Ministers ‘breaking promise over new council homes’

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The Government is breaking its promise to ensure that a new council house or flat is built to replace every one sold to tenants, official figures have revealed.

When the Coalition announced a new Right To Buy drive, ministers pledged to ensure that there was no net loss of council housing. But so far the Government’s own statistics suggest that building work on only one new property has been started for every seven local authority homes sold to tenants.

In the 2012-13 financial year and in the year to date, 10,954 council homes have been sold under the scheme, but only 1,662 replacements were started in the same period.

Emma Reynolds, Labour’s spokeswoman on housing, told The Independent: “David Cameron has broken his promise to replace badly needed council homes. Labour supports those who want to buy their own homes but there are nearly two million families on council waiting lists desperate for a home and this Government is failing to live up to its promise to replace every home sold with a new home built. It just goes to show you can’t trust Tory promises to tackle the housing crisis.”

Discounts to tenants were increased last year as the Conservatives sought to revive the vote-winning policy launched by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s. Grant Shapps, the then housing minister who is now Conservative Party Chairman, said: “Right to Buy was a fantastic, liberating policy which assists where people are hardworking and aspire to own their own home. However it was a mistake then [in the 1980s] and would be now not to replace the homes that are sold off. There will be no net loss of housing – this is a one for one policy.”

A spokesman for the Department for Communities and Local Government said: “The Right to Buy helps hard-working people get on to the housing ladder. Every additional home sold will be replaced with a new affordable home. Of course, there will be a slight time-lag, simply because it takes time for the new home to be built.”

On Sunday Labour renewed its promise to double housebuilding to at least 200,000 homes a year by 2020 if it wins the next election. “We’d like to do more,” Ed Balls, the shadow Chancellor, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. “We’ve got the lowest level of housebuilding since the 1920s. We’ve got to build homes, get people back to work, and then make housing affordable for people again. We are going to have to have some vision – some new towns, some garden cities. We did it in the Forties and after the Second World War. We need to do that again.”