Leeds councillors clash over affordable housebuilding policy as Labour defends track record

Leeds' Labour councillors have defended their track record on building affordable housing, following criticism from opposition parties.

Thursday, 11th November 2021, 12:52 pm
The Liberal Democrats claimed fewer than 200 new affordable homes had been built across the city since 2019 - a figure Labour dispute.

The local authority's Liberal Democrats put forward a motion at a meeting on Wednesday, suggesting council "mismanagement" had resulted in a shortfall in social housing across the city.

Lib Dem group leader, Stewart Golton, called for the council to set up an arms-length housing company in a bid to help tackle the problem, a policy also championed by Leeds' Conservatives.

Labour said it was on track to meet its 2025 target for social housing and that tenants' right-to-buy, introduced by the Thatcher government, had undermined its stock levels.

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Liberal Democrat group leader Stewart Golton

Coun Golton said the fight against inequality was dependent on people, "having an affordable and healthy home in which to bring up your family and loved ones."

"Those homes should be in a community that's supportive and accessible," he added.

Councillor Golton accused Labour of "giving no oversight whatsoever to the delivery" of affordable homes after making a 2019 pledge to build 300 new ones per year.

He claimed that just 189 had been delivered since then.

Council Cabinet member Helen Hayden

Labour strongly disputed those figures however and insisted that 479 have either been built or are in the process of being built.

Cabinet member Councillor Helen Hayden said a housing company would be "no silver bullet" in tackling the shortfall and that opposition members had ignored a lack of government funding and support.

She said: "That's not to say a housing company won't be right in the future, but it's not right now.

"It doesn't address our need for a land pipeline or the challenges of competing for land in a very competitive market.

Explaining how the council have to sell homes to tenants at discounted prices when they want to buy, she added: "People have the right to buy in this country and they're buying them at a rate of 600 a year.

"We are running just to stand still. We have no choice (but to sell them)."

Conservative and Liberal Democrat councillors said that the New Labour government had not scrapped the right-to-buy scheme when it was in power.

Tory councillor Alan Lamb suggested the council had "closed their minds" to the housing company proposals, because "someone else has suggested it".

He said: "We've suggested it is one part of many things that need to be done deliver affordable housing.

"You won't take the time to consider what we've been putting forward for several years.

"Have you taken the time to come and speak to us about it and try to understand it? I don't think you have."

Local Democracy Reporting Service