Labour rebels fail to force council housing funding boost
Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Housing and also in Local Government
Labour rebels fail to force council housing boost
Labour rebels failed to force the Government to pump more money into council house building and repair.
An amendment to the Housing and Regeneration Bill calling for more resources to "acquire, rehabilitate and build" new homes was rejected by 259 to 74, majority 185.
The vote came after Labour former minister Michael Meacher warned the Government needed to vastly increase the supply of council housing in an effort to stave off a UK sub-prime mortgage collapse.
Mr Meacher said demand for social and affordable housing in the UK "far exceeds" the Government's plans and it was "unrealistic" to rely on the private sector to build the required homes.
Funding for local authorities to maintain existing stock and build new properties was "grossly inadequate".
Rebel Labour backbenchers also failed to win a vote on another amendment calling for more "accurate" and "balanced" information to be provided under a code of practice to tenants where councils are considering stock transfers.
This was rejected by 263 votes to 210, majority 53.
For the Liberal Democrats, Simon Hughes backed the rebel moves, saying the current regime for council house stock was "nonsensically unfair and unreasonable".
Labour's Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby) said the changes to the Bill would help prevent the "bribery, bamboozlement and bullying" of councils into privatising their housing stock.
Insisting his aim was to help ministers achieve their drive towards building three million new homes by 2020, he condemned the current rules for compulsory ballots on large scale voluntary stock transfers.
In many cases they were "undemocratic and unreasonable" and in some cases "a travesty of democracy from which President Mugabe has almost certainly learnt lessons from his observers in this country..."
Winding up the debate, Mr Wright said the amendment on council house funding was unnecessary because the Secretary of State was already required to act "reasonably" in allocating the annual subsidy.
He condemned as a "myth" the idea that the Government had "starved council housing" of funds, saying there had been a 30% real terms increase in council house spending.
Insisting that the Bill would create incentives for councils to build more homes, he said: "We are moving into an exciting new era where ... we make sure councils have a direct delivery role.
"This is the return of the council house."
On the issue of ballots, the minister agreed the process had been "slightly one-sided" at times in the past and agreed to have talks with Mr Mitchell with a view to tabling amendments in the Lords.
The Bill will create a new quango, the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA) charged with improving the supply of new properties.
It also establishes a new watchdog for people in rented properties, the Office for Tenants and Social Landlords (Oftenant).
In one of the biggest revolts since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister, later analysis of the division list showed that 28 Labour rebels backed the amendment calling for more cash for council house building and repair.
Colin Burgon (Elmet), Ronnie Campbell (Blyth Valley), Martin Caton (Gower), Michael Clapham (Barnsley West & Penistone), Katy Clark (Ayrshire North & Arran), Frank Cook (Stockton North), Jeremy Corbyn (Islington North), Jim Cousins (Newcastle upon Tyne Central), Ann Cryer (Keighley), Frank Dobson (Holborn & St Pancras), David Drew (Stroud), Frank Field (Birkenhead), Dr Ian Gibson (Norwich North), John Grogan (Selby), David Hamilton (Midlothian), Dai Havard (Merthyr Tydfil & Rhymney), Kate Hoey (Vauxhall).
Lynne Jones (Birmingham Selly Oak), Peter Kilfoyle (Liverpool Walton), John McDonnell (Hayes & Harlington), Bob Marshall-Andrews (Medway), Michael Meacher (Oldham West & Royton), Austin Mitchell (Great Grimsby), Linda Riordan (Halifax), Dennis Skinner (Bolsover), Jon Trickett (Hemsworth), Paul Truswell (Pudsey), Joan Walley (Stoke-on-Trent North)
The two tellers for the ayes were Labour MPs: Kelvin Hopkins (Luton North), David Taylor (Leicestershire North West).