Sunday, 1 June 2014

Housing debate at Breckland Council - 29.05.14




Members of the Breckland Council Labour Group pressed the authority on Thursday to do more to address the housing problems that exist in the District.

At the Full Council meeting on Thursday, Labour Group Leader Councillor Terry Jermy tabled an amendment that would have resulted in £320,000 being put towards affordable housing projects in the District. This amendment was lost, with all Conservative Councillors voting against, and all members of the opposition voting for it.

That £320,000 was received by Breckland Council in the last financial year from the sale of former Council houses in the district through the 'right to buy' scheme introduced many years ago by former Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Despite Breckland Council no longer owning any Council houses in the District as they sold the stock in 1993 to Peddars Way Housing Association, the authority still receives a share of the money each time a house is sold.

Labour Councillors argued that this money should be ring-fenced for re-investment back into affordable housing or, there will be a decreasing availability of social housing as more and more units are sold via 'right to buy'.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Jermy said; "We know that there are many, many housing issues in this District. There's a growing number of people sat on the housing waiting list - many thousands strong and growing all the time and there's 3,000 people living in private rented accommodation but in receipt of housing benefit. That's 3,000 private owned houses where the tax-payer is paying off those mortgages. Further, there's over 1,000 families in our District affected by the so called 'bedroom tax'. This £320k was not anticipated so it is not needed for anything else and it should be reinvested back into the social housing market".

Councillor Brenda Canham, Labour, Thetford-Abbey Ward said; "In the last two weeks I have been trying to help a young man from the Abbey Estate who suffers from epilepsy and is currently sleeping on a sofa as he has no-where to live. There's simply not the houses available and Breckland are not even in a position to help him with a loan for the deposit for a private rented property. I've also come across a man who's living in a garage as he has no-where else to go. This money would not solve all these problems, but it would be a start in the right direction".

Councillors ultimately backed the Conservative proposal to put the money into the General Reserve pot.