Right to Buy bill signals the end of localism, warns Labour’s Healey

27 Oct 15

Government plans that would see local authorities funding the extension of Right to Buy to social housing tenants mean “the end of localism”, a Labour shadow cabinet member has said.

Government plans that would see local authorities funding the extension of Right to Buy to social housing tenants mean “the end of localism”, a Labour shadow cabinet member has said.

In a letter to all council leaders in England ahead of the Second Reading of the government’s Housing and Planning Bill next week, shadow housing minister John Healey said the bill would limit the opportunity of communities to build the affordable homes they need.

The terms of the bill mean councils could be required to make an upfront payment to the Department for Communities and Local Government to fund the extension, which was agreed between the National Housing Federation and Communities Secretary Greg Clark.

The payment will be calculated using the market value of high-value housing owned by the authority that is expected to become vacant during a financial year. Councils will then have a duty to consider the sale of their more valuable homes as they become vacant. As well as raising funds, this duty is intended to encourage “the more efficient use by local authorities of their housing stock”.

Local Government Secretary Greg Clark has said the extension of Right to Buy is vital to give those who live in housing association homes the same rights as council tenants.

However, Healey labelled the bill “one of the most centralising and anti-council pieces of legislation I have seen in my political career”.

If enacted, the new policy would effectively end local authorities’ role in deciding the mix of new homes needed within their jurisdiction, amounting to “the end of localism”, he said.

“The Local Government Association have confirmed to me that the bill’s 145 clauses give the secretary of state 32 new powers. And almost all of these are wide-open powers, with detail to be decided by ministers with little public scrutiny after the bill is through Parliament,” Healey said.

“Whatever your view about the extension of the right to buy, legislating for ministers to raid the resources of local councils to pay for their policies is a deep disrespect to local government and a disgraceful way to treat local areas.”

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