Orders of the Day — Housing and Local Government

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 2nd May 1963.

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Photo of Mr Julius Silverman Mr Julius Silverman , Birmingham Aston 12:00 am, 2nd May 1963

The hon. Gentleman must bear in mind that there are also rates.

The municipal tenant is interested in the total cost to him of his living accommodation. Probably management costs and obviously site costs are higher within the city. The question of the cost of land has been dealt with already. The hon. Gentleman can take it from me that every flat which is built imposes an additional sum of £60 or more a year on the local authority, after taking into account the subsidy. Obviously, if 2,000 flats are built every year, there will be an additional burden every year on the housing revenue fund. Who will pay that?

The burden can be covered in one of two ways. We can ask either the general ratepayer or existing municipal tenants to bear it. It would be very difficult to put it on the rates. Therefore, the local authorities are asking municipal tenants to pay it, and municipal rents are steadily increasing. Obviously, there is a limit to the amount that municipal tenants can pay. This trend cannot go on.

The plain fact is that there will be a crisis in housing finance unless the Government carry out the review which has been promised. This applies, as has been said by the hon. Member for Chippenham (Mr. Awdry), to the whole sphere of local government finance. There will have to be a review of the system and, pending that, a very substantial increase in the Government's contribution to local government services, particularly housing. If something does not happen very soon, local authorities will be severely restricted. They are bound to say, "We cannot put up these houses because we cannot go on increasing the rents. On the other hand, we dare not put this increase on the rates." Clearly, there should be a much more substantial contribution from the Government.

I say this to those who talk about a realistic municipal rents policy. A large number of municipal tenants, certainly the pre-war tenants, are completely self-supporting. They are actually making a contribution to the housing revenue fund. The Government subsidy which is allocated to these houses is being used to finance other housing. It is not fair to go on increasing the rents of these people in order to deal with fresh housing developments, and the only way to deal with the matter is by the Government giving a much more substantial subsidy. I hope that in the review the Government will seriously consider the question of housing finance and housing subsidies because the present structure is clearly inadequate.

We hear a great deal about wealthy municipal tenants. There may be a few here or there, but, broadly speaking, people who are being allocated houses today have been waiting on the register for many years and have suffered discomfort. They could not afford to buy private houses. If they could, they would have done it years ago. They would not have suffered the discomfort which they have suffered for years. In a city like Birmingham, which has 45,000 people on its register, a person has to be in very great discomfort and to have lived in overcrowded conditions for many years before he can get an allocation from the register.

I ask for two things: first, a review of the Government's land policy. We want a national land policy for housing. Secondly, I ask for a complete review, not only of local government finance in general, but of housing finance in particular.