Housing (Wolverhampton)

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 20 April 1994.

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Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East 12:00, 20 April 1994

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment if he will make extra funds available for housing improvement grant allocations in order to deal effectively with the backlog of housing renovations and repairs in (a) Wolverhampton an (b) other cities and towns.

Photo of George Young George Young Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing)

Within their overall resources, local authorities may spend whatever they wish on private house renovation and my Department will reimburse 60 per cent. of their expenditure.

Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East

In the current year, Wolverhampton's housing improvement grant allocation has been reduced by just under £4 million. There are thousands of post-war properties crying out for improvement, especially new forms of heating. Children in families are cold and the lives of elderly people whose homes need new insulation techniques that ought to be applied to those properties are being affected.

Photo of Mr Dennis Turner Mr Dennis Turner , Wolverhampton South East

I am asking for more resources to respond to the real housing needs in Wolverhampton and in many other cities and towns.

Photo of George Young George Young Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing)

I recently spent a morning in Wolverhampton in the company of the leader of the council, the Conservative Bill Clark, and I saw at first hand the improvements that the local authority is carrying out to properties in the constituency of the hon. Member for Wolverhampton, South-East (Mr. Turner).

Photo of George Young George Young Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing)

Indeed I was, and rightly so. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will also be electioneering. During my electioneering, I got positive support from those whom I met. The hon. Gentleman will be pleased to know that many of his constituents appreciate the improvements to their properties that are being carried out by the Conservative-controlled Wolverhampton city council.

Photo of Mr Nicholas Budgen Mr Nicholas Budgen , Wolverhampton South West

Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that the people of Wolverhampton understand that socialists always believe that every housing problem can be cured by throwing taxpayers' money at it? The people of Wolverhampton are increasingly buying their own homes, and they are enjoying the current low interest rates, which make it possible for an increasing number of people to make their own housing provision.

Photo of George Young George Young Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing)

I am sure that my hon. Friend speaks for a majority of the people in Wolverhampton when he refers to their aspirations to home ownership—aspirations which are now much more within their reach due to the very low rates of interest. I hope that many people in Wolverhampton will take advantage of the present low interest rates to achieve their ambition and buy property in Wolverhampton. There are many good-quality new schemes being built by builders, offering people homes at competitive prices.

Photo of Mr Peter Pike Mr Peter Pike , Burnley

The Minister knows that the Federation of Master Builders agree with towns such as Wolverhampton that they have not enough money to meet their statutory requirement to meet mandatory grants. Will he make additional resources available to Wolverhampton and other local authorities now, or is he going to end the right and entitlement to mandatory grant?

Photo of George Young George Young Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing)

As the hon. Gentleman knows, we have just completed a review of the improvement grant regime, which considered a number of radical options, one of which would be to enable local authorities to have a more proactive approach and promote more home improvement areas. The Government will announce the conclusion of that consultation exercise later this year.

Photo of Mr David Faber Mr David Faber , Westbury

Is my right hon. Friend aware that there are about 801 pre-reinforced concrete homes in my constituency in west Wiltshire, many of which are substandard and some of which are in danger of falling down? Is he further aware of the plans submitted by the district council to transfer the entire stock to the private sector for restoration—plans that have so far been blocked by the Treasury? Can he assure me that in his Department, he will give a fair hearing to the district council when it resubmits the plans, so that those people who live in appalling conditions in PRC homes will have a better chance in the future?

Photo of George Young George Young Minister (Department of Environment) (Housing)

As my hon. Friend rightly says, it has not proved possible this year to find a place in the large-scale voluntary transfer programme for the properties to which he refers. I very much hope that it will be possible to restructure the proposal of his local authority, so that the transfer of those properties can proceed in 1995–96, and we will certainly do all that we can to facilitate such a transfer.