The Keeping of the Housing Revenue Account

Part of Orders of the Day — Local Government and Housing Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 14th June 1989.

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Photo of Mr Allen McKay Mr Allen McKay , Barnsley West and Penistone 5:45 pm, 14th June 1989

I did not realise how important the amendment was until it was explained. I read it and reread it and wondered what it was about. It is about matters such as the housing advice centres set up by local authorities. Housing advice centres exist purely and simply because of the housing crisis in certain areas, which is a crisis in people's lives. The benefit for council tenants of having the right to buy, to which the Minister referred, has gone sour for many people who have found that they cannot afford the houses they have bought. Under the Housing Act 1988, local authorities cannot buy back the properties. The only alternative is to put the property on the open market and then to depend again on the local authority for housing.

Houses are not easily available. Local authorities have decided to set up housing advice centres, where advice is available for the residents of the area and people who want to come into the area. They can obtain advice on where houses are available and the waiting time for houses. It would be wrong for such centres to be included in the housing revenue account.

I remember a recent contribution I made. The authority to which I belong decided, quite a while ago, that it no longer wanted to be responsible to the treasurer and the treasurer's department. I suspect that the Minister has the same inclination in his present job. At the same time, the authority wanted nothing from housing, which rightfully belonged to housing, to go back to the treasurer's department. That is where we come to the previous argument.

I have not been convinced by what the Minister said. If the Minister had said that tenants who are now paying rent would not have an increase in their rents, except as a result of increased costs on housing, I would be more than satisfied. However, when we went through that exercise with the treasurer, we had to leave in place matters that, rightfully, belonged to the housing account, such as the various levels of subsidy, but we had to take out such matters as housing advice centres and the cost of grass-cutting in private areas, which at that time were borne by the housing revenue account. If anyone had a grumble, it should have been the council tenants. If the Bill seeks to bring such matters into the housing revenue account, it is entirely wrong. The Government should accept the amendment.