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Campaigners call on Labour to pressure the Tories on council funds

CAMPAIGNERS urged Labour today to press the government to “stop starving” council housing of desperately needed funds.

Tenants’ groups, council leaders, councillors, housing academics and MPs are backing the call by the Swindon Tenants Campaign Group to challenge the government’s chronic underfunding of council housing.

Campaigners say council housing revenue accounts (HRAs), the system of local authority housing finance, are losing hundreds of millions of pounds as a result of policies introduced by the Con-Dem coalition in 2012, such as increased discounts for right to buy sales.

As a result councils have been forced to cut back on planned work.

Swindon Tenants Campaign Group secretary Martin Wicks said it was “time to end the silence in Westminster.”

“This underfunding of local authority HRAs is part of the war of attrition against council housing which the coalition and Tory governments have conducted.

“Labour should be highlighting the government’s responsibility for this crisis and demanding that the bogus debt is cut at least by the amount that HRAs are projected to lose over the course of their business plans as a result of the policies introduced since 2012.”

Many councils are being forced to put off scheduled refurbishments of kitchens and bathrooms, worsening tenants’ living conditions and potentially risking residents’ safety.

Labour Stroud council leader Doina Cornell said the 2012 deal should be revisited or, “better still,” cancelled.

“This deal didn’t come for free. Stroud had to borrow £91.7m from the Public Works Loan Board and hand this over to central government to buy our own housing stock, taking on a debt, and a plan for the next 30 years based on projected rental income.

“The Tories imposed a 1 per cent rent reduction, which wiped millions off projected future income and forced us to cut back on renovation plans to bring existing homes up to a more decent standard.

“They massively increased the right to buy discount so tenants could buy their own homes. As a result, sales of council homes nationally have gone up five times.”

Ms Cornell said each sale marks a loss of rental income for future generations and reduces capacity to build and renovate.

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