Watchdog to probe housing statistics
An independent government watchdog will write to senior ministers at the Communities and Local Government department after concerns were raised over recent government housing statistics.
The UK Statistics Authority has declared its intention to write to communities secretary Eric Pickles and housing minister Grant Shapps after a row broke out over the release of figures on housing starts last month.
The government was accused of media manipulation after it launched its Housing Strategy document just a day before official figures from the Homes and Communities Agency showed that there had been just 454 affordable home starts in the first six months of the financial year.
Last week, the CLG claimed there had been 9,760 starts during the period covered by the HCA figures. The difference can be explained by a discrepancy in what stage a development must reach before it can be counted as a ‘start’.
A source at the UKSA said that the letter, which is likely to be sent in the New Year, would ask CLG to make sure that HCA stats were checked against its code of practice.
Labour’s shadow housing minister Jack Dromey has previously written to Mr Shapps, asking why the announcement on house building had not been brought forward to coincide with the Housing Strategy.
However, in a strongly worded riposte to the accusations, Mr Shapps said that publication of the ‘routine statistics’ by the HCA ‘had no bearing on the timing of the government’s Housing Strategy’.
The minister added that the stats were published in accordance with the code of practice set out by the UKSA.
The watchdog, which monitors the release of government statistics, has not previously written to ministers about housing stats.