During the February 2015 Leicester City Council meeting Councillor Andrew Connelly was asked the following question about housing: “Resulting from the Government’s enhanced discount for ‘Right to Buy’ of Council accommodation, do we know how many properties have been disposed and how much income has come into the City Council?”
In response, Councillor Connelly said:
“The maximum Right to Buy discount increased in April 2012 from £34,000 to £75,000. It rose again in April 2014 to £77,000 in line with inflation. Between April 2012 and December 2014 the Council, under the Right to Buy scheme, sold 456 homes generating total useable capital receipt to the Council of £8.3m. Of this £6.7m must be used to finance one-for-one replacement social housing, either new build by the Council or grants to the housing associations. However, the cost of building a new property is on average £120,000 and sale of our Right to Buy receipts contributes somewhere between £20,000-£30,000 towards that cost, and we as an authority have to make up the difference. The remaining £1.6m is available to the corporate capital programme and we use it towards funding the disabled facilities grant scheme.”
This answer demonstrates exactly why we need a Council that will fight against the current Government’s highly regressive policies on housing. Over the past two years 456 council homes were sold, but given the stated average price of building a new property, the receipts that the Council receives from these sales would actually only enable them to build 56 new council homes, or 69 homes if they used the full £8.3 million.
Therefore it is time that our newly elected Labour (not Tory) Council stood up for the people of Leicester and helped to build a campaign to demand that the Government end their toxic Right to Buy scheme, and begin to provide the resources that our city needs to embark on a mass council housing program.
Needless to say such a change of heart on the behalf of the Labour Party is hardly likely under the current regime of Sir Peter Soulsby, who announced in the weekends Leicester Mercury the news of the Council’s first tranche of “savings,” £3 million to be precise.
Like a broken record he pointed out that “we have some very difficult times ahead” and that it was through the Council’s “careful financial planning” that they have been able to “reduce the impact of the savage Government cuts”. Having resigned our city to implementing the Tories cuts agenda with no intention of mobilising any resistance he thus concluded:
“Unfortunately, with another £54 million of cuts to be found in the next few years, there is no guarantee that frontline services will not be affected in the future.”
By way of a contrast, Tony Church, who is the secretary of the Leicester and District Trades Union Council, made it clear in his brilliant first-person piece in Monday’s Leicester Mercury of the need to continue to actually fight cuts, not implement them.