Deputy Prime Minister written question – answered on 30th March 2006.

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Photo of Austin Mitchell Austin Mitchell Labour, Great Grimsby

To ask the Deputy Prime Minister what the total debt on council housing was in (a) 1980, (b) 2000 and (c) 2005; and how much has been (i) paid and (ii) written off.

Photo of Yvette Cooper Yvette Cooper Minister of State (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Housing and Planning)

The total debt attributed to council housing in 1980 is not held centrally and could be provided only at disproportionate cost.

In 2000–01 the total debt was £17.6 billion. This has now fallen to an estimated £13.3 billion, although that figure may vary between now and when the final figure for the 2005–06 financial year is known. With the exception of £1.8 billion in 'overhanging debt' payments made by government, the reduction of £4.3 billion has been due to repayments made by local authorities. ('Overhanging debt' is the debt an authority is unable to repay from the receipt it gets on the transfer of its stock to a housing association. Debt repayment is the first call on such receipts. Where the outstanding debt exceeds the receipt, the Government pays off the excess amount of debt—the overhanging debt. The Government chooses to repay such debt rather than continuing to support that debt—as had happened previously through the allowance made for debt service charges in the Housing Revenue Account subsidy system. The choice between paying off overhanging debt and continuing to support the debt through subsidy is intended to be broadly neutral in net financial terms for the authority.)

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