Published: 17 August, 2012
• A MONTH ago I first asked how it was that Islington Council could not put together a coherent site and raise the money to build proper council estates.
I first put the question to Terry Stacy, as a past executive member for housing and as chair of one of the housing associations affiliated to One Housing Group.
Two weeks ago in the Tribune I asked council leader Catherine West or Councillor James Murray to explain the problem.
So far they haven’t responded.
Surprisingly, I got an email from Cllr Stacy suggesting we have a chat. We agreed to meet and enjoy a pleasant and open chat by Islington Green.
Of course, there was a certain amount of political tittle-tattle of the “we did this” and “they’ll bankrupt the borough” kind; all to be expected.
I suggested that Whitehall has been “against” council housing for decades and that government money has been withdrawn from councils for new housing.
Terry basically agreed that the problem is historical and that the last Labour government carried on with the Tory policy of cutting funds for council housing.
In fact, he told me Labour left fewer council homes than it started with because of a large demolition policy.
In effect, councils can no longer get cheap government loans to expand council house building and must attract private capital for any new build.
This means councils cannot put together proper sites or afford to build new estates without having a developer on board.
While Labour’s Decent Homes programme was a welcome and necessary way to upgrade council homes after years of Tory neglect, it must be said that this was no more than a landlord’s responsibility.
What I find shocking is that a Labour government was pouring money into expensive, and often unnecessary, private finance initiative schemes while shedding crocodile tears over the housing “shortage”.
The message is clear: the Labour government was more willing to cosy up to the bankers and developers than housing the deprived. And the Tories won’t change that.
Highbury New Park, N5