Labour admits it did not build enough homes while in power


Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Liam Byrne today admitted that Labour did not build enough homes when it was in power.

He said that the party's failure to construct affordable homes was partly to blame for rising rents in the capital.

“There were some things that if we were reliving that time again we would do differently,” Mr Byrne told the BBC's Andrew Marr Show.

“So we would have been a lot faster in reforming incapacity benefit, and we should have been building more homes too. Look at the levels of rent here in London they are going up and up and up. We should have been building more homes.”

Asked if Labour had overspent, he acknowledged that the pensions and tax credit budgets had increased under the party.

“Out of work benefits fell under the Labour Government by about £7.5 billion. Some spending went up - pensions and tax credit.”

In the same week that Labour leader Ed Miliband said the party would cap social spending, Mr Byrne would not be drawn on the areas that would face inevitable cuts.

“We have said we want to bring some spending levels down. Let's take for example tax credits. At the moment we spend about £30 billion on tax credits. What a lot of people say to Labour is why are we subsidising low pay at companies that are going very nicely, thank you.”

He stopped short of guaranteeing that the elderly would not lost their travel privileges or free TV access, after Mr Miliband said that he was considering withdrawing the winter fuel allowance for wealthy pensioners.

Asked if Labour would scrap the key benefits, he said: “The TV licence budget is pretty small. Bus passes are quite important to mobility and older people's connections with the outside world, but look we'll set out those plans closer to the time.

“We are just being very candid with people that the Government has had to borrow £250 billion more than it forecast because it puts recovery in the tank; that means things are going to be awfully tough.”

He added: “We can't go on like this. We have got worklessness at the highest level for 16 years; we've got food banks opening every three days. What people want to hear now from Labour is how are we going to be different in 2015.”

My Byrne told the BBC: “Every generation has got to reset the balance between universal credit benefits on the one hand and targeted benefits on the other.”

Repeating comments made by Ed Miliband and Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls today, he said: “We can be radical with power and realistic with money.”

As a Chief Secretary to the Treasury under the previous Labour administration, Mr Byrne famously left a note for his successor with the comments: “I'm afraid to tell you there's no money left.”