Tuesday, 04 August 2015

Southwark leader rules out large-scale sale of stock

The Labour leader of London’s largest local authority landlord has insisted that the council will not sell off half of its stock.

Responding to an independent report into housing in Southwark, council leader Peter John ruled out large-scale sales, saying that ‘it would go against all our beliefs’ if it followed advice to drastically reduce stock.

Southwark Council’s housing commission earlier this week outlined three ways that the council could sustain social housing beyond 2015/16. These were: to reduce the council’s current stock of 39,000 to 20,000 by 2045; to allow the stock to reduce gradually to 30,000 through right to buy and void sales; or to invest substantially in a new build programme to maintain stock at its existing level.

Mr John categorically ruled out the option to halve the stock, adding ‘it will not happen on our watch’.

He said: ‘At a time when Southwark Labour has pledged to build 1,000 new council homes by 2020, it would go against all our beliefs to reduce our stock by 20,000 in the 20 years after that.

‘By ruling this option out immediately I want to move the debate on and ensure we get to the purpose of this report which is to have a mature discussion about the future of council housing. As a council with the largest stock of council housing in London, this issue is too big and too important.’

The year-long study, headed by prominent housing lawyer Jan Luba QC and supported by think tank The Smith Institute, is expected to be seen as offering a potential blueprint for other local authorities considering the future of their housing stock.

‘I hope that other councils and the parties nationally will look at this report as it makes clear the extent of the housing time bomb this country faces,’ continued Mr John.

Earlier, opposition Liberal Democrat councillors had claimed that the report was ‘softening people up for a council home sell-off’.

Liberal Democrat spokesperson Tim McNally also questioned whether the £104,000 report was value for money, claiming ‘it doesn’t tell us a lot we don’t already know’.

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