No housing crisis in Peppa Pig World

Swindon Tories deny there is a housing crisis

In response to a Labour resolution calling on Swindon Council to declare a Housing Emergency the Conservative Group on Swindon Council proposed an ‘amendment’ which was in fact an entirely different resolution. Rather than address the housing crisis this ‘amendment’ suggests that there is no crisis nationally, or in Swindon. They appear to have joined the Prime Minister in Peppa Pig World where all is well and the future is bright.

Instead of addressing the worsening housing crisis, nationally and locally, they partook in petty party political point scoring and boasting about what a fantastic job their administration and the government is doing. Their amendment

  • Complained that Labour put forward a resolution on national issues rather than “focusing on the good work being done in Swindon”. It was complaining that the opposition failed to propose a resolution congratulating the ruling group on the fantastic job it is doing!
  • Congratulates itself for there being so many council homes in Swindon, higher than the national average, and then complains that Labour opposed selling them off! It said that the Labour Group is responsible for the HRA debt by its campaign against ‘transfer’. Of course, it was a tenant led campaign and the tenants didn’t trust the assurance of the ruling administration that transfer was in our best interests. Hence 72% voted against it. In reality the administration’s only motivation was the £40 million receipt it would have got for the sale.
  • Boasts of its “affordable” home programme though it doesn’t give the tenure breakdown and ignores the fact that “affordable housing” includes rents at 80% of market rents and the shared ownership scam.
  • Does venture a difference with the government in relation to keeping all right to buy receipts but has done nothing to pressure the government to concede this. The Local Government Association’s private lobbying has achieved no results.
  • Says that the issue of section 21 ‘no fault’ evictions is “already being addressed”, conveniently ignoring that the Conservatives committed to abolishing them in April 2019 manifesto but has still not carried out the commitment. The government announced that it would be delayed until next year so they can consult all ‘stakeholders’ who have previously been consulted!
  • Proposes to thank the Minister and local MPs to date and “to make the case for continued funding” thus ignoring the lack of funding for building council housing on a large scale.

In short the Conservative administration refuses to accept that there is a housing crisis at all. Their amendment ignores

  • The fact that the Swindon council housing waiting list has risen by 33% over the past year to more than 6,000 households.
  • The ratio of house prices to earnings for median new build homes in Swindon has risen to 10.73 times earnings and lower quartile homes 12.27 time earnings.
  • An increase in prices for median new build homes between September 2012 and September 2020 from £165,000 to £339,000 and for lower quartile homes from £125,000 to £291,550.
  • House price inflation has outstripped increases in earnings so that many local people have no possibility of earning enough to secure a mortgage. There is a danger that Swindon will become more of a ‘dormitory town’ as more people from areas with even higher prices move to the town whilst working elsewhere.
  • Despite building some council housing Swindon council has 200 less homes than in 2011, owing to the loss of homes to Right to Buy and the failure of the government to provide grant to build on a large scale.
  • House price inflation and the shortage of council homes mean that many people have no choice but to use the private rented sector with high rents and insecure tenancies. In Swindon median rents are higher than the local housing allowance which presents difficulties to people who lose their jobs, are are ill, or develop a disability.

The irony of this denial of a housing crisis by Swindon’s Conservative administration is that Council leader David Renard tells an entirely different story than his group when he speaks as Environment Spokesperson for the Local Government Association. For instance as recently as October this year, speaking on behalf of the LGA, he said

There is a desperate need to build more social housing in this country, which should be a central part of the Government’s ambition to level-up and build back better following the pandemic. Social housing gives families the security and stability of a decent home, as well as being a route to owning your own home through Right to Buy.

Now is the time to reverse the decline in council housing over the past few decades. The benefits are clear – a programme of 100,000 social homes a year would shorten council housing waiting lists, reduce homelessness and cut carbon emissions, while delivering a multi-billion long-term boost to the economy.

Councils stand ready to work with the Government to tackle our housing crisis, but need the powers to build homes with the right infrastructure on this scale in the Spending Review.”

So when he speaks with his LGA hat on he can speak of a “desperate need to build more social housing in this country” but when his group faces a resolution on declaring a housing emergency there is, apparently no housing crisis at all. His group ignores the plight of many thousands of residents who are forced into the private rented sector by the shortage of council housing. They applaud themselves and cast a blind eye to the reality which blights the lives of so many in Swindon and nationally.

Martin Wicks

November 28th 2021

Amendment”

This Council:

  • Is disappointed that Cllr Howarth and her Labour colleagues have tabled a motion about national issues rather than focussing on the good work being done in Swindon. Recent government figures have revealed that the proportion of council housing in Swindon is higher than the whole of England. The numbers just released show at the end of March 2020 there was a total of 99,702 homes in the borough. Of those approximately 10,300 – just over 10 per cent – were owned by the council. Another 5,478 just over five per cent, were owned by housing associations. The figure is higher than the southwest region, where the level is around four per cent and across England where it rises to seven per cent.

Further, this Council:

  • Notes that the Government is already funding an £11.5billion Affordable Homes Grant Programme. This is the largest cash investment in affordable housing in a decade. Swindon has benefited from this programme already with £1.69m received for the first phase of the 149 affordable housing regeneration project at Queens Drive, with a further £5.5m expected for the next phase. In addition, we are delivering nearly 3,000 new Affordable Homes on Strategic sites.
  • Welcomes the Government’s spending of £639 million each year on homelessness, which is a cash increase of 85% between 2019-2020, this has resulted in a homelessness support grant of £2.56m in the current financial year. This funding has enabled Swindon to increase its homelessness prevention activities and in particular reduce rough sleeping from 45 individuals in November 2017 to 9 in November 2020, this is being sustained throughout 2021. In addition, the Council was awarded £585k to assist in the purchase of 10 “next steps” units for former rough sleepers in 2021.
  • Supports the continuation of the right to buy scheme but urges Government to allow councils to retain all of the receipts to provide replacement homes.
  • Is disappointed that the Housing debt was as a result of the Labour group’s campaign to retain the housing stock ‘in house’ but if they now agree with the Conservative stance, we welcome their support as we continue to negotiate with Government.
  • Section 21 evictions is already being addressed by Government and is scheduled to be addressed with in the life of this Parliament

This Council requests that the Leader:

  • Writes to the Housing minister and the local MPs thanking them for their support to date and to explain the challenges ahead that make the case for continued funding.”

Resolution

That in the light of the current housing situation Swindon Council agrees to declare a housing emergency. The Council is currently constrained by Government Policy and the Council recognises that there needs to be a change in Government Policy. The Leader of the Council to write to both MP’s and the Secretary of State calling on the Government to:

  • Provide grant for the building of 100,000 social rent homes a year,
  • Review the policy on Right to Buy which is responsible for a decline in council homes
  • Reopen the 2012 ‘debt settlement’.
  • End section 21 evictions in the private rented sector;
  • Provide funding to increase the numbers of Environmental Health Officers so that they can more easily police the private rented sector and tackle landlords who provide sub-standard accommodation.
  • Build more affordable homes.
  • More provision to tackle homelessness both with hard sleepers and the homeless that are hidden through sofa surfing.

That the Leader of the Council write to the Local Government Association proposing a collective effort to tackle the housing emergency lobby Parliament on their behalf.”

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