Lord Kerslake warns social housing sums ‘don’t add up’ as Bill passes

The controversial Housing and Planning Bill, now Act after receiving royal assent yesterday, will put the brunt of paying for social housing on councils, Lord Kerslake has warned.

Lord Kerslake, president of the LGA and fervent critic of centrepiece elements in the Bill, added that the sums for paying for social housing in the Bill “simply don’t add up”, but conceded that he would not seek to add another amendment as the legislation passed the House of Lords on Wednesday.

He agreed with an amendment from Baroness Williams not to introduce a third amendment for like-for-like replacement of homes sold under Right to Buy with new housing, designed to increase the availability of social housing.

Lord Kerslake said he respected the authority of the elected House of Commons, which has rejected his previous amendments on the grounds that they affect financial decisions made by MPs.

However, he added: “It is now clear that some manifesto commitments come ahead of others. In the competing demands of funding the extension of Right to Buy and funding the one-for-one replacement—both manifesto commitments —replacement will come a very clear second. Local authorities will have to draw on their own very scarce resources if one for one has any chance of being delivered.

“It has also become abundantly clear that the sums simply do not add up. How otherwise could you explain the resistance to what was after all a very modest amendment—certainly not a wrecking one—other than that it was born out of this financial discrepancy?

“It became very clear in yesterday’s debate, by seeking to align the means with the ends, that the financial means are simply not there. However, that will be a debate for another time, and it will go on outside and inside Parliament.”

The Right to Buy extension in the Bill has been called “entirely speculative” by the Public Accounts Committee and housing charity Shelter has warned it could cost councils £26m a year.

Baroness Williams, under-secretary to the DCLG, who was responsible for the Bill, said that not allowing like-for-like replacement would increase “flexibility” in local planning and ensure housing was suited to community needs.

The Housing and Planning Bill, which gained royal assent yesterday, has been one of the most fractious in recent political history.

The Lords introduced key amendments including giving councils the power to decide what percentage of new developments consists of starter homes and when they will pilot new schemes to introduce competition in planning applications.

Labour peer Lord Beecham, who supported Lord Kerslake’s amendment, jokingly called it a “dreadful Bill” and said Baroness Williams would need “a relaxing weekend”.

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Mark   14/05/2016 at 11:08

Working in Social Housing I am already seeing a rise in the speculative purchasing of property. Daily I speak with Children of Pensioners who wish to purchase on behalf of the homr of their elderly mother or father, knowing full well that within 10yrs that property will be buy to let or sold on. This is the biggest property transfer from Public to Private in a generation. It's organised theft from the public purse.

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