Speech on Croydon housing
17/10/2016 21:38:00......Posted by Mario Creatura
I spoke against our Labour Council's debate motion at tonight's Council meeting. Their moton was:
'This council calls on Gavin Barwell MP, the Minister for Housing & Planning, to show his commitment to affordable council housing for local people by:
- Removing the artificial borrowing cap on the HRA to allow councils to borrow funds to enable the delivery of more affordable housing
- To stop the enforced sell off of high value voids meaning this council would need to sell off desperately needed family homes and hand the income over to central government
- To end the unfair 'Tenants' Tax' on working households which could force families from their homes
- To end the enforced 1% rent cut, costing this council £31 million over the next four years, reducing services to tenants and affecting our ability to build new council homes'
You can watch my response here or read the transcript below:
"Thank you Mr Mayor. There is a well established convention in the Council Chamber that we do not attack those who are not here to defend themselves. This Labour motion is a direct and unwarranted partisan attack on Gavin Barwell, unable to speak for himself. The administration should be ashamed of themselves.
But it’s worse than that, because this debate motion is a fundamental attempt to mislead the public. In putting forward this motion, Cllr Butler has revealed a shocking lack of even the most basic knowledge about the housing situation in Croydon:
She asks for the government to remove the artificial borrowing cap on the HRA.
There is nothing “artificial” about the cap. It is there to control the level of government borrowing. We know that debt in Croydon is already spiralling out of control, and as usual Labour are calling for more spending financed by debt, money we don’t have, that the next generation will have to repay. In 2014 - after Labour took control of the Council - the Government made available £300 million of additional borrowing to support new affordable homes. What did our Labour administration do? Absolutely nothing. You didn’t submit a bid. You want more money, but when it’s offered on a plate you do nothing.
You ask for the Government to stop the sell off of high value voids but if you understood the policy, you’d know the Council would be able to keep enough money to replace the homes in question. The money that goes to the Government is being used to fund the Right to Buy for housing association tenants. We Conservatives want to help people fulfil their dream of owning their own home; quite simply Labour don’t – indeed your party recently announced that not only does Labour oppose giving housing association tenants the Right to Buy, you would deliberately suspend it for council tenants. Utterly shameful.
You call on Gavin to end the higher rents on working households. Again, you’ve misunderstood the policy. The Government believes that tenants on higher incomes, initially over £40,000 a year, should pay higher rents - why should the wealthier receive the same level of subsidy as poorer tenants? I thought that Labour would share our view that those who are better off should contribute more - evidently not!
That said, it’s important that people aren’t penalised for working hard so there’s a 15% taper meaning that for every additional thousand pound of income a household has above £40,000 a year, they will pay an extra £2.88 a week in rent. Nationally, more than 90% of households living in council properties will be unaffected by the policy.
You ask for the Government to end the 1% rent cut, you say it’ll cost this council £31 million over the next four years. This highlights perhaps the starkest difference between Labour and the Conservatives: Labour always think of the bureaucratic Council, we think of the tenants. This policy is saving tenants money and also taxpayers by reducing the Housing Benefit bill a bill that’s risen by a quarter over the last decade to £13.2 billion last year.
In conclusion Mr Mayor, this debate is nothing more than politically motivated Punch and Judy politics. Poorly researched and poorly understood. It’s a shocking indictment of an administration failing to get a grip not only on Croydon’s finances, but on the simplest of facts. Croydon deserves better.
I oppose this motion."