The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
10 Downing Street,
At your party conference you announced a policy you claimed would help us deliver more council housing. Given our unique position as leaders of many of our country’s cities and towns we are writing to you to make clear our disappointment at this underwhelming proposal and call on you do more to tackle the housing crisis.
The centrepiece proposal of your conference speech was to give an extra £2 billion to build affordable homes.
Firstly, this still means you will have cut investment in affordable house building by half, from over £3.5 billion in the last year of the previous Labour government, to an average £1.8 billion a year over the next five years.
Secondly, according to your own briefing, this extra money will only deliver 5,000 homes a year which is nothing compared to the 1.8 million households currently on council waiting lists and the 100,000 who have remained on the waiting lists for council and social housing for last five years.
Thirdly, 5,000 homes a year could actually see a fall in the number of social rented homes built each year. Since the Conservatives came to power seven years ago the number of new social rented homes built a year has fallen from 39,560 in 2010-11 to 6,800 in 2015-16, though still more than the 5,000 a year you are promising now.
Your conference announcement follows in a long line of policy decisions that Tory Ministers have made on housing since 2010, which has done nothing to fix the current housing crisis, and in many cases made the problems worse.
Home-ownership across the country is down sharply, with almost 200,000 fewer homeowners since 2010, rough sleeping has more than doubled, private rents have risen faster than incomes, housing benefit spending has increased, and affordable housebuilding last year was at the lowest level in 24 years.
We cannot go on like this.
We are calling on you to give Councils the fair funding to deliver not just a large-scale house building programme, but also the range of vital services communities rely on. Councils have seen their budgets cut by 40 per cent in just the first five years of this decade.
We are also calling on you to follow Labour’s example, as spelt out in Labour’s Housing Manifesto at the Election, and take decisive action to tackle the chronic lack of affordable houses. We are calling on you to:
- Ditch your ban on long-term council tenancies to give council tenants security in their home,
- Drop your legislation to force the sale of council homes through their high value levy.
- Clarify the law to make sure that councils can offer homes to local people first without facing challenge in the courts.
- Lift the Housing Revenue Account borrowing cap.
- Suspend right-to-buy, allowing councils to reinstate it only if they can prove a plan to replace homes sold one-for-one and like-for-like.
- Scrap the punitive bedroom tax, which indiscriminately punishes social tenants for not downsizing even when there are no smaller properties available to move to.
- Recycle housing benefit savings from the affordable housing programme into helping tackle the causes of the housing crisis, rather than relying on higher housing benefit spending to deal with its effects.
- Build new homes for ‘living rent’ over the Parliament, with rents capped at a third of local incomes to give private renters the breathing room to save for a deposit on a first home.
- Build 100 000 new affordable homes to rent and buy a year by the end of the parliament including at least 100,000 FirstBuy Homes where mortgage costs do not exceed a third of average local incomes.
- Restore funding for the Decent Homes programme to help bring more council and housing association homes up to a decent standard, just as Labour did in government when over a million more council and housing association homes were made warm, safe and dry.
You need to change course and follow Labour’s example. If you will not act then you need to stand aside and let a Labour government build a society for the many, not the few.
Given the public interest in this matter we will be publishing this letter.
- Cllr Nick Forbes, Leader of Newcastle Council and Leader of the LGA Labour Group
- John Healey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Housing
- Andrew Gywnne MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government
- Cllr Lib Peak, Leader of Lambeth Council
- Cllr Richard Watts, Leader of Islington Council
- Cllr Tim Swift, Leader of Calderdale Council
- Cllr Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council
- Cllr Rishi Shori, Leader of Bury Council
- Cllr Sharon Taylor OBE Leader of Stevenage Council
- Cllr Peter Lamb, Leader of Crawley Borough Council
- Cllr Iain Malcolm, Leader of South Tyneside Metropolitan Borough Council
- Cllr Hazel Simmons, Leader of Luton Council
- Cllr Miles Parkinson, Leader of Hyndburn Borough Council
- Cllr Terry O’Neill, Leader of Warrington Council
- Cllr Tricia Gilby, Leader of Chesterfield Borough Council
- Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Borough Council
- Cllr David Ellesmere, Leader of Ipswich Borough Council
- Cllr Richard Farnell, Leader of Rochdale Metropolitan Borough Council
- Cllr Alan Waters, Leader of Norwich City Council,
- Cllr Graham Baxter MBE, Leader of North East Derbyshire District Council
- Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds Council
- Cllr Simon Greaves, Leader of Bassetlaw District Council
- Cllr Simon Letts, Leader of Southampton Council
- Cllr Doug Taylor, Leader of Enfield Borough Council
- Cllr Samantha Dixon, Leader of Cheshire West and Chester Council
- Cllr Bill Dixon, Leader of Darlington Borough Council
- Cllr Alexander Ganotis, Leader of Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council
- Cllr Peter Chowney, Leader of Hastings Council
- Cllr Tony Newman, Leader of Croydon Borough Council
- Cllr Andy Moorhead, Leader of Knowsley Council
- Cllr Julian Bell, Leader of Ealing Council
- Cllr Tom Beattie, Leader of Corby Borough Council
- Cllr David Sheard, Leader of Kirklees Council
- Cllr Shaun Davies, Leader of Telford and Wrekin Council
- Cllr Warren Morgan, Leader of Brighton and Hove City Council.
- Cllr Barrie Grunewald, Leader of St. Helens Council
- Cllr Jon Clempner, Leader of Harlow District Council
- Cllr Roger Lawrence, Leader Wolverhampton City Council
- Cllr Steve Curran, Leader of the Hounslow Council
- Cllr Mohammed Khan OBE, Leader of Blackburn Council
- Cllr Chris Read, Leader of Rotherham Council
- Cllr Ian Maher, Leader of Sefton Borough Council
- Cllr Christopher Akers-Belcher, Leader of Hartlepool Borough Council
- Cllr Dennis Harvey, Leader of Nuneaton and Bedworth
- Cllr Sue Jeffrey, Leader of Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council
- Cllr Ian Moran, Leader of West Lancashire Borough Council
- Cllr Rob Polhill, Leader of Halton Borough Council
- Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster
- Cllr Stephen Alambritis, Leader of London Borough of Merton
- Philip Glanville, Labour Mayor of Hackney
- Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester
- Cllr Bob Cook, Leader of Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council
- Cllr Sachin Shah, Leader of Harrow Council
- John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets
- Cllr Muhammed Butt, Leader of Brent London Borough
- Cllr Sir Richard Leese, Leader of Manchester City Council
- Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol
- Cllr Jean Stretton, Leader of Oldham Council
- Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Leader of Bradford Council
- Dave Budd, Mayor of Middlesbrough
- Sir Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham
- Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool
- Steve Rotheram Metro Mayor of the Liverpool City Region
- Cllr Bob Price, Leader of Oxford Council
- Cllr Sir Stephen Houghton, Leader of Barnsley Council