Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Labour members to vote on housing policies

Tens of thousands of grassroots Labour members have demanded that the party hold a major debate on housing at this year’s party conference in Manchester.

They have voted housing as one of the top issues they are concerned about and in which they would like to see a dramatic change of direction from the government.

The result of a ballot of grassroots members, announced at the conference on Sunday, revealed that 70,354 members wanted to debate housing this week. Only health and social care was thought to be a more pressing issue, with 80,170 votes.

More delegates wanted to talk about housing policy than banking, growth and jobs, employment rights or coming up with an alternative to the coalition’s current economic policies.

The result of the ballot means that delegates will vote on a housing motion at this week’s conference.

The motion will set out housing policies that members want the Labour Party - and the government - to adopt (or drop). Constituency Labour groups are currently locked in negotiations to produce a single motion that they are all happy to sign up to - a process known as compositing. The results of the negotiations should be known later today.

There are, however, a number of key concerns common to many of the draft motions submitted by grassroots Labour groups so far.

Most delegates want to see a large-scale, publicly funded affordable housing programme. Eleven constituency Labour Parties, including Crawley, Lewisham Deptford, Tottenham and Weaver Vale , said that they were: ‘Concerned about the increased emphasis by both the Tory government and the Labour Party on the private sector as a solution to the housing crisis and the low level of funding they are prepared to commit to social housing.’

A number of constituency parties also want the motion to express concern about recent coalition proposals for further reform of the planning system by allowing developers to seek to renegotiate section 106 agreements.

The Ealing Central and Acton constituency party submitted a motion stating that the conference should oppose ‘the relaxation of negotiated section 106 housing development as there is no clear evidence that this is holding back development. In fact, the evidence is that it actually helps to kick start developments due to release of Homes and Communities Agency grants’.

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