Local Authority Borrowing (Home Building)

Oral Answers to Questions — Treasury – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 10th March 2015.

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Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth 11:30 am, 10th March 2015

What recent representations he has received on caps on local authority borrowing for building homes.

Photo of Danny Alexander Danny Alexander The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

I have received many representations on local authority borrowing caps, but I would refer the House to the recent excellent review of the local authority role in housing supply carried out by Natalie Elphicke and Councillor Keith House. They made many suggestions as to how the local authority role in house building could be improved, but one of their conclusions was that the problem was not a lack of money but the way in which resources are deployed and organised in the local government sector.

Photo of Sarah Newton Sarah Newton Conservative, Truro and Falmouth

I very much welcome the answer to my question and the other comprehensive measures the Government have taken to enable people to buy their own homes, such as First Buy. Will the Chief Secretary explain a little more about some of those findings and what more we can do to ensure that hard-working people who need social housing can get it?

Photo of Danny Alexander Danny Alexander The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The hon. Lady raises an important question. In this Parliament we are building more affordable homes than has been the case at any point in the past 20 years, and in the next Parliament we will be building even more. However, I do not think any of us should be complacent; we need to raise substantially the level of house building in this country. That is why I welcome the recommendation of Keith House and Natalie Elphicke on a housing finance institute. It is also why I set out around the autumn statement last year moves to Government taking a direct commissioning role to ensure that we meet a 300,000 homes a year target. That will be piloted at the Northstowe development, which I encourage the hon. Lady to find out more about.

Photo of Alison Seabeck Alison Seabeck Shadow Minister (Defence)

I declare an indirect interest, which is on record. Local authorities are at the sharp end of this Government’s failure to deliver the housing that the country needs, particularly affordable rented housing. Labour Plymouth is proactively doing what the Minister has just said—bringing forward land and building 1,000 homes. It has a view on the cap and about meeting the need. Greater concerns, however, surround the announcement of the starter home scheme, which will lead to a massive loss of affordable home building— developers get out of any requirement to do it and the local authority has no say. Can the Chief Secretary please tell the House what the impact assessment of that policy was and the impact on affordable rented homes?

Photo of Danny Alexander Danny Alexander The Chief Secretary to the Treasury

The idea behind the starter homes scheme is precisely to offer homes at a discount to young people who want to get on the housing ladder. I would have thought that was an objective that everyone in the House would welcome. If the hon. Lady wants to look at social rented housing, in this Parliament—and continuing in the next Parliament—we have the highest annual rate of social house building than under the previous Government or for the past 20 years. During Labour’s 13 years in office, the number of social homes fell by 421,000; we have increased it by over 300,000.