Orders of the Day — Local Government Finance (Wales)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:46 pm on 12th February 1992.

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Photo of Mr Huw Edwards Mr Huw Edwards , Monmouth 9:46 pm, 12th February 1992

Some of my colleagues have already talked about the housing crisis in their authorities. The difference between the authority that I represent and those that my hon. Friends represent is that I represent the only Conservative district authority in Wales. No Government policy has been more incompetent and inhumane than their housing policy.

A written answer to a question that I put to the Secretary of State shows that £741 million has accrued to local authorities from the sale of council houses in the past 10 years. My authority of Monmouth has accrued £24 million, of which £;10 million has been accumulated in the past three years. Brecknock, the authority of the hon. Member for Brecon and Radnor (Mr. Livsey), has accumulated £24 million, of which £15 million has come in the past three years. In Cardiff, the figures are £79 million in the past 10 years, of which £29 million has come in the past three years. This has happened since the Housing Acts of 1988 and 1989 which effectively put an end to the development of housing by local authorities.

The Government's theory is that local authorities should be enabling people to buy housing, so we have to ask how the Secretary of State and his policies have enabled people on the waiting list in my constituency to get into housing. Those who cannot afford to buy find that there is nothing to rent. The Government introduced legislation that was intended to stimulate the private sector, but we have seen from the figures mentioned by the hon. Member for Caernarfon (Mr. Wigley) that the number of private rented units in Wales has declined. Even in the Government's terms, their policies have failed miserably.

In Monmouth there are 2,500 households on the council house waiting list. There is rising homelessness and no purpose-built accommodation for homeless people. Despite that, the housing revenue subsidy has been cut this year. It is £200,000 short of expenditure on housing benefit. That confirms what people have been saying for years, since the Local Government and Housing Act 1989, that those on low incomes in council houses are subsidising those on the lowest income who are dependent on housing benefit.

Council rents in Monmouth are due to go up by £5·25 across the board. That is a 19 per cent. increase, which is far higher than the increase in the rate of inflation. Officials and councillors are highly embarrassed about the way in which they have to implement those policies in the only Conservative-controlled authority in Wales. In the housing department, three posts are being frozen at a time when it is trying to decentralise its services.

If Monmouth borough council has been able to spend 25 per cent. of its revenue from the sale of council houses in the past three years, why has not one house been built this year? Where has that 25 per cent. of £10 million gone? There is widespread concern in my constituency that that money is being put aside to build new council headquarters on land partly owned by the leader of Monmouth borough council. That was suggested on an HTV Wales television documentary just before Christmas. I hope that it can be confirmed that that is not the case, but there is no support for the building of new council headquarters at Portskewett on the edge of my constituency and the borough.

Even if we accept the Government's argument that money is going into housing associations, only 108 houses are under construction by housing associations in the current year according to a reply to me from the Under-Secretary of State during Welsh questions two weeks ago. How on earth will those 108 houses enable the 2,500 households on the council house waiting list to be rehoused? I can only conclude that, as I said at the beginning of my speech, the Government have no policy which is more incompetent and which even in their own terms has failed more than their housing policy. We need a Labour Government to rectify that.