Housing

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:58 pm on 1st July 1985.

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Photo of Mr Allan Roberts Mr Allan Roberts , Bootle 5:58 pm, 1st July 1985

I am pleased that my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (Mr. Winnick) has introduced this motion, which I support fully. A debate on these matters is urgently needed as the housing crisis is getting worse throughout the country.

I am pleased that the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington (Mr. Dicks) has returned, because he challenged the Opposition to give some idea of our assessment of housing need. I am happy to stand by Conservative-controlled Sefton's assessment of need as supplied to the Secretary of State and the Minister for Housing and Construction on the form that the Minister sends out concerning housing needs appraisal. There is a massive shortfall between the resources that the Government have made to their council in Sefton and that council's assessment of need.

The Minister and the hon. Member for Hayes and Harlington would regard that authority as a paragon of virtue as it is one of the lowest rated metropolitan districts in the country, it has high rents, a profit on its housing revenue account and does not build many council houses. It asked for £21·83 million for this year's capital programme. Incidentally, the Labour members of the council suggested £35 million to meet its housing needs. The council believes, and says so every year, that if it takes notice of what the Government ask and does as it is told, it will be treated well. Its reward for doing as it was told, after asking for £21·83 million, was a HIP allocation of £6 million, hardly enough to provide the housing manager with pocket money to deal with the environmental problems that my constituents face on their council housing estates, and much less than the Tory authority wanted.

I wish to set my remarks in the context of the housing needs of Sefton, and to refer to the Wates houses in my constituency and how the Conservative council is refusing to implement the Government's Housing Defects Act. I also wish to comment on the building industry in relation to Stockbridge village. I wish to recount the saga of the joint venture scheme — joint venture schemes are supposed to be the answer to everything, according to the Minister for Housing and Construction. This particular scheme is the apple of the Government's eye because the guy running it is none other than Tom Baron who advised the former Secretary of State for the Environment, now Secretary of State for Defence.

Let us look at the HIP bid, the housing needs appraisal produced by the Tory council. I know that these figures are right because of my advice bureaux, the bureaux of Labour councillors in Sefton and letters that I have received. In the light of the housing needs, £6 million is pitiful. In Sefton, in the private sector there are 9,558 dwellings which are unfit, lacking basic amenities or in need of major renovation. If one adds to that figure the public sector requirement, the total is 13,534. On top of that there are 2,773 difficult-to-let council houses.

There are 6,690 vacant properties according to the assessment of need that the Sefton council has produced. Only 273 of those properties are local authority. Some 6,273 are in the private sector, standing empty and in need of council action to force private owners and private landlords to bring them into use or action by the council or housing associations to acquire them. The council and the housing associations cannot act. They have not sufficient money to deal with the properties should they acquire them, nor have they the money to give out: as improvement grants if landlords or private owners wish to apply for them. All that is due to the Government's moratorium on applications for improvement and repair grants, which is imposed on Sefton and other parts of the country. In terms of mandatory grants, the council is still trying to process the 1982 applications that flooded in when the Government opened the floodgates just before the election and then closed them afterwards.

In Sefton there are 7,30l families on the waitling list. The active waiting list is 4,102 because Sefton hives off 3,199 which it terms as householders—people who rent from a private landlord in inadequate conditions because the council does not have the houses to offer them. That waiting list would vastly increase if there was a possibility of a single person or a family not on top priority being offered a decent house.