[Mr Peter Bone in the Chair] — Decent Homes

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:01 pm on 27th January 2011.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Liberal Democrat, Carshalton and Wallington 3:01 pm, 27th January 2011

I know that the right hon. Lady's Government would apparently have halved the deficit in the same time frame in which we are getting rid of it. That, of course, would have had interesting consequences in relation to the level of interest that the nation would continue to pay in the second Parliament, beyond 2015.

To return to the issue of Sutton Housing Partnership, I agree that our ALMOs are in the same position, which is a difficult one. I hope that the Minister will this afternoon deal with some of the issues that the ALMO faces. First, there is the question of getting everyone together, reforming the ALMO and getting the buy-in of tenants to achieve that two-star status, and then finding that they are competing with everyone else for the available funding. Also important in Sutton is negative subsidy. We have always argued-and I welcome the reform of the housing revenue account-that if Sutton's tenants were allowed simply to have the money that they pay in rents reinvested in the housing stock, there would not be a need for Government funding. With the £10 million of tenants' money that is exported to other parts of the country, if I may put it that way, resulting, as my ALMO would say, in a situation in which the nearly poor subsidise the really poor, and the money that could be borrowed against that revenue stream, the ALMO could address the issues about decent homes with its own resources, without falling back on Government funding. I hope that that will happen and that tenants will be able to benefit-and that they will not be penalised in a different way, by having to pick up a proportion of the debt, which would mean that even if they kept the revenue they would still not benefit from it.

Sutton Housing Partnership is looking to adjust its programme to try to maximise the chance of getting access to the funding. One specific issue that affects a large number of homes- something like 750-is the box bathrooms on the St. Helier estate. The estate was built in the 1930s and box bathrooms were subsequently built on to the back of the properties. Many are now completely inadequate. They contain asbestos and they are falling away from the properties, so that gaps are developing between the property and the box bathrooms. They are poorly insulated and need to be replaced. In many cases, given that the houses are terraced, they can be replaced only by using a large crane to move the old box bathrooms out over the properties and new ones to the back of them. Sutton Housing Partnership is trying to split off that matter so that it can get access to the decent homes funding for the other works and perhaps find a separate way to fund the box bathrooms.

We would all accept that our housing stock is in need of substantial investment. It is fair to say that all Governments have neglected that in recent decades. We need collectively to find a way to raise the required investment. In 2011 everyone should be able to live in a property of a decent standard. I should like to think that at the end of this Parliament, and the end of the first term of the coalition Government, that will be achievable for us.