Greater London Authority Bill
Baroness Hanham (Deputy Chief Whip, Whips; Conservative)
My Lords, I thank the Minister for introducing her Amendment No. 50 and speaking to my Amendments Nos. 51 and 53.
Her assurance that the local housing authorities in London are part of the consultation is on the record, which satisfies that issue. That now seems very clear and should be capable of acceptance by those who were concerned about it. I take that as an acceptance that they will always be consulted on any matters relating to housing.
On Amendment No. 53, the Minister set me a challenge, as she did previously, to say which responsibilities of the local housing authority are not functions within the scope of the London housing strategy and therefore should be excluded. We believe that preventing homelessness and reducing repeat homelessness fall outside the scope. Boroughs already have a strategy target set by the Government, which they need to address in meeting their targets on homelessness. They are already working hard to meet them; for example, the 2010 temporary accommodation target. The London housing strategy does not, and should not, take away a borough's statutory housing role to meet these targets. It would only add a superfluous layer that would affect the borough's ability to deliver on its targets.
In addition, the London housing strategy should not have any say on a borough's allocations policies. Boroughs are accountable to their communities for how allocations are made and already have a statutory duty to manage a housing register and allocation policy which reflect local housing needs. Leaving allocation decisions in the control of local councils will ensure that they remain accountable to their communities and that these policies fully reflect local housing needs.
Boroughs have already demonstrated their ability in working together to address various housing problems. For example, they have taken the lead in developing choice-based letting schemes and now they are developing the pan-London choice-based letting and mobility scheme, which will enable more tenants to have greater choice and to move across the region.
Empowering tenants and residents and empowering, supporting and engaging local communities is an essential part of the borough's strategic role. Boroughs have already developed expertise in involving tenants and residents. It is important that boroughs remain the key organisations, because they know their communities, who look to them as the first point of contact to resolve housing issues. If boroughs are seen to be working more towards the London housing strategy than to local housing strategies, communities may feel less need to be involved and that the regional strategy does not reflect their specific needs in the same way as their local council's housing strategy.
"Improving housing management" covers estate management, anti-social behaviour, income management, repairs and maintenance. Those areas do not fall under the remit of the Mayor; they are part of a borough's front-line services. Boroughs are already working hard to meet the comprehensive performance assessment requirements on housing management, and improving housing management is an important issue for them.
The list of examples that London Councils gave me is not exhaustive but demonstrates some areas that should not be in conformity with the London housing strategy. The Bill leaves potential for unproductive disputes between the Mayor and local authorities over which housing functions must be in general conformity. The amendment seeks to clarify the housing functions that must be in general conformity with the London housing strategy and to avoid disputes over whether it applies to other housing functions.