million people -almost 2 million families- on housing waiting lists after 13 years in office. 11,000 in this borough alone.

Planned increases in social house building by the last government were welcome, but unfortunately too little, too late. That is why I welcome the expected announcement from the coalition government to set a target of building 150,000 new social homes to increase the supply of housing available.

Lib Dems believe in decentralisation and one of the key drivers in the Coaltion Government’s housing reform is to put more power in the hands of local authorities – we believe that local councils are best placed to know housing demand in their area and to make decisions on how they plan to meet local needs rather than the centralised bureaucratic top down approach from Labour.

That is why the Coalition Government is planning to free councils up by scrapping the Housing Revenue Subsidy which takes funds away to central government, or to subsidise other local authorities. Instead councils will have the ability to retain all the money they receive from rents and sales to invest in repairing and building new social housing.

But building new homes alone won’t house all the people on the waiting lists. We also need to repair existing housing stock, bring more empty homes back into use, and we need to consider ways at increasing social mobility so people who can afford to are encouraged to move into private accommodation or shared ownership to free up homes for those on waiting lists. 

The Coalition Government has to make tough decisions in tough times. By attacking the Government’s housing policies, once again the Labour Group fails to acknowledge economic reality and the huge fiscal deficit they left behind. In this tough financial climate, cuts to the £6 billion social housing budget are unavoidable. But that is the price we have to pay for clearing Labour’s debts.

I don’t remember Housing being one of the areas which Labour planned to protect if re-elected so no doubt Labour would be planning similar measures themselves in the unlikely event that Gordon Brown was returned as PM.

Rather than carping from the sidelines, we call on the Labour group to face up to their responsibility for the fiscal deficit and to take advantage of the freedoms offered by the Coalition Government for improving the supply of social housing in the borough.

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