VIEW FROM WESTMINSTER: Helen Hayes MP

News Desk (24 September, 2015) Columnists

'The government should be supporting councils like Southwark who are leading the way in addressing the housing crisis'

2182Helen Hayes MP

I am very proud that Southwark has the biggest commitment to building new council homes of any council in the country, a 30 year plan to build 11,000 new council homes.

The plan was developed following an independent Housing Commission which explored the ways in which the council could best improve and maintain current council homes and meet both current and future housing needs.

The plan for new council homes took careful account of the need for a long term financial strategy to ensure there are the funds available for day to day repairs, new kitchens and bathrooms for council tenants and longer term major works such as window and roof replacements.

This summer the Chancellor announced that the government would cut council rents by 1per cent a year for four years, while refusing to act to control rents in the private rented sector, which are spiralling out of control and making life very difficult for many people.

Last week, I voted against the Tories’ plans to cut tax credits which will leave almost 8,000 families in my constituency on average £1,000 worse off from next April.  In this context, I support the plans to cushion some of the blow to families in council homes by reducing their rents, but this mustn’t be at the expense of the long term investment in council homes.

The effect of the reduction in council rents after four years would mean there would be £65m less to spend on repairs and major works every year. Over the 30 year life of the council’s housing plan this would mean £1.1billion less to invest in council homes.  The government should be supporting councils like Southwark who are leading the way in addressing the housing crisis, not making it harder for them to do so.

I am pressing the Tory government to ensure that they make up the funding gap that their plans will create, so that Southwark tenants are not hit by yet another Tory cut via the back door.

Helen Hayes is MP for Dulwich & West Norwood

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